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Brian Howe - Circus Bar

posted 25 Jul 2011, 06:09 by Paul Woodward   [ updated 25 Jul 2011, 06:13 ]
(Frontiers Records)

Brian Howe is probably best known for his work with Bad Company, replacing original singer Paul Rodgers. He was with Bad Company from 86 to 94 and sang on some of the bands biggest hits from the albums - Fame & Fortune, Dangerous Age, Holy Water & Here Comes Trouble. Not the most prolific in his recorded output, his last and first solo album was released in 97 and other than fronting Ted Nugents 83 album “Penetrator” that’s your lot - until now!

It’s a real shame that Brian hasn’t got a larger back catalogue, as he is a talented songwriter and has an amazing voice; a strong vocalist who I’m surprised hasn’t done more. Some of the Brian Howe era Bad Company songs are my favourites of that band’s output.

The name of the album actually comes from the bar that Brian and song writing/producer partner Brooks Paschal spent a lot of their creative time during the making of this album. The Circus Bar, named such as it’s managed by circus performers and as such has a circus theme, is in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala in Central America - a long way from Brian’s English birthplace and origins in Portsmouth!

I had expected this album to be very similar in style to his output with Bad Company or at least heavily blues tinged. What we actually get here is a collection modern pop/rock which is extremely commercial! I think the album has great potential to crossover appeal to fans of different genre’s of Rock. There are some killer melodies on here to keep melodic rock fans happy, but there’s a real modern vibe to the songs and their delivery will appeal to an audience longing for melodic music with a more contemporary edge. I actually like what Brian’s tried to achieve here with Circus Bar, he’s obviously wanted to create a contemporary album not re-creating former glories or even pandering to expectations.

Of the tracks on offer Brian has chosen to cover two of his most well known Bad Company song’s, “How ‘bout That” & “Holy Water”. The tracks are not direct covers and are adequately changed to fit in with the sound already present in the other songs. They are decent enjoyable versions, although I’m unsure as to the necessity of their inclusion? I had heard in an interview that the songs were included to give people a little bit of a reminder of whom and what he has done in his career. I don’t think the album suffers with or without them, and I’m sure fans of the originals will appreciate the newer versions.

The album blasts off with “I’m Back” which is a real indication of what the album is gonna be like - upbeat , modern pop rock! A great choice for opener and a good way to announce Brian’s first album in over 13 years! The next 3 songs all follow in a similar vein of upbeat summery American style pop rock on “Life’s a Mystery”, “It Could Have Been You” and the insanely catchy “There’s This Girl”  with its punchy chorus, which is destined to be a dance floor filler!

Next we get two ballads in the form of “I’m Surrounded” & “Flying”. “I’m Surrounded” has a really memorable chorus and has a few hooks whilst maintaining a modern edge and not fading into over sentimentality in its musicality. “Flying” which was written for Brian’s mom who took seriously ill during the recording of the album and as such is really touching & heartfelt ballad. Another ballad “What Am I feeling” which has a real modern sound to it rounds up the last original song on the album and show’s what a top quality vocalist Brian Howe is.

“If You Want Trouble” is probably the most similar to Brian’s work with Bad Company, whilst still keeping that pop/rock feeling, it has a real big punchy chorus and I expect this song to be a winner with many listeners of the album. To a lesser a degree “My Town” as well, which is Brian’s ode to Portsmouth and a reflection on his youth.

If you like Brian’s voice or any of his previous work I’m sure you’ll love “Circus Bar” don’t expect an album in the style of Bad Company though. If an album full of commercial modern pop rock with huge potential to crossover various musical genre’s, chock full of short bursts of pop & instant melodies, sounds like your sort thing than you have to check out “Circus Bar”!

Track Listing :- I’m Back / Life’s A Mystery / There’s This Girl / Could Have Been You / Surrounded / Flying / How It Could Have Been / My Town / How ‘bout That / Feels Like I’m Coming Home / If You Want Trouble / Feelings / Holy Water / Little George Street

Album Rating: - 3/5

Woody’s Essential Track: - There’s This Girl

Circus Bar is OUT NOW from all good retailers and