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Eclectic Prog • Switzerland

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Circus picture
Circus biography
Formed in 1972 in Basel, Switzerland - Disbanded in 1980

Coming from the NW Switzerland on the language border between the Alemanics and the Romands, this unusual quartet of musicians has a strange line-up. Hauser is one of the better percussionists (still playing but in jazz bands nowadays), and bassist Cerletti (the only non-Alemanic in the band) is certainly excellent plays also acoustic guitar. The other two, Fri and Grieder, share the wind instruments with the vocals. That's it! No KB and almost no el. guitars, at least on the first two albums. This group is one of the real gems still unknown to most progheads, developing a fusion between classical and rock much like early MANEIGE did but also includes some influences from VDGG (mostly the sax but sometimes also the singing) and also KING CRIMSON to a lesser extent. While having some success locally, they only managed three studio albums of which the first two are now on CD. Of those two albums "Movin' On" is their best but their debut is also excellent.

CIRCUS is certainly recommended to everyone who loves great interplay between musicians and to progheads not afraid of a little adventure in their musical endeavours.

: : : Hugues Chantraine, BELGIUM : : :

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CIRCUS discography

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CIRCUS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.56 | 35 ratings
4.14 | 114 ratings
Movin' On
3.72 | 20 ratings
Fearless, Tearless And Even Less

CIRCUS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.75 | 8 ratings
All Stars Live

CIRCUS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CIRCUS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CIRCUS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

CIRCUS Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Movin' On by CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.14 | 114 ratings

Movin' On
Circus Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars In December 1976 Circus played at Hans Huber Saal of the Stadtcasino of their homecity, celebrating not only the Christmas coming but also their 75th live concert.Among the pieces performed the band presented a brand new epic track, ''Movin on''.This was meant to be the centerpiece of their upcoming second album, recorded in May 1977 at Sinus Studio in Berne and released the same year again on Zytglogge.

The first side contains four tracks, where the serene side of GENESIS and some slight theatrical, singing vibes meet the complex arrangements of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, unleashing influences from Jazz, Classical and Folk Music.The peaceful, almost symphonic atmosphere of the displayed flutes and acoustic guitars prepare for the dominant saxes of Andreas Grieder and Roland Frei, giving space to some sinister instrumental themes with jazzy underlines, the music is suprisingly rich at moments and even becomes powerful with the addition of electric bass and drums.The arrangements are impressive with a dramatic tone and some mellow textures, these two combined reveal a unique atmosphere, starting from singing poetry and ending up to haunting, instrumental textures.The long title-track of the flipside evokes the music of compatriots ISLAND.Almost perfectly arranged Prog Rock, which often reminds of KING CRIMSON's early days, drawing influences also from early-70's Psychedelic/Prog Rock.It's a piece full of cosmic flutes, throbbing bass lines and strong use of vibraphone, passing from light symphonic moves to powerful jams with sax, bass and drums in the forefront, twisting between pastoral themes and majestic, jazzy Prog Rock and containing endless interplays and instrumental battles, occasionally to be interrupted by vocals in the style of GREG LAKE.

Second Circus album places the band among the top Swiss Prog acts of the 70's.Atmospheric, complex and imaginative Prog Rock, which constantly alternates between smooth atmospheres and dark and dense music, despite its mainly acoustic instrumentation.Highly recommended.

 Movin' On by CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.14 | 114 ratings

Movin' On
Circus Eclectic Prog

Review by Sagichim
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

4 stars No synths, no problem!!

Coming from a place with not so much interest in progressive music, circus managed to release three albums, this being their second one and regarded as their best moment, but still is quite unknown to prog lovers.Like a lot of prog albums that time, the album consists with 4 short songs on the first side and an epic on the other. Instrumentation is not ordinary but incorporate acoustic guitars and some clean electric ones too, saxophone, flute, vibraphone, drums and bass which is the one you will notice right away, the sound is deep and crispy using some distortion, reminding you of john wetton. The music is eclectic, sophisticated with some jazzy touches reminicent of van der graaf and gentle giant at times, all are done with great sensitivity, the band go from quiet calm moments to rocking parts but without using the help of keys or distorted guitars.

The first side is good overall include two very good tracks and two nice tracks, the sound is mainly acoustic fusing together all those great instruments, but has also those more aggressive parts with that huge bass. Just check out 'dawn' starting out quietly and builds up serving a great mood absolutely delicious. This is one of those albums you should check out mainly for the epic track on side two. And what a good surprise it is, the song has a very good built up and some transitions, going into psychedelic territories as well. From the start you know you're in for a treat, hearing that acoustic guitar breaks into a rocking distorted bass which breaks again, what a wonderful sound. It than keeps on going with that driving bass until it hits that first line of melody, than continuing to evolve further on into a quiet psychedelic part, with beautiful flutes and other sounds, this track maybe include some keys which are not credited or this guys can really create some noises out of what they have. Also to good mention is drummer Fritz Hauser which has that jazzy touch and doing an outstanding work, also playing the vibes. Recording is also fantastic capturing everything so clear and giving this work the treatment it should.

The band certainly knows how to write good melodies and knows how to arrange their ideas with some improvised moments, making this 22 minute epic sounding like a whole piece. In conclusion this is one of those albums you should definitely try, and has a good spot on each prog collector's shelf. Dont miss it.

 Movin' On by CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.14 | 114 ratings

Movin' On
Circus Eclectic Prog

Review by sbernardelli

5 stars This is for me one of the few albums to take to the desert isle (agreeing with the other reviewer). True: the end of Movin'On is too close to King Crimson to a point where I would think it was totally intenational and meant to be a tribute. All songs are great regardless if short or long. Every musician stands out, first coming to my mind would be the drummer, then the sax and flutes, voices are great and the accent did not bother me (clearly you can tell English is not my native language). Everytime I listen to this album I am totally absorbed by its pace. I still do not understand how other reviewers gave 4 instead of 5 stars: anyway taste is taste.
 Circus by CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.56 | 35 ratings

Circus Eclectic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This was CIRCUS' debut from 1976. It's quite mellow with lots of flute. It's interesting that the vocalist sometimes sounds like Ian Anderson and at other times like Peter Hammill. He sings in a reserved manner for the most part which suits the music here. I should mention that many consider the follow-up to this "Movin On" to be a minor classic.

"Stormsplineter" settles in with vocals quickly as flute plays over top. His vocals remind me of Ian Anderson here. Some impressive bass later. "Nowadays" is barely audible for over 2 minutes then it kicks in. It's quiet again before 4 minutes as contrasts continue. "Sundays" is mellow with keys, guitar, flute and drums standing out. Vocals join in around 1 1/2 minutes. Lots of flute when the vocals stop.

"Dawntalk" doesn't have much going on and no melody until after 2 minutes. Sax and flute arrive later. Some prominant bass too. "Room For Sale" is the over 15 minute closer. It picks up before 2 minutes with flute, guitar, bass and drums. Vocals 4 1/2 minutes in as it settles right down. Some chunky bass 6 minutes in. I like the instrumental section before 10 minutes to 12 1/2 minutes.

A good album without a doubt but the next one is an improvement in pretty much every area.

 Movin' On by CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.14 | 114 ratings

Movin' On
Circus Eclectic Prog

Review by Area70

5 stars I can't recommend this band enough as they truly shine as a unique voice in 70s progressive. Their unusual line up instruments, well documented in other reviews, doesn't distract, rather, it creates are very singular feel and atmosphere through pensive and haunting arrangements and melodies. The vocalist's emotion and range is also a plus, and not marred by any accent while singing in English.

Although several other reviewers thought they heard an early Yes, KC and Genesis influence, and I don't dispute that, I'd add early Jethro Tull - the darker, folksier material. Whether or not Circus had heard of prog-folk weirdos Comus from the UK I don't know, but that's another touchpoint as Movin' On has a similair driving, acoustic nature with an edge. There's a strong combination of folk and jazz throughout the album, but it's far from what most would consider typical fusion, especially as solos are rare.

If you're looking for strong vocals, original instrumentation and a strong, intricate blend of folk/jazz, this is well worth checking out. The strong production quality of the recording and the beautiful simplicity of the cover art don't hurt either.

 Circus by CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.56 | 35 ratings

Circus Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars First of all,it's hard to understand why CIRCUS' debut has only two reviews while their second album has over twenty...that is at least surprising since this album is very strong indeed...The first track is a rather JETHRO TULL-ish rocky intro who has very few elements in common with the rest of the disc...The first epic of the disc is the 10 min. ''Nowadays'',an excellent track with dark atmosphere very much in the vein of KING CRIMSON while the VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR influence comes to mind at the last 3 minutes of the track...The two songs that follow up are classic example of early KING CRIMSON-ish progressive rock with nice acoustic guitars and excellent flute parts...It is very important to notice that the flute here isn't just an additive instrument but Andres Gieder (great flutist) makes the work that the keyboard- or the hammond- or the moog- players do for other well known 70's bands, sometimes he just drives the music where he wants...

Last track of the album is the 15 min. ''Room for sale'' where VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's or even PETER HAMMILL's solo works come to mind due to the strange dark musicianship and the excellent vocals of Roland Frei reminiscent of PETER HAMMILL's mainly to the style of singing and not the color of the voice...So this is a must have album,full of improvisations,really progressive and I suggest you to add it to your collection...4 FULL STARS...

 Circus by CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.56 | 35 ratings

Circus Eclectic Prog

Review by laplace
Prog Reviewer

3 stars An interesting and rare album from an under-represented country, progwise. "Circus" contains a handful of great ideas sadly stranded by musical pussyfooting and perhaps too much reverence for the classic bands.

"Stormsplinter" opens, and this reviewer was immediately reminded of Aqualung-era Jethro Tull, not only because of the flauty flourish but also thanks to Mr. Frei's voice, which falls halfway between that of the legendary Ian Anderson and Mr. Goldring from Gnidrolog - I noticed the previous, greatly prolific reviewer also drew parallels with that short-lived band. This puts Circus in good company! "Nowadays" follows and is more expansive, linking fun moments with fragile landscapes, and it has to be said that not all of these segments can hope to keep your attention unless you really like happy prog.

Side A's closer "Sundays" has a little muted Genesis about it, thanks to the sensitive guitar play and arrangement of chords. It's pleasant and gentle if not challenging - perfect lazy summer symph-rock.

The fourth song threatens to be more grandiose, what with rolls of timpani and cymbals and such beautiful melodic twiddling, but thanks to its slow pace and short running time, it never amounts to the crescendo you hope for. Still, it is very unpredictable and rewarding via its individual elements - much more of a composition than a rock "song", and it can be said that it introduces the final, feature-length track well enough...

"Room for Sale" is curious, a song this reviewer found disappointing on some passes and entertaining on others. The lengthy introduction is built on two very familiar chords, has a bit of a jam feel and all in all can be considered a little boring. Heresy, I know, but it gets better from there, with a lovely Tull circa "A Passion Play" feel, all acoustic with traditional but pleasing variations. It may be fulfilling to pay attention to the lyrical story, split into musical chapters.

Despite my misgivings, this is the sort of album that's perfect for fans of Genesis, Camel, Tull et al who are looking for something a little more out of the way. In the end, this is a good collection of positive and refreshing songs that remain upbeat even during their minor or sardonic moments.

 Movin' On by CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.14 | 114 ratings

Movin' On
Circus Eclectic Prog

Review by el böthy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars A very impressive work from a band that comes from a country really not know for itīs prog...or music in general really: Switzerland. Yes, Switzerland, the land of banks, clocks, fine chocolate and neutrality gives us this delightful band: Circus. Circus music is a combination of folk and jazz without being fusion, while other elements as symphonic and experimentation are also present in smaller portions of course. The line up consists of bass guitar, acoustic guitars, wind instruments and impressive drumming. The musicianship is really top notch, really spectacular at times, without ever getting too in your face or too weird to understand. Special mention to Fritz Hauserīs drumming, really impressive as I said before, this drummer has itīs roots in fazz and delivers some fantastic rythmīs with a lot of feeling and swing.

The songs are all very alike, which can get a bit tedious at times, but they still remain very good. The bandsman (a surprisingly accesible song yet full of changes) opens the album with some interesting acoustic guitars till the whole band drops. The vocals are very nice, full of melody and quite happy also. Unlike many german bands, Circusīs singer Roland Frei has a very appealing german accent, which only adds as a bonus to the end result, something which as I said before is quite rare.

Laughter lane follows quite in the same direction as The bandsman but softer, with some interesting and gentle instrumentation thrue out the song.

Loveless time is most interesting due to Freiīs singing and saxophone. A very uplifting song. Notice the bass line around the fourth minute, I always find it to be terribly similar to Hendrix Foxy lady riff!!!

Dawn is just what this album needīs to go in another direction, and it does. The song is pure experimentation, instrumental jazz and interesting noices make this a very unique piece of the album.

Movinīon would almoust seem as the second part of the Bandsman, cause it starts quite similar with the acoustic guitars... until drums, flutes and a distorted bass move the piece into a more free jazz section. The first vocalīs are just "da da daīs", no lyrics, just some simple singing, which is still quite good! The vocals with actual words start around the end of the eight minute, here the band takes it nice and calm, for the vocals are definitly the focus point. The distorted bass comes in and out, which makes this song quite unique for itīs use...nice! The song ends again instrumentally in a jazzy way, first calm then shifting to a more intense playing; the bass work at the very end is really impressive! Funny thing, the band stops playing but for a whole more minute the song goes on, and if you listen to very closely you will hear some sort of vibes...strange way to end an album, but it works.

Defenitly to check out, specially if you are into acoustic musik and/or jazz with some good vocals. This is not a masterpiece, but I canīt think you can go any better than this in this kind of genre, so it comes highly recommended from my part.

 Movin' On by CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.14 | 114 ratings

Movin' On
Circus Eclectic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Man it took me long enough to really appreciate this album like most others do. This is considered somewhat of a minor classic and it's certainly one of the best albums to come out of Switzerland. The positives are the unique sound the band produces with no keyboards, lots of sax and flutes and acoustic guitars.

"The Bandsman" builds in sound to open with flute before the vocals come in. He sounds like Peter Hammill without the theatrics. These guys definintely know how to play. Nice drum and sax work here during the prolonged instrumental section. Vocals are back to end it. Great tune. "Laughter Lane" is pastoral to opens with reserved vocals and flute. It picks up before 2 minutes but the tempo continues to shift as it settles quickly. Beautiful sound before 2 1/2 minutes. Again the vocals are almost spoken here. Strummed guitar before 3 minutes then the sound gets fuller with sax and drums standing out.

"Loveless Time" takes it's time to get started as slowly sung vocals come in. A fuller sound around 2 minutes. Nice bass too. It calms down again with flute joining in. I like the bass 4 minutes in. "Dawn" again like the last two songs has no real melody early and is mellow to open. A melody comes in after 2 minutes with sax, bass and vibes.The sound builds. "Movin' On" is the over 21 minute closer and the highlight. Some fuzz early before bass and flute take over. I like the atmosphere here. Lots of mood and tempo shifts on this one.

"Movin' On" is a must listen for fans of Symphonic music. Classic stuff here.

 Movin' On by CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.14 | 114 ratings

Movin' On
Circus Eclectic Prog

Review by Yanns
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Ok, wow. Just wow.

Now this is an album. This album came to me only because of my good friend Hugues, who orignally discovered this album here and tried to spread the word on it, much like he did with Jan Dukes De Grey.

So when I orignally got hold of it, I listened to it, and it was good and all, but it really didn't catch me. I put it "back on the shelf", maybe for some other time.

The last couple weeks saw me spinning this album a lot, probably twice every day easily. I fell in love with the album. The power and style of this album is unlike any other in prog.

One thing (probably my favorite thing) about the album that needs to be mentioned is the vocals. OH MAN. Roland Frei, on these songs alone, has become one of my favorite singers. His voice is unbelievable, and his backing singers of Cerletti and Grieder are fantastic as well, providing for one of the best vocal sections in all of prog. Seriously.

The band is instrumentally weird. No keyboardist. No electric guitarist. You have your bass, vocals/acoustic guitar/tenor saxophone, flute/alto sax, and drums. May seem weird. Ok, dwell on it for a second. Done? Good, because now you can forget it and listen to the album.

The Bandsman has become one of my favorite prog tracks. You put it on unexpectedly, and you are swept off the ground in a whirlwind of music. The different styles covered in this song alone are fantastic. It also makes you wonder if they really only used those instruments listed above. The themes are amazingly done, providing for a great song.

Laughter Lane and Loveless Time I'll address together, because, for me at least, they are the middle songs in the album. They have these unbelievable ethereal passages. They have mellower sections than the opener of the album, providing for a great contrast and great sections of music. It also has its medieval, magical moments, just futher contributing to the diversity and overall quality of the album.

Dawn is instrumental, and far more experimental than the other songs on the album. It sounds like King Crimson in terms of the instruments and experimentation. Highly, highly enjoyable. I love the fact that they, again, change the type of song that they perform on this album. I find albums boring after a while if it is the same throughout. This is the opposite of that.

The 22 minute song Movin' On is also, to my own ears at least, a lot freer in feel than the rest of the album. It seems to be slightly more jam oriented than structure oriented. The vocal work, is however, is great, and harkens back to the way Yes vocalized earlier that decade. The instrumental work is amazing, and makes for a certainly fine song of epic proportions. Fine round-out to this fine, fine album.

All in all, symphonic prog fans, basically, need to own this. Despite the fact that this is not a 5 star album, it is basically essential for symphonic lovers. However, others should look into it to, if mine and the other reviews here have peaked your interest. It is a fascinating album, full of treasures and other findings. Very highly recommended. 4/5 stars.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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