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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Brian Howe - Circus Bar CD review

Brian Howe – Circus Bar CD review (Frontiers records)
Released March 9th North America
Brian Howe, most people know from his time spent in Bad Company after Paul Rodgers went his own way. With Bad Company, Howe recorded – IMHO – some very, very classy work, sadly die hard fans of Rodgers, would tell you a different story.

Before Howe joined Bad Co. though, he had done an album and toured with wild man of rock Ted Nugent, in support of the not too shabby ‘Penetrator’ release, but even before working with Ted, some of us folks from UK (Specifically the Portsmouth area), knew him from local bands, one of those being called Shy. No, I don’t mean the hard rock band from the UK’s midlands with the same name.
He also briefly played with British band White Spirit, who did the rounds during the UK's NWOBHM* era.
*New Wave Of British Heavy Metal - A brutal tag to some of Britain's classier rock bands.

He released one solo album after Bad Company called ‘Tangled in Blue’ (1997), later re-issue as ‘Touch’ in Europe.

So, after five albums with Bad Company, one with Ted, where does Howe stand today with this new solo release?
Is this CD valid, does anyone care? Well yes, you should! So sit up, no stand up and shout ...! 
I'm telling you, this is a class album!

Opening with the modern rock, yet extremely catchy sounding ‘I’m Back,’ I was stunned how good this sounded from the very start, he hits the mark! Welcome back indeed Brian!

Keeping with a current sound, ‘Life’s Mystery’ musically doesn’t sound too dissimilar to say Goo Goo Dolls or Foo Fighters, but of course with Brian's distinct voice, it’s killer, with major hooklines, wow!
With ‘There’s this Girl’ it’s a little like the newer sound that Rick Springfield recently presented with his very good, ‘Venus in Overdrive’ release and again, I am simply stunned as how contagious this album is. You’ll be singing, ‘There’s this Girl’ for ages and the guitar solo is to totally die for.
Kicking some serious butt here mate!

‘Could’ve Been You’ starts a little funky / sub-reggae in the verses, but then the chorus is again punchy and in your face! Love the blend / mix of guitar and Hammond organ towards the end, it just rocks!
He’s found something awesome here for real! I'm loving this album.

Power ballad time with ‘Surrounded’ which has enough of a pop rock feel that it could easily be a hit, with a totally enticing vibe throughout. Something that Mick Jones of Foreigner might even be envious of! Nice.
In next track ‘Flying’ he remains keeping it in ballad territory and it’s a class piece of work.
Just love this hauntingly acoustic driven piece. I am very impressed, did I say that already?!

‘How It Could Have Been,’ reminds me a little of Bryan Adams in his better times meets Foreigner and again is a killer strong hook laden song - as most of these are here - and seriously, if I just wrote that for all of this, you really should be sold on this album. To me, it really is that good!
There’s great songs, great sounds, great mix and production throughout here.

Ah, to ‘My Town’ where he’s remembering his days in Portsmouth and this song gets me as it will probably make him feel each time he’ll sing this live. He even pulled Pat Travers in on guitar for this track.
A great player also! ‘Yeah, that’s My Town …’ Couldn’t agree more Brian. I miss it too mate!

A re-recording of the first Bad Company tune for him here next, ‘How ‘Bout That’ and he’s certainly kept the songs integrity but has given it a fresh vibe here and I thought it was great the first time.
I certainly love this new version.
Bass and drums kick off the mid paced ‘Feels Like I’m Coming Home’ as the song grows and again it’s a another winner.
‘If You Want Trouble’ brings to mind Howe’s Bad Company period and rocks out big time.

Slowing things down again with, ‘Feelings’ with acoustic guitar and strings present, before the power chords kick in at the chorus without getting too crazy. Nice stuff.

To the second Bad Company redo and I have to say that this sultry, string laden and piano driven version of ‘Holy Water,’ moved me completely. This gave me goosebumps, I kid you not. Brian, it’s a gem mate.
Closing the album with a little tongue squarely in cheek in the chanting, an after hours pub style song, ‘Little George Street,’ about the street around the corner from an old favourite long gone Portsmouth music pub called 'The Salutation,' which was on New Road, Mr. Howe calls it a wrap.
Ironically, that pub was where I met Brian once. He walked in when our band was playing there one night. At the time Brian had just joined Ted Nugent's band. Fun times. 
This really is a truly excellent album that I just love, can’t say enough good about it really.

If you already like Brian Howe’s voice, you’re almost certainly going to buy it, but I will say, don’t expect Bad Company revisited as Brian Howe has got something fresh right here and as he told us on the opening track, ‘I’m Back!’ Yes you are Brian and rightfully so mate!

Rating: 5 out of 5 – Yes, a great album!

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