Reviews roundup ~ Circus Mind ~ Alan King Project ~ Autumn Reverie ~ John Dissed

Reviews roundup ~ Circus Mind ~ Alan King Project ~ Autumn Reverie ~ John Dissed

Joy Machine

Outhouse Records

Turns out that New York band Circus Mind has been on the go for twenty years now. Who knew? Of course it’s only their third album so they’ve not exactly been prolific recording wise. They’re the brainchild of vocalist, songwriter, and keyboardist, Mark Rechler who has kept himself busy over the years playing with an assortment of blues, soul, funk and roots musicians.

He’s brought that to this record which covers all those areas with some seventies classic rock along for good measure.

The basic band, apart from Rechler is Dan Roth – drums, Steve Finkelstein – percussion, Chris Crosby – bass guitar and David Berg – guitar although on this record there is a huge number of guest guitarists including Walter Wolfman Washington, Scott Metzger, Ivan Neville, Big Sam, Marc Ribot, and more. It’s a good album with plenty of catchy choruses and memorable melodies on songs like ‘Are You Ready’, ‘Mean Mutha Fucka’ and ‘Air Waves’. Not every one’s a winner with ‘Errand Boy’ and ‘Longing Song’ causing an involuntary hit of the skip button.

But the musicians are in top form although the vocals take a bit of getting used to and if you want to recall what it was like when rock bands like Little Feat and Rare Earth could be soulful as well, then this might well be for you.

King of Flames

Macrae Productions

Time for some prog now. Or to give it its full name progosaurus petram.

And what better way to do that than through the medium of a conceptish album relating the story of long ago days and a young chap experiencing love, heartbreak, struggles and the tribulations of the world. Or as those of us not making concept albums would say, life.

Mr King takes care of the songs, keyboards and vocals and has brought in some excellent guest musicians including Olga Smola on violin, Kevin Kerwin on piano, Jeremy Ehrig on drums, Jody Kermoade and Danny Korb on guitars, Chuck Tostenson on bass with the narrations done by Matt Tompkins. It’s not all prog as he also brings in some symphonic near metal, musical theatre and classic rock into the mix. So sort of Trans-Siberian Orchestra-ish. Which isn’t a bad thing apart from when they’re making Christmas records.

He’s been a working musician for decades now but you definitely get the feeling that this is a labour of love. Certainly, it took three years for him to pull all the pieces together and there is some really excellent music on offer here. The keyboards and violin solos are the real standouts but when he moves into more metal territory then there are still riffs to enjoy. ‘My Love It Always Knows’ is a fine example of that even while some gothy keyboards are running along underneath. He’s got an excellent voice which really suits the prog metal moments as he can get way up there with ease.

If I’m going to be brutal I’d have lost the narrations which interrupt the flow to my ears. I now Jeff Wayne did it in War of the Worlds but it misses for me here. That aside, though, it’s a really enjoyable release which benefits from an evening with headphones. It’s taken him a while to get here but here’s hoping there’s more to come.



That opening monologue is really good. I was all ready for something spectacularly Rammsteiny to follow.

But turns out that Autumn Reverie are a post grunge band from Madison, Wisconsin. They’re a good post grunge band from Madison, Wisconsin but you’re enjoyment of this will be measured by how much pleasure you took from the support band on the 1996 Candlebox tour or the 2001 Drowning Pool tour. I have vaguely fond memories of the former and an abiding distaste for the latter so I’m somewhere in-between. Actually, I take that back. The lowpoint of post grunge was seeing Skillet support Nickelback.

Back to Autumn Reverie who have got the whole loud – soft – screamo – loud – soft thing bang on. They’ve been around a wee while and considering they sound they’ve made here I’m surprised they haven’t been given a go. The vocals of Jake Ramos are a real highlight. He can handle anything the band throws his way with ease. And when they ramp things up into more metal territory then it gets really good. That would be ‘Cast Away’. That’s a killer tune that is. There are seven tracks here out of the eleven on offer that are well above par, which is a good return rate for an indie band. It might have worked better as a mini-album as too many unsigned bands feel compelled to fill up space with substandard offerings.

A round of applause to their engineer who has managed to capture a full and rich sound that really impresses. Even the drums which usually fall flat on indie releases. The whole band impress and given the right ears getting to hear this and assuming we’re ever allowed out of the house again there’s a living to be made out on the road for This Sort of Thing.

American University

Bull Lee Records

How do you fancy a reissued concept album about the assassination of Kennedy (the John F one not the Bobby one) performed in an acousticy Green Dayish kind of way? No, come back! I didn’t mean it. Oh.

Well if you’re still here I don’t really need to tell you any more about this record. Cheers. Oh. Right. Well, John Dissed is the chap responsible and he seems to be a believer in The Global Political Awakening and the New World Order. Fair play, I’m just surprised more non nutter people aren’t aware of it. Although if you’re satisfied with a 99p burger and 3 shirts for a fiver why would you care.

The tricky part in getting people to care is that music is no longer a mass media method of education. At its peak it could make a difference but we now live in a word where the proselytisers are all sitting in a circle jerk computerised bubble geeing each other on. So it’s going to be hard for Mr Dissed to get people to listen. Musically he’s decided to follow the tried and tested punk method of dirtying up some glam rock riffs to preach over. Try and find an original musical motif on any Sex Pistols or Clash record and I will give you an entire Great British pound all to yourself. Elsewhere there are plenty of power pop and new wave motifs and riffs to keep you going although some of them appear to appear in more than one song.

Vocally he’s got a raw, semi spoken style that has some melody around the edges and breaks up the songs with some am-dram spoken word moments from a cast of characters portraying real life people in the Kennedy circle. It’s an interesting record although as someone from another continent who wasn’t born when Kennedy was killed, the content doesn’t grab me in a historical way. I do get the parallels to the modern world where a cabal controls the the media and the minds.

St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton

The Rocker monthly reviews sampler now available on Spotify

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