CIRCA, Where Have You Been Hiding?

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A promotional e-mail for a band called CIRCA showed up in my in-box recently and with life the way it has been lately, I did not get a chance to actually open it up and read it for a few days. Unfortunately, many promotional e-mails and other mailings I receive (DVDs, CDs, etc.) don’t have any relation to classic rock at all and sometimes don’t even have anything to do with rock. You’d think the name “Real Rock News” would be a good hint, but I guess a lot of these promotional outfits just use the old shotgun approach and blast promotional material out to every contact they have.

Finding out about CIRCA had me wondering if I was living under a rock for the last four years or so without realizing it! How could I not have heard of a progressive rock group that included former members of Yes and has a sound that is quite reminiscent of the way Yes used to sound? I’ve managed to bring myself up-to-speed by listening to material from their 2007 and HQ albums as well as their latest effort entitled And So On. It was the release of this new album that finally put CIRCA on my radar, and from what I have heard so far, I’ll be spending some time with their music on my playlist.

CIRCA was formed (officially) on 2007 and included former Yes members Tony Kaye, Billy Sherwood and Alan White. White departed to link up with Yes again and was replaced by Jay Schellen. White had a long association with Yes and his departure from CIRCA may have been been a bit worrisome (had I known about the group at the time!) but it sounds as if the group did not miss a beat by bringing Schellen on and he did a superb job of honoring the kind of skill and technical ability I’ve come to expect from the veteran prog rockers he was sharing the stage with until he left the group earlier this year.

Schellen was replaced by Ronnie Ciago prior to recording And So On, and although I won’t use a bad pun to compare his skills to the Schellen, I will say that the group seems to have made another excellent choice in Ciago, who seems to fit in seamlessly and rather makes it sound as if Alan White never left the group.

Although I had not taken the time to check out Yes’ latest album, Fly From Here, I decided to do just that after learning about CIRCA. I was reading about CIRCA a bit around the internet and someone commented somewhere (apologies for not remembering the site or name of the commenter) that CIRCA is what Yes should have evolved into. It seemed like as good a time as any to see just what Yes had evolved into.

There’s no denying that current Yes singer Benoit David does a decent impression of former front man Jon Anderson, if I were listening to the album for the first time without knowing that Anderson had been replaced, I would likely find myself wondering what had gone wrong with his voice however. That’s not to say David is a bad singer. Although he sounds a lot like Jon Anderson, he just isn’t Jon Anderson.

Comparing Fly From Here to what I’ve heard of CIRCA’s material, I’d have to give CIRCA the edge. I agree with whomever it was that said CIRCA was what Yes should have evolved into. I found Fly From Here a bit subdued and not quite up to the prog rock reputation Yes has earned for themselves through the years. CIRCA sounds like they are pushing the envelope more while Yes – at least as far as Fly From Here is concerned – sounds more like they’ve dialed things back a bit technically and engaged the cruise control.

Although Fly From Here is not a bad listen, I found myself thinking that CIRCA sounds more like the Yes I loved a decade or three ago more so than the current incarnation of Yes does. This is the first work I’ve heard from Yes with their new front man and as a result I’m tempted to suggest that they try to patch things up with Jon Anderson and bring him back into the fold. If someone were to play that album to me without first telling me it was Yes, I would probably draw that conclusion, but it’s certainly not the Yes I loved listening to for so many years.

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