One Track Mind: Circa featuring Billy Sherwood and Tony Kaye, “And So On” (2011)

Circa has every right to sound like Yes, considering that its two principal creative forces are former members of the band, and this is the tune that makes the most of that prog-rock promise.

“And So On,” featuring Billy Sherwood on vocals and bass and Tony Kaye on keyboards, boasts clear DNA strands from the two principal periods of hit-making music for Yes, both old and new: Kaye was the group’s original keyboardist, a period that saw him co-write “Yours Is No Disgrace” for The Yes Album, before Rick Wakeman took over. Kaye then returned to Yes for its synth-driven prog-pop era a decade later — staying from 1983-1995 in his second stint. It was then that he met 1990s alum Sherwood.

Together now in Circa, they are joined by like-minded confederates in guitarist Johnny Bruhns (a member the post-Yes amalgam Yoso) and drummer Ronnie Ciago (who’s worked with Patrick Moraz, a Relayer-period member of Yes). The result is an atom-smashing amalgam of both eras – and nowhere is that more evident than on this, the epic nine-minute title and opening track of Circa’s new release. It’s all there: A soaring vocal, a dynamic song structure featuring a series of abrupt changes in tempo and atmosphere, this impossibly buoyant bass line, guitar shapes that sound at once classical and modern, keyboards that meander with introspective verve — and a sunny disposition set a time-machine levels.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Billy Sherwood discusses his decade-long tenure with the legendary prog-rock band Yes, and how it all fell apart.]

Kaye returns to the Hammond organ — the instrument he was featured on during his last album with Yes, 1994’s Talk — as Sherwood sings with an unguarded abandon while deliriously thumping away on the bass. But it’s Bruhns, perhaps, who surprises the most – somehow combining both the modern edge of Trevor Rabin’s thundering 90125 riffs with the atmospheric intellect of Steve Howe.

Circa’s And So On, its fourth release, is available through the band’s official Web site at www.circahq.com.

Sherwood appeared on Yes’ 1991 release Union; toured with the band in support of 1994’s Talk; then co-produced and mixed Yes’ Keys to Ascension and Keys to Ascension 2 projects in 1996-97; was a key creative contributor to the band’s 1997 release Open Your Eyes and appeared on the subsequent tour; then finally appeared on 1999’s The Ladder and the live document from a subsequent tour, House of Yes. Yes drummer Alan White was also an original member of Circa, though he returned to Yes when the band restarted with a new leader singer recently.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.

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