Circa – Circa: 2007 (2013)

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Arriving in a period in which Yes wasn’t doing studio work, and including contributions from no less than five musicians with ties to the band, the comparisons for Circa came early and often. A new reissue from Cleopatra underscores the differences. “Don’t Let Go,” despite all of that, has a stuttering complexity, this mathematical portent, that was Circa’s own. And while its theme of constancy might seem, on the surface, to mimic the soaring narratives associated with Jon Anderson, there is a darker underlying sense of foreboding.

Meanwhile, “Together We Are” explores an idyllic pop-infused dreamscape, with an unguarded vocal from Sherwood unlike anything he ever did on 1990s Yes albums like Open Your Eyes or The Ladder. “Information Overload” presupposes the information-age concerns of Sherwood’s later solo albums, but with an intriguing insectile vocal approach. “Trust In Something” connects not with Yes, but with Genesis and departed frontman Peter Gabriel.

That’s not to say that you can’t hear the monolithic influence of Yes here. After all, Circa came by such things honestly, boasting as it did three former members of the group: Bassist Sherwood, keyboardist Tony Kaye (a Yes co-founder), and drummer Alan White (on board since 1972). Guitarist Jimmy Haun had also guested on 1991’s Union, while platinum-era Yes member Trevor Rabin co-wrote two songs — including the aforementioned “Don’t Let Go.” So, sure, the opening “Cut the Ties” rises and falls, chugs and snaps, like a lost Chris Squire classic. “Keeper of the Flame” slowly builds to an anthematic climax amid clusters of notes from Haun, very much in the style of Steve Howe. The choral interplay on “Life Going By” recalls unguarded Yes choral showcases from “We Have Heaven” to “Leave It.”

Still, a more representative moment can be found on “Look Inside,” the second Rabin co-write, as Circa gathers itself for another canny combining of modern prog cadences, sweeping vocal aesthetics and a dash of Weather Report-esque fusion rock — highlighted by a jazzy solo turn by Kaye. “Brotherhood of Man” ends things on a moment of reserved hopefulness, something else that sets it apart from sun-streaked classic-era Yes.

No, Circa emerged as a unique and intriguing amalgam, though this lineup provided to be too short-lived for its promise to play out. White went back to Yes, which finally returned with Fly From Here in 2010, and Johnny Bruhns replaced the departing Haun. Drummer Scott Connor and bassist Ricky “Rat” Tierney now complete the quartet with Sherwood (who has moved to guitar) and Kaye.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, 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 U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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