Sunday, March 28, 2010

Review: Brian Howe "Circus Bar"

After 13 years, Brian Howe is back with a whopper of a new album. The ex-Bad Company singer begins his sophomore release with the announcement of his triumphant return in a terrific and feisty rocker aptly titled, "I'm Back".

Sounding just as fierce and energetic as his heyday in Bad Company, Howe has delivered what many will consider the surprise of the year. "Circus Bar" is packed with some of the most melodic and contemporary material he's ever written. The contemporary nature of the new record may be due in part to input from songwriting and producing partner, Brooks Paschal (formerly of the modern rock band Sullivan).

After the infectious opener ("I'm Back"), Howe launches into another catchy tune called "Life's Mystery", which, as you may surmise, is a reflective piece about our fragile and temporary existence. "There's This Girl" finds Howe on terra firma, a track that could easily have been placed on any of his records with Bad Company. "I'm Surrounded", a great mid-tempo song of yearning, will please those who enjoyed Howe's first solo record, 1997's "Tangled In Blue". "Flying", a sweet acoustic ballad laced with beautiful harmonies, is a touching tribute to moms that have passed on. "My Town" returns to the rock designed to get you to move and "Feels Like Coming Home" is another mid-tempo treat made even better with some great harmonies in the pre-chorus. "What Am I Feeling" could be considered the sequel to the monster power ballad hit, "If You Needed Somebody".

Fans will note that "Circus Bar" has newly recorded versions of two songs Howe made into hits with Bad Company. His new version of "How 'Bout That" is only mildly different, but his haunting piano-driven rendition of "Holy Water" is a very compelling listen.

In many ways, "Circus Bar" sounds like a stellar, proper follow up to Bad Company's "Here Comes Trouble". It possesses the maturity of his previous solo record from many years ago, but has much more of a rock vibe than the adult contemporary direction that dominated "Tangled In Blue". No fan of great melodic rock should miss this one - it is Howe's masterpiece.

Don't miss my interview with Brian Howe at Rock and Roll Report!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13

Brian Howe on MySpace. Official site.

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