Friday, March 25, 2011

Circus Maximus
1967 Vanguard

This is a pretty interesting record that I just saw and heard for the first time today. It's a Vanguard release so right off the bat I knew it was hit or miss. I'm a big fan of about half of Vanguard's folk catalog and some of the hard rock and psych they released is really fantastic. On this album's back cover Circus Maximus claims the the record is "Presented in the center ring of an electric circus under a visual "big top" of flowing, multicolored light… Circus Maximus is the biggest circus… The Circus of the mind…Theatred in a tent of imagination…"

The album has nothing to do with a circus, nor does it have any remote hint of anything circusy less a few organ solos that might pass for something you'd hear under the big top. The record is very 1967 San Francisco in that it sounds a bit flowery and what my friend Mike would refer to as "Diet Psych". Some of the tracks almost rock while others follow the formula of the quieter side of psychedelic 60's hard rock.

Circus Maximus was originally called "Lost Sea Dreamers" but Vanguard didn't like the LSD acronym so they went for the more fun but lackluster, in my opinion, "Circus Maximus".

The song that they did best with is the final track on the album titled "Wind". It was regularly spun on progressive radio stations in the late sixties. It sounds something of a slower Donovan b-side. As far as I can tell, it's the worst track on the album and almost shouts itself out as a precursor to the mess of arpeggiated eighties easy listening hits.

In its entirety, this debut Circus Maximus record is a good album, but nothing more. It is essentially a slightly above average product of a psychedelic music marketing fad.

Here's one of their more exciting tracks, "Short-Haired Fathers". It's the closest thing to a psychedelic circus soundtrack found on the album although I'm thinking it's more of a song for rebellious sixties teens interested more in the long hair lifestyle of the time and less interested in being square (like father).

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