Monday, June 13, 2022

Tape Case Study: Circus of Power, "Still Alive..." Live EP

Circus of Power, Still Alive... Live EP (Metal Blade, 1989)

This is kind of a perplexing cassette release. Circus of Power, recently named as one of "Fifteen bands that should have been huge!" by Sleaze Roxx, was a, yes, sleaze rock band from New York City that had signed to RCA for its first album. This live EP was the band's second release, a six-song live set recorded somewhere in Detroit and released on Metal Blade—not RCA. 

Why didn't RCA release the live side? Did Metal Blade hope to draw some business from whatever mersh success the band had achieved with RCA? By 1989, Metal Blade was wandering from its bread and butter acts such as Fates Warning and Lizzy Borden to crossover acts of perhaps broader appeal like Swedish-American hard rock act Princess Pang and Midwest power poppers the Junk Monkeys.

Regardless, the six songs are a fun novelty—who doesn't love a tape with "Program Two same as Program One" on the J-card?—but were the songs not included on both sides, the listener might just listen once, and be done with it. (As it is, I'll listen twice. Disappointingly, the second side was blank! Boo, hiss.) 

The six songs open with a cover of Rick Derringer's "Still Alive and Well" and end with what might be the least restrained song of the set, "Turn Up the Jams." During that song, Alex Mitchell's vocals most remind me of Ian Astbury and Jim Morrison—comparisons I'd like to be able to make more often.

The band has a bit of a Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction thing going on, so it's no surprise that the band has connections to the motorcycle—OK, biker—scene, festivals, and events. (Case in point: Easyriders Video Magazine #11. And Hit List Vol. 3 #5 claimed the band was "the world's greatest biker metal band.") The live recording, venue unknown, includes no little crowd noise and exuberance, as well as the band's occasional exhortations to drink much, have fun, and stay safe.

In the end, the tape is too short and too short on information or context to be truly compelling. But it's fun, I'm not hungover, and I didn't get jumped. So that's something.

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