Short album reviews by The Prog Yak. No puffery here, just a simple review and score from 1 to 5 yaks! Have a new album you'd like The Prog Yak to review? Let us know.
Circus of Wire Dolls
Rocking Horse Music Club
If you’re not familiar with the crossover-Prog band, Rocking Horse Music Club, I have a feeling you’re about to be hearing a lot about them in the coming days. Nothing like an epic double-disc rock opera with loads of special guests to garner some attention. This is exactly what Rocking Horse Music Club is unleashing on September 16th with their 3rd studio release, Circus of Wire Dolls.
The album is the brain child of songwriter/producer Brian Coombes, who operates Rocking Horse Studios in New Hampshire (USA). Along with his fellow bandmates (mostly other resident musicians at the studio), Brian invited a long list of guest musicians to bring to life the many characters of his rock opera, including Amy Birks, Tim Bowness, Caroline Carter (Miss NH 2017), Evelyn Cormier (American Idol), David Cross (King Crimson), Kenwood Dennard (Brand X), Chris Difford (Squeeze), John Hackett, Greg Hawkes (the Cars), Noel McCalla (Mike Rutherford/Manfred Mann), Kate St John (Dream Academy), and Rob Townsend (Steve Hackett).
“On the surface, the record tells the story of a man who creates a miniature circus out of wire, string, and cloth,” explains Brian, “but it’s really about a man looking back at his life, his work, the people who entered and exited his world, his successes, his failures, his regrets.”
At 95 minutes long, there is a lot of music to Circus of Wire Dolls, cutting across multiple genres of music. The prog influences are heard throughout (Genesis, Rush, Pink Floyd, etc.) but you'll hear plenty of other genres woven in, basically just making it that much "proggier." The album definitely hits our sweet spot here at Prog Radio..."melodic and accessible." Think more along the lines of Tommy, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, or Jesus Christ Superstar than Queensrÿche's Operation Mindcrime.
This album is very easy on the ears, no fillers, and you can tell a lot of care, attention and effort has gone into the production. As always, I've listed my personal highlights below, but it really is one of those albums to just be enjoyed with the full journey. The album’s sound is warm and lush, with orchestral instrumentation and backing vocal arrangements augmenting the band’s sound. Vintage keyboards, including mellotron, optigan, celeste, and the famous Mrs Mills and Challen pianos from Abbey Road, also contribute to the album’s sonic identity.
As impressive as the list of guest vocalists is, special props should also go out to the band's three resident singers who all do a splendid job, particularly Justin Cohn in the lead roll of PT Wolfe. His falsetto-enfused voice is really special. Not the proggiest song to be sure, but definitely pay attention to the song "0300" (Oh-three hundred, i.e. 3 AM) which comes midway and highlights Justin's voice and Brian's songwriting.
As you would expect with such an epic project, the album artwork is equally impressive, complete with the storyline and full lyrics to help you keep track of all the different characters and who is singing what.
We really love this album. We love anything that can mix so many genres, keep it proggy, but still be melodic and move the listener. 5 yaks! One of the best releases this year. If it gets the attention it deserves I’m sure it will be making a lot of the top albums for 2022 best-of lists, it certainly will be on ours.
For a sneak preview of the album, tune into Prog Radio, where we currently have several of the tracks in our New Music rotation. Then, be sure to check it out on Sep 16th when the double CD is released, with vinyl to follow on Oct 21st.
Sep 16, 2022
1 hr 35 min
0300 • Every Show Must End • All Shall Be Well • Coda Slide Down the Cellar Door • Cut from a Different Cloth • Circus of Wire Dolls
The Prog Yak