Album review: THE BLACK CIRCLES – From The Top





The Black Circles [Release date 16.03.15]

The Blues is the blues whether you come from the deep-south or from Warrington in the North West of the UK.

The Black Circles prove the point. Their debut 4 track ‘From the Top’ EP/CD is a live in the studio recording, full of edge and played with buckets of passion that promises much and delivers plenty.

The band feature Sam Bratley on vocals and guitar and who matches his emotive vocals with impressive solos built from the ground up.

He’s joined by busy drummer Phil Wilson who knows how to push a groove, rock solid bass player Martin Saunders and keyboard player Tim Eden who fill their musical vision with substance.

At time they tread a thin line between the spontaneous and the ragged, but hell, so did the younger Buddy Guy!

‘From the Top’ is the triumphant sum of its parts, as The Black Circles successfully chase a vibe to nail their musical vision.

There’s both rocking blues and contrasting introspection, with a touch of Peter Green on ‘Bad Luck’ and more than a hint of grunge and Gary Clark Jnr. on ‘I’m Leaving’.

The latter treads a thin dividing line between their natural unfettered intensity and a fleeting lack of clarity. For while Sam’s grungy guitar soars over a cymbal crescendo, the bluesy cacophony all but drowns out the vocal diction.

But it’s a minor blip on an EP/CD that is all about attitude and capturing the spark of the band’s exhilarating interplay.

They open with the big riff driven rocker ‘Gypsy Girl’, which has a hint of SRV, The Hoax – Jesse Davey actually mastered the album –  and the ripping guitar work of Stony Curtis, on a jet propelled blues rocker that could only be bettered by a slightly better vocal.

However, by the time the gnawing wah-wah drenched riff kicks in for a second time, you are hooked.

In sharp contrast ‘Bad Luck’ shows they are more than just another testosterone driven rock-blues combo, as the dreamy slow blues utilizes space and subtle dynamics to evoke Peter Green’s ability to say to so much with a resonant vibrato and a turn of phrase.

Sam Bratley puts himself on the line with a heartfelt vocal and a solo that he builds from the ground up, full of long, linear and expressive lines with a deep tone voiced over extravagant cymbal splashes and a descending bass line. It all comes together on a tension busting crescendo glued together by sweeping organ lines.

The four tracks have enough variety and light and shade to draw the listener in, while the band has the confidence to strip things right down on a muscular blues finish, again played with total passion and commitment.

Sam’s sparkling solo reaches to the heart of the song and bursts through the tension with an intense flurry and a change of key, as he leans into the song with gusto.

‘From The Top’ is a promising debut from an up and coming band with plenty of crossover potential. Watch this space. ***½ 

Review by Pete Feenstra


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