CIRCUS MAXIMUS – CIRCUS MAXIMUS

CIRCUS MAXIMUS – “Circus Maximus” (Vanguard VMD 79260-2) November 1967

I’ve had this album on CD for many years and have recently spent a lot of time with it, playing the record in full from the opener “Travelin’ Around” to the closer “Wind”, an eight minute psychedelic jazz opus. This song was an underground radio hit in USA. Circus Maximus didn’t achieve much, if any acclaim in Britain though.

Most of the numbers are heavily based on the folk-rock template of jangling guitars – rattling tambourines shimmer in the background, the group harmonies are tight and thankfully, the songs are strong and memorable.

There are some raw rock ‘n’ roll numbers, the previously mentioned “Travelin’ Around” has a fast tempo and is a good lead off track and quite a perfect entry into the next tune, the polished Byrdsian “Lost Sea Shanty”, which wouldn’t have been out of place on the Byrds LP “Younger Than Yesterday”.

Presented in the centre ring of an electric circus,

Under a visual “big top” of flowing, multicoloured light.

Circus Maximus is the biggest circus,

The circus of the mind . . .

theatred in a tent of imagination.

Circus Maximus

Some tracks don’t quite make the grade for me personally, “Chess Game” is boring and goes no where fast and Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Fading Lady” is a slow folk ballad that doesn’t really escape from the starting blocks. It’s the weakest cut on the album.

“Short-Haired Fathers” is a garage raver with potent organ weaving it’s way around the fast-talkin’ words, it’s almost proto-type rapping. A hippie rapping about square dudes with crew cuts no doubt. Spark up the joint and pass it ’round.

Line-Up:

Jerry Jeff Walker (guitar, vocals)
Bob Bruno (12 string guitar, organ, piano, vocals)
David Scherstrom (drums)
Gary White (bass)
Peter Troutner (guitar, tambourine)

album recorded in August 1967

Bob Bruno

I recall out takes from the front cover as well. I saw all of them but, like this obscure shot of Jerry, I forgot about them. On our second side, one of our rejected concepts was well drawn depiction of us all in togas, ala the Roman “Circus Maximus”. – Being seen in togas, that is short dresses forever didn’t appeal to us. though the artist was very talented.

Our front covers weren’t taken by Bob Simmons. I think it was the same man that did a very popular “Doors” front cover. His clear, close up exposure showed more pores on my face than I wanted but the world kept turning. Early morning shoots were torture for us in that era when we were up all night as I had been when the cover of our first “Circus” side was shot.

Circus Maximus
Jerry Jeff Walker
at the Night Owl

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