Rocking Horse Music Club presents its expansive new genre-defying concept album/rock opera, Circus of Wire Dolls, on two CDs. The album tells the story of a man who creates a miniature circus out of wire, string, and cloth. In his imagination, the performers of his circus come to life with human thoughts and emotions. As the circus plays out, the performers each tell their own stories, revealing the aspirations, fears, and thoughts of their creator. “On the surface, it’s a story about a miniature circus,” explains band leader Brian Coombes, “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.”
Inspirations and Influences:
It was inevitable after revisiting some of the band’s early influences with the Anthony Phillips tribute project back in 2019 that the music of this new project might show some stylistic similarities to those influences. Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Rush were the primary musical influences, but the band also drew on 1960’s baroque/symphonic pop (the Beatles, the Zombies, and Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys), glam (Roxy Music, David Bowie, Queen), 1980’s new wave (Tears for Fears, the Cars), and touches of gospel, jazz fusion, folk/Americana, and modern musical theatre.
From a structural standpoint, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Who’s Tommy were two important influences, as was the musical Rent, which influenced the band on writing story arcs for different characters and for seamlessly mixing up musical genres in the context of a production.
The theme of the record was inspired by American novelist, Thomas Wolfe, who based a character in his novel, You Can’t Go Home Again, on American sculptor/performance artist, Alexander Calder. In the 1920s-1930s, Calder was well known in art circles for presenting his circus of wire dolls in homes and performance spaces throughout Europe and the United States. Circus of Wire Dolls tells the tale of a similar performance artist, but its story looks inward to the artist’s imagination, as the characters in his show reflect the thoughts and fears of their creator and examine the joys and pains of mortality. Similar to the travelers in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, who each tell tales on their pilgrimage to Canterbury, the characters in Circus of Wire Dolls share their stories on their journey through their creator’s life. Other influences include American writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sherwood Anderson and American showman P.T. Barnum.
In addition to Music Club singers Justin Cohn, Patrik Gochez, and Brian Coombes, the voices of the characters are brought to life by:
Noel McCalla, who many in the prog rock world may remember as the vocalist on Mike Rutherford’s first solo record, agreed to sing the role of the Ringmaster.
The talented English singer/songwriter Amy Birks sings the role of a female trapeze performer caught in a loveless relationship.
English singer/songwriter Tim Bowness, best known as solo artist and as a member of No Man, sings the role of a roustabout, a circus laborer who toils for years with little reward for his efforts.
Caroline Carter, a former Miss New Hampshire and winner of the talent competition at the Miss America pageant in 2017, co-wrote two songs on the album and voices the Fire Breather and Prima Donna characters.
Evelyn Cormier, an American Idol finalist in 2019, voices the Mother character.
Chris Difford, the legendary co-writer and co-voice of Squeeze, provides the voice for the Oldest Man Alive.
In addition to the in-house instrumental talent of the Music Club, the project also features special guest musicians, including:
David Cross (ex-King Crimson) plays violin on Circus Waltz.
Michaela Davis plays harp on 0300.
Kenwood Dennard (ex-Brand X) plays drums along with Music Club drummer Eric Wagley on Senseless Sky.
Melvin Duffy (Squeeze) plays pedal steel on Cut from a Different Cloth.
John Hackett plays flute on The Trapeze Waltz.
Greg Hawkes (the Cars), plays saxophone and additional keyboards on It’s Not About You.
Rob Townsend plays soprano saxophone on Trapeze Waltz and Circus Waltz.
Kate St John, from Dream Academy, plays oboe, cor anglais, and accordion on various tracks.
- Prologue: Riverside
- Circus Of Wire Dolls
- Packed Up (feat. Noel McCalla)
- Senseless Sky
- Animate in 5/8 (feat. Noel McCalla and Caroline Carter)
- To Reach The Other Side
- Will You Be My Downfall? (feat. Caroline Carter)
- So Little Left (feat. Tim Bowness)
- It’s Not About You
- Trapeze Waltz (feat. Amy Birks)
- Burn (feat. Caroline Carter)
- Cut From A Different Cloth (feat. Chris Difford)
- Face Of Rain
- Lost A Piece Of Me
- House Party At Jack’s
- Flowers In November
- Every Show Must End (feat. Noel McCalla)
- All Shall Be Well (feat. Evelyn Cormier)
- Circus Waltz (feat. David Cross)
- Coda: Slide Down The Cellar Door
Artist: Rocking Horse Music Club
Release Date: September 16, 2022