If one were to cast Howard Stern's Wack Pack as the band members of the traveling carnival of the outstanding HBO show Carnivàle, the music on Ringleader's Revolt could be envisaged with some ease as a soundtrack. Hell, even the cover art offers an inkling!
The Beat Circus operates on a musical boundary hardly ever performed live or even heard on record. Their performances on this release, however, have a jumping dramatic flair with a clearalmost visualgoal that corresponds with the individual titles, as well as the overarching subject matter, which stands for salient moments during a circus show. As such, longer compositions are intersped with shorter ones. Both, however, have an important effect in a work that must be heard in its entirety. Perhaps one way of recounting this oddly entertaining music would be as dissonant avant-jazz circus music with a tellingly aged approach nonethelessas readily illustrated by the alto sax solo in "Mandalay Song, the banjo playing throughout the record, and the lunatic wistful discordant melodicism of "Big Top Suite Part 2: Clowns.
Because of its jazz era "oompa-oompa swing core, "The Mack might very well be one of the most readily decipherable cuts, although it's hardly predictable. It features an energetic and engaging series of solos from sax and banjo, as well as a slurred tuba solo, which has a verbal quality. Its coda is a free-for-all counterpoint.
Ringleader's Revolt, one of my preferred releases of 2004, is a premiere example of musical wittiness and unpredictability. After all, where else are you going to hear the metaphorical use of phrases such as "...aphids on a martini shaker... or "...Like an army of living pogo sticks, they jack hammered their way to a new life... but in a performance of "Escape From the Big House ?
Track Listing: 1. Overture (B. Carpenter) 2. Mandalay Song (K. Weill) 3. Big Top Suite Part 1: March of the Elephants (B. Carpenter) 4. I am not an Animal, I am a Human Being (The Beat Circus) 5. Big Top Suite Part 2: Clowns (B. Carpenter) 6. Contortionist Tango (B. Carpenter) 7. Requiem for John Merrick (The Beat Circus) 8. Intermission (M. Evans) 9. Big Top Suite Part 3: Daredevil Chicken Trapeze (B. Carpenter) 10. Grand Entrance (B. Carpenter) 11. The Mack (B. Carpenter) 12. Escape from the Big House (B. Carpenter, DJ Hazard) 13. Die by the Sword (The Beat Circus) 14. Ringleader's Revolt (The Beat Circus) 15. Exit Music (B. Carpenter)
Personnel: Accordion: Alec K. Redfearn. Alto sax: Jim Hobbs. Banjo, mandolin & sampling: Brandon Seabrook. Drums & percussion: Jerome Deupree. Slide trumpet & trumpet: Brian Carpenter. Tuba & turntables: Ron Caswell. Special Guests: Baritone sax: Charle Kohlhase. Cello & short wave radio: Karen Langlie (12). Electric guitar: Sagittarius Brown (14). Singing saw: Leigh Calabrese (5). Voice: DJ Hazard (12).