Back in the Circus

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Barnes & Noble - Steve Klinge
Beginning with her days as half of the Story, Jonatha Brooke has been a literate, sophisticated songwriter, willing to challenge herself and to experiment while never losing sight of the need to craft a solid hook. On Back in the Circus, her third studio album as a solo artist, Brooke matches her intimate vocals with computer-based production: Many of the songs use programmed beats, and some, such as "Sleeping with the Light On," veer into Beth Orton–like electronica. But like Suzanne Vega's 99.9° F., Back in the Circus is warmly personal rather than coldly mechanical. The title track sets a mix of accordion, keyboards, and acoustic guitar to a lilting waltz, ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Steve Klinge
Beginning with her days as half of the Story, Jonatha Brooke has been a literate, sophisticated songwriter, willing to challenge herself and to experiment while never losing sight of the need to craft a solid hook. On Back in the Circus, her third studio album as a solo artist, Brooke matches her intimate vocals with computer-based production: Many of the songs use programmed beats, and some, such as "Sleeping with the Light On," veer into Beth Orton–like electronica. But like Suzanne Vega's 99.9° F., Back in the Circus is warmly personal rather than coldly mechanical. The title track sets a mix of accordion, keyboards, and acoustic guitar to a lilting waltz, appropriately evocative of the "small town, big top" that is the song's setting. By covering James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" and Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows," Brooke puts her own songs in some heady company, but they don't disappoint. Witness the wordplay that begins "Better After All": "I am trying to read your mind / We have stopped to smell the roses / I am trying not lose mine / The roses or my mind." Back in the Circus finds Brooke stretching, and it's quite a feat when she closes the album by turning Alan Parsons' schlock ballad "Eye in the Sky" into something sincere and unpretentious.
All Music Guide - Johnny Loftus
Jonatha Brooke's perseverance has paid off. Like Aimee Mann, she's maneuvered a broken staircase of fluctuating acceptance, band breakups, and record label shakeups with nimble feet and a consistent songwriting vision. Now, she's arrived on the top floor landing with Back in the Circus, a typically audacious effort that showcases her singing and writing even as it flirts with new musical directions. Good timing -- Circus is the third release for her Bad Dog imprint, but the first to benefit from Verve's distribution, suggesting that its nods to accessibility will find plenty of willing ears. Another first -- Brooke served as her own producer. Who better to know just when -- or when not to -- accentuate Back in the Circus' expressive vocals, pointed lyrics, and intriguing story arc with subtle programming or bits of modernist instrumental sampling? Sure, Brooke and principal collaborators Eric Bazilian and Ryan Freeland get a bit carried away sometimes. "Less Than Love Is Nothing"'s push-button percussion stippling and synth washes sidle too closely to being simply satisfactory in the electronic-organic world of 21st century adult alternative music. Likewise, the breezy keys and treated, three-prong glitches of her run through "Fire and Rain" make it pleasant but tentative -- too preoccupied with converting the casual fan searching for a gimmick. Covers of "God Only Knows" and Alan Parsons' "Eye in the Sky" fare much better. The scratchy electronics and acoustic tatters of the former are a cool exercise in deconstruction, while the latter is remade as a classic Jonatha Brooke folk song, full of gorgeously wavering vocal phrasing and tasteful twinges of mandolin over its melancholy piano rhythms. Brooke's originals overwhelmingly benefit from Circus' digital organics. The title track is an unbalanced and dizzying cocktail, with accordion, keys, guitar, and laptops all joining in the fray. "Back in the circus/But at least I know the routine," she sings. "Got back to back matinees/Me and the drag queens." Is the roller coaster ride a reference to her career, or life in general? "Better After All" renews her love of light folk-pop, but "It Matters Now" and "Sleeping With the Light On" are probably the best representation of today's Jonatha Brooke. They hybrid electronics, acoustics, and intelligent songwriting differently -- one's hopeful, the other is intimate and spine-tingling. But they're examples of a veteran artist challenging her sound without losing her voice.
Tracks - Catherine Wise
A winsome collection of songs with a hint of country.... Brooke puts on quite a show.

A winsome collection of songs with a hint of country.... Brooke puts on quite a show.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 2/24/2004
  • Label: Verve
  • UPC: 602498614341
  • Catalog Number: 000175402

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Jonatha Brooke Primary Artist, Organ, Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Guitar, Mandolin, Percussion, Piano, Autoharp, Electric Bass, Drums, Electric Guitar, Clavinet, Shaker, Acoustic Bass, bass pedals, fender rhodes, Wurlitzer, Casio, Toy Piano
Eric Bazilian Bass, Drums, Electric Guitar, Shaker, Wurlitzer
Mitchell Froom Piano, Chimes, Hammond Organ, Moog Synthesizer, Wurlitzer
Ryan Freeland Accordion, Drums, Electric Guitar, Keyboards
Dorian Crozier Drums, Tambo Drums
Geoffrey Moore Bass, Electric Guitar, E-bow
Darren Embry Bass
Technical Credits
James Taylor Composer
Brian Wilson Composer
Eric Bazilian Arranger, Composer, Programming, Producer, Engineer
Jonatha Brooke Arranger, Composer, Sound Effects, Producer
Bob Clearmountain Engineer, overdub engineer
Bob Ludwig Mastering
Eric Woolfson Composer
Alan Parsons Composer
Hollis King Art Direction
Ryan Freeland Arranger, Programming, Sound Effects, Producer, Engineer, drum programming
Don Rodenbach Engineer
Dorian Crozier Engineer, Drum Engineering
Geoffrey Moore Arranger, Programming, Producer, Engineer
Dean Sharenow Engineer
Patrick Rains Executive Producer
Tony Asher Composer
Kevin Harp Engineer, Vocal Engineer
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