In March 2019, members of Circles Around the Sun (CATS) and drummer Joe Russo got together for an improvised jam and recording session at The Bunker studio in Brooklyn, Mixed by New York-based engineer Jim Scott (Tedeschi Trucks Band/Tom Petty) and CATS bass player Dan Horne, the end result was the 24-minute, aptly-named four-song EP Circles Around the Sun Meet Joe Russo.
From the first beat on the opening “When I Was at Peace,” you can hear how Russo instantly meshes with each member of CATS as he and drummer Marc Levy keep a sustained fast beat that allows keyboardist Adam MacDougall and guitarist Neal Casal to seamlessly trade leads, pushing the song forward at a fast pace until the end. Fans of Russo will be able to pick up on his specific contributions to the EP, as his drum style and sound easily jump out in the mix.
The second track, “Get It Right the First Time,” slows things down as the song opens with a New Orleans vibe to it. This time Levy, Russo, and Horne sit back a bit and create nice slower grooves for McDougall and Casal to improvise into and out of.
Not only is “Added Addition” the best track on this EP, it may be one of the best tracks that will be released in 2019. Imagine you put on a set of virtual reality glasses and you have the same view as a jockey in the Kentucky Derby. “Added Addition” is the soundtrack to that ride. Excellent engineering on this track puts Russo’s supercharged horseracing drum beat on one side of the stereo mix while Levy keeps a similar pace on the other side. Horne’s fast paced bass leads stand out as you feel the power this song creates, and MacDougall and Casal never slow down either. The pace this song keeps makes it hard to believe this was improvised and recorded in one session. The Kentucky Derby is called “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports.” “Added Addition” is almost six minutes, so you get 3 VR rides for the price of 1.
“Peace Reprise” closes out the EP and picks right back up from where “When I Was At Peace” left off. Again, Horne’s bass stands out as his pace and bass leads direct the EP to its end.
Circles Around The Sun Meet Joe Russo is another giant leap for CATS. They’ve moved from the amazing background intermission music for Fare Thee Well into an-in-your face, groovy psychedelic band that is current and needs to be listened to. To create enough material to put together an EP in one improvised recording session is a testament to the musical ability everyone associated with the project has.
Unfortunately, Neal Casal got called up to the Great Gig In the Sky a few months after this session. This album is a wonderful example of his talents and is a reminder of how much those talents will be missed going forward. CATS has already announced they will replace Casal and continue to tour and create their own unique style of music in the future.
RIP, Neal Casal
Circles Around the Sun Meets Joe Russo is due out on October 18.