The classic rock world (i.e. pre-'80s) was broadly divided into two camps -- the guitar virtuoso school, led by the likes of Eric Clapton, and the more purist R&B school, headed, of course, by Keith Richard. While the former camp meandered off into ever more showboating, solo-led, album-orientated extravaganzas, the latter continued unleashing music built on a solid foundation of tight song structures, powerful melodies, and strong hooks. Rock's popularity has risen and fallen many times in the intervening three decades, evolving, transforming, and crossing over in many directions along the way. But it's taken a new supergroup to bring it back to its real roots. Meet Circus Diablo, fronted by ex-Camp Freddy's Billy Morrison, sporting former Cult-ist Billy Duffy on lead guitar and ex-the Almighty Ricky Warwick on rhythm, with former Fuel-er Brett Scallions and fellow Cult-ist (among many others star gigs) Matt Sorum on bass and drums, respectively. Obviously this group has the chops, the street cred, and the wherewithal to deliver the goods. And deliver they do, slamming out an album that rocks pure and simple. Pay close attention, and eventually you will hear echoes of all the members' past bands, but more importantly you'll hear a group in love with rock as it was in its glory days, with a sound still universal and adored by all, before it shattered into dozens of fragmented scenes. Hard and fast, screaming with melodies that stick in your head, and choruses you can't help but sing along to, Circus Diablo is classic rock in the true sense of the word, the kind of album that long ago kids saved their pennies up to buy and then played for months on end. No po-faced guitar wanking for the sake of it here, hey, Circus even clowns around, delivering a straight-faced, heavy rocking version of Adam & the Ants sublimely silly but fan fave "Ant Invasion." And that's not their only nod to punk's past, "So Fine" spits and snarls just like it's 1977 all over, strewing, as so many punk did, homages to the Stooges behind it. Battering down the doors between hard rock and more commercial pop/rock, the band heavy hit their way across the verses, then burst into bright, brazen choruses; "Loaded" and "Restless" being just the prime examples. Storming riffs underpin "Mad Parade" and "Red Sun Rising," while the heady "Hello, Goodbye" and the lilting power ballad "Dignified" showcase their gentler side. As you'd expect, the musicianship is awesome, but it's the songs that take pride of place, not showboating musicians. And the songs are simply superb, not a clinker in the bunch. If this platter doesn't top best album polls in another three decades, it's because the world as we know it is no more.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene