Album review: Neal Casal’s final notes shine brightly

Circles Around The Sun: Neal Casal, Dan Horne, Mark Levy and Adam MacDougall.

This is a tough one to write about.

Circles Around The Sun is releasing its self-titled third full-length LP “Circles Around The Sun” via Rhino Records. The seven track record marks the final recordings of guitarist Neal Casal, who passed away in August 2019.

The album was tracked with legendary engineer and producer Jim Scott at his studio outside of Los Angeles. In a note left by Casal, he asked that the album be completed and for the band to continue. While there is not a permanent guitar player named going forward, CATS has rotated the likes of Eric Krasno, Jared Mattson and Scott Metzger since August, and is carrying forward in support of the new release. 

The band continues to evolve from its debut as the break music for The Grateful Dead’s ‘Fare Thee Well’ concerts in 2015. Jim Scott is making his presence felt, as well. The album is impeccably tracked and mixed. The crescendo at the end of “Detroit Dos” is incredible ear candy, with its walloping finale and then psychedelic surround-sound transitioning lo-fi into the trippy mind of Adam MacDougall for the melody of “Land Line Memories.” 

“Money Is No Option” has a definitively funky, melodic, soulful groove. Closing track “You Got To Start Somewhere” grinds its ‘Fingerprint File’-style rhythm into an ethereal finale.  “Baby Man” is the first single and video, as well as the lead track. The song is named after the cat that lived in the Detroit studio where the initial demos were cut of the album. The song pulsates with the unmistakable Casal-MacDougall weave, coupled with Dan Horne’s thick-yet-deft basslines, and Mark Levy’s tribal march.

This is a very strong album. Neal Casal’s last recorded work will be greatly revered. Where will Circles Around The Sun go from here? Crystal Bay Casino on Saturday, April 5.

— Jon Siembieda

Circles Around The Sun
‘Circles Around The Sun'
Release:
March 13, 2020
Label: Rhino Records
Live performance: Crystal Bay Casino on Saturday, April 5. Advance tickets are $18 and on sale now. An opening band will be announced.
Adam MacDougall, Dan Horne and Mark Levy.
Photo by Piper Ferguson

ABOUT Jon Siembieda

Jon Siembieda
Writer Jon Siembieda plays guitar in the Southern California-based touring rock 'n' roll band Hunter & The Dirty Jacks. He is an avid concertgoer and album collector. His top five favorite bands are The Rolling Stones, Black Crowes, Faces, Mother Hips and Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

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