Circus of Power practically personified New York's sleaze rock scene during the late '80s and early '90s. Despite the band's failure to reach radio or MTV acceptance, they managed several major-label releases and toured with some of the biggest names in rock. The group's music and image had an edge that -- while similar to many of America's post-Guns N' Roses gutter-centric outfits -- reflected their all-important New York City roots. Their urban jungle was a different one; it was more jungle-like in its toughness and stark reality. Unfortunately, the contrast inherent in the L.A. gutter rock of L.A. Guns and other West Coast bands was exactly what made them mysterious and interesting to their fans. Circus of Power came off as tough alright, but their borrowed lifestyle message seemed out of place at best. Despite all this, the band deserves some credit for their capable songcraft and singer Alex Mitchell's better-than-average voice. Perhaps all these guys needed was a hit to propel them to the rock star status they were so obviously trying to posture their way into. But when so many bands were making almost exactly the same moves, playing exactly the same types of songs about the exactly the same subjects (drugs, chicks, cars, etc...) with more style and geographic credibility, it's hard to think that Circus of Power weren't a little lucky to receive the run that they got.
After slugging it out in the New York club scene for a while in the '80s, Circus of Power were signed to RCA Records and in 1988 their eponymous debut was shipped. The lineup for this first full-length consisted of Mitchel (vocals), Ryan Maher (drums), Rickey Beck Maler (guitars), and bassist Gary Sunshine. The "blues-based" sleaze rock direction of Circus of Power set the standard for the group's successive discs with its mid-tempo swagger and stories of debauchery in all its varieties. The group followed up their debut with 1989's Still Alive; 1990's Vices followed as the band made their first lineup change. Sunshine moved from bass to second guitar and new bassist Zowie was brought into the band. RCA was unimpressed with the lineup and record sales, and the group was eventually dropped from the label. Columbia picked the band up shortly thereafter, and Circus of Power spent some extra time crafting the debut for their second label. During this time, Zowie was replaced on bass by Mark Frappeir and Maher left the group to be replaced by drummer Victor Indrizzo. In 1993, Magic and Madness was released on Columbia, but by this time, even the best bands of this pedigree were struggling as the hard-drinking, hard living, long-haired rock & roll of the late '80s had gone thoroughly out of style. The group disbanded in the mid-'90s, but has occasionally performed one-off shows since. Of all the Circus of Power members, guitarist Sunshine has been the busiest, performing and recording with NY Loose and the Silos, among other national projects. ~ Vincent Jeffries