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CIRCLE OF FRIENDS – The Garden (2022)

92/100

Bruce Mee is one of the better-known personalities behind the scenes of the melodic rock world. Starting with Now & Then Records he moved into his role as owner and editor of the now iconic Fireworks Magazine, which has dedicated fans worldwide.

Circle Of Friends is the moniker given to this project, put together by Bruce as a tribute to his late mother, who died of cancer in 2020. The majority of the singers and musicians appearing on the album are personal friends of Bruce’s and were all willing to help bring this wonderful concept to life – hence the title.

Of the 13 tracks featured on this wonderful slice of melodic beauty, four are covers and the remaining 9 are originals, most written by Sweden’s Mikael Rosenberg. Mikael has delivered some terrific songs here and his presence throughout gives the album a certain connectivity and consistency that some various artists projects don’t manage to pull off.

The lineup is really a who’s who of the melodic rock world. The rhythm section is supplied by drummer Josh Devine (Levara) and bassist Wayne Banks (Saxon etc) while Fredrik Folkare and Steve Morris provide guitars with Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake) and Steve Mann guesting. Backing vocals come from Mick Devine (Seven), Gary Hughes (Ten) and Kevin Chalfant (Storm). Eric Ragno is here on keyboards and there’s many more. Read the full bio for all the credits!

All this has been meticulously put together by producer Khalil Turk of Escape Music with a phenomenal mix by Fredrik Folkare.

To the vocalists. There is the Queen of Metal, Doro Pesch, delivering the high energy opener ‘Little Piece of Heaven’, Jaime Kyle brings her own song ‘Take My Love To Heart’ to the CD, with backing vocals supplied by Kevin Chalfant (The Storm, Two Fires). James Christian gives one of my favourite pomp-friendly vocals on ‘Never Gonna Make Me Cry’; Jeff Scott Soto goes full melodic on ‘Bad Blood’ and Robin Beck (with James Christian on backing) does a ripping version of the Abba classic ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’.

New star to the scene, Tao’s Karen Fell delivers the moody AOR of ‘Truth Or Dare’ and Robin McAuley knocks the big ballad ‘Alone’ right out of the park.

Canadian great Darby Mills delivers what she calls one of her favourite vocals on the big 80s anthem ‘Trick Of The Light’.


There are no fillers here, so discover the rest for yourself. Credit to everyone involved for making a really consistent, ‘contemporary’ classic 80s melodic rock record with plenty of keyboards, layers of harmonies and some outstanding lead vocal performances.

Production and mix are spot on and the songs are enjoyable from start to finish. The dominance of female lead vocals will give fans of that genre something extra to smile about.

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