Axis - 1978 It's A Circus World

ALBUM: It's A Circus World
YEAR: 1978
CD REISSUE: 1996, Unidisc (Canada), AGEK-2026 * 2018, Rock Candy Records, CANDY383


LINEUP: Danny Johnson - vocals, guitars * Jay Davis - bass, vocals * Vinnie Appice - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Brown Eyes * 02 Busted Love * 03 Juggler * 04 Soldier Of Love * 05 Train * 06 Armageddon * 07 Rays Electric Farm * 08 Stormy Weather * 09 Cats In The Alley * 10 Bandits Of Rock * 11 Circus World


Axis were formed from the ashes of the band Derringer; the band featuring guitar-slinger Rick Derringer. Actually, I think both bands were in operation at the same time, Axis forming in 1977. Their debut album would follow a year later, recorded in New York with producer Andy Johns hovering in the background. Whether the band wanted to become another Cactus or Cream in the fuzz-bound power trio stakes remains an unanswered question: perhaps best answered by the trio themselves perhaps. Whatever the case, the album has been given much kudos by fans and critics since 1978. I recall seeing this LP hanging around the Sounds Magazine import charts during that year, and wondered what all the fuss was about - but didn't know much about the band back then. Axis specialise in a gritty hard rock format, but with shorter songs that just latch onto that late 70's radio rock splurge. There's a bit of blues, funk and a general mid 70's vibe. The musicianship as expected from these three musos is excellent, but the songs to my ears; aren't as standout as I would've hoped - but still very good in the context of the era.

The Songs

Most of these tunes hover in that three minute bracket, which means the attention span isn't overly stressed. 'Busted Love' perhaps demonstrates Axis' appeal in the confines of 3.47 minutes. Catchy guitar riffs, tight rhythm section and easily remembered choruses. By comparison, 'Juggler' comes across as a slow bruiser, while 'Soldier Of Love' is one of the best tracks here, loads of tasty guitar from Johnson on display here. The following track 'Train' is a departure - the soft lilting ballad the only quiet moment to be found on the album. 'Armageddon' is a heavier track, with intermittent blasts of guitar and drums in the vein of Led Zeppelin - in fact, Appice's work on this track is a standout. Someone will need to fill me in on the meaning behind 'Rays Electric Farm' (no idea what they're on about), whereas 'Stormy Weather' - unlike its title, is a funtime rocker with a commercial radio rock hook to its name. Despite the dopey name 'Bandits Of Rock' is a punchy little number, somewhere between Starz and Pat Travers. Finishing off with the title track 'Circus World', the trio opt out quietly, an orchestral exit rather than full guns blazing.

In Summary

It could be said that RCA dropped the ball with this album - I'm certain that if they got behind Axis, they could easily have trodden on the coattails on the big names of the era; namely Aerosmith - who by this stage of their history were starting to implode with the trappings of success. All these three members would go onto other outfits. Johnson and Davis to Silver Condor and Private Life; Johnson also to Alcatrazz, while Appice would hook up with Black Sabbath. In fact Iommi and Butler were sold on Vinnie due to his efforts on this album! Vinnie also went on to Dio and World War III with the interesting Mandy Lion on vocals. As a testament to 70's hard rock, Axis has many good moments, and should be considered if any of you wish to wind the clock back to 1978 for a nostalgia trip.
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gdazegod March 28 2007 3244 reads 8 comments Print


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  • Nick C
    Nick C
    I'm sure I read in the Aerosmith biography 'Walk This Way' that Danny Johnson had an audition to replace the departed Joe Perry. Again something else I'll have to dig out (re-read!)
    Reply · · - March 30 2007 12:58:58
  • vinyldinosaurus
    This is a great album! Danny Johnson did indeed try out for Aerosmith but didn't get the gig due to having just cut his hair short!
    Reply · · - January 31 2008 15:36:55
  • rostoned
    I like this a lot, Andy Johns' production is great and the song are well written and played. In places this reminds me of Derringer's classic LP 'Sweet Evil', where of course both Appice and Johnson were involved.
    Reply · · - May 29 2008 20:01:05
  • rkbluez
    Great punchy classic period hard rock...power trio style...yeah agree it takes off where Derringer left off and I like the direction Axis took as apposed to Derringer's more pop orientated albums that followed...a great one to have in your collection if like me you like that classic 70's hard rock sound.
    Reply · · - January 20 2012 22:14:41
  • gdazegod
    Of course this is now part of the Rock Candy reissue stable. CANDY383, as of June 2018..
    Reply · · - July 11 2018 06:11:35
  • rostoned
    Singer Louie Merlino wrote on FB that he joined Axis when Appice left and Jimmy Volpe became their drummer. Volpe was then a member of Warrior, not the Vinnie Vincent and ex New England combo but the one who released "Fighting For The Earth" feat. Parramore McCarty. I seem to remember that Axis infact recorded a second, still unreleased album or say demos but I could be mistaken, and no clue if the original line up or the Merlino/Volpe/Johnson/Davis line up or what....anyone?
    Reply · · - January 31 2019 00:05:51
  • gdazegod
    There are some cats out there that will know something about the second Axis unreleased set.
    Reply · · - January 31 2019 06:01:51
  • rostoned
    Merlino confirmed the line up who recorded some Axis stuff @Woodsound Studios in Monrovia, CA post debut circa 1980-1981 was him/Volpe/Davis/Johnson. Song titles: Nothing 2 lose, lost love (or one song with long title & genie genie.
    Reply · · - January 31 2019 16:32:40


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