1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Conquistador – Circus

Conquistador – Circus

In The Arena – Circus

In The Arena – Circus

Circus were a rock band consisting of Bernie Millar, Bones Brettell (later in Hotline), Gary van Zyl, Sandy Robbie and Wally Cullis. Their only album ‘In The Arena’ was produced by Grahame Beggs who was the driving force behind Charisma (remember ‘Mammy Blue’?) and had a hand in a number of top South African records. The album came out in 1977 and features a blistering cover version of Procol Harum’s ‘Conquistador’.

Comparison to the original version  is obligatory, but one has to listen no further than the pounding drums and guitars that intro Circus’ version and compare it to the comparatively laid back AOR guitars that preface Procol’s version to know which one rocks more. Also Bernie Miller’s vocals are practically spat out with sharp venom, while Gary Booker on Procol’s version does sound a little like he’s been at the weed, in that it’s a lot more laid back.

The other element of Circus’ version which, I think , sets it above Procol is Glenda Hyam’s (she of Clout fame and for a period Mrs Bernie Miller fame) castanets which give the song a Spanish feel and, as the song is about the Spanish conquerors in South America, are not out of place.

People’s opinions will always differ when comparing originals with covers and there is no denying that Procol Harum’s original version of ‘Conquistador’ is without a doubt worth hearing, but Circus certainly made a cover version that is equally worth hearing and to my mind, is better than the original.

Where to find it:
In The Arena – Circus (1977, 2001) Retrofresh, Freshcd116

Lyrics:
Conquistador, your stallion stands
In need of company
And like some angel’s haloed brow
You reek of purity
I see your armor-plated breast
Has long-since lost its sheen
And in your death-masked face
There are no signs which can be seen
And though I hope for something to find
I can see no place to unwind

Conquistador, a vulture sits
Upon your silver shield
And in your rusty scabbard now
The sand has taken seed
And though your jewel-encrusted blade
Has not been plundered still
The sea has washed across your face
And taken of its fill
And though I hope for something to find
I can see no place to unwind

Conquistador, there is no time
I must pay my respect
And though I came to jeer at you
I leave now with regret
And as the gloom begins to fall
I see there is no, only all
And though you came with sword held high
You did not conquer, only die
And though I hope for something to find
I can see no place to unwind
Though I hope for, something to find
I can see no place to unwind

(lyrics by Keith Reid)

 

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