Beautiful World was good, but The Circus was even better, pushing the band's adult pop sound in new directions with more upbeat songs and some '70s-style pop balladry. The album starts with "The Garden," which I know has its fans, but I've never been one of the them. I prefer "Greatest Day," the album's first single, which became the group's 11th #1 hit.
But the real fun begins about halfway through the album, with bright, upbeat tracks and ballads that rank among the group's best work, each of which is sung by a different member of the group. "The Circus" is a lovely, understated piano ballad sung by Gary. It sounds heartful and genuine, resisting the too common temptation to send the song soaring into the stratosphere with a wall of sound finale. "How Did It Come to This," a rare solo turn from Jason, bristles with energy (I still think it's a pop music crime that it wasn't a single). Campier "Up All Night" finds Mark leading the album's sunniest moment, a clear nod to "Shine," a #1 hit from their last album. Howard-led "What Is Love" is another quiet ballad that really takes flight with its gorgeous middle section. The album's end is good too, particularly "Hold Up a Light," another joyously upbeat track.
With The Circus, the group continued to hone its adult pop instincts to tremendously pleasing results. At present, having still not heard Progress, this is my favorite Take That album.
Best: How Did It Come to This, The Circus, Greatest Day, Up All Night, What Is Love, Hold Up a Light, Said It All (4.5/5)