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Focus - Focus Plays Focus [Aka: In and Out of Focus] CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.49 | 329 ratings

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4 stars Despite certain criticism, the debut album of FOCUS is a quite original and artistically coherent music statement. True, critics are mainly complaining about the weak vocal tracks and surely Black Beauty and Sugar Island are not the kind of songs you cannot live without. But the rest is pretty much excellent!

The opening - vocal - and the closing - instrumental - versions of the self-titled Focus are pretty solid progressive rock statements and present a blueprint for later albums, where this composition would traditionally be re-interpreted. The instrumental Focus contains some wonderful Akkerman's solo parts that suggest a nice, relaxing, almost lounge atmosphere of the kind Peter Green had composed in Albatross.

Anonymous is another gem presenting a mixture of Medieval/Rennaissance elements with a strong, hard-rocking jazz improvisation, with some wild and vivid use of flute, piano and lead guitar. There is a solo part on bass guitar where M. Dresden shows that his performance skills were not the reason for his departure after this album. The bass sounds like the similar part of the crazy Improvisation suite by their fellow countrymen EKSEPTION done few years later.

Happy Nightmare and Why Dream are vocal tracks, but both are fine melodic and slightly psychedelic songs, an obvious traces of THE BEATLES and early PINK FLOYD influences. There is a fine chamber jazz section in the former, with Mellotron and strings/violins. The vocals are indeed not very convincing, but I would say there were never meant to be in the forefront - much like its use in later CAMEL or LEB I SOL albums - their role is pure atmospheric. Whether this was an intention of the band while recording this album is a different story and I sense they were rather experimental. On the subsequent albums they were reduced to occasional scat and yodelling and that's what van Leer would become a famous for.

Finally, here comes House of the King! Acoustic guitar chords and lively percussive rhythm make just enough space for Thijs van Leer's extravaganza flute solo play. It is one of the most memorable and popular flute solos in rock music, a melody that gained a widespread popularity across generations. I remember it was often used as background music for commercials and announcements in the TV/radio broadcast in the former Yugoslavia, while a popular radio show on Radio Sarajevo in the early 1980s used to have this tune in the opening sequence!

In and Out of Focus is excellent debut of the excellent European continental band that is often overlooked in the wake of later stronger albums. But if you disregard certain weak elements of some of the vocal tracks, you will find this record extremely enjoyable, diverse and if you want - influential (CAMEL fans - this is for you!)


P.A. RATING: 4/5

Seyo | 4/5 |


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