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Focus - Focus II [Aka: Moving Waves] CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.08 | 635 ratings

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5 stars Focus - Moving Waves (1972)

Focus is a major Dutch progressive rock band dating from the seventies, but still playing today (they are coming to my hometown next season twice!). The band was the brainchild of keyboardist/flutist/vocalist (in this order) Thijs van Leer. He came from the Dutch cabaret scene and he had written some great tracks for major Dutch artists. I've seen him perform some of these songs and I must say the quality of Focus didn't came out of nowhere! Van Leer also wrote classical music.

Thijs van Leer had this vision about a rock-band that would combine both classical influences and jazz influences. After recruiting Jan Akkerman, who could play both styles the band was completed with an addition of a drummer and a bass-player and the good debut was recorded. After this album Jan Akkerman insisted on the replacement of the rhythmical section, and though van Leer didn't agree on this, he couldn't let main member Akkerman leave the band. A new drummer was found as Pierre van der Linden (Brainbox, Trace) joined the band, who's still one of Holland's most technical drummers! The talented Cyril Havermanns played bass. This line-up changed made Focus a supergroup. With compositional genius and stage man Van Leer, 'best guitarist in the world 1972' Jan Akkerman and Holland's main drummer Van der Linden.

The sound of Focus on the second album is more intelligent than on their debut. There are less vocals and more compositions with an variety of styles, mainly jazz, classical, rock and progressive.

The opening track Hocus Pocus became a hit all over the world and was re-used for the Nike-Football promotion film this year. It regained some deserved attention of the public. The song is however quite strange: It has a jazz-rock main theme with an rock'n roll feel, a lot's of improvisations between them and it has a brigde full of yodelling of Van Leer with a nice Hammond sound. The guitarsolo's are amazing and the fusion of such distinct genres in main theme and bridge make this one of the most awkward hits ever to come out of the progressive movement.

The instrumental Le Clochard begins with a romantic classical guitartheme and has a classical music sound with nice symphonic sounds. Great composition! Janis is also an classical composition with some jazz-influences and great flutes of Van Leer. Very melodic and sincere track.

Moving Waves is the piano masterpiece of Van Leer. On this song he plays his extremely advanced piano style with very interesting harmonies and spacey vocals. This is progressive music without any rock element, but the beauty of the track is amazing.

Focus II is an instrumental jazz-rock track with less classical influences. The band plays emotional and the key-changes are very effective here. Akkerman's guitar is subtle and adventurous, whilst the drums are nice and jazzy. Another great composition.

Eruption is Focus' Swan-song. This 23 minute epic is one of the best of the progressive genre. The classical influences work extremely well here and the heavy guitars of Akkerman are great. This song shows the quality of this super-group. The opening section with it's great organ sounds and crying guitars is very authentic. The harmonic structures Focus' uses are very inventive and sound like nothing I ever heard before or after. The heavy parts are sometimes almost Crimson-like! The Tommy part of the song is one of my favorite Focus moments. It's symphonic jazz-rock sound with it's amazing guitarsolo's and intense spacious vocals of Van Leer are great! There are a lot of different instrumental passages throughout the rest of the song and there's also space for improvisations and some more guitarsolo's of Akkerman. The piano comeback in the middle-section reminds me a bit of the emotional feel of The Snow Goose, but the Focus composition is more sophisticated then Camel's. Some pastoral moments with ellegant vocals of Van Leer complete the epic and the band returns to some of there opening-melodies to close this epic.

Conclusion. One of the best contributions of the progressive genre. A well-recorded progressive record of a super-group that also has a compositional genius. The sound is varied because of the many influences and the multi-instrumentalist approach of Van Leer. The epic Eruption is a perfect example of how symphonic rock should be. Five stars for this one!

friso | 5/5 |


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