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Focus - Hamburger Concerto CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.25 | 947 ratings

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5 stars A brilliant neo-classical rock album and arguably the best from these Dutch masters. When I was taking a music appreciation course in university I showed this work to my prof and she liked it so much that she went out and bought herself a copy! I was to learn a lot more about this unique recording which aspired to levels of musical sophistication that few progressive rock acts of the day could match.

The replacement of Pierre van Der Linden on drums by ex-Stone The Crows drummer Colin Allen certainly brought a new feel to the group even if Thijs van Leer and Jan Akkerman were at odds with each other at the time. The album is filled to the brim with classical motifs and begins with a short renaissance-like intro with Van Leer on recorder and Akkerman on lute which was based on a composition from an unknown Belgian composer from sheet music Akkerman had discovered in a music shop in Antwerp in Belgium. Following this short prelude which sort of sets the stage for what is to come we are all of a sudden transported through time to circa. 1974 where we find our Dutch masters at work on a jazz-rock piece called Harem Scarem with Van Leer doubling on piano and Hammond as well as providing some comedic vocals while Akkerman's graceful guitar lines provide melodic mood changes. Other instruments abound here such as castinets and parisian-style accordian work by Mr. Van Leer.( Wait for it, over 20 different musical instruments were employed on this studio masterpiece!). La Cathedral de Strasbourg evokes images of the majestic cathedral in the French border town complete with church bells, choral arrangements and whistling by Mr. Van Leer (listen carefully to the ending!). Baroque Bach-like harpsichord introduces Birth, a Jan Akkerman composition with Mr. Van Leer stating the theme on flute as well as providing haunting interludes in between Jan's emotive guitar work. Another shorter original single version of this appears at the end of the CD release.

The main track Hamburger Concerto is just that. A concerto and not a studio jam as it is refered to as by many rock reviewers. In fact the opening section was actually taken from a piece by Brahms entitled "St. Anthoni Chorale: Variations on a theme by Joseph Haydn Opus 56a" which was composed in 1873! Of course, by this time Focus was well known for raiding the classics and classical references can be heard throughout their previous work. The sub-dued intro develops into a more modern context blending in more textures as it builds. We are once again treated to a small section of Mr. Van Leer's inventive vocal abilities which reveal extreme range and control.The piece transitions beautifully into a section which, in the opinion of this reviewer, is Jan Akkerman's finest moments on record which display his superior compositional and technical prowess on the electric guitar. It begins with a contemplative theme which esculates through various moods ending off with some jazz inluenced passages and back to the theme. Van Leer then gives us some latin chanting which blows up into the grand finale with a series of organ/synth/voice power chords. It resolves into a happier ARP synthesizer led conclusion which culminates with church bell chiming and a little guitar finale from Akkerman.

A must have album from this highly experimental 1970's group. It's a shame that they began to wane after this release which was perhaps one of the most interesting progressive rock recordings ever, incorporating more musical elements than one might care to shake a proverbial stick at.

Vibrationbaby | 5/5 |


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