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




Symphonic Prog

4.08 | 639 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars

As a progressive rock outfit my first fear was that Focus might tend to over play the situation and border on that prog trend by wallowing in self saturated pomposity. But hailing form the Netherlands I'm sure these Dutch geezers had more than a few tokes of the herbal delights on offer in Amsterdam which helps in relaxing the mood, yet giving the tunes what they need and not simply elevate themselves to full blown planet ego trips. "Hocus Pocus" is the so called center piece of the album and sure enough, it's a rip roaring rock fest of guitars played at a menacing pace and volume but the album is far more deep and interesting than that. I have always had an inept fear of yodelling, and when I first heard there was yodelling on this track I stood back in shock and tried to aviod it as much as I could. But once I purchased Moving Waves I had to overcome that fear and I have to say its not that bad, strange yes, but I could certainly deal with it, aided by Jan Akkerman's awesome guitar throwing shapes and that steaming flute piece near the end make "Hocus Pocus" a spectacular opener and my stereo was so loud I thought the neighbours might freak out a little. It's not every day you get to hear yodelling and a flute solo in a hard driving rock song. They were in for a treat but they would never see it like that. But every once in a while the dust must be shaken form those 100WATT speakers whether they like it or not.

As the years have passed I seemed to have somewhat mellowed. Time was when I would have expected a band to continue in the relentless vein of "Hocus Pocus" for an album's duration regardless of how could it would even appear to be. But after been assaulted by that opener we are then taken off to a completely different but still fitting plane, in line with the album title, with the sublime and beautifully melodic tone of "Le Clochard", built with some sweet classical influenced guitar playing and aided by some obligatory mellotron which sounds so graceful for the whole 1 minute and 55 seconds. "Janis" moves more waves with an uplifting flute flurry spitting up and down and a meticulously played sympathetic bass, by now I'd completely forgotten about the raging intro, I was completely mesmerized and satisfied by the bands merits with these compositions and I was not even half way through. Until I heard the vocals on "Moving Waves", which gatecrashed my semi-stoned mood, albeit for a very short while before one of the albums highlights "Focus II" which closes side 1. It's a stunning piece and it's where Focus move toward jazz fusion territory, Theijs Van Leer joining Akkerman as another fine composer on this album. Jeff Beck must have taken his cue from this album for his fusion album Blow By Blow, there are more than a few similarities on this track and with some of the work Beck did with Blow By Blow a few years later.

Flipping over to the B side (do not try this with CDs) I was psyching myself up for what looked a rough half hour or so. "Eruption" is a suite made up of five sections containing no less than 15 parts, or rather short segments. As a concept it's a little loose, starts very well with some shining and smooth guitar keyboard interplay, again it's more fusion that prog with a kind nod to classical music... but really shifts between those different guises. Simply put the four musicians who make up Focus are pretty clever and thoughtful and it beggars belief why they remain relatively unknown. "Eruption" is an ambitious piece of music that loses focus (ahem) here and there but Moving Waves is still a powerful album, certainly a gem of the prog crown and the band blend different styles that are cohesive and never clumsy or boring. Like on "Eruption", Akkerman's guitar bursts in and he delivers a warm energetic solo without ever treading on any of his band members toes as every note seems to be exercised with complete control and thought to the rest of the composition or its particular section, even that mini drum solo was tolerable. I'm not exactly a prog convert yet but give me more albums like this and I might just be swayed.

Philo | 4/5 |


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