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




Symphonic Prog

4.09 | 639 ratings

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4 stars Many people consider Moving Waves as the "Non Plus Ultra" Focus release, something with what I don't agree because Hamburger Concerto is slightly better and more mature, despite this fact Moving Waves is an excellent album, but also for different reasons than most people consider.

As many prog' newbies, I bought this vinyl in 1978 mostly because it had Hocus Pocus, a bizarre track that helped to make the band famous, but which honest today is my least favorite song from this good album, not only because after a couple listens you get bored of all that yodeling and shouting but mostly because it breaks the soft and dreamy atmosphere prevalent in the rest of the album.

Now that years have passed I appreciate more the coherent way that the music gently flows from start to end, the skills of Jan Akerman with acoustic an electric guitar, the medieval or more precisely baroque keyboard and perfect flute by Thijs Van Leer, the powerful support provided by the good bassist Cyril Havermanns and of course the precise drumming by Pierre Van Der Linden, in other words a strong and mature band.

Before reviewing the songs I would like to mention that the title of the album describes perfectly what Focus achieved, because the music flows gently after Hocus Pocus until the end as the waves in the Ocean, a perfect name to give an idea of the album.

The album starts with the already mentioned Hocus Pocus, a very simple song based in a couple of chords (if not one) interrupted four times by a short drum solo and a different yodeling or sound by Thijs Van Leer, musically is not solid, even when they prove the versatility and vocal ability of Thijs but IMO is more important the strong bass by Havermmans, funny and entertaining song, but nothing more.

Le Clochard is a extremely beautiful song that shines even more as a contrast with the frantic Hocus Pocus, Jan Akkerman plays acoustic guitar in Flamenco style, something very common in Holland because the zone of Flanders covers not only Spain as most people believe but also part of Belgium and The Netherlands. Delicate, coherent and beautiful, a perfect relief in this point of the album.

Janis is also a soft track, but in this case the lead is taken by Thijs and his magic flute, perfectly supported by the rest of the band but especially by Pierre Van Der Linden accurate drums. A dreamy song that I use to listen when I'm in a bad mood, instantly relaxes and makes me see the world with a more positive perspective.

Moving Waves is a good song performed exclusively by Thijs Van Leer, who starts with a soft piano intro to open the way for something very unusual in Focus, he starts to sing, and does it with a very nice and appropriate voice that makes me wonder why he doesn't do this more often, a beautiful and again soft track.

One of the best songs in Focus career is Focus II, the best example of their unusual style, the song is opened by Thijs and his keyboards that are soon joined by Jan's guitar, the music goes in crescendo until the drums announce a small explosion where the rest of the band join, but always keeping the dreamy and soft atmosphere, by moments they have a clear jazz influence but with that unique sound that only Focus is capable of creating, this is IMO one of the most progressive tracks I ever heard but in a different way than any other band, simply delightful.

Side two (in the original vinyl format) consists in a 23 minutes epic divided in 16 nominal but not real parts because there's no break between each one called Eruption. This epic is based in two characters of Greek Mythology Orfeus (Creator of music) and the nymph Euridice, his bride who dies and is followed by Orfeus to the underworld in an attempt to rescue her, but in the last moment everything she returns to the underworld because he looses the faith.

It's almost an impossible task to analyze this song part by part, because there are so many changes that go from the baroque introduction by Thijs Van Leer's keyboards, jazzy passages and psychedelic sections to progressive and even semi hard rock parts.

Maybe the most important and unusual characteristic of this long track is that even when the changes are really dramatic, they manage to maintain the soft atmosphere across the heaviest parts. Definitely an underrated epic, almost never mentioned in progressive polls, but which deserves much more recognition, 23.04 minutes of pure progressive rock in the unique style of Focus.

I won't give 5 stars to the album because as said before I consider Hamburger Concerto slightly better, but Moving Waves is very close, sadly there isn't a 4.5 option, so I have to rate it with 4 solid and well deserved stars.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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