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Focus - Hamburger Concerto CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.25 | 944 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Dutch Progressive rockers, Focus produced their masterpiece in 1974 with the brilliant classical-rock album, "Hamburger Concerto". The band largely abandons the long and boring jazz driven jams they had indulged themselves with on previous albums, and made a surprisingly focused and elegant album, which has dated very little in 30 years, compared with others from its period. This is due mainly to the diverse and gorgeous instrumentation of master guitarist Jan Akkerman and Flutist (no we aren't called Flautists) and Keyboardist Thijs Van Leer. On this album, one can hear all the classic rock instruments, as well as beautiful Harps, Harpsichords, Bells, and Castanets, etc.

The album begins with "Delitae Musicae", a short and Renaissance flavored intro, which instantly sets the classical mood of the album. This segues into the rocker, "Harem Scarem", which was the album's obvious 'single'. It is a rock piece which features insane 'Yea Yea Yeas' from vocalist Van Leer, and frantic and impressive guitar and piano. This six minute piece manages to change mood relatively quickly and often though, shifting from the jazzy open, to the beautiful acoustic midsection with Van Leer's ever-present Flute. (Of All things one even hears an accordion on this very good track!) The frenzied energy of "Harem Scarem" changes instantly into the beautiful piece, "La Cathedrale de Strasbourg", a song complete with stately church organ and bells, and very calm vocals. This song evokes the grandeur and majesty of the Cathedral in Strasbourg quite well, and is a relaxing album highlight, which even features Van Leer whistling (no, not yodeling) at the end. "Birth" is my all-time favorite Focus track. This seven minute song is pure beauty. It features shifting solos between the talented Akkerman and Van Leer on Piano, Organ, and Flute. Unlike many prog- rock instrumentals, this one isn't about technical pyrotechnics; it is extremely tasteful and manages to highlight the extreme skills of each member while maintaining musical credibility. (The flute on this track truly is amazing, as is Akkerman's monstrous Guitar solo at the end.) That just about wraps up Side One. Side Two features the two minute suite, the "Hamburger Concerto". This song remains one of Focus' most accomplished pieces in terms of construction. This song continues the classical mood set in "Delitae Musicae." While their previous extended works were largely jazz and blues jams, here we find a classically inspired and structured suite, which has a sense of purpose. It never becomes overbearing, and gives each member of the band room to show his talents. (The piece is actually based on a Haydn piece which they then extend and make their own, un-credited). The album closes with a reprise of "Birth", called "Early Birth" a fitting end, one can never get enough of Akkerman's tasteful yet electrifying guitar. Overall, this truly is a masterpiece, an album that flows beautifully, and maintains a relaxing mood while not becoming dull at all. Focus's best by far. Sadly, their work would take a nosedive after this ad Akkerman and Van Leer's relations would sour. - 5 Stars.

NetsNJFan | 5/5 |


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