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Focus - Live at the BBC CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.32 | 23 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Somthing of an overlooked gem.

When Jan Akkerman quit Focus Thijs Van Leer was left as the last origianl member (although Bert Ruiter was a relative veteran, having been around since Focus 3). Ship of Memories was salvaged from some abandoned sessions, Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine was drafted in and they made a mostly disappointing album with PJ Proby. The end.

Except it wasn't quite the end. The quartet, thankfully without the Texan trouser splitter in tow, went on tour and the BBC recorded one of their performances which disappeared into the vaults for almost 20 years. The performance featured several otherwise unrecorded pieces, a couple of Con Proby tracks and a brace of their early hits. Philip Catherine proved himself to be a nimble and inventive jazz rock guitarist - no McLaughlin or DiMeola, to be sure, but no slouch either, and it's the jazzier side of his muse that dominates proceedings here. There's more than a hint of the kind of fusion that bands like Brand X and Isotope were playing at about the same time; less obviously rooted in mainstream jazz than, say, RTF or Weather Report, but much closer to jazz than rock. They noodle a bit at times, but they do so very pleasantly and none of the tracks really outstays its welcome. Thijs Van Leer slips in a few symphonic flourishes, notably on Sonata for Flute, and for the most part the hour or so that this disc passes by very agreeably. The only downside is that they were touring as Focus, not the Van leer/Catherine Quartet, and so they had to play some of the old favourites, and this is where the album falls down a bit. Philip Catherine isn't Jan Akkerman, and there isn't much room for any guitarist to put his own stamp on House of the King and Hocus Pocus, but on these two tracks they sound more like a Focus tribute band than the originals.

3.5 stars really. The original and Con Proby material, which makes up the bulk of this CD, is well worth checking out if you're into European jazz fusion of the era, and as long as you're not expecting 'At The Rainbow' Focus fans will probably be pleasantly surprised.

Syzygy | 3/5 |


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