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Focus - 3 CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.80 | 514 ratings

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4 stars This is an odd album that, to my mind, epitomizes the quandary that is/was FOCUS: Nothing feels finished, polished, worked through to its best possible end result. And this seems the case with all Focus albums: INCREDIBLE individual talents (here sporting THE favorite Focus cast of all-time--Jan Akkerman, Thijs van Leer, bassist Burt Ruiter and drummer Pierre van der Linden) collaborating only half-heartedly leads to flashes of utter brilliance--sometimes unparalleled in all of prog world!--but then there are the lows where things just didn't feel heart-felt or worked through, as if the band thought they might as well ride out the recording sessions with "the best they could get."

Here's my vision of how a Focus studio session would unwrap:

Band arrives. (Not all at the same time--which irks the early/on-time members.) Talk. Warm up. Rehearse some parts. Quickly set levels and push 'record' and play. Play back. "It's good." "There are some amazing parts!" "It could be better." "Do we want to try it again?" "No--" "F#*k no!" "Okay, then. Next song." --and repeat.

This album is such a hodge podge. The musical styles present here are all over the map. From humorous, tongue-in-cheek, Robert Wyatt-like jazz-rock-pop with, 1. "Round Goes the Gossip" (5:16) (8/10), to the syrupy romantic adult contemporary jazz piece, 2. "Love Remembered" (2:49) (10/10), to an attempt at an pop instrumental anthem in 3. "Sylvia" (3:31) (8/10), to MICHEL LE GRAND-like lounge classical piano jazz in, 4. "Carnival Fugue" (6:02) (8/10), to the reworking on a variation of an old group song and coming out with 5. "Focus III" (6:07) (my favorite version of the song) (9/10), to the loose but exhilarating free-form jamming of 6. "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" (19:54) (one of my all-time favorite songs--and all-time favorite guitar exhibitions) (10/10), to an attempt at a modern electric classical symphonia (but ends up sound more like a re-hashing of "Answers? Questions!...") in 7. "Anonymous II" (26:19) (8/10), to ancient/medieval with, 8. "Elspeth of Nottingham" (3:11) (10/10), and topped off with one of their old standards--released previously on their first album (with different drummer and bass player)--a JETHRO TULL-sounding piece here used to fill space on Side 4, 9. "House of the King" (2:23) (8/10)--all of which exhibit's compositional mastery, creative experimentalism, and, of course, instrumental virtuosity. Too bad it doesn't all work. Amazing that it sold so well--especially as it is an all-instrumental album.

Could've been a masterpiece with a little more work. But, heck! A double album is a lot of work!

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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