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Focus - Hamburger Concerto CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.25 | 948 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars Focus are an acquired taste but I have always been fascinated with their peculiar brand of music, especially the odd angular riffs and keyboard work of Thijs van Leer, who plays organ, piano, harpsichord, electric piano, flute, alto-flute, arp synthesiser, recorder mellotron, vibes, accordion, and the organ of St. Mary the Virgin. He is joined by Bert Ruiter on bass guitar, auto harp, triangles, chinese finger cymbals, handclaps, swiss bells, and Colin Allen is on drums, conga drum, tambourine, castanets, cabasa, woodblock, chinese gong, timpani, handclaps, flexatone, cuica, not to forget also Jan Akkerman on all guitars, lute, timpani, handclaps. They are a force to be reckoned with at their best and their best is definitely on this album.

This album begins with Akkerman cleaning his lute on 'Delitae Musicae' which signifies the classical music influences. The album features one of their most beloved tracks, 'Harem Scarem' with its frenetic rhythm and comical vocal notations. The guitars are incredible along with the jaunty keyboard lines and it is only surpassed in popularity by 'Hocus Pocus'. The piano driven 'La Cathedrale De Strasbourg' is quite beautiful featuring cathedral church organ and some nice tinkling piano and clean guitar lines. There are vocals on this that work well with the music and some high pitch whistles. 'Birth' is a lengthy track with Renaissance overtones at first, very medieval sounding, and then a rhythmic drum pounds to make way for a pulsing bassline, and finally Leer's Hammond organ. This is a great piece of music and my favourite on side one. Akkerman has the spotlight on him as he powers out an emotional lead solo and notably the flute soling is divine.

The album boasts the customary 70s accessory; the side long multi-movement suite that swallowed up half of the prog vinyls of that era. 'Hamburger Concerto' is a 20 minute instrumental in 6 parts; i) Starter, ii) Rare, iii) Medium, iv) Medium II, v) Well Done, vi) One For The Road. The symphonic sound is prominent, and Leer and Akkerman are at their best here. Of course on subsequent albums they will go their separate ways after disagreements in the ranks. Still we can enjoy their genius on this album and it must be hailed as one of the best things Focus have done. At about 6 and a half minutes in, Leer has some moments of vocal burbling which are okay be me, and even some of his idiosyncratic yodelling and high pitched falsetto ramblings. It is part of the inimitable Focus sound made famous on 'Hocus Pocus' so hard to argue with it here. His Hammond solo to follow is delightful. The sound at 17 minutes is wall to wall grandeur and a very powerful finale. What an intricate musical masterpiece. The album throws in one more short thing for good measure, 'Early Birth', with nice guitar but I am already overloaded by the suite previously. All I can say is this is one fine album and perhaps the best Focus though I have only heard about 4. In any case, this is quintessential Focus paradise.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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