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Focus - X CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.44 | 134 ratings

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4 stars Dutch outfit FOCUS are among the veterans of the European rock scene. Initially formed in 1969, it was the first few years of their career that saw them make a big impression with tracks like Hocus Pocus and Sylvia, where the former is a staple on classic rock radio stations even today. Towards the end of the 1970's Focus called it a day, but some 20 odd years later Focus was revived courtesy of Thijs van Leer. X is the tenth studio album by this veteran act, and the third to be released after their revival.

The core style explored on this production is one with half a foot or thereabouts placed inside 70's jazzrock. It's a smooth and melodic variety of the species, with melancholic oriented guitar soloing backed by smooth organ textures and wandering piano motifs as core elements throughout. An often used and effective detail is how the flute and guitar will take turns in providing lead motifs, and even while relatively brief in length the compositions tend to contain multiple themes, or at minimum distinctly different lead motifs. The various themes and motifs are repeated, and the use of recurring elements in general are the main identity providers.

Most pieces have been given additional elements that separates them somewhat from the rest too. Like the spirited, bass riven insert in the otherwise slow melancholy of Victoria, the whimsical lead vocals of All Hens on Deck, the careful rare lead vocals of Le Tango or the spoken words that appear in Hoeratio. And for Talk of the Clown Focus opts for a dramatic shift in style, this brief piece with marching drums and elegant playful flute comes across as a theme tailor made to be used for a 70's children's TV show more than anything else. All of these are well made and well performed items, high quality material if you enjoy music of this kind. On this occasion, while I do hear the jazz and jazzrock orientation, my main impression is that those who enjoy early 80's Camel should find this production to be quite to their taste.

That is, with the exception of the first and last song of this disc. Father Bachus comes across as the perfect opening song for a concert, an energetic romp with 70's driving guitars wandering off into folk-tinged excursions closer to the likes of Jethro Tull as well as standalone driving drum sequences, while concluding piece X Roads does much of the same but now with more of a distinct, energetic jazzrock expression at the core of the proceedings. Standout tracks in style and interest both, and I kind of expect that these two pieces will be used to open and end the regular set of Focus concerts, at least in the near future. These compositions appears to be tailor made for just such purposes.

All in all a well made album, with words like accomplished and solid at the forefront of my mind if I were to describe it briefly. With two pieces of minor magic in the shape of Father Bachus and X Roads. Focus doesn't bring anything new or innovative table however, but if you enjoy bands with a secure and firm grip on endeavours of a more retrospective nature then this most recent production of their should be well worth a visit.

Windhawk | 4/5 |


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