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Focus - Hamburger Concerto CD (album) cover



Symphonic Prog

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5 stars their best album , Hocus Pocus is the best known piece not on this album. Focus is a mix of rock with organ and a bit of classical influence and a lot of talent. I saw Thijse in Montreal last year hes still got it a good performer.
Report this review (#22846)
Posted Tuesday, November 11, 2003 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
5 stars The peak from our fave Dutchmen.

Harem scarem is almost in the same mould than Hocus Pocus with hilarious vocals and energetic guitars. La Cathedrale De Strasbourg is simply gorgeous with subtle singing and delighful bells and percussions. Birth by comparison pales a bit but is still a fine classical rework tune and a highlight on almost any other Focus album.

But the Concerto in itself is the real gem taking up a full side of vinyl, each movement being named after a manner of cooking the hamburger. For once I cannot blame Focus to stretch out an idea too long. This 20 min+ track is absolutely stunning and is riveting you to your sofa until the track is over. This is the album to prove that even almost instrumental prog can full of humour without proper lyrics.

Easily their better album , I can assure you that you will not regret this.

Report this review (#22850)
Posted Monday, February 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I became recently a fan of Focus, having started with their classic "Focus III". I expected great things from Hamburger and I was not disappointed. Still the great salad of rock and classical sounds, which I really love. That's what I mean when I think of '70 symphonic rock. Jan Akkerman shows what he can do with his guitar, especially in the sweet medieval oriented "Delitae Musicae", while there's no need to waste words to describe what a great musician is Thiys Van Leer (except when he tries to make strange sounds with his mouth). My only disappoinment is for the lousy cd reissue by Redbullet. I paid 17 euros for it here in Italy, and, as for "Focus III", I found a ridicolus booklet without the slightest description.
Report this review (#22852)
Posted Thursday, February 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars A brilliant neo-classical rock album and arguably the best from these Dutch masters. When I was taking a music appreciation course in university I showed this work to my prof and she liked it so much that she went out and bought herself a copy! I was to learn a lot more about this unique recording which aspired to levels of musical sophistication that few progressive rock acts of the day could match.

The replacement of Pierre van Der Linden on drums by ex-Stone The Crows drummer Colin Allen certainly brought a new feel to the group even if Thijs van Leer and Jan Akkerman were at odds with each other at the time. The album is filled to the brim with classical motifs and begins with a short renaissance-like intro with Van Leer on recorder and Akkerman on lute which was based on a composition from an unknown Belgian composer from sheet music Akkerman had discovered in a music shop in Antwerp in Belgium. Following this short prelude which sort of sets the stage for what is to come we are all of a sudden transported through time to circa. 1974 where we find our Dutch masters at work on a jazz-rock piece called Harem Scarem with Van Leer doubling on piano and Hammond as well as providing some comedic vocals while Akkerman's graceful guitar lines provide melodic mood changes. Other instruments abound here such as castinets and parisian-style accordian work by Mr. Van Leer.( Wait for it, over 20 different musical instruments were employed on this studio masterpiece!). La Cathedral de Strasbourg evokes images of the majestic cathedral in the French border town complete with church bells, choral arrangements and whistling by Mr. Van Leer (listen carefully to the ending!). Baroque Bach-like harpsichord introduces Birth, a Jan Akkerman composition with Mr. Van Leer stating the theme on flute as well as providing haunting interludes in between Jan's emotive guitar work. Another shorter original single version of this appears at the end of the CD release.

The main track Hamburger Concerto is just that. A concerto and not a studio jam as it is refered to as by many rock reviewers. In fact the opening section was actually taken from a piece by Brahms entitled "St. Anthoni Chorale: Variations on a theme by Joseph Haydn Opus 56a" which was composed in 1873! Of course, by this time Focus was well known for raiding the classics and classical references can be heard throughout their previous work. The sub-dued intro develops into a more modern context blending in more textures as it builds. We are once again treated to a small section of Mr. Van Leer's inventive vocal abilities which reveal extreme range and control.The piece transitions beautifully into a section which, in the opinion of this reviewer, is Jan Akkerman's finest moments on record which display his superior compositional and technical prowess on the electric guitar. It begins with a contemplative theme which esculates through various moods ending off with some jazz inluenced passages and back to the theme. Van Leer then gives us some latin chanting which blows up into the grand finale with a series of organ/synth/voice power chords. It resolves into a happier ARP synthesizer led conclusion which culminates with church bell chiming and a little guitar finale from Akkerman.

A must have album from this highly experimental 1970's group. It's a shame that they began to wane after this release which was perhaps one of the most interesting progressive rock recordings ever, incorporating more musical elements than one might care to shake a proverbial stick at.

Report this review (#22853)
Posted Wednesday, March 31, 2004 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
4 stars Harem Scarem and Birth are beautiful songs and Hamburger Concerto is a prog beast. Still, I didn't like it as much as Anonymus Two and I think this album pales in comparrison to Focus Three. Still, this is a great Focus album and it shouldn't be avoided.
Report this review (#22854)
Posted Monday, April 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars The Burger Kings

By far Focus' best and more complete and accomplished album.

Although "Hamburger Concerto" itself only occupies the second side of the LP, the whole album flows beautifully from start to finish. There's nothing like "Hocus Pocus" here, or the rambling jazz laden indulgences of other albums ("Focus 3" comes to mind). Instead what we have is a classically constructed piece of pure smooth prog rock. Guitar and keyboards share the lead most of the time, with Van Leer's flute and vocals (sounds not lyrics) kept relatively brief.

There really isn't any point in going into individual track details, it's very much an album to hear from start to finish. The closing section of "Hamburger concerto" ("One for the road") however is stunning, Akerman's guitar work being reminiscent of their beautiful single "Sylvia".

A beautifully constructed and performed album, which surpasses by a country mile anything else by the band. The CD version has one extra track, an early version of "Birth".

The sleeve notes talk about the album being premastered (not remastered) whatever that means!

Report this review (#22855)
Posted Sunday, May 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hamburger Concerto is one of these albums that seduces you at the first listening, leaving you with the sensation that you want to listen to much more in the likes of the tunes you just heard. The Album deviates a bit from the "normal" Focus since the classical incorporated elements are predominant. Pipe Organs, and Mellotrons together with the usual Hammond tunes played in classic form makes the superb soundscapes for Akkermans guitar, Colins drumming and Reites usual bass lines. Focus normally played on a more jazz like harmony and gained fans all over the world with Moving Waves (72), Focus III (73) and the legendary Live At The Rainbow (73) albums being "Sylvia" and "Hocus Pocus" the most known tunes from this fantastic Dutch band. The various moods, from pure classical to hard rock moving back and forth make this Focus recording a landmark by itself. I had the honor to se Thjis van Leer last year playing these great Focus tunes, 30 years later, but with the same entusiasm as always, and with a band that stands up to any oldtime die-hard fan. Hamburger Concerto is by all means an item to have in a progressive rock collection.
Report this review (#22857)
Posted Friday, October 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This Dutch Quartet revolutionized the rock world in the early 70's in large part due to the unparalleled talents of Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer. The first gentleman is a guitarist extraordinaire, both on acoustic or electric , as well as a world class master of the medieval luth. Thijs on the other hand, is an accomplished ivory tickler (harpsichord, piano and mostly Hammond organ) as well as a master flutist. Previous albums, Moving Waves and 3 were steeped in the extensive "Jazz-Jam'' style, long riveting tracks loaded with blistering fretwork and towering interplay with flute and organ. Why this album remains a treasure 30 years later?

Hamburger Concerto is the crowning achievement of Focus' career, as subsequent albums clearly lack the sizzle and fire of this masterpiece. From the opening renaissance intro "Delitiae Musicae" , the listener is in for one hell of a ride, a musical journey of epic proportions, with a mature sound and an obvious search for perfection. "La Cathedrale de Strasbourg" is warmly enchanting. The side long Hamburger suite is a divine slab of first rate prog-rock. Check out the sheer thunder and passion of Akkerman's guitar on "Birth" , arguably one of the finest 10 solos ever recorded.

If you do not own this jewel, I suggest to return to your country album collection and stay there! Your punishment is deserved and you have been warned.

5 toasted buns

Report this review (#22859)
Posted Monday, November 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Baroque and Roll is only one of the many eclectic ways to describe the wonderful sound of Focus on the Hamburger Concerto album. The baroque influence shines through here more than on any other album previous but the music is consistently as strong as the previous two studio albums at least. No yodelling here as on "Hocus Pocus" which kicked off Moving Waves but the opener proper (after "Delite Musicae" served as a fine gentle prelude) on this album while not being the forceful driving rock anthem that "Hocus Pocus" was still bears an identity to the hard rock traits of Focus and especially the guitar playing of Jan Akkerman and in fact both songs come from the same common ground musically and even the names of both have a trait in common too but it would be wrong to state that Focus were trying to achieve the same effect as both tunes are quite different, "Hocus Pocus" is a unique track that could never be copied without it sounding too blatant. I even heard some whistling in there somewhere... If Focus are a progressive rock, which they have been cited as, then they are like no other. In my opinion the typical prog rock outfit takes themselves too seriously but Focus add humour to their depth of textures and allow some fun to creep into the songs while never losing face. The rocking "Harem Scarem" has some odd noises thrown in for good measure alongside some fluid and clean musicianship as is par for this entire album which is joyful and a fine exploration of varying styles like the afore mentioned baroque with the lute making sweeping moves. But it is the guitar playing which is the biggest draw for me when listening to Focus and in that department they never fail to excite. Hamburger Concerto is an electrifying album with a sense of theatre involved in the execution and arrangement, especially on the 20 minute plus title suite. It is unlike anything else in my book and certainly works better than previous lengthy workouts. I still cannot split their first three albums, they all have their own merits but they might just have progressed a little more with the Hamburger Concerto. A band this consistent merging good songwriting talent with carefully executed musicianship must be heard. Focus is an apt name for a band who play this sharp.
Report this review (#22861)
Posted Monday, January 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Focus with this disc made a music of a great subtlety. It's clearly symphonic prog but it does not sink at any time in excess. Quite to the contrary, arrangements are initially intended to emphasize melodies which are of a rare beauty. The musicians put their technical qualities at the service of the music. They do not play to show their individual talents but to express all the extent of the human emotions. Never repetitive this very ambitious disc avoids the trap of the claim by the grace of musicians inhabited by a common will to create a work which is likely to cross the times. It does not matter that this disc was recorded in the seventies, this music is not dated.Make a track by track desciption don't make sense. "Hamburger Concerto" is an extraordinary travel you have to listen in his globality.If you like your prog imaginative and melodic you must buy this CD. 5 stars, without a doubt. One of the ten masterpieces of the progressive rock, all confused times.
Report this review (#22862)
Posted Friday, April 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#37370)
Posted Thursday, June 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars In '75 I went to see Bruce Springsteen only 'cause the Hocus Pocus group was opening for him. By that time Hocus Pocus was a passe hit. But I had heard their subsequent albums and thought they were great. I hadn't heard Hamburger yet 'til they hit the stage. They just simply blew the Boss off the stage! I about walked out on him 'cause he was so boring after seeing such a stellar performance by these Dutch Masters. Not a false note in the bunch. I later heard Bruce had to get them off the bill 'cause they were just simply too good!
Report this review (#40027)
Posted Friday, July 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an extraordinarily good album focus' finest moment.The album starts with the beautiful delitae musicae followed by the rocking harem scarem. La Cathedral de Strassbourg is another beauty and birth is very good . The first side is excellent but the second side is the masterpiece great melodies, great atmosphere and great arrangements. What a variety of instruments Ackerman and Van Leer played. Classical training is rarely used this well

Report this review (#42007)
Posted Monday, August 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Focus' finest hour by a pretty wide margin. The aimless jazz-wannabee noodling that made up the bulk of FOCUS III is only a memory here. This is Focus Concentrate-nothing inessential, only the good stuff.

The band's interest in "early music" continues unabated, with Akkerman's lute piece "Delitiæ Musicæ" opening the album, and also featuring the faux-liturgical pipe-organ tune "La Cathédeale de Strasbourg". "Birth" is the band at their soaring best, continuing in the line of the numbered "Focus" pieces stylistically. And "Harem Scarem" is a wacky little rocker, the progeny of "Hocus Pocus" most likely.

But it's the title suite that's surely the highlight of the album, perhaps even the highlight of the band's entire career. With sub-sections whimsically named for the various cooking times of meat, the blend of classical and "ancient" sounds with rock textures and Akkerman's frequently jazzy guitar reached its apex here. The sound is wondrous, and you really get the feel of going on a musical journey.

And best of all, no drum-solo bringing the piece to a grinding halt at any point! It's not too much to ask, really.

Report this review (#45531)
Posted Monday, September 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tony Fisher
4 stars It appears that I am in a small minority who think that this is not the best Focus album. Very good, certainly, but I'd prefer to listen to Moving Waves anyday though I'd concede that this is an improvement on Focus 3. The band had undergone a gradual change of rhythm section since Moving Waves, Burt Ruiter having first come in for Cyril Havermans and ex Stone the Crows Drummer Colin Allen then having taken over from Pierre van der Linden. But these two, good though they are, are only support for the astonishing talents of master keyboard player/flautist This van Leer and guitarist extraordinaire Jan Akkerman. Van Leer contributes what vocals there are, mostly yodels and sounds which fit the music well. The band has a strong classical influence throughout, as on the lute driven Delitae Musicae, but they can rock in thoroughly modern style when they want, as on Birth and the epic second side where great solos abound. The only track that stops this album getting 5 stars is La Cathedrale de Strasbourg, which I find rather dull despite van Leer's astonishing range of vocalisations. Harem Scarem is good and bears some resemblence to Hocus Pocus but falls a bit short of that track's brilliance. However, an essential album for any serious collection. (By the way, my vinyl LP (bought shortly after release) does not have Early Birth on it. This was found on a compilation album (Focus) released by Polydor in 1975. It is not good enough to be on Hamburger Concerto since it was a trial version of the track)
Report this review (#46041)
Posted Thursday, September 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars Focus has always been a band with sense of humor, not only for the strange sounds and yodeling emitted by Thijs Van Leer but also for the jokes they made of sacred cows.

For example Hamburger Concerto is a play of words with Brandenburg Concerto by Johan Sebastian Bach (Not easy to find a bigger or more sacred cow anywhere), they work with the obvious Baroque influence in a delightful way just to make a Concert to.."the hamburger", something that only few and brave genius as Thijs Van Leer would ever dare to do.

But that's not the only reference as we'll see later. The problem is that many people still see Focus as a comedy band or just buffoons, because sometimes their weird sense of humor so intelligent and subtle (Not in the name of the album because it's obvious) that most people don't get it, but nothing more far from reality, this humor enhances a rare and unique exquisite sound, very well crafted and linking several influences with such a skill and beauty that seems hard to believe.

Lets start with Delitae Musicae, a rare inflection that resembles Latin or Medieval Italian (Not sure which one though or if it means delicate music or delicate whisper whisper-), in a reference to Claudio Monteverdi's: Madrigals, Book 1 delitae musicae, a name that describes perfectly this short introduction to Focus world in any of both senses because it's delicate music and at the same time a delicate whisper.

Delitae Musicae, is reminiscent of the late Mediaeval/early Renaissance using harps and some instruments from the 1500's or 1600's (Lute and harpsichord if I'm not wrong even when the first one is not credited) delicate and wonderful, as a travel in time.

Harem Scarem is a name that has tortured me for decades, can't find a right translation or what they meant, of course the extreme shouts and yodeling by Thijs give an idea of fear (Scare or maybe scream), a very Rock oriented track, frantic and breathtaking from start to end.

La Cathédral De Strasbourg as Thijs said in the DVD Masters from the Vault, is dedicated to the magnificent Gothic construction and the vivid image left in him for life, the track starts soft, dark, in other words Gothic and majestic at the same time, if you haven't seen a picture of the building or better been there, you can't really understand how perfect is the musical description, but then after a soft (and unusual) lyrics and whistle section the song turns towards a more jazzy sound, incredibly beautiful track, one of my favorites.

Birth is a unique song, the brilliant harpsichord introduction by Thijs is simply delightful, but a surprising drumming by Collin Allen (Who replaced Pierre Van Der Linden) changes the atmosphere of the song returning us to the classical Focus sound even when a bit stronger and more Hard Rock oriented than ever before, another outstanding piece of art that reminds me at some points of Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull.

It's now time for the feast, the central piece of the work, the self titled epic Hamburger Concerto, I almost fell to the floor in laughter when I read the name of the parts of this epic (Starter, Rare, Medium I, Medium II, Well Done and One for the Road) simply hilarious to blend Johan Sebastian Bach with Burgers King or Mc' Donald's.

But the music is no joke, simply wonderful 20:19 minutes of pure Progressive Rock, incredible mixtures of styles and genres that go from pure Baroque to the Dutch version of Flamenco (The Flanders region or nation went from Spain to France The Netherlands and part of Belgium, what explains the electric Flamenco style of Jan Akkerman and the use of such instruments as castanets or even hand clapping) with incredible Religious Choral sections and explosions of pure power, so well developed that I won't even dare to attempt to describe, because words are too cheap for the beauty and complexity of this epic, even Mr. Van Leer's usual vocal jokes contribute in this case to make the atmosphere perfect and to enhance the beauty of the music.

Just believe me, those who haven't heard this song will never imagine what Focus means and I can only describe this song in one word: PERFECT.

Early Birth is another strange song, sadly people often impressed by the previous epic tend to repeat it over and over and forget this small gem at the end of the CD and almost never played, and I say gem because if one track describes how Focus used to sound before this album is Early Birth, leaves me hoping it would last at least 5 minutes and with the honey in the lips.

Listening to it carefully seems that it has been cut due to the limitations of the vinyl format because it's abrupt as if some engineer would have shouted We're running out of time and someone just lowered the volume in a forced way (As we used to do in our homes when a cassette tape was running out of space), the only flaw in the album, but so insignificant that I don't care.

Rating, 5 stars not a single doubt, if there were 6 or 7 stars possible I would keep going higher.

If you don't own this album, you don't know Focus, and that is a shame and a pity for any proghead, run to the store and get a copy.

Report this review (#60026)
Posted Saturday, December 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars 4.6/5.0

The album Hamburger Concerto is great from start to finish, but it can take some time to fully enjoy its sonority and melodies. At first I tried to listen to the huge "Hamburger Concerto" track by parts just to try to get a glance from it, but that was not enough to get a good idea. You really have to put the song and listen from beginning to the end. And, oh my god, only for the last 3 minutes of this track I could die while listening... The end of Hamburger Concerto is simply the best musical climax ever achieved in music yet (from my experience). It has the power of the best Camel climax but is more powerful! If the whole album was as powerful as the end of that song, I would give 5/5 on this album without hesitating. However, as good as it is, 4. 6/5.0 is a better overall score.

Higly recommanded if you like to sit there and listen to music that will take you far away... and blow you away at the same time!

Report this review (#60599)
Posted Saturday, December 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars What can I say? Whenever I put on this album, listen to it and do something else in the meanwhile, time flies by. It's just that good. "Hamburger Concerto" is the must of this album, and although all the other songs are great, they are nothing compared to it. My favorite part of it has to be "Well Done". It starts quite calm, with a Dutch hymn being sung by van Leer. At a certain moment, it builds up a climax and one of the best lead guitar parts EVER shal be heard. Once you've been to this point, you will realise why this album is worthy of 5 stars just for the title track. This album's right up there between CTTE, SEBTP and ITCOTCK. A MUST HAVE.
Report this review (#63429)
Posted Friday, January 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars FOCUS is a very creative band that puts humour on their compositions but are extremely careful to not overuse it, making it a pleasant experience together with their amazing instrumentation. They work seriously on their arrangements, and in this disc they managed to create a barroque scenary mixed with some rocking moments. At first this may scream "inconsistent", but it actually worked perfectly, and the album's flow is never interrupted.

"Delitia Musicale" and "Cathedrale" bring to your mind an epic feel, you have dreams of travelling to those ancient romantic times, but soon a rocker "Harem Scarem" (a good example of how not to overuse a formula - i'm talking about the funny vocals, which are wisely used here) and a happy "Birth" wake you up and realise that the real dream is to come...the title suite. Overlong? Maybe, but they do progress the song with very beautiful melodies and it features the record's funniest moment, the second vocal craziness. An embryo version of "Birth" concludes the experience and it takes the best parts of the longer version of it.

Some people say this is FOCUS' finest work. I can't say that because i never listened to any other disc by them, but i am sure that Hamburger Concerto is a very creative work which the band would find trouble to top. Anyway, it is not a masterpiece but it is absolutely essential since it shows an unique side of prog music.

Report this review (#63791)
Posted Sunday, January 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Unbelievable! This is one of the most overrated albums I know. To start, yes, the music on this record is pretty good, and especially the title-piece contains some beautiful moments, BUT... Compared to the strong instrumentation of previous albums Focus 3 and Focus II (a.k.a. Moving Waves) this one can be considered as a dissapointment. At first, drummer Colin Allen is boring compared to master drummer Pierre van der Linden, who played on the older records and brought much more swing and power in the band's music. Also, together with guitarist Jan Akkerman, he created a way stronger rhythm-section. There is nothing special on the drums here, just straight-forward stuff. Focus used to experiment more and exciting solo's on guitar and organ are very hard to find. In a compositional way, this album is good, let there be no doubt about it, but I'm really surprised it's rated so high as Focus 3 and Focus II are much more adventurous and contain a much stronger feel in the music.
Report this review (#68927)
Posted Friday, February 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Focus and the 'Hamburger Concerto'. I guess the name comes from 'Brandenburg Concertos' by Bach. These guys have always had good sense of humour. This album is my favourite album of Focus with the 'Focus III'. I can't decide which one is better. This album contains six songs, which all are very good. Moving to invidual songs:

The first track is similiar to 'Elspeth of Nottingham'. 'Delitae Musicae' is very good folky song, but for me it is too short. I would love to listen the medieval folk side of Focus little bit more. Then kicks off the 'Harem Scarem'. The names confuse me. I have no idea what most of the names in the album means, but does that matter? For me: No. This song is a very good prog rock song. The beginning is very classy rock music, and the middle parts are amazing with the guitar melodies and rocky drumming. Very good track. Next is 'La Cathédral De Strasbourg', which has this very epic and beautiful piano at the beginning. Very good track with angelic piano playing, flute melodies and vocals. Then there is 'Birth', which starts off with good symphonic and classical keyboard melody, and then develops into mellow rock. The middle part is very smooth and soft, but the guitar melodies are very edgy. Very fine track. Then there is the epic 'Hamburger Concerto', which gives the listener just what she/he needs. Full 20 minutes of pure Focus at its best, I can't describe this song any better. The last song 'Early Birth' is good outro for 'Hamburger Concerto' the song and the album. The tracks together represent what Focus really means.

The album is great, and while writing this review I figured out that I like this album more than 'Focus III'. I can't find anything bad in this album, Jan Akkerman and Thijs van Leer have made excellent job. Can't think of any better description than: Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music. All prog fans should buy this album.

Report this review (#80118)
Posted Friday, June 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars This almost completely instrumental album (with the sole exception of a couple of tracks containing some singing by the inimitable Thijs Van Leer) is widely held to be Dutch band Focus's finest hour, as well as one of the masterpieces of the Symphonic subgenre. The musicianship on show is indeed dazzling, with Focus boasting one of the most accomplished guitarists in rock (although far too often forgotten by all but true connoisseurs), the brilliant Jan Akkerman . Moreover (and that's good news in a genre too often characterised as unnecessarily dour and self-important), Focus are also possessed of a remarkable sense of humour, as demonstrated by the album title itself - an ironic take on Bach's "Brandenburger Concerto", one of the monuments of classical music. Van Leer's celebrated yodeling adds entertainment value to a record which is otherwise a textbook example of how to write real symphonic prog.

The album's six tracks run the gamut from the short, lute-based medieval fantasy that is "Delitae Musicae", to the lively, rollicking "Harem Scarem", powered by a strong rythm section playing a memorable riff, to the wistful, atmospheric "La Cathédrale de Strasbourg", a showcase for Thijs Van Leer's skills as a pianist (he also sings some vocals in French, adding to the melancholy feel of the piece). The intricate "Birth", starting out slowly with a lovely harpsichord intro, then picking up speed and allowing Van Leer to shine as a flutist as well as a keyboardist, introduces the album's centrepiece and title-track, the 20-minute-plus suite "Hamburger Concerto" with its funnily-named six movements.

In this monumental track, Focus prove (if it ever was needed) that they are in no way inferior to the better-known British prog giants of the era. The interplay between the band's two stars, Akkerman and Van Leer, is nothing short of spectacular. The influences of European classical and medieval music, jazz and folk blend seamlessly to create a composition which stands proud with the best epics of the same period - though, if one wanted to nitpick, it could be said it suffers from the absence of a coherent vocal line, unlike, for instance, ELP's "Tarkus" (there is some singing, apparently in Dutch, but it sounds a bit like an afterthought). Akkerman's guitar shows the influence of flamenco, one of the fundamental styles for guitarists; while Van Leer goes to town with some superb organ and synth playing, reminding listeners that there is life beyond Emerson and Wakeman. "Early Birth" closes the album, reprising the theme of "Birth" in a softer, more restrained way.

An undisputed landmark of Symphonic Prog, "Hamburger Concerto" is that rare album which blends amazing musicianship, inventiveness, melody and humour in a coherent whole. It may take more than one listen to fully appreciate it, but the experience will ultimately be more than rewarding. A well-deserved 4.5 stars.

Report this review (#86446)
Posted Thursday, August 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Utterly wonderful. Nearly perfect. Perhaps only a minute or two too much of Birth detracts from this being the ultimate prog album. I love all Focus - yes, even Con Proby - but this one beats the band. One reviewer used an excellent word - elegant - to describe it. The only other criticism is that its soundworld - all those 22 instruments! - was impossible to reproduce on stage. Just shades it ahead of the first 2 sides of Focus III and Moving Waves. But only just. How could they take classical themes and treat them so tastefully and subtly? I mean, Keith Emerson was having a bit of a laugh, wasn't he? Entertaining, sure. But this is something else. These guys have the music in them, as Kiki Dee once almost said.
Report this review (#94662)
Posted Sunday, October 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The peak of a genre I like to call classically influenced progressive music.

All the meat of this album is in the title track. (Heh.)

Harem Scarem, Hocus Pocus No.2, either way, a bit repetitive but nice. Birth is a child from Mr. Akkerman, a incredible guitarist. La Cathédral De Strasbourg is a nice offering from The lunatic Thijse Van Leer, flautist and keyboardist.

But, like Foxtrot, the real enjoyment comes from the title track. Cleverly named in sections of the various stages of a hamburger, Thijse uses his compositional talent to his maximum here. Some odd vocalisations, guitar solos, and the classical organ make this a unique epic.

Likely the best from Focus!

Report this review (#101426)
Posted Saturday, December 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A real symphonic masterpiece.

Forever shrouded by the giants of the genre, Hamburger Concerto by Focus is the symphonic prog piece of beauty we often seek (no, it's not anything by Yes or Genesis). It was the Dutch, not the English, who capitalized on the sweet fruits of symphonic prog. Hamburger Concerto is a lively and unforgettable experience.

It should be of note that this is one of the few "jovial" albums I truly love and enjoy. It's full of spirit, full of life, and hits at the musical center of the brain like few albums do. It's important to note that none of the encompassing tracks to the main "epic" are filler. They are all unique and very moving tracks themselves in their own way. Harem Scarem is of particular note due its jubilant nature. There's influences here across the spectrum of prog as well, some imitations of the "big giants" if you will, but never sacrificing their own identity.

I generally am not a fan of much of the work of early prog giants, finding it too commercial to a degree and often too great a range in quality from one section to the next. Hamburger Concerto is one of the few albums that I enjoy from start to finish, and while nothing is particularly shocking or mesmerizing, the artistic grace it stands with is some of the best in the history of all of prog, and a supreme achievement of these underrated Dutchmen. Let's bring on the burgers; this is an amazing piece of music.

Report this review (#103729)
Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Yet another masterpiece in the Focus catalogue, "hamburger Concerto" finds the band exploring their own symphonic trend a bit deeper while maintaining a strong flavor of jazzy vibe in their music. Pierre van der Linden's departure from the drummer's seat was indeed a serious factor that the band had to lead with, but fortunately, Colin Allen not only provided a solid foundation for the rockier orientation that the band was pursuing by then, but he also included some touches of Van der Linden dynamics into his own playing. Completeing the rhythm duo, Ruiter did a great job at completing the refurbished foundation upon which the musical ideas could be developed in a powerful manner. Yes, at this moment, Focus was reinforcing their progressive essence and preparing to rock a bit further than they had done so far: you can tell by the rough sound production for the lead guitar and Hammond organ inputs that Focus was willing to sound tighter. Another very noticeable aspect is the use of heavily overdubbed keyboards: along with the almost ever present Hammond, Van Leer put a lot of effort at integrating the mellotron and the ARP synthesizer in many of the most gradiose passages of the album, in this way creating a genuine orchestral atmosphere for the overall sound. Having said that, the album kicks off with a gentle, brief piece on lute and recorder, adapted from the Early Renaissance. After that, 'Harem Scarem' brings a strong reminder of the old combination of rocking energy and light humor that a couple of years ago had worked so well in 'Hocus Pocus'. It works here very well, too: rock'n'roll mixed with bucolic shades of flute and accordion, and also some weird percussive adornments on tympani. 'La Cathedrale de Strasbourg' brings a different mood, an etheral exercise on sweet melancholy originated from a few piano chords that build the subtle main motif. The gentle lead guitar washes fill some of the remaining empty spaces while the rhythm section provides an adequately subdued jazzy vibe to the track. 'Birth' has to be one of the definitive finest compositions by Akkerman in the history of Focus. Full of beautiful motifs linked fluidly by tight arrangements, it kicks off with an amazing harpsichord intro, and then it is developed on the basis of the alternating interaction between flute and lead guitar. Akkerman's last solo is simply magnificent. So far, so good for the album's first half. But the second half is really nothing to be dismissed, since it is occupied by the namesake 20 minute suite, a monster piece in which borrowed Baroque themes and archetypical rock riffs marry in a well-ordained amalgam of splendor and strength. Particular peaks of this suite are:the successive yodelling-organ-flute by Van Leer in 'Medium I'; the subtle tension between the guitar solo and the rhythm duo in 'Medium II'; the ellaboration of the symphonic climax all the way through 'Well Done' until the high-spirited coda 'One for the Road'. A great ending for a magnificent progressive gem: Focus showed with "Hamburger Concerto" that they were still on the top of their creative energy.
Report this review (#104796)
Posted Thursday, December 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3.6 Stars

It's difficult to resist trying an album called "Hamburger Concerto" with its title track taking twenty minutes and divided into sections humorously called "starter" "well-done". Have you ever heard a song about food, let alone a progressive rock epic? I didn't and I wanted to try something new, and expected something hilarious since I knew Focus by their funny and quirky single with yodeling and whistle solos. Unfortunately, I couldn't find humor here (it really sounds more serious than I expected), but that doesn't change the fact that the music is great and very melodic.

Hamburger Concerto is not your typical symphonic rock music, and it has a very classical and romantic feel and is generally instrumental. This is evident in "La Cathedral de Strasbourg", which sounds like it comes from another century if it wasn't for the jazz guitar playing near the end. Check the whistling halfway through the track: very interesting and not out of place. The harpsichord of "Birth" still brings back the old classical sound but when you expect more of that style, the song turns into a delicious rock tune full of tasty Hammond organs (yes, I can use those adjectives, Come on, the cover is a hamburger!). I love the usage of the flute in this track; it is even more effective than on the short, delicate "Delicate Musicae" which opens the album. Overall, Birth has to be the best Focus song I've heard so far. It's full of melody, emotion, and is flawlessly executed. At the end of the album, a second part of the magnificent "Birth" is played and is a great way to finish the album.

Hamburger Concerto is the centerpiece of the album. I was expected to laugh a lot, but this song doesn't really sound like cooking a burger. It's a very well done (no pun intended) classical soft-rock song that sounds surprisingly honest and unpretentious. The music is generally mid-tempo and pleasant to listen to, with wonderful melodies and arrangements that would make our classical music heroes proud. There is absolutely no showing off nor pointless soloing here, and I'm glad there isn't because it would break the atmosphere of this tune. The song ends with an extended majestic section with a nice and simple synthesizer solo. The only thing that makes this song not stand on the level of the epic masterpieces like Tarkus, Close to the Edge, and Supper's Ready is the fact that it's twenty minutes of mid-tempo music. Sure, it's great music all the way through, but lack of dynamics for such a long time hurts the song eventually. Nevertheless, if you are a fan of mid-tempo classical music, you are likely to fall in love with this piece.

Wait! This sounds like a 4-star review, so why did you give 3.6 stars?! Clear, "Harem Scarem" is embarrassing. The guys tried to be funny and reproduce their famous "Hocus Pocus". They failed, the forced vocalizations sound idiotic and the rock & roll music is very dumb, overlong, and repetitive.

This great album is highly recommended to fans of classical music and the softer side of progressive rock Just skip Harem Crapem and have a chance to hear Focus at their best. However, if you like your music to have guitar players playing 40 note/second solos, 10-minute long keyboard solos, and find classical music a bore, this album may not be for you.

1_Delicate Musicae (B)

2_Harem Scarem (D-)

3_La Cathedral de Strasbourg (B-)

4_Birth (A)

5_Hamburger Concerto (A/B)

6_Early Birth (B+)

Report this review (#119982)
Posted Friday, April 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Two things amaze me about this album. The first of these is how genuinely symphonic this is both in sound and scope. Outside of the Italian scene no symphonic band I have heard come close in replicating the sound and texture of a symphony in a rock context. Just a glance at the plethora of instruments incorporated should give you an idea of the validity of this claim. The other is amazing point is the glaring strength and prominence of the lead guitar work which exists, yet manages to not compromise the symphonic flavor.

With that said the opening and closing tracks, both exhibiting a heavy classical influence, are fantastic as well as "Birth" and the title track from which the brunt of my aforementioned description comes. These four songs should be nothing less than euphoric to fans of symphonic and prog with a classical tinge (or any prog fan I should actually say). However, the two remaining tracks somewhat spoil this Hamburger dish. Few songs inspire more apathy in me than "Harem Scarem." It's 70s upbeat rocker. Certainly nothing wrong with that, but on this album it feels incredibly out of place, and more importantly it's not of exactly stupendous quality. Average describes it as best I can. The following track "La Cathédral De Strasbourg " is a nice jazzy number. It's good track that really captured me at first, but as the album gains more and more spins I find it doesn't stand up core of the album in quality.

Symphonic Prog is a very misleading title for many bands under that umbrella, but with Hamburger Concerto it gives you an apt description of what you're getting into. This is a fine album containing two tracks, "Birth" and "Hamburger Concerto," that no serious prog fan can go without hearing.

Report this review (#127411)
Posted Tuesday, July 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Although not as great as Focus III, this was without doubt much more mature, without all the unnecessary jams. The replacement of van der Linden by Allen on drums affected the sound a lot. Allen is a very straightforward drummer, and a lot the jazz influence that was abundant on Focus III disappeared into thin air. The album features a strong rock track in Harem Scarem, a medieval lute piece, a romantic piece with rock and jazz influences, a folk rock tune with harpsichord, so the variety is awesome! The true meat of the album is the 20+ minute title track in true symphonic rock style. This is the last of the trio of the great Focus albums. Not to be missed in any real collection!
Report this review (#127685)
Posted Friday, July 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars A truly masterpiece, Hamburger Concerto is the culmination of Focus career. In this album we find an incredible mixture of styles and a lot of different instruments are performed in such a perfect way that is difficult to believe that they were only four guys in the band.

A delightful album from beginning to end, in which the talents of Akkerman and Van Leer are at their peak. An special mention for "Birth", my favorite Focus song which blown my head from the very first time I listened to it, in the seventies.

Highly recommended for everybody, especially those who like symphonic prog.

Report this review (#128112)
Posted Wednesday, July 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars A collection of evergreen. This is "Hamburger Concerto"! If "Hamburger Concerto" is certainly a masterpiece of Prog, "Cathédral De Strasbourg" is a composition that reminiscent the childhood of Thijs Van Leer. However, I must say that "Hamburger Concerto" is the extreme exaltation of a myth. Thanks Focus!
Report this review (#129435)
Posted Friday, July 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars The most famous of all Focus albums.

Musicae delitae A short snippet on acoustic guitar and flute. I like this kind off stuff very much, plus it´s short enough not to get repetitive. 5 stars

Harem scarem A fast rock instrumental with the band sounding agreably tight. The main melody is carried by Van Leer on the piano. Akkerman plays a marvelous relaxed solo over the meaty basslines by Ruiter. Energetic, well played and the melody is fine, too. 5 stars

Le Cathedrale de Strassbourg A relaxed, jazzy instrumental dominated by Thijs van Leer. The melody is not that great, but the track has its moments (especially in the piano parts) and is mostly up to the point and short. 3.5 stars

Birth After an intro of acoustic medieval inspiration, the track gets into a more rocking part over the motif. The track is great, with a powerful rhytm section (a new drummer Collin Allen alongside Ruiter), the way the passages interchange is great, the whole song is very melodic and the solos are all perfect, whether itr is flute or a blazing melodic solo on the guitar. 5 stars

Hamburger concerto A great, majestic and very melodic suite with nice organ playing from Van Leer and the whole band sounding really fine. Van Leer´s vocals (mostly just a combination of scatting and yodel) drag the track a bit down, but not much, as a fine jazzy solo on Hammonds comes shortly afterwards. A moody flute solo follows, after which one of the main motifs occurs again. A long, precisely structured solo from Akkerman comes next. Soon a vocal passage follows, complemented only by orgn, wwhich gives the track lots of a baroque feel. When the whole band steps in , the track becomes more powerful and ethereal. For the conclusion. the opening motif returns. A great track. 5 stars

Early birth a fastter track, continuing in the vain of Birth. Great flute solo and bass playing on this one. 5 stars.

Overall rating: 5 STARS


Report this review (#132624)
Posted Saturday, August 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars If I except, "Focus III", I quite liked all the "Focus" albums so far. And the story will go on with this one.

As its title warns, "Delite Musicae" is a delicate instrumental. Light music for this moderately appreciate track. The contrast with "Herem Scarem" is abrupt, to say the least. This one rocks like hell and its struture reminds me of "Hocus" except that there is no yodeling here.

One of the highlight of this album is "La Cathédrale De Strasbourg". Fully symphonic, this song works crescendo. Almost classical during the intro, it features very nice vocal harmonies and subtle piano play. Superb whistling as well (although I am not a devote fan of this exercise). The whole track is really a prog gem : pure beauty.

The start of "Birth" reminds me "Rain & Tears" (Aphrodite's Child). This instrumental track is well in the "Focus" tradition. Catchy guitar and flute are the mix. And it works perfectly well. Another beautiful Focus moment.

The epic and title song "Hamburger Concerto" is a brilliant symphony. Or a rock-opera. Whatever you like. Some classical themes brought back to live and "Focus-iced" in a fantastic manner. Lots of keyboards but maybe not enough guitar during this excellent prog masterpiece. Some vocals in Dutch around minute fifteen are fortunately very short. This is the only weaker part; but after this "Focus" delivers a great finale full of synthesizers. Extremely solid.

And please, don't forget the good "Early Bird". It closes this magnificent album with brilliance at times.

As far as the rating is concerned, it is not really difficult. There are very few albums on this site which are so much praised as this one. Exclusively four or five star ratings (except one) if you take only the ones with comments ! Mine will be at the highest end.

This is how "Focus" sound when they decide to stick to the symphonic prog genre. Gone with the jazzy influences and those useless improvisations.

A "chef-d'oeuvre. Bravo !

Report this review (#135073)
Posted Monday, August 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This baby is really one of those rare no-brainer ratings. Hamburger Concerto is a unique masterpiece.

I have been a Focus fan for a while, though of course the only common ground I had with most of my friends was Hocus Pocus (and even recognition of that great tune was spotty). When I first saw the title, I thought that Focus was going to present some pompous, overblown, rediculous piece of prog. Fortunately, what I got was one of my top 25 albums of all time. Here are the highlights (though the entire album is a highlight in my book):

Harem Scarem. One of those goofy Focus songs that may or may not work. In this case, it does. It reminds me of a 70s dance-off, but it moves around enough and has sufficient musicianship to move past being simply worth of some foot-tapping.

La Cathedrale de Strasbourg. This tune really makes me want to visit the city of Strausbourg. The tasteful instrumentation is prominent: haunting piano, striking church organ, a lazy whistle, beautiful vocal harmonies, and of course excellent guitar.

Birth. Just another example of a new surprise waiting behind every corner on this album. Harpsichord leads into a very funky (and catchy!) groove, and we're all set for the great melodies and instrumentals that await. The guitar, flute and drums are especially well-done here.

Hamburger Concerto. One of these epics that won't kick you in the butt, but the Concerto will always deliver when you need to sit down and appreciate some great music. Here's the VERY brief synopsis: a tasteful classical intro builds into a very nice melodic refrain, then slows down for a groovy section featuring a killer guitar solo, followed by a brief church-choir-esque section, perfectly setting up the EPIC grand finale. This is simply the best that Focus has to offer, and the diversity is impressive and staggering.

The final word is that everything on this album is well-done and enjoyable. The varied instrumentation never overshadows the music that it is embedded in, and here Focus never attempt to be too "proggy" (the main reason why this gets five stars and PFM's Per Un Amico only gets four). Get yourself a Hamburger Concerto and enjoy (even for vegetarians!).

Report this review (#136660)
Posted Thursday, September 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, that's for sure that, from all the Prog bands outside the United Kingdon, Focus is one fo the best. Their different vocal contagiate our ears with some good sound waves (wanting a good example of that? Check out the famous ''Hocus Pocus'' from the album Moving Waves)

Now talking about this amazing album called Hamburger Concerto, I have a few things to add. In my opinion, Focus' Masterpiece, without any doubt (but I must say Moving Waves is also very good). The tracks ''Harem Scarem'' and the self intitulated ''Hamburger Concerto'' are the best. It's impossible not to get contagiate with the power of the keyboards mescled with good guitak riffs by the fantastic Jan Akkerman.

Only listenning to see how great this album is!

Report this review (#141213)
Posted Sunday, September 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Fight Club
5 stars Here is, in my opinion, the strongest album by this dutch progressive rock band. This is quite some complicated music here, however, it's pretty goofy at times too. It consists of mostly lengthy tracks void of any singing (except for the yodeling at times) and they makes use of a lot of instruments not typically found in rock music. There is a lute and a flute on the opening track which gives off a very medieval sound.

The music is quite varied offering a wide range of styles and moods. Every member contributes greatly to the final sound offering a blend of organ, piano, mellotron, flute, accordion and of course electric guitar, bass, and drums. "Birth" even makes use of a harpsichord (and it's a great song too). Of course the bulk of the album is consumed by the epic instrumental title track. The band pulls out every trick in the book on this album, which makes for a very interesting listen.

Report this review (#142435)
Posted Saturday, October 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars An exceedingly haunting album by Focus. Although "Focus III" is my personal favourite from the Dutch virtuosos, I think that this album is their best in the way of composition and discipline. There are many high points on the album, such as the second track "Harem Scarem" (the aptly named twin of "Hocus Pocus") which is one of the few truly rocky moments on the album. The following track "La Cathedrale De Strasbourg" is my favourite of the album (bar the 20 minute album titles epic) and offers a delicious blend of classical and jazz influences from top to tail. "Hamburger Concerto" itself is the bell of the ball, with excellent musicianship all round (even the bass is very good), hindered only by the infamous plague which is Thijs Van Leer's ridiculous vocals. The final track "Early Birth" is an excellent album closer, which has a feel similar to that of "Anonymous" from their first album. All and all a great album, hindered only by a few bad decisions. 4 stars.
Report this review (#155825)
Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Hamburger Concerto is the peak of FOCUS' career and one of the best examples of what progressive rock really is, in its most narrow meaning.

From the acoustic, Rennaissance-tinged Delitae Musicae, through the reprise of the main melody theme of Early Birth, this album presents a sincere and creative musical performance that is rarely matched during the era. It is perfectly cohesive effort with musical passages flowing easily from one part to another. It is not easy to make a 45 minutes of largely instrumental music without forcing a listener to skip certain parts or to go away for a cup of coffee while waiting for interesting moments to come. And that is what frequently happenned to many (prog) rock artists who lost compass and ideas about where to go.

FOCUS recorded a wonderful album that mixes classical symphonic, jazz and rock elements in such a way that many overrated bands like ELP or even YES in some parts of their career had difficulty to accomplish. There is a lot of symphonic- like movements and changes of tempo and mood. Loads of keyboards (organ, piano, mellotron, harpsichord, synths), flute, lead guitars and more than a competent new rhythm section are played and produced in a magnificent way.

The only minor critique from my side would go to Harem Scarem, because it was obviously made to sound like a continuation of extremely popular Hocus Pocus from Moving Waves album, this time with powerful piano riff. Add to this unoriginality an extremely unnecessary yea, yea, yea... vocals and you get the weakest moment of the album. Even as such, it is by no means a bad song - it is just unappropriate. Still, it cannot spoil the overall quality of this prog masterpiece!


P.A. RATING: 5/5

Report this review (#163642)
Posted Monday, March 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars While this is most peoples favourite FOCUS record, I think "Moving Waves" and "III" are much better. You have to love the humour they bring into their music though, I mean check out the title of this album.

"Delitae Musicae" is a short intro track of acoustic guitar and piano. "Harem Scarem" features a catchy rhythm and is uptempo. I really like the guitar 2 minutes in followed by flute. That same theme is back at 3 1/2 minutes only this time with an extended guitar solo. Back to the uptempo melody after 5 minutes. "La Cathedral De Strasbourg" opens with dark sounding piano, and when the organ comes in it reminds me of GENESIS. Vocals after 2 minutes. Some whistling and a very pleasant melody that reminds me of CAMEL.

"Birth" opens with harpsichord before drums take over a minute in. Organ follows as we get a full sound before 2 minutes. Flute a minute later as it calms down.The guitar 5 minutes in is tastefully played but it comes back before 7 minutes more aggressively. "Hamburger Concerto" is a 20 minute ride. I like the contrast early of the rock sound with the Banks-like keys. Excellent. A calm 5 1/2 minutes in as an odd vocal melody arrives. The song sort of meanders along for a while. I'm not a fan of the vocals before 16 minutes, they remind me of church. A change to a fuller sound 17 minutes in as earlier themes are repeated. "Early Birth" is a catchy little track with some great guitar after a minute, and later to end it.

Good album but I much prefer "Moving Waves" and "Focus III".

Report this review (#167657)
Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars As someone else has already said. This album is 'elegant'. Right from the opening you feel like you are walking in on a medieval music room and someone like Mozart or Bach is playing around on the harpsichord or some other strange instrument. Later on we move into more traditional Focus music, but always with that 'elegant' feel to it. It is pretty hard to say anything negative about this. If you are in the mood this music will transport you to a different place.
Report this review (#175852)
Posted Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars I'm sorry, but this is a very overrated album. Focus' best? Oh my god no. I'll take Moving pictures or Focus III or Live At The Rainbow any day before this album. I find Hamburger Concerto is just to predictable, unswinging and conventional rock for my tastes. How is Harem Scarem to be considered prog? It sounds like a straight forward riff oriented rock song with a few jazzy elements thrown in. Boring in other words. I'm afraid pierre Van der Linden's drumming is sorely missed on this one. There are some other nice moments such as in the quieter and quite beautiful La Cathédral De Strasbourg. But for the most this album just doesn't have that extra imaginative something for me to give it a higher rating than two. For instance Birth is filled with solos by Jan Akermann but sound as if they are there to fill up time on what is a fairly weak composition rather than because Akermann was inspired by anything. The lengthy title track mearly plods from one pedestrian section to another with no real direction or energy. Thijs actually reprises his yodelling from Hocus Pocus at one point from what sounds like a total lack of anything new to say if nothing else. That quirkiness and eccentricity that marks Focus earlier works is gone and what's left is a fairly conventional prog rock band. I find myself listening to and enjoying Focus other works much more often. I just don't get it.
Report this review (#177047)
Posted Wednesday, July 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is the downward spiral Focus, recorded when internal arguments where overtaking any creative jism. Where before, they'd blast out tracks like Hocus Pocus-- here, we get Harum Scarum, a lame attempt to reach the charts, again. They gave us Question? Answers! Answers? Questions! on 'Focus III'; HERE, the title piece is flat, over- orchestrated, too polite and sorely lacking Akkerman's punch. Even 'Ship Of Memories', an LP of leftovers they couldn't fit on other albums, has more personality than this. I waited a seeming eternity for this record to be released, originally. When it was, it came out with almost no fanfare, and very little promotion. Everybody knew it was a dud.
Report this review (#179541)
Posted Wednesday, August 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Probably the last great album done by dutch prog legend Focus. By this time the music has changed quite a lot, and the rifts between founder members and songwriters This Van Leer and Jan Akkerman didn´t help matters. Still they could produce fine music together. English drummer Colin Allen steps in and has a very different style from Pierre Van Der Linden, more funky and down to earth. He worked well with bassist Bert Ruiter. The use of diverse percussion was also a novelty and added some colours to the overall sound.

The side long opus hamburger Concerto is usually cited as the highlight, but I think this is a very balanced CD and I liked all the tracks. It´s interesting to see the band experimenting with some more ´heavier´sounds like in Harem Scarem (it works very well after the short opener, which was played only with lute and recorder), but the best track to me is Birth: beautiful harpsichord opening, then comes bass and drums, and finally some of Akkerman´s best guitar solos ever, while the flute interventions are also amazing. I remeber going over and over to this song since I first heard it and I think it´s a pity that it is not so well known. To me is another classic like Hocus Pocus or Sylvia. My CD version has a bonus track called Early Birth, that is obviously an embrionic version of Birth. Nice addition for the hardcore fan or collector, but it is not as good as the other tunes.

In the same league as the more famous Moving Waves and Focus 3, it is one of the most interesting and unique instrumental prog albums of the 70´s. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#184641)
Posted Friday, October 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Many people have posted their opinions about this album with excellent rating. I do agree in most of them and I just want to add that this album was different in style with any other legendary albums from other bands like Genesis, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Van der Graaf or ELP. In fact, this album made the kinds of 70s progressive rock music comprehensive. Yes, you might claim that Focus used flute as Jethro Tull did with "Thick as A Brick" or "A Passion Play" or "Aqualung". But, these two bands and any album from these two bands were totally in different vein. Focus is pretty much a combination of classical music, jazz and rock. "Hamburger Concerto" blends all of the influences nicely.

When this album was released I was not really "into" this kind of music offering as I was inclined to observe Genesis, ELP, Yes, Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. The reason was probably simple: Focus did not offer vocal and to me (by that time) rock music without vocal was not quite attractive. But as I spun much of those bands with vocals there was time when I wanted to enjoy music in itself without lyrical verse. So I did try Return To Forever, Focus, etc. One thing that caught me was Focus 3 as it had eerie and evocative flute work combined by brilliant, ambient keyboard work. But later I found "Hamburger Concerto" (the track) was inspiring. The song contains great movement from one segment to another. It then became my regular play along with Focus 3. As time went by I found other tracks like "Birth" was interesting also. AT the end, when there was CD era, I upgraded my collection from cassette to CD. I then find joy in enjoying the whole stream of this "Hamburger Concerto" (hey, I like the name!) album. I found that "Delitae Musicae" (1:13) was an excellent acoustic work followed nicely by "Harem Scarem" (5:52) and "La Cathédral De Strasbourg" (4:59).

Overall, this is a tight composition album and it's an excellent addition to any progressive music collection. If you want to have a comprehemsive understanding on the roots of 70s prog music, this album is a MUST have. Highly recommended. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW (i-Rock! Music Community)

Report this review (#184664)
Posted Saturday, October 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This Dutch band is most famous for their Hocus Pocus hit single (which includes some hilarious yodeling).

...Which is a pity and a great injustice to this band. That track is actually untypical for this band. What I remember Focus for is this album, Hamburger Concerto. This is not a live album. It is a studio album and the twenty minute long title track is the main piece of music here. But the four other tracks are also superb. In particular La Cathédral De Strasbourg and The Birth who sets up the title track in a superb way. The music is symphonic and sometimes driven by moog and flute. The thing that fascinate me most with this album is the almost cathedral mood I get from this album. Focus raided and copied a piece from the classical composer Haydn for this album. The very evident crossover between classical music and symphonic rock on this album may explain the cathedral feeling. The mood, the music, the feeling of greatness. This is a masterpiece. It is one of the best prog rock albums ever released. It is a joy to listen to. It is a must have. Songs like La Cathédral De Strasbourg and Hamburger Concerto is Focus best songs ever.

I can only give 5 stars. There is no other choice than breaking the rules here and declare this a masterpiece. I will shout my opinion about this album from the top of the Cathedral of Strasbourg if necessary.

Report this review (#187493)
Posted Friday, October 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars All you need is a little symph-prog patience, and Hamburger Concerto is sure to impress. This album is one of the most mature, well-developed, and cohesive products that I've heard in all of progressive rock, on top of being very well produced and containing large amounts of the sort of virtuosity, flair, and complexity that you'd find on any solid Italian symph prog effort (though these guys are, of course, Dutch).

Track 1 has a tone similar to Floyd's Pigs on the Wing, not jumping too fast out of the gates and setting the stage -- quite pleasantly and crisply -- for some ambitious work to come. The next track is a rocking piece that starts off with a tune redolent of part 2 of Tull's A Passion Play and continues closely in the form of Dixie Dregs-- a powerful guitar drives the song, accompanied by piano that is much more rock than symphony. The music is complex, fluid, energetic, and frantic, and nicely contrasts with the opening track. At this point, however, the album has yet to full engross my attention and trust; while overall exciting, the rhythm can be a bit repetitive, a la Second Spasm from Gryphon's RQTG3. The next and third track settles the mood down and, by giving a little breathing room, allows you to fall into the music, which rides a continuous wave and finally breaks from any sense of formulaism. Though keys and guitar are still prominent, the novel style expressed on this track makes it seem like Focus has a Gentle Giant -esque instrumental repertoire. I should add that the whistling, vocalizing, and refreshingly low-key drums are fantastic. Side 1 of the album ends with a track that combines elements from the previous tracks in the service of excellent closure to the first side. Particularly amazing is the trading off between flute and guitar. The title track, of course, is what we've all been waiting for. While not nearly as instrumentally or thematically diverse as, say, Close to the Edge, it has great recurring themes and is epic and powerful along the lines of the closing track of Gryphon's Raindance.

Overall, a superb listen, and highly recommended to lovers of both jazz fusion and traditional symphonic prog. Five stars!

Report this review (#195039)
Posted Friday, December 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's nice seeing so many glowing reviews of this excellent LP here at PA, though I'm not quite as over-the-moon as others are.

My beef is the sidelong title track which features a small handful of musical ideas - superb as they are - but each are repeated so many times it comes across as the band marking time rather conveying the symphony concept that the title implies. I can grasp the variation-on-a-theme concept certainly, but there are just too few themes involved to really justify a 20+ minute suite. 8-10 minutes would've been considerably more powerful, I feel.

That said, side 1 is damn near perfect, with La Cathedrale de Strasbourg being one of Focus' very finest indeed.

3.5 stars from me.

Report this review (#196082)
Posted Monday, December 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars I figured if I'll start writing reviews, I might as well start making some changes around here.

Ever since the first time I listened to Hamburger Concerto I've been trying to figure out where lies the genius that my friends here in PA all seem to find. The album actually starts out quite promising with a lovely baroque-piece for guitar and flute, which unfortunately makes the transition to the next track so much more painful. Harem Scarem, a commercial jingle of a prog song, for me is a complete waste of space. It sounds like an unoriginal rock jam from your standard garage group and contains zero imagination. I simply can't find anything worth tolerating or even mentioning in this song! Next Focus brings us La Cathédral de Strasbourg, the only real high spot of the whole package. I love the way it goes through all these different states of emotion: there's darkness and grief in the beginning, hope and lightness later on, and finally humor. Check out Thijs van Leer's solo with some awesome whistling! I suppose one of the problems I have with the album is the slightly sloppy sound with this song as an exception. It manages to sound fresh and liquid, but five minutes of great music on an album that lasts for 40 minutes is not that good. Birth is another of those songs with very little to write home about. It's not as crude as Harem Scarem (but nothing is), but there's still nothing above mediocre. Both Leer and Akkerman get to solo, but I'm not a fan to put it gently...

Finally, my friends, I present to you the title track in one word: booooring! OK, I know that was spiteful, but I couldn't resist! Fact of the matter is I've heard the whole thing once, and not because I haven't tried often enough. I simply can't get to the end of it... maybe if it lasted seven minutes?

Report this review (#200537)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my opinion this is not the best record Focus had to offer. I put on that position the much maligned Focus III. Still , Hamburger Concerto is one of the best symphonic albums out there and certanly the best example of how a rock band could reproduce classical music. I was quite surprised of how much instruments they have used on this record specially by Thijs Van Leer. At that time former drummer Pierre Van der Linden was replaced by Collin Allen. Personally I like Van der Linden jazzier approach more and I think Colin's drums sound too loud on the mix.

This record opens with a little classical tune in the vein of former Focus compositions ( Elspeth of Nothingham comes to mind) named Delittle Musicae. Certanly a good prelude of what's to come on this record. Harem Scarem is a uptempo prog rock tune much in the vein of Hocus Pocus. Although I find some really incredible Akkerman solos and I like Thij's performance here ( weird voices and accordion included) , I find Hocus Pocus to be slightly better. Next comes one of the highlights of the record , the one and only " Cathedrale de Strasbourg" This guys managed to reproduce quite a melancholic feel here and Thij's french vocals seem to place me right in front of the cathedral on a rainy day. Sorry about that but this song always pops us this picture on my mind. Suddenly after one of the best WHISTLING! Solos I have heard the song changes into a jazzy section closing with a church-like singing by Thijs. Truly beautiful. The next one is a classical rework called "Birth" based on Thij's flute playing skills and Akkerman's chops.

Of course , the title track is the core of the record: An epic 20 minute composition that can hold up well against some of the classics. Thij's use of hapsicord gives this epic some kind of medieval or even academic music feeling. I think I am emphasizing much of his work in my review , but I can't help myself since I think this guy is one of the best musicians within progressive music. Jan Akkerman's guitarwork is nothing short of spectacular as well. Back on track , the only flaw I can find on this composition is that due to a particular Akkerman riff ( you 'll notice which one) this song always feels like it's ending. But otherwise " Hamburguer Concerto" is a majestic tune that serves as a vehicle to show how diverse and accomplished musicians those dutchmen were. Finally to close this record a rework of the " Birth" theme only this time much shorter and flute-based. I think this little tune fulfills the objective of losing this album with grandeur , specially because of Jan's guitar solo at the very end.

If you are looking for virtuoso multi- instrumentalists playing music that resembles a symphonic orchestra , then you can't miss " Hamburger Concerto". A true SYMPHONIC ROCK album if there was any.

Report this review (#201270)
Posted Saturday, January 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album has stood the test of time better than many other prog rock works and must be regarded in the upper echelon of the genre. I agree with most of the positive things other writers have said about this work, so I won't add my own extolations.

I have a 1974 RADMUS US vinyl pressing and a 2001 Holland CD Pre-Mastered by Ian Gillespie at TAPE ONE London. There are a few differences that should be noted. In particular the great and awesome Akkerman solo at the end of Birth (which goes for about a minute) has been replaced on the CD by another that is not nearly as good. There is also some triangle that has been placed up in the mix in the middle of this track which is a bit annoying. My advice is get the earlier US version if you can. I haven't seen anyone note this difference, and would be interested if others have heard it and/or know why the change to the mix was made.

Report this review (#210343)
Posted Sunday, April 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars I have never cared for Focus to be honest. Overall, I find their work bland and uninteresting. This highly acclaimed album is no exception, but it is decent and for the most part enjoyable.

"Delicate Musicae" A delicate baroque-sounding introduction begins the album.

"Harem Scarem" Closer to the boogie-rock of Uriah Heep, as even the screeching vocals are present in the background, this work tends to be irritating. Things soften up in places, courtesy of accordion and other instrumentation. The guitar playing is good, if a bit brittle sounding. Bert Ruiter's fluid bass exercises make the piece.

"La Cathédral de Strasbourg" This is not a rock track, at least not at first, but piano and organ with passages that range from gentle to haunting. Quiet drums and simple chords pave the way for some vocals and really muffled guitar. It's a fairly sedated piece that doesn't do much for me. The last part is substandard-sounding jazz music.

"Birth" The baroque feel returns as a harpsichord introduces the song. It takes on a more primitive feel with low organ and pounding toms. As instrumentals go, this keeps my interest. The flute work may be easily overshadowed by greats like Ian Anderson, but it is still very good and a pleasing touch overall. The guitar sounds fuller, and the playing is exceptional. While the chord progressions are nothing terribly creative, the overall arrangement is respectable.

"Hamburger Concerto" Strong organ work (although perhaps second rate to other giants of the time like Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman) begins the epic piece. The first five minutes alternate a simple heavier riff with various orchestral pieces. The vocalizations and the yodeling, whatever their purpose or intent, all but ruin the music for me Following this, there is a very fluid passage with some great organ again. The electric guitar sound is inventive for this sort of piece, and works well in the more delicate passages. The guitar solo is lengthy and I tend to lose interest after several measures.

"Early Birth" The album concludes with a dull piece that has some slight disco sensibilities in the beginning. It mainly consists of woodwind work over the same exact chord progression featured in "Birth." For the most part, this is pointless and adds nothing.

Report this review (#216387)
Posted Sunday, May 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars In my opinion is this the best album of Focus.

The opening track "Delitae Musicae" is a kind of celtic medieval song, wich I very like. Songs such as "Le Cathédrale de Strasbourg" and the title track "Hamburger Concerto" are symphonic songs with great organ sounds and strong guitar solos of 'Jan Akkerman'.

The song "Early Birth" is an abridged version of the song "Birth". "Birth" is in my opinion the best song of the whole album. An alternate track, with the great flute playing by Thijs van Leer.

In my opinion, "Harem Scarem" the least significant number of this album, it is a kind of Boogie Blues, which is not between the other songs on this album fits.

Ultimately I think this album is an addition to any prog rock music collection.

Report this review (#229589)
Posted Sunday, August 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm not very knowledgeable about this band. You might say I'm somewhat out of focus. (Sorry, couldn't help myself.) But a lot of folks whose opinions I respect think rather highly of them and I figured it was long past time for me to get more familiar with their music. To be brutally honest, other than harboring fond memories of the mind-bending, yodelistic stylings of their radio staple "Hocus Pocus" that sat prettily in FM's heavy rotation in the mid 70s and a dubious wild night I had in Denver that involved one of the sides of their album "Moving Waves" playing on eternal repeat on a lithe and willing sirens' turntable (a sobering tale of youthful debauchery that I elect to forgo telling for now), I'm but a neophyte guppy when it comes to these Dutch masters. Therefore when I spotted "Hamburger Concerto" taking up space in some used record bins recently I remembered that this platter is considered by many of their fans to be their best and decided to start my focused education at the top.

Just to throw you off balance a tad they open with 1:12 of an air entitled "Delitiae Musicae," an arrangement of a traditional song from days gone by (a fancy way of saying it's a tune so old that no one has a clue as to which caveman came up with it and, thusly, no royalties need be paid). Using classic acoustic instrumentation, it's nicely done but not at all representative of what's to follow. "Harem Scarem" is more like what I expected in that it's an upbeat rocker from front to back in which the piano and Hammond organ of Thijs Van Leer and the guitar of Jan Akkerman combine to create a light-hearted ditty that's fun to listen to. (I'm wondering why it didn't receive a lot more airplay since it seems to be borne of the same cloth that made "Hocus Pocus" such a monster hit but perhaps it was due to a lack of grease-the-program-director's-palm-with-payola-and/or-nose-candy being supplied by the PR pukes at the label.) It's a happy-go-lucky boogie-woogie song that flies in the same stratosphere as Traffic's smile-inducing "Glad" does but it distinguishes itself with a more involved and complex structure. The funky breakdown just past the halfway point gives bassist Bert Ruiter a chance to stand in the spotlight and he doesn't shy away from making the most of his opportunity.

The album's apex comes in the form of "La Cathedrale De Strasbourg." The number begins with a flurry of dramatic piano stylings ala Chopin that lead to a delicate melody performed in a duet with Jan's guitar. In the 2nd part of the piece the group adopts a slow, bluesy groove whilst Thijs breaks into a brilliant whistling foray that would make a Texas mockingbird jealous. It's a cool surprise and Akkerman's jazzy guitar solo that follows is impressive. Overall it's a well-composed, moody instrumental that takes the listener through several different musical textures and emotions with ease. I can't say the same for the labored "Birth," however. It starts out with promising harpsichord trills but when drummer Colin Allen rambles in with his floor toms a 'rolling the unremarkable main theme emerges and the track enters the dreaded realm of the mediocre. There's a nifty flute ride (and later on a spirited recorder spasm) that pleases the Tull fan in me but Jan's sloppy guitar phrases leave me cold. I realize that this tune might have been the bee's knees in '74 but the decades haven't been kind to this cut and now it's as dated as a paisley Nehru jacket.

The LP's six-movement namesake and claim to fame is, obviously, the side- long "Hamburger Concerto." While unfortunate moments of inconsistency and hum-drum plague this opus there are enough spots of genuine euphoria erupting to rescue it from the dregs. "Starter" possesses the kind of grandiose and stately attitude that I like to hear and Bert's intricate bass lines distinguish themselves in particular. It's big and proggy as all get out. Perfect. Don't change a thing. "Rare" is a continuation of that processional aura but it does belie a tuft of gray hair poking out from under the tiara (Careful with that ARP, Eugene!) in that the synthesizer is as thin and buzzy as a gnat's aria. Yet a large- scale intervention from the mighty Mellotron saves the day. "Medium I" (get the bun pun yet?) features some clever vocal hijinks from Van Leer that keep things from getting too heavy-handed/serious (always a good thing, their sense of humor being one of their more endearing traits) and when he mounts the Hammond organ and drives it like a dirt bike for a spell he demonstrates that Wakeman and Emerson ain't got nothin' on him. Thijs also ends this segment with some swirling, tasty flute roll-ups that will tickle your eardrums.

On "Medium II" it's the guitar's turn to shine from center stage but it seems there's a short in the floodlights. Jan's jazzy noodling at first is intriguing but when he dials up the volume/distortion his tone becomes brittle and it sounds like he's searching desperately for places to take his solo. To add insult to injury he's not helped in the least by the tired descending chord progression that's droning underneath him. It's intolerably unimaginative and entirely too been-there-a-zillion-times patronizing. I understand that it's intended to be a simple platform for Akkerman to shock and awe atop of on the fretboard but he fails to do so and it becomes no better than a flabby Lynyrd Skynyrd-like jam that can't end too soon. What I'm saying is that if a guitarist is going to fill up 5 minutes of vinyl he'd better tear the roof off the sucker or it's just filler. Enough already! He finally plugs his cord into the Leslie speaker cabinet and switches to a friendlier riff to pull this bus out of the ditch. "Well Done" takes us into a stained-glass sanctuary for a large dose of Catholic mass-ish chantings before a heavy rock motif ensues and things get back to being both entertaining and challenging. "One For the Road" is the finale and it doesn't back away from being delightfully over-the-top. Glad to hear it. They construct a fittingly colossal wall of sound accentuated by a fatter ARP synthesizer setting and the mountainous climax is stupendous and gratifying. You know, the kind of stuff that drove punk rockers to stick safety pins through their cheeks.

While Focus may not occupy the penthouse suites in the prog rock condominiums that house the likes of Pink Floyd, Yes and Genesis they do reside comfortably in the same high-rise and there's a lot to be said for that. They were extremely talented, to be sure, but they weren't necessarily innovative and that's the essential characteristic that separates them from the giants. "Hamburger Concerto" is a pleasant listening experience that affords a clear look into precisely what was going on in the mid 70s in commercial prog rock and it deserves my highest 3-star rating. Enjoy it for what it is but don't expect too much.

Report this review (#238416)
Posted Thursday, September 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Focus - Hamburger Concerto (1974)

Misplaced Adulthood..?

There has been a high level of agreement concerning what was the peak of Fucus' career: Hamburger Concerto. I've always fellt that Moving Waves was superiour, but still this is a great album. One track with French vocals and one with Dutch vocals, this is an inventive and a risky expiriment. It does make the album stylish. Still it sounds a bit tame when compared with the earlier Focus albums.

Focus was a Dutch supergroup with keyboardist/flutist Thuis van Leer, guitarshredder (and Fusion expert) Jan Akkerman, Colin Allen on drums and the great bassplayer Bert Ruiter. At first spin one thing was apparent for me: Pierre van der Linden is shurely missed. The main link for the energetic side of Focus is gone, so is the uptempo side of Focus.

His abscence evoked an down-tempo record, except for the second track Harum Scarum. La Cathédral De Strasbourg is however one of the most gentle atmospheric tracks I've ever heard. The French vocals are a nice finding. The long epic on side two has it's up and downs. I think the opening section is not very interesting, while the middle section with the serious themes with the fade in guitar part of Jan Akkerman and his solo is masterfull. After that the perpect parts keep coming. The great intelligent progressive church-like chord progression with the Dutch vocals is one of the finest achievements of the band. The following heavy symphonic parts are great as well and finish the the epic bravely. To bad for the avarage first sections of the song, for the other parts are essential proglistening.

Conclusion. A great symphonic prog record with lots of classical influences and some fusion elements. Still I miss Focus rockin'out on this one and the weak begining of the title track is a pity. I won't give this five stars, for it lacks some of my favourite Focus elements. Where is Focus' sometimes naive compositional style? Did they become a musically adult? Four stars seems to be justified however, for Hamburger Concerto has a lot of masterfull moments.

Report this review (#249979)
Posted Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Naming your album HAMBURGER CONCERTO most likely means you don't take your music too seriously. Stranger enough, the music here sounds like it was created by four dedicated, serious musos with tastes for jazz and classical musics. Get ready for a dizzying array of bluesy guitar things, Hammond drives and classical sensibilities.

I've heard only MOVING WAVES before this, and while there isn't a standout track like ''Hocus Pocus'', HAMBURGER CONCERTO is much better on the consistency end of things. It's like biting into a perfect burger that's juicy and tasty with eat bite (apologies to all the vegetarians on this site). Focus really find their stride here and deliver series after series of top notch instrumental performances, save for one problem.

It all starts with a brief introduction followed by the uptempo, high-octane ''Harem Scarem'' that tries to repeat the success of ''Hocus Pocus''. While it's more musically engaging, they managed to rip off Miles Davis's ''It's About That Time'' (from IN A SILENT WAY) somewhere in the middle. They manage to make up for this error on the sometimes jazzy, sometimes Medieval ''La Cathedral...'' and the partially heavy, bass chord driven ''Birth''.

MOVING WAVES has an epic in ''Eruption'' that at best, is very inconsistent in delivery as too many ideas are shoved into the piece and way too many soft and dry spots are there. ''Hamburger Concerto'' seems to fix these problems making a great epic throughout the twenty minute duration. Best of all for my tastes, they only play around with a few themes and extend them properly. Thijs van Leer even offers a few goofy vocals for kicks.

Not really the best album from the symphonic prog parts, but definitely one of the most enjoyable.

Report this review (#290558)
Posted Friday, July 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars This is another great album that Focus released during their classic period where they clearly were on top of their game. I've always though that this was a live album, mainly due to its title, but that doesn't mean that I now like it any less. Hamburger Concerto ranks among the band's top albums, although I wouldn't exactly place it on the top of my list. The main appeal here is the record's consistency where every new track adds something new to the overall style without tramping the same ground twice.

The biggest highlight moment for me is the intro to Harem Scarem that always gets my pulse going. It's true that the song was clearly designed to be a new stab at the success that was generated by Hocus Pocus. Unfortunately the lightning wouldn't strike twice for Focus but at least this track is just as exciting and even more so! The rest of the music on Hamburger Concerto progress in a similar fashion as on Moving Waves. Some might look at the two album's track listings and see very clear similarities between the two, although the biggest difference is that, by this time, Focus was a much more experienced band.

Birth is the second biggest highlight for me here. The groovy progression of the track is excellent and I often compare it's placement on the album with that of Focus II on the band's second album, making it an unofficial addition to the series. Still, it's the album's title tracks that makes or breaks the overall opinion of this album for me. Even though it might seem like a new stab at a lengthy composition like Eruption, which is not helped by the fact that both tracks have short yodeling moments that remind me strongly of Hocus Pocus. Hamburger Concerto is actually much more structured composition-wise. There are clear themes highlighted all throughout the track and the instrumental arrangements are top notch. Still, this performance has never been one of my favorites. It's a great achievement for Focus but cannot really match any of the other epics from that same era.

Hamburger Concerto was unfortunately enough the last great album by Focus and closes this chapter of the Dutch Symphonic Prog with a bang. I highly recommend this album to any serious fans of the '70s Symphonic Prog movement, even though it's not a huge favorite of mine.

***** star songs: Harem Scarem (5:52) Birth (7:46)

**** star songs: Delitae Musicae (1:13) La Cathédral De Strasbourg (4:59) Hamburger Concerto (20:19) Early Birth (2:54)

Report this review (#308769)
Posted Sunday, November 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album has a certain consistency and magical quality lacking in their other releases. While other albums contain many great *moments* (e.g. the "Tommy" section of "Eruption," "Love Remembered," "Sylvia," "Janis," etc.), they were often weakened by other moments of long jams that do absolutely nothing for me.

As others have noted, the two highlights of not only this album but their entire career are probably "La cathedrale de Strasbourg" and "Birth." What's amazing about these two songs is that they don't follow the normal rock song playbook; it's therefore hard to say exactly why they work as well as they do. Pure magic. The only other song I rate as highly by this band is the "Tommy" section of "Eruption" (my absolute favorite Focus moment. Interestingly enough, it's actually a cover of another Dutch band named Solution, the song is called "Divergence." Definitely seek that one out; it lacks the mellotron ambiance of the Focus version, and features a sax, but it's great as well.)

As others have also noted, "Harum Scarum" somehow weakens the album somewhat. While in the tradition of "Hocus Pocus" and "Sylvia," and every bit as hummable, it's not nearly as satisfying as those two tunes. The thing is, it *could have been*. The song is, at less than 6 minutes, too long and repetitive, and lacks something to put it over - a killer guitar solo, perhaps, or a change in tempo.

And as others have noted, the "Concerto" itself is that unique Focus sidelong that never meanders, never degenerates into a "jam," and seems much shorter than it's 20 odd minutes.

Report this review (#336710)
Posted Saturday, November 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I can't believe I have not yet written a review for one of my favorite albums from my college days. While I would most often play Side 2-- the one containing the concerto--"La Cathédrale de Strasbourg" remains one of my favorite all-time prog songs. (Partly because I lived in Strasbourg, France, 1978-79, but more for the beautifully refined and respectful ministrations of vocal, flute, and guitar entwined therein.) While "Harem Scarem" (9/10; a kind of "Hocus Pocus" reprise) and "Birth" (9/10) are good, solid songs, FOCUS, for me, excelled when they brought the old, 'ancient and medieval' sounds or the quirky odd sounds into their music rather than performed straightforward rock. Still, this is the best all-around record of a, IMHO, notoriously underachieving band (think of the potential they had with the likes of Ruiter, van Der LInden, van Leer, and Akkerman on board!). Though really 4.5 stars, it is one of those masterful milestones of progressive rock that one cannot but hold up high for others to try.
Report this review (#338020)
Posted Monday, November 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Never mind the knee-slapping novelty hit "Hocus Pocus"; the true range of the Dutch band Focus can be heard on their 1974 album "Hamburger Concerto". Of all their studio recordings it's easily the strongest and best sounding, from the delicate 73-second medieval prologue "Delitae Musicae" to the shuddering climax of the 20-plus minute title track, filling all of Side Two on the original LP.

But the energetic album opener probably should have been named something else besides "Harem Scarem". The title is too obviously a self-conscious echo of "Hocus Pocus", and the music, though undeniably solid, clearly wants to recapture some of the crazy magic of that earlier song, right down to the wacky virtuoso vocals of Thijs Van Leer. But what a voice he had: able to stretch in a single crescendo from growling low bass to a high soprano even Jon Anderson couldn't dream of reaching.

"La Cathedral de Strasbourg" and "Birth" are both more or less quintessential classical rock period pieces, firmly rooted in the Symphonic Prog soil of the mid-1970s. The former is a lush ballad in 3/4 time, with more falsetto Van Leer vocalizing and lots of debonair European whistling; the latter is a more straightforward instrumental rocker showcasing the chops of Jan Akkerman, one of the premier guitarists of his time (a shorter, alternate version of the song is included as a bonus to the CD).

But it's the side-long title suite that stands as arguably the band's proudest moment. The title is a tongue-in-cheek mockery of J.S. Bach's "Brandenburg Concertos", but the music itself is lifted wholesale (and without acknowledgement) from Johannes Brahms, specifically Op. 56a, "Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn". Bach, Brahms, and Haydn: that's a lot of highbrow baggage to be carrying around, but it's a great piece of music, very smartly arranged and orchestrated. It may in fact be one of the best examples of classical rock ever attempted, continuing in dramatic leaps from the grandiose "Starter" movement to the mock operatic Rare (yes: more yodeling!) to the stately "Medium" and "Well Done" sections, featuring one of Jan Akkerman's more spellbinding guitar solos.

This type of orchestral rock would be horribly out of fashion within two years of its release. But today it sounds better than ever, working almost like a Prog Rock primer for neophyte music students. Look no further than the extensive instrument list for proof, rivaling the best of Gentle Giant for variety and eclecticism: harpsichords and ARP synthesizers; accordions and Mellotrons; flutes and finger cymbals; so forth and so on...

And all of it employed with more power and energy (not to mention good old-fashioned Prog Rock pretension) than anything else in the Focus discography, including the fluke of "Hocus Pocus". In other words, it may not exactly be cholesterol-free, but the meat of this burger is at least more organic than expected. High praise indeed from a born-again vegan like me.

Report this review (#384955)
Posted Saturday, January 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is often considered to be the Dutch rock group's finest album. The strong classical influences in the music mainly came from organist/flautist Thijs van Leer and most listeners are sure to agree that it's absolutely brilliant.

The intro "Delicate Musicae" is a soft, short and sweet renaissance track. This quickly gives way to the most quirky, energetic, stomping "Harem Scarem" which kicks in with some churning guitar and piano. Van Leer's vocals add lots of charm and character to the music. There is some really nice flute work and accordian here too.

"La Cathedral de Strasbourg" is an absolutely magnificent piece, with a beautiful church organ backing the piano. The bells and whistling contribute to the gentle atmospheric feel. "Birth" is an equally wonderful, entirely instrumental track with a great flute riff that reminds many people of something by Jethro Tull. There are switching solos by the band members which flow nicely.

The epic "Hamburger Concerto" is a grand, well-paced, floating piece, led by lots of organ and keyboards. Although it is twenty minutes long, it never rambles. Van Leer adds some interesting falsetto singing and yodeling into some parts. The guitar work is also excellent here. I recently realised that each movement was named after the different stages of making a hambuger, which is quite funny. I love it, even though I'm a vegetarian!

Overall, the mood is very relaxing. It's a perfect album to listen to from start to finish while at home with no disturbances. 5 stars for sure.

Report this review (#389722)
Posted Saturday, January 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars If someone asked me to say an album that would best represent the symphonic rock I would say:"Hamburger Concerto". I never heard an album with many influences from classical music, especially Baroque period, as this.Certainly is one of the best things I ever heard in my life!

"Delitae Musicae" is a simple opening track, just guitar and flute. "Harem Scarem" is a pretty and energetic song, demonstrating the quality of band.I must make special mention of the Thijs Van Leer for his incredible ability to touch so many instruments on one album alone! (seems he is trying to compete with Mike Oldifield!). The use of organs on this album is amazing! My favorite section of music is the jam between guitar and flute (when this section is repeated later flute is replaced by the accordion).

"La Cathredal Strasbourg" is a slow and melodic song, equally beautiful, while the next, "Birth" is more complex and efficient.Her opens with a delightful clove, which introduces the main theme of the song, before the between battery and takes us to the main theme again, this time played by all instruments (or nearly all, as members could not play all the instruments at once).The song grows more and more until get a jam who again involving guitar and flute, but each has its moment.

The title track is without a doubt, the magnum-opus of album.Is also the song where is the best guitar and keyboards work.The guitar riffs are killer!I did not expect to find these riffs in 1974! (I actually think the sound of this album is too advanced for its time).Choir Mellotrons really elevate the song, especially the final sequence, where we found a great job of sintetyzers.Van Leer makes a strange vocal work here, including yodeling and falsetto, and I personally think it was desnecessary.No that his voice is bad, I just think that if the album was entirely instrumental it would make no difference to me.However that in no way hinders this musical masterpiece, that flows easily into the listener.The last song, "Early Birth" is rather forgettable, nothing more,but is good.

Upon hearing this album at all, come to one conclusion: these guys burst!'ll hear more of them!

Report this review (#411512)
Posted Saturday, March 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Focus is one of the symphonic progressive rock bands who have always been consistent in writing enjoyable records riddled with energy and fantastic musicianship, while remaining unique among their peers. Hamburger Concerto is one of their best albums, and they let their unique and fast paced supreme musicianship flags fly in the open for all to see.

After the beautiful medieval courtroom styled ditty intro, "Delitae Musicae", the music of Focus comes in fast and furious. "Harem Scarem" is an extremely solid rocker based on steady bass thumps and a simple recognizable piano riff. This track is full of energy and is hard to dislike. Fans of Dixie Dregs would probably enjoy the music going on here. The guitar and flute solos in the middle section of the track are very melodic and add a slightly airy feel to this otherwise hard song.

"La Cathedrale de Strasbourg" starts off on beautiful classical-inspired piano playing, accompanied by soft and powerful guitar perfectly in syncopation. The song eventually gives way to a sound that is somewhat jazzy with spacey sounding vocals and some of the best whistling you'll ever hear. There isn't much more to say about this song without being redundant; it's absolutely beautiful.

A baroque inspired harpsichord solo kicks off "Birth" before pounding drums enter the picture, soon followed by a dark and heavy bass motif. Organ dominates the monstrous, bass full soundscape for a while before a flute dominated motif takes over. It all eventually gets soft and beautiful for the center portion with a terrifically melodic flute solo. There is a lot of blues influenced guitar work on this song as well, and that combined with the amounts flute make this album an obvious crossover appeal for Jethro Tull fans.

The centerpiece, the epic "Hamburger Concerto" itself, is majestic. It's full of fantastically gripping rock riffs, which is one strength that this band has always had. The energy is perfect in that it will allow you to venture through the length of this track without feeling bored at all. Thijs van Leer has a knack for making anything sound interesting with his bizarre but strangely compelling yodel-scatting.

As stated earlier, this album has great crossover appeal for Jethro Tull fans. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for some of the more rock-based symphonic prog with strong secondary influence in jazz-rock.

Report this review (#431189)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Although many Focus fans swear by it, I can't say I find much to celebrate about Hamburger Concerto. Despite bringing in plenty of symphonic trimmings, several of the songs on this album are repetitive and unimaginative hard rock pieces at their core, and the title track adds nothing new to the already overpopulated prog subgenre of rock adaptations of classical music. The verve and energy present on Moving Waves is absent, and what's left behind is rather tired out and derivative, following the prog playbook whilst neither coming up with new tricks or breathing new vitality into old ones. Hardly the band's finest hour.
Report this review (#516498)
Posted Tuesday, September 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well done!

With their fourth studio album, the Dutch progressive rock band Focus created their second masterpiece (the first was Moving Waves). With this album they returned from a more jazzy approach on Focus 3 to a more classic-oriented format.

The album starts with Delitiae Musicae, a short, medieval-sounding piece for lute and alto flute that lasts for just one minute and a few seconds. This delicate track seems almost lost on the album because it is blown away swiftly by the ballsy intro of Harem Scarem, remotely reminiscent of Hocus Pocus. This is a powerful track with some more quiet passages inbetween featuring flute or accordeon. There is some rather pointless guitar jamming in the fifth minute of the track.

La Cathédrale de Strasbourg is a quieter track with Thijs van Leer in a starring role. It has some church organ in it and Thijs van Leer singing (translated) "The cathedral of Strasbourg, ding dong, the nostalgia reveals itself", followed by some whistling in the middle part of the song. Birth closes the first side of the album with Jan Akkerman performing some beautiful guitar solos.

Hamburger Concerto, the 20-minute epic on side two, is the pièce de résistance on this album. It is divided into six parts, of which the central four are named after meat temperatures. The epic starts with some classic-sounding keyboards alternated by an electric guitar theme that serves as a chorus in the first four or five minutes. In Rare we can also hear a few notes from a Dutch children's song (The Owl Sat in the Elm Trees) incorporated. Medium I features some glossolalia and yodeling in which Thijs displays his wide-range vocal abilities, while Medium II has Jan's guitar on the foreground. Well Done starts with the overdubbed voices of Thijs singing two stanzas from the Rei van Klaerissen, a poem about the Massacre of the Innocents, taken from the history play Gijsbrecht van Aemstel. This tragedy was written by the Dutch poet and playwright Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679). The sung melody was written by a Dutch 17th century composer of whom the identity is uncertain. Hereafter follows the grand finale with guitar solos, followed by ARP synths, the chorus from the beginning of the epic and a Big Ben-like chime.

This album is one of the masterpieces of Dutch prog and recommended to anyone who likes classic prog. My rating: 5-.

Report this review (#526378)
Posted Sunday, September 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Their second best album

"Delitae Musicae" (2.25 Out of 5.00) This baroque-introduction do not say much to me. From my point of view is not representative of what is to come.

"Harem Scarem" (3.50 Out of 5.00) A very enjoyable symphonic rock song, this song is almost at the same vein as "Hopus Pocus", with moments that sticks at the very first listening. I like it.

"La Cathédral De Strasbourg" (3.50 Out of 5.00) An Unpredictable Eclectic song, amazing mixtures of styles that change the whole direction. Thijs Van Leer was brilliant singing (french?) and whistling. This is another highlight of the album.

"Birth" (2.50 Out of 5.00) A moderately enjoyable song with some classical passages.

"Hamburger Concerto" (2.50 Out of 5.00) Another moderately enjoyable song. Thijs Van Leer jokingly singing... I just can`t take that seriously, but that`s what it makes it good. Then it becomes a bit boring to the end.

"Early Birth" (2.50 Out of 5.00) This is a decent ending.

2.75 rounded to 3 stars

Report this review (#808726)
Posted Wednesday, August 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#841147)
Posted Saturday, October 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hamburger Concerto is the second essential Focus album, and probably their greatest. There is a bit of a change of sound from Moving Waves, with the jazz fading slightly in favor for full on classical influence. Yet the Focus sound and crazy instrumental proficiency is still as present as ever.

The album opens with a short medieval-inspired introduction with 'Delitae Musicae' before seguing into 'Harem Scarem' a full on rocker very similar to what Hocus Pocus was on their second album. Though, it is very straightforward, and isn't anything you wouldn't expect from a classic rock band at the time.

'La Cathedrale De Strasbourg' is a delicate, yet powerful song with piano and underlying organ, playing some divine melodies.

'Birth' is a pretty diverse song, with the opening harpsichord lines leading into a groovier flute and guitar dominated part.

Of course the real meat here (excuse the pun) is the epic title track, 'Hamburger Concerto.' Like the band's previous epic in Eruption, Hamburger Concerto is a multi-part epic with a very diverse structure, but this one seems to be more, well, focused. It is mainly because much of the noodling of Eruption isn't present; instead the band took time to compose a masterpiece with a myriad of pleasant melodies and riffs, many of which are repeated throughout to give a sense of unity to the whole thing.

'Early Birth' revisits a few melodies to appropriately end a fantastic album. Overall, I would venture to say, in comparison to Moving Waves, Hamburger Concerto definitely has the stronger epic, while the former probably has the stronger "other" songs. Regardless, Hamburger Concerto is a solid album, and is perhaps the final hoorah from the Dutch proggers.


Report this review (#939499)
Posted Thursday, April 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars As new flesh in the progressive rock world I can say this album made me curious to progressive rock. The riffs aren't catchy, the music isn't predictable, but it does stay in your head. I was raised with the sound of Focus. You can hear they are masters of music and that they master their instruments. I love this album. It made me discover more progrock.

The variaties of influences caught on this album is immense. From Baroque music to 60's rock-ish influences.

The Hamburger Concerto also contains a little piece of an old Dutch Christmas song ( O kerstnacht, schoner dan den dagen).

This album is for me an instant 5-star album.

Report this review (#1024890)
Posted Wednesday, August 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Forth album - Hamburger concerto from 1974 is considered by many the absolut peak of their career, here the duo Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer works in a perfect unison. Well, to me Hamburger concerto is in same league with Moving waves, has same musical patters, same attitude and almost same sound. Harem scarem is like Hocus pocus part 2, a very humoristic piece, well performed with catchy arrangements, again the most solid part of the release is in the end of the album with the title track, a 20 min prog bomb. A very worthy album that consolidates the master status they had in those times, both Moving waves and this one are considered among the best prog albums of the first part of the seventies. 4 stars for Hamburger concerto for sure.
Report this review (#1025507)
Posted Friday, August 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars I recently listened to this album for the first time. I thought that after their "Focus 3" album, with all the excess in that album with a lot of improvisations to fill a two LP set there were not better things to expect from this band. I was wrong. I was curious to listen to this album for years and I finally did it. It is one of best albums that I have listened from them (apart from "Moving Waves" from 1971), but I think that Pierre van der Linden`style in the drums was better for this band, being him a better technically drummer than Colin Allen whose drumming I found more simple in comparison. Van der Linden is a more Jazz-Rock and Progressive Rock oriented drummer, in my opinion. But Allen is a good percussionist too, also providing a variety of percussion instruments than van der Linden didn`t use with the band. This album has a lot of melodies and very good arrangements, most of them very influenced by classical music (in fact, the "Hamburger Concerto" is based in "Variations from a Theme from Haydn by Brahms") , some medieval and folk music and even some religious music. Thijs Van Leer used a lot of keyboard instruments with a lot of very good arrangements, and his humour is also present in some of his vocals, particularly in the "Hamburger Concerto" title song, which also in itself is an humorous title, like a joke in reference to J.S. Bach`s "Brandenburger Concertos". Jan Akkerman also sounds very inspired playing his guitars. So, this album is very Progressive Rock in style, one of the best from this style, wth the band still at their peak and with a lot of creativity powers and enthusiasm. A very recomendable album.
Report this review (#1060451)
Posted Tuesday, October 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars To my ears ''Sylvia'' is among the top 3 tracks ever recorded by Focus and this was also the belief of the audience back in the 70's, as the single climbed on No. 4 of the UK charts, while ''Focus 3'' reached No. 6 in the album charts.What followed was a triumphant first tour in USA and several gigs in the UK, among them a pair of lives at London's Rainbow Theatre in 1973, taped on the live release ''Focus at the Rainbow'' and released again on Imperial and Polydor.According to Thijs van Leer the intense live activity of the band affected the composing quality and the musicians were somewhat empty of ideas around the time.This led to Pierre van der Linden departure, while he was replaced by Colin Allen.The next work of Focus sees the light in 1974, based on ''Variations on a Theme by Haydn'' by Johannes Brahms.The album was recorded at the Olympic Sound Studios in Barnes between January and March 74'.

The symphonic-oriented short intro ''Delitiae Musicae'' will give its place to ''Harem Scarem'', which supposedly played the role of the chart single of the album.Its delicate, symphonic-oriented sound and the furious interplays though were not something close to the likings of the public and, despite its good quality and the intense progressive nature, it failed to attract the audience.''La Cathedrale de Strasbourg'' is a romantic, Classical-influenced piece of delicate Symphonic Rock with wordless voices, jazzy guitar interludes by Akkerman and beautiful piano work by van Leer, resulting an extremely balanced composition of elegant instrumental music.With ''Birth'' Focus revisit some of the aspects of their early days, as this one contains heavy flute-driven parts, light psychedelic tunes and strong organ work.But Focus had musically moved on in this fourth studio album and these premature inspirations are cleverly dressed up with Classical-drenched harsichord textures and virtuosic guitar moves by Akkerman, including some very powerful solos.

The 20-min. title track of the album is yet another great idea, added in the list of epic tracks by Focus.This one contains the distinctive humor of the band, as it is divided in six movements, developing the cooking of a hamburger.''Hamburger Concerto'' comes a mix of organ-driven Symphonic Rock with smooth psychedelic overtones and jazzy-influenced Progressive Rock with light jams on guitars and organ, while in several occasions van Leer's flute really shines through.It lacks some cohesion in the way, but this belongs definitely among the nice epics of the mid-70's, offering diverse atmospheres, ranging from sweet themes with a smooth playing by the band to heavier, technical interplays and solos with a pompous climate, while the chant-like vocals and the sharp and surprising synthesizer solo towards the end are quite intelligent additions.Maybe not masterful, but this is well-executed and very rich instrumental music.

At this point it gets quite clear that Focus is rather impossible to reach the marvelous level of composing as presented on ''Moving waves''.Tensions within the group led eventually to a great album with series of tight interplays, orchestral majesty and calm melodies, which struggle a bit to connect with each other.Even so, this one should belong to the discography of a Prog fan for its sincere, professional and bombastic perfromances.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1127694)
Posted Wednesday, February 5, 2014 | Review Permalink

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