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FOCUS: JAN AKKERMAN & THIJS VAN LEER

Focus

Symphonic Prog


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5 stars FOCUS.....i do not know any prog fan...that is a stranger to this name!! FOCUS is the name of Dutch prog superb!! Anyone with a sense of mind (That is progmind) will nod and smile to the name FOCUS!! Indeed they were creating new ground in the minefield of progmusic way back then!! Now im sittin´with this their last (although they´re back... i hear, with a new album) with the title" Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer Focus" 1985. and a beautiful one it is...starting with " Russian roulette" a fabulous little theme that grows on you.........next up is " King kong" actually i feel like ive heard ít all before...but i havent ???? Strange ehh´!!...This is an album that seems like the one you heard before.... only you havent!!! Im confused....wait a minute...this is Focus...havent i felt like this before ? Of course you have...this is Focus..they are the masters of themes and guidance OK...OK...so its ok....to feel a little desorientated?? Well sure...thats what Focus is all about!! Anyhow this is Focus at their absolute best!! Like themes? Like wonderfull arrangements? Like FOCUS? Well..mate get this!! Despite all reviews....this is a GREAT record!! Believe you me!!

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Send comments to Tonny Larz (BETA) | Report this review (#22956)
Posted Wednesday, February 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
liam@cm-media
4 stars This is a highly underrated album and (almost) stands comparison with Focus' 70s peaks of Moving Waves and Hamburger Concerto.

This van Leer plays flute and synths with all his usual skill and Jan Akkerman's guitar playing still has fire in its belly, particularly the blazing soloing on Ole Judy and the evocative atmospherics of Who's Calling? Russian Roulette is my favourite track, having a lovely relaxed piano/guitar motif which repeatedly segues into more upbeat sections with great precussive piano.

The weakspots are Beethoven's Revenge which is a somewhat pedestrian funk number and Indian Summer which, while pleasant enough, sounds like something they might play in my local Tandoori!

Also there are no proper drums on the album (where was Pierre van der Linden?) and the use of synthesised percussion can be annoying (this was the 80s after all). But still Focus' talent was more than enough to rise above that naffest of decades to produce a very enjoyable album.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#41421)
Posted Wednesday, August 03, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Underrated? No. VERY UNDERRATED! Absolutely superb album, two guys at the top of their game, and obviously not even trying very hard. Yes, Beethoven's Revenge goes on a bit, but Ole Judy, Russian Roulette and the wonderful Who's Calling show that 80s technology, nasty as it sounded, could be harnessed to a new vision of prog. Unless you really don't like 80s sounds, you won't be disappointed.

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Send comments to Paul Stump (BETA) | Report this review (#94663)
Posted Sunday, October 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Who said "R.I.P. Focus" in 1977 with Ship of Memories?

The return of the dutch masters, now with drum program! Pay attention on the last track: atmospheric, slow, sweet melody... a 16-minutes masterpiece. And great starting too, with Russian Roulette, where the guitar is superb; my two favourites tracks. King Kong and Ole Judy are also fine, and if I didn't give the last star, blame it on Beethoven's Revenge! Too much long, I think its lenght must be under eight minutes... brassy arrangements predominates in this energetic but insipid song. Once I downloaded a 10-minutes version of this track, and I was also dissapointed.

But the rest of the songs are so strong... New context, new ideas... Simply excellent. Recommended for fans that want to know a new Focus sound. Purchase it!!

P.D.: My english is not the best... I'm sorry.

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Send comments to sircosick (BETA) | Report this review (#108208)
Posted Saturday, January 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars Different from the Focus albums proper, this reunion of its two leading men is more of a jazzy affair with elements of period new age and even a bit of minimalism, making it generally light, mellow, and slick compared to the original band. The drum programming could be a bit more imaginative but I suppose Mr Akkerman had other fish to fry, and generally he and Mr Van Leer seem to meet their objectives.

"King Kong" and "Tango" both represent the general sound of the album well, an insistent motif with a small but notable degree of improvisation around it. The flutes on "King Kong" are especially noteworthy. While "Indian Summer" does contain synths in a typically 80s smooth jazz style, it is blended with woodwinds rather deftly. Now, "Beethoven's Revenge" is the epic of the album if you can call it that, but it is really more of an extended jam where Akkerman takes his turn to shine, as does Ustad Zamir Ahmad Khan on tablas. Note that my review is based on the LP and that the version there is only 10 minutes, which is probably a good thing. "Ole Judy" is one of the more fun numbers, with a slightly latin flavour bolstered by some of Akkerman's best licks on the disk, as well as more flute from Van Leer. My version of "Who's Calling" is also abbreviated from the CD, only 7 odd minutes of generally toned down atmospheres in which the two principles trade off but no one seems to take charge.

I can only give a guarded recommendation to prog fans because of the general softness of the material and the tendency for Akkerman to stay on a leash through most of the album. Even from my perspective as a lover of softer prog, this one veers a bit too close to new age for a higher recommendation. Nonetheless, I admire the focus of these two gifted musicians to pull together and produce a work of good value during a decade generally bereft of it.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#132113)
Posted Monday, August 06, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars So, the two Dutch masters are back again ! Great news for all the "Focus" fans (to which I belong). Eleven years after the fabulous "Concerto"...( their work in-between does not really need to be referenced). The association could of course lead to the best but so many of these rather led to worse, so it is with circumspection that I discovered this release.

One thing is for sure : the jazzy sounds of "Focus Con Proby" is put into brackets for some tracks which I can only be pleased of (but it will unfortunately reborn with "B."). Not that the duo (because it is not really a "Focus" effort") will fully turned into the great symphonic music they have delivered, but at least this album features some good moments (but not too many).

Of course, the repetitive "Tango" sounds a bit weak but it comes after the naďve, folkish and ethnic "King Kong". The only traditional "Focus" song will be the very good opener, more in the style of the "Focus" we all love (?).

One of the weakest track IMO is "Indian Summer". Some world music stuff not really expected nor appropriate, I should say. Actually, it is a "Hors D'Oeuvre" before the long, repetitive and boring "Beethoven s Revenge".

Disco beat, electronic rhythms, new age, jazz improvisation : you name it ! New "Focus" as some reviewers mention ? Maybe. But this "Focus" could have remain silent. As far as this track is concerned at least. I was reluctant while listening to their ultra- long "Anonymus Two" (FROM "Focus III") but at least some ood intrumental jams were going on there. This track, is just booooring. For almost NINETEEN minutes. I wonder where is the Beethoven's revenge. Our dear Ludwig must be pretty P.O. that his name is linked with such poor stuff. Shame on you Akkerman & Van Leer !

Things get better with "Olé Judy". Rocking alright, this song will finally deliver great guitar and some good fluting; but still this synth- sound music is not really impressive.

"Who's Calling" is the second prog track here. But if you dream of hearing some jewel like "Concerto", just forget it. We are far from flirting with the spirit of this great epic, unfortunately.

I'm rather perplexed to rate this album when I see all the very high ratings (four to five stars fo rmost of it). Two will do IMO.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#135255)
Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well, I am a big fan of early Focus. The instrumental portion of their first album, and the next 3 albums are all simply amazing. Then I see in ProgArchives a string of bad ratings for their next few albums until this one. This has a mediocre average rating from my fellow proggers but at least it's not rated below 3, so why not give it a chance? Right? This is not horrible, but it really doesn't sound like the early albums. First of all there are electronic drums! This is not all that bad until we get to the track I was really looking forward to when I picked up the album. An 18 minute song by Focus called Beethoven's Revenge!! This is gonna be good! What a disappointment. This track is dominated by a very annoying electronic drumbeat and it goes on for 18 muinutes! The rest of the album has its moments in a new-agey kind of way. Think Vangelis or maybe Jean-Michel Jarre.

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Send comments to digdug (BETA) | Report this review (#175856)
Posted Tuesday, July 01, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Actually, this is not a Focus album but an Akkerman/Van Leer album, but since this duo of geniuses who knew each other so well but didn't always look eye to eye despite their shared musical interests in jazz-rock, prog and classical music were keen on the idea of taking back the essential Focus sound and refurbish it in the 80s era of digital sonic explorations, naming this album "Focus" happened to be logical and natural. This is the sort of thing that Focus should have released after the amazing "Hamburg" experiment, since the band finally suffered from inconsistency and loss of creative energy after reaching such a tremendous apex. Something is going terribly wrong with a great band when a compilation album ("Ship") immensely surpasses a studio effort ("Mother") and then, the following album's few highlights are written by newcomers. This "Focus" album conceived by this new encounter of Dutch progressive minds is the definitive testimony of the musical imagination that Focus had still in store but took so many years to take shape and meet its material reality. So, once you get this album and are treated with the stylish romanticism of 'Russian Roulette' and the lovely, refereshing flavors of 'King Kong', you can almost touch the creative vigor in pure Focus style. Van Leer remembers his old-time partner's vibe so well that you might bet that he wrote Akkerman's polished guitar lines for 'Russian Roulette' in his sleep; meanwhile, Akkerman seems to have Van had Leer's agile flute playing physically present in front of him while writing 'King Kong'. Nevermind if the digital keyboards are overwhelming in places or if the use of rhythm computers and an electronic drum kit feels "cold" or "lacks the human touch". The chemistry is there, unhidden, revealing in the wide open, and fueled with authentic creativity. 'Le Tango' is a track I find less brilliant than the first two, but it is still entertaining and well-constructed: it features Argentinean airs among its solid jazz-pog displays, of course. Adding rockier guitar parts (both electric and synth guitars) and exotic moods, 'Indian Summer' provides a captivating exercise on jazz-rock in its most refined form. Another rocker is 'Olé Judy', a piece that might as well have been expanded 1 minute longer since its catchiness doesn't seem to wear out yet while we get to the fade-out. I own both the vinyl and CD versions of this album, so I'm aware that the two long tracks are even longer in the latter edition. I admit that I find the 'Beethoven's Revenge' modern jazz-funky jam a bit too exhausting in its 18+ minute incarnation: it worked better for me in its 10+ minute vinyl version. On the other hand, the captivating lyricism of 'Who's Calling?' does resist the longer CD format quite efficiently. This is romantic, eerie prog rock at its best, Focus-style and all. It might have been entitled 'Focus VI' or something, since its introspective intimacy makes it quite related to the spirit 'Focus V' (from the "Ship" album). Overall conclusion: a very good album that provides the perfect testament of the Akkerman/Van Leer partnership, a long overdue progressive tribute to the significance of Focus that our friends Jan and Thijs paid from the bottom of their hearts. Better, way better than what other old 70s prog bands were doing at the time.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#285536)
Posted Monday, June 07, 2010 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This self-titled reunion album is fantastic and one of my favorites in the Focus catalog for the same reason that it is mostly ignored: it only features two important members of the original band and the music is based much more in jazz-fusion and heavy new age. I will admit that the percussion often seems cheesy sounding (this is an '80s release), but that doesn't detract from the overall musicianship on this album. Definitely different than their previous albums, this definitely doesn't include any of whatever potential accessibility that Focus' earlier releases had, and is definitely less rock and blues inspired. "Who's Calling?" is probably my personal favorite on the album and is a beautiful, classically inspired new age fusion track. It's fairly straight forward, but still undeniably progressive.

I recommend this only to fans of jazz fusion or new age. As I stated before, this doesn't really garner much appeal to earlier Focus fans.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#431190)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, it is 1/2 of Focus represented here, albeit the dominant half. The support musicians are not at all prominent, except for the programming that has practically taken over the role from an effective rhythm section. Also, "Focus" is the album title here and not the band's name.

Those - like myself - who are fond of "old" Focus will find some very pleasing material here. Some Baroque lines, jazzy rhythms and convincingly heavy runs on the guitars are present here cloaked in a "modern" approach - courtesy of technology. Whilst the bulk of the work is excellent, Akkerman just couldn't help himself. Similar to his latest releases, he had to include one very disco-like track and this one runs for nearly 20 mins! Made easy by looping, drum machine, et al, this is not bad at all, but excessive and wouldn't be missed that much. Some will find it outright horrible and a massive let down.

Nevertheless, Disco aside, it's a great album. The CD version contains the same tracks as the original LP, but some had been extended. This represents of dubious extra value as the "added" material is practically the repetition of the same lines that's already been heard. It leaves me in two minds about the necessity of a few extra mins of the same thing.

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Send comments to Anon-E-Mouse (BETA) | Report this review (#1197976)
Posted Wednesday, June 25, 2014 | Review Permalink

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