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Focus Focus Con Proby album cover
2.59 | 135 ratings | 15 reviews | 4% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1978

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Wingless (5:35)
2. Orion (4:08)
3. Night Flight (3:40)
4. Eddy (5:54)
5. Sneezing Bull (4:27)
6. Brother (5:19)
7. Tokyo Rose (5:08)
8. Maximum (8:40)
9. How Long (5:16)

Total Time: 48:07

Line-up / Musicians

- P.J. Proby / lead vocals
- Thijs van Leer / keyboards, synths, flute (5)
- Eef Albers / lead (1-4,7) & rhythm (9) guitars
- Philip Catherine / acoustic (5), lead (5,8,9) & rhythm (1-3,6) guitars
- Bert Ruiter / bass
- Steve Smith / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Jacques Heere

LP EMI ‎- 5C 064-25713 (1978, Netherlands)
LP Harvest - ST 11721 (1978, Canada)

CD EMI ‎- CDM 7 483392 (1988, Netherlands)

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and to Quinino for the last updates
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FOCUS Focus Con Proby ratings distribution

(135 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(4%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(18%)
Good, but non-essential (38%)
Collectors/fans only (35%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

FOCUS Focus Con Proby reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ZowieZiggy
1 stars A cataclysm took place for the release of this album. The great Jan Akkerman has gone. Of course, another great guitarist is hired and this guy is really gifted. I guess that the fully jazz-orientation of this album has something to do with Philip Catherine's presence.

What to say about the vocalist they have hired for this project ? Well, you'll have to figure out that this guy recorded an album in 68 with Bonham, Jones & Page. Here's what he said about this recording : "Came the last day and we found we had some studio time, so I just asked the band to play while I just came up with the words. ... They weren't Led Zeppelin at the time, they were the New Yardbirds and they were going to be my band". I'm bloody glad that we got Plant instead !

His tone of voice reminds the one of the Santana singer Gregg Walker or Alex Ligertwood (I could never stand any of them really).

When you mix the great guitar work featured on this album, with these vocals and you add the deep jazz influences; you are almost in the territories of Santana's jazzy period. But you won't have any great percussion nor such good composition as you can find on "Welcome" for instance.

Obviously, the only bearable tracks are the ones during which P.J. Proby just look at the band while shutting up.

"Orion" is a slow song which features a great guitar work. It is by far my favourite song. The listener can find some average music as well while "Night Flight" and "Sneezing Bull" are performed (but these two are 100% jazz oriented). But the long and improv style of "Maximum" is rather uninteresting and dull although musicianship is high.

Now, in terms of sung tracks, I really can't find one single average one. "Eddy" is a poor illustration of a Proby combination with "Focus" (if we can call this "Focus") while "Brother" is a syrupous and croony ballad (although the last part of the song gets better). I knew already that "Focus" had a great sense of humour but to finish "Tokyo Rose" with these words is just hilarous : "There is no sense for me to expand any further" !!! I bet you !

I guess that it is the same great sense of humour that drove "Focus" when they will look for a title for the closing number : "How Long". Well, that's precisely the question you will ask yourself when it starts. How long will it last ? Just run away.

It is their worse album so far. Of course, if you are into jazz-rock, your opinion will probably differ. But the "Focus" I like is the symphonic one, not the jazzy one.

One star.

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Actually, Focus Con Proby could have been considered a fairly good soft jazz-rock album, if only... it had not bear the name FOCUS!

And if certain P.J. Proby had not sung.

The absence of Jan Akkerman could have been a disaster, perhaps even worse than already witnessed with Mother Focus, but it was not. New guitarists did a nice job introducing jazz elements and improvisation style, while Thijs van Leer provided several nice flute soli in line with his earlier classic works.

Unfortunately, Proby's sweet soul crooner-type voice a la Billy Ocean spoiled the vocal tracks and put this album close to the low points of Mother Focus. Close but still not that low...


P.A. RATING: 2/5

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Having considered Focus as instrumental prog band, "Focus Con Proby" proves that the band could make excellent music with vocal line too. In this album Focus collaborate with American singer PJ Proby who has vocal characteristic that suits Focus music (my taste). In so far, most reviewers have given less than four stars but I really believe that this album deserves a full four-star rating. Look at the performance of Proby on the opening track "Wingless" (5:35) where he did a great job putting his vocal line in the song. Not only that, the guitar work by Eef Albers is really stunning and it becomes one of critical attraction towards this masterpiece track. Everything sounds to work perfectly on this opening track. The third track "Night Flight" is another masterpiece track with wonderful, brilliant, and stunning guitar work augmented by dynamic basslines and dazzling drumwork. This track is one of my favorite tracks from Focus. The tempo of the music is fast, the energy and hard drive are all there in the music. Those who love jazz rock would definitely love this track.

"Eddy" (5:54) is a great bluesy track with excellent guitar work. Proby sings nicely here. "Sneezing Bull" (4:27) is another energetic and excellent track with evocative flute work that becomes key attraction of this track. It reminds me to early Focus albums but this time has intense flavors of jazz-rock. "Brother" (5:19) is a mellow track that provides excellent break in the album. "Tokyo Rose" (5:08) starts nicely with soft flutework augmented with soft piano work. The song suddenly moves to energetic style with great narration by Proby. It's a very interesting track that I enjoy listening to it. "Maximum" (8:40) brings the album into jazz-rock fusion work with excellent bass guitar work. Guitar plays stunningly combined with nice piano work. It's really an excellent track. The concluding track "How Long" (5:16) showcases excellent combination of keyboard / piano with other instruments.

Overall, I rate this album highly because the music is quite unique in style and it's also different from any other Focus album. The key attractions with the music include its tight composition, good collaborative work of musicians involved in this project. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Focus' last living outburst (recorded anyway) in the 70's is this strange collab between a now-almost comatosed Focus and this English singer PJ Proby (a one-hit wonder from the 60's) and unlike what was to be feared, this album is not as bad as you'd have believed. The responsible for this is Akkerman's replacement Phillip Catherine has a major blast and more than fills Jan's shoes. As for Proby, he's got a voice that no other Focus member ever had, so it's not surprising to see that Focus has become a singing group, Proby's vocals singing Mrs Van Leer's lyrics.

With only Ruiter and Van Leer from the classic quartet, the Belgian guitarist is actually the saviour of this album as he does not only shine n the opening Wingless, but steels the show on the instrumentals grandiose and pastoral Orion and demented Night Flight. If the opening Wingless was a good track, the slow-paced ballad Eddy is certainly not of the same calibre, although you can't fault neither Focus or Proby, but the project itself and their association. With the superb Catherine-penned Sneezing Bull, Focus returns to their third instrumental and probably the album's apex, as one thinks of RTF or Mahavishnu. It's somehow surprising to see how Catherine has even more space than Akkerman was allowed in Focus's prime, but I'd advance two factor's: Catherine's style allowed a different type of jazz-)rock, where Van Leer was less dominant and proficient than in the pseudo symphonic style, the other factor probably being jealous competitiveness of Jan & Thys.

The flipside starts on the piano-dominated Brother, maybe the album's best sung track, where Proby shows a great range to accompany Catherine and Van Leer where they'd intended to. Tokyo Rose is a mixed bag, an interesting idea (penned by Mrs van Leer alone), but not carried on fully, this might have sat on a Queen, Roxy or Sparks album no problem.. On a Focus album???? Why not?? Hocus Pocus or Harem Scarem... The almost 9-mins Maxcimum is the only instrumental on this side, written by Bert and Thys, and is a fine but predictable late 70's fusion piece, not up to par with the three on the A-side. How long is a forgettable good bye to which we can say "until 02". Weakest track with Eddy.

Certainly more appreciable than mother focus, a tad better than the bottom-of-drtawer compilation Ship of Memories, Con Proby is not that bad a swansong (actually a fairly good one), but it was a timely swansong.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I have to say that when I first heard this album, I though that this will be one of these high rated Focus albums that I'm aware of. But nope, this should be rather disappointment. Note the word, should, because I don't feel it. I even like this more than some of theirs that are considered as classics.

Strange, really strange, but these melodic rhythms combined with jazz elements (which are very interestingly performed, in this combination). Vocals fits me too, maybe because I don't know much their other work. For me, it's masterpiece, but maybe later I'll reconsider my rating. As I feel it now, after just few listens, I'm about to give

4(+) for wonderful and (funny, obvious part) underrated album. But some things really brings it down, like some pop-like rhythms. And also, decade is almost over and it can be heard.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars I much prefer Focus sin Proby

When contemplating the pros and cons of this 1978 album, it quickly becomes very clear that Proby is indeed one of the major cons. P.J. Proby's smooth and soulful vocals mix with the music of Focus like oil mixes with water. Bringing Proby on board was a mistake. However, despite the absence of Jan Akkerman, there are also pros: the instrumental parts are still 100% Focus(ed) and bear the band's characteristic sound. Indeed, the instrumental tracks and passages found here are very much more interesting and enjoyable than what was present on the previous two Focus releases--Mother Focus and Ship Of Memories.

The instrumental tracks are Orion, Night Flight, Sneezing Bull, and Maximum. These tunes bring to mind Camel and Jethro Tull but most of all classic Focus. This adds up to around 20 minutes of quality music that undoubtedly will appeal to those who like the first four Focus albums. But on the vocal tracks, Focus takes a back seat and becomes the backing band for P.J. Proby and, as I have said, these tracks are considerably less interesting. These bluesy, soulful, jazzy numbers are plodders, and of course they have nothing to do with Prog.

As such, this album is a very mixed bag. It has some strong moments that makes it worthwhile for any Focus fan, but taking everything into consideration it does not stand up to the better Focus albums.

Review by Guillermo
2 stars A "strange" album from FOCUS. "Strange" because it is really a Jazz-Rock album from a band called FOCUS. An album which has very little in common to other albums of the band. It is also "strange" because it was done in collaboration on five of the nine tracks with American lead singer P.J. Proby. I really don't know who had the idea to record this very atypical FOCUS album in 1977. It is not a bad album, and in fact all the musicians played very well in this album, but it is a very different album from FOCUS.

The only thing that I knew about P.J. Proby was his 1965 single with "That Means a Lot" on the A-Side (Produced by George Martin), a song that John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote, and THE BEATLES tried to record a proper version of this song in 1965, never been satisfied with their versions of this song, and the song was not released until 1996 in their "Anthology 2" album. So, knowing that Proby really is a Pop Rock singer with a long career, for me it is "strange" to see him appear in this album, and more in a Jazz-Rock album in musical style. He appears singing in five of the nine songs in this album (and curiously, all five written mostly by Thijs van Leer in collaboration with Rosalie van Leer, who maybe wrote the lyrics): "Wingless", "Eddy", "Brother", "Tokyo Rose" and "How Long". Proby sings very well in the Jazz-Rock oriented songs, even adding some Soul and Blues influences in his vocals.

The rest of the songs (with some songwriting collaborations from then new guitarists Eef Albers and Philip Catherine, and also from Bert Ruiter, and sometimes with Thijs van Leer) are very typical Jazz-Rock instrumental pieces similar to others from other artists from the same musical genre from the mid to late seventies (JEAN- LUC PONTY, JEFF BECK, BRUFORD, etc.). So, they don't sound very related to the "old" Prog Rock musical style from FOCUS. Maybe Thijs van Leer and Bert Ruiter wanted to play this kind of music, but maybe the change of musical style was "drastic". The new guitarists are very good. The same can be said about drummer Steve Smith (who also played with JEAN-LUC PONTY during that period of time, before joining JOURNEY in 1978, in an also "drastic" change in musical style). I still think that he is a very good drummer but his style is more for the Jazz- Rock style than for the Pop Rock style of JOURNEY.

Well. This is not a bad album. But it seems to me that FOCUS really was losing their "focus" in their musical direction, looking for new musical styles without finding them to really feel themselves satisfied. Maybe by 1977, with Prog Rock losing some of its popularity, they really didn't know what to do. In fact, the band split after this album for several years.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
2 stars When I first saw the cover of this album back in the seventies I had the feeling that Focus would fall in the same trap as several other acts fo that era: a commercial take of an ex great prog band. I did not listen to it at the time. I had enough disillusion with a number of bands at the period (Triumvirat and Camel just to name two) to add another one. Focus with a british one hit wonder singer? Without Jan Akkermann? That could not be good! So it was over 30 years before I had the patience and curiosity to try it.

Looking back, I found that Focus Con Proby was not nearly as bad as I thought. But I guess I´d be disappointed anyway: it sounds way too different from the Focus I knew and loved. Their sound changed from symphonic prog to a much more jazz rock/fusion direction, thanks largely to Akkermann´s replacement, the belgium guitarist Philp Catherine. Although some songs are really good, the instrumentals (always Focus strong point) are also the average jazz-rock you would expect from almost everyone in the area (Soft Machine with Allan Holdsworth, Jean Luc Ponty and so on). Only Sneezing Bull is somewhat different, probably because of Van Leer´s flute playing.

As for P.J. Proby himself, he has a nice voice and does a good job overall, depending on the quality of the songs he sang: the opener Wingless is very good, while Eddy is a boring, throwaway pop tune. Tokyo Rose is a strange mix: sounds like classic Focus tune with added lyrics. Interesting experiment, I guess, but it did not work. Brother is nice and I remember Focus playing it in my hometown during their brazilian tour in 2002. How long is a mediocre tune. And so it goes.

Conclusion: not a total disaster, but too different and inconsistent to be considered a valid statement from this great band. As anyone else at the time Focus tried to do something to get them out of the rut they´re in but was not successful. If you´re into jazz rock/fusion maybe you´ll enjoy the instrumentals. But the uneven quality of the vocal tracks spoil the overall feeling of the album. This one is definitely for collectors and fans only. And not one for the newbies.

Review by GruvanDahlman
3 stars Have you ever played around with the idea to take a partly imploded progressive rock band with it's prime behind them, add an ageing rock'n'roll crooner and then record a new album? The very idea is interesting and tantalizing. That very thing happened in 1978 when Focus regrouped around Thijs van Leer, added a couple of new members and took on PJ Proby, the rock'n'roll singer, who also brought with him a severe alcohol problem. Anyway, it sounds strange and almost like a forced marriage but it works in parts.

Focus with Proby by the microphone released one album before it all went pear shaped and Focus went into hibernation for the next eight years (counting the Akkerman & van Leer album as a Focus one). The album is much-maligned and treated very poorly. The reviews aren't great and I suppose it is nowadays regarded as a strange footnote in music history and something one really doesn't want to mention when speaking of Focus. I think it is a shame. The album isn't that bad or lacklustre as it seems by many reviews. Is this as good an album as any of those Focus made during the first half of the 70's? No, it isn't but it's just as good as "Mother Focus" or "Ship of memories" (though consisted of studio leftovers) or even better. It is all highly competent, energized and powerful jazz-rock or fusion. It's smoothed off, as most fusion albums of the latter part of the 70's tend to be. The hardrock elements so evident on the first Focus albums are gone but "Focus con Proby" still packs a massive punch at times. Proby adds vocals to five of the nine tracks and his crooner style actually blends nicely with the polished fusion of the album.

The album starts off with the dreamy and atmospheric "Wingless" where Proby does his best to fit in to a musical landscape he is not familiar with. A great opener with a soaring guitar and wonderful melody. "Orion" is instrumental and fine in every respect. I like the drums on this one, a really heavy beat that propells the music. The distorted guitar part over the drums adds a lot of weight. The next song is also an instrumental, "Night flight". A powerful piece that really grooves. One of the highlights.

Proby's up next on the ballad "Eddy", which really is nothing to write home about. A sort of standardized fusion ballad. Not bad, but I'd rather skip it and go into one of the great centrepieces of the album, "Sneezing Bull". As far as I'm concerned this is easily just as good as anything Focus ever made or make, since they do exist still. Really intense with all instruments really pushing themselves to the extreme. It is so tightly performed and perfectly executed it is nigh on being a masterpiece. A great example of late 70's fusion that kicks ass like a mule. Top stuff.

"Brother" is yet again a vocal track and a ballad. There are sometimes vocal similarities to Arthur Browns "Chisholm in my bosom" but I guess it's just a coincidence. It is good track and by far better than "Eddy", which is sort of pointless. "Tokyo rose" starts off with gentle flute and melody before going into a more rocking mode where Proby tells a cock and bull story about someone called Tokyo Rose. A slight classical element adds a certain extra to this one.

"Maximum" is one of the other true highlights of this album. Instrumental jazz-rock of the highest pedigree. This is great fusion. Sometimes fusion can be, in my opinion, a bit too noodling and slick, focusing on something else than to rock out but that is not the case here. There are many shifts and turns here worthy of a listen. The longest track and maybe the best. If one track from this album was to be included on a "Best of..." I'd vote for this one.

And then the album comes to the end and the Proby-era Focus bids farewell with a track that sounds like the theme tune for "Love boat". It starts off promising and keeps on being promising for 30 seconds before going cheezy. It's not all bad but it is certainly not a great track.

Overall I think that this album has alot to offer for those into Focus or enjoy well played fusion. I'll admit that I approached this album with an entused lack of anticipation (if that makes sense). I really did not expect much from it but I was wrong. A great album in it's own right and proves that the notion that one member of a group doesn't make up the whole band. Akkerman leaving was a shame but the music on "Focus con Proby" shows that van Leer & Co. managed to put forth a slice of (sometimes) great and inspired jazz-rock. Not an essential buy but an interesting piece of work that really could do with a little appreciation. The sung tracks are the least good, with only "Wingless" being a great one, but the instrumentals are all very enjoyable and exciting pieces. So, to summon up I'd give this album three stars but emphasize that the instrumental tracks are all worthy of four stars.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars I always like the highpoints of Focus Con Proby--especially "Wingless." New guitarist Eef Albers never gets enough credit; everyone always assumes the great guitar solos and playing is known & respected Belgian maestro Phillip Catherine, but if one is to believe the credits, Phillip only plays lead on three songs (Side 1, song 5; Side 2, songs 3 & 4), while Eef has all the rest--including the great "Wingless" and the nice instrumental "Orion" (which he is credited as having composed) and the bluesy duo of "Eddy" and "Brother"--which he also composed. The fast chargin' "Night Flight" is another Eef composition which, interestingly, sounds like it could have come straight from one of Jan Akkerman's solo albums of the 1970s. (Think "Can't Fake a Good Time" from Eli). So, please, give Eef Albers some of the credit, people! He's due! He's a seasoned and gifted guitarist composer with a long career in the Dutch music scene--Toots Thielmans, Medusa, Kraan, Steve Smith, Rob Franken, Peter Herbolzheimer Orchestra, etc.

Phillip's jazzy lead & rhythm guitar work (on multiple tracks, apparently) on "Sneezing Bull"--the only song that he is listed as composer--is impressive, though some might not listen to him due to Thijs Van Leer's flute play, it is, as I said, impressive.

"Maximum" (8:43) as some people point out, falls into the realm of funk/disco that bands like Jean-Luc Ponty, Jan Akkerman, and George Duke were exploring, but there is still some serious classical Weather Report-like chops in there, too. It's actually a pretty decent song (an instrumental) with some nice bass and keyboard play from Focus old guard, Bert Ruiter and Thijs van Leer, respectively. This is also my favorite song in which Steve Smith shines--lots of sytlistic and rhythmic shifts over the course of the almost nine minutes.

Speaking of classical orientation, the gorgeous little piano and flute duet that starts out "Tokyo Rose" is nice--before PJ Proby steps in to try his best Frank Zappa vocal impersonation. Luckily, it then turns out to be more of an instrumental with intermittent narrative passages.

This is by no means a bad album, just not as cohesive or consistent as some of the previous Focus albums. I do have one further comment: the album's liner notes and credits always confused me more for the fact that if it is indeed an album of two guitarists trading off the lead and rhythm duties, it is quite remarkable how often the songs credited to Philip Catherine on the lead sound like the lead of Eef Albers. My theory is that, in fact, Eef and Philip more often shared the lead and rhythm duties even within single songs, but that the creditor was just being kind of lazy (or forgetful--or wasn't even part of the recording sessions).

Anyway, this is a a far more listenable and even enjoyable album than people want to give credit--probably due to the lack of interconnection from song to song as well as the disco and blues ruts the band had allowed their music to fall into.

Latest members reviews

2 stars So Akkerman is out of the band, and Thjis van Leer decides to continue putting out music under the Focus moniker (although Bert Ruiter still does play bass here, so maybe it's legitimate). Besides getting the soul "superstar" P.J. Proby on vocals, Thjis also employed Steve Smith on drums, who is t ... (read more)

Report this review (#128034) | Posted by Salviaal | Tuesday, July 10, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I think that P.J. Proby did a wonderful job of the vocals, especially when you realise that the musical backings were so far from his usual backings. Heck, this is Prog Rock, I fail to see how and other famous 60's Legend could begin to fit into the mould as well as P.J. did. It's an ABSOLUTE ... (read more)

Report this review (#65274) | Posted by | Tuesday, January 17, 2006 | Review Permanlink

2 stars P. J. Proby was not a perfect choice to Focus, nor were guitarists Eef Albers and Philip Catherine. The result? A rather confusing album, without Focus's classical experiences and jazz-rock oriented. But there are some songs which deserves better attention: "Sneezing Bull" and "Maximum", both ... (read more)

Report this review (#22955) | Posted by M. B. Zapelini | Thursday, April 7, 2005 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Although featuring exceptional musicians one has to wonder what was going through Thijs van Leer`s brain when he recruited PJ Proby for this mother of all musical mismatches. Thijs van Leer`s classical influence just didn`t blend with the jazz minded Philip Catherine and Eef Albers. Ex- Journey drum ... (read more)

Report this review (#22954) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Thursday, March 4, 2004 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A mediane album of Focus. The voyce of P.J. Proby sounds sometimes a little exagerate in the entonation. The arrangements are moving to rock to the Jazz fusion, and sometimes are in a virtuosi style.For collectors. ... (read more)

Report this review (#22953) | Posted by | Friday, January 23, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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