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Focus Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer: Focus album cover
3.33 | 98 ratings | 11 reviews | 9% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1985

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Russian Roulette (5:54)
2. King Kong (3:55)
3. Le tango (4:55)
4. Indian Summer (5:50)
5. Beethoven's Revenge (18:53)
6. Olé Judy (3:52)
7. Who's Calling? (16:14)

Total Time 59:33

Line-up / Musicians

- Jan Akkerman / acoustic, electric & synth guitars, LinnDrum programming, co-producer & mixing
- Thijs van Leer / Hammond, Fender Rhodes, Fairlight, Yamaha DX7, Roland JX-3P, grand piano, soprano & alto flutes, vocals, co-producer

- Tato Gomez / bass (1,4)
- Ruud Jacobs / bass (5), co-producer
- Ustad Zamir Ahmad Khan / tabla (4)
- Sergio Castillo / drumfills (3)
- Ed Starink / Fairlight synthesizer programming

Releases information

Artwork: Ton Friesen

LP Vertigo - 8245241 (1985, Europe)

CD Vertigo ‎- 824 524-2 (1985, Germany)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy FOCUS Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer: Focus Music

FOCUS Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer: Focus ratings distribution

(98 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(9%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(24%)
Good, but non-essential (47%)
Collectors/fans only (15%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

FOCUS Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer: Focus reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by kenethlevine
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 1980s 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.

Review by ZowieZiggy
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 naïve, 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.

Review by 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.
Review by colorofmoney91
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.

Review by DangHeck
2 stars Right off the bat, we have, for me, a big ol' nope! Just plain weird to me. This is how an otherwise exciting reunion of founders AKKERMAN and VAN LEER kicks off... Focus, I guess, but in the '80s! Is this opening track gospel-tinged? Or is it "Soul"? I'm not saying anything is "off limits" but a strange (unsuccessful) choice indeed.

Really, seriously, the only track of note, in my opinion, is the one that follows: "King Kong" (thankfully, to me, not a cover of ZAPPA and them somehow contributing something also worth hearing haha). Driven by flute and acoustic guitar, we also have, instead of the unfortunate (here) drum machine, hand-drums(?!), I assume. A nice choice, a nice series of choices, that make this song beautiful and interesting, while not bringing about classic Prog pomp (that one might anticipate specifically from Focus themselves). A good track that I would hope Prog fans would enjoy.

The next two tracks of any sort of note are the two epics, "Beethoven's Revenge" and "Who's Calling?" But don't get it twisted: don't waste your time on the latter (for sure). Both sound good, but are pretty static. Forgive my true (likely annoying, set-in-my-ways) colors here, but I'd rather just listen to OLDFIELD. And for me, that's saying A LOT. I also just can't (as mentioned above) get behind the drum machine much at all. Jan does sound pretty good here though (on "Beethoven's..."). I mean, I suppose you would call this "Progressive Electronic" but featuring acoustic/classical guitar. Overall, especially for the former of the two epics, better in theory than in practice. Best parts arrive in the middle section around 9:00, where van Leer gives us some tasty faux-organ.

Noch ein mal: very static. A bit of a shame. But not a big shock. Not even remotely close to a 3/5.

Now that that's out of the way, how about a little time of introspection about when this came out, 1985. Interestingly enough, and this by the way is the only reason I wanted to do this, next on my shuffle was "Marathon" by RUSH off of Power Windows, released the same year. This is by no means, for me personally, a highlight of their career, but it's still a fine song on a fine album. Rush was still relatively young and relatively hungry (and knew very well how to transform with the times). What else, of note, was released this year, 1985? Misplaced Childhood (MARILLION), Hounds of Love (Kate BUSH), Le Poison Qui Rend Fou (PRESENT), Metal Fatigue (Allan HOLDSWORTH) and Energetic Disassembly (WATCHTOWER), just to name the top 5 rated albums here!

We can look elsewhere and we should.

Latest members reviews

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 - lik ... (read more)

Report this review (#1197976) | Posted by Anon-E-Mouse | Wednesday, June 25, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#175856) | Posted by digdug | Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 favouri ... (read more)

Report this review (#108208) | Posted by sircosick | Saturday, January 20, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 h ... (read more)

Report this review (#94663) | Posted by Paul Stump | Sunday, October 15, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 Jud ... (read more)

Report this review (#41421) | Posted by | Wednesday, August 3, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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´w ... (read more)

Report this review (#22956) | Posted by Tonny Larz | Wednesday, February 18, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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