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Focus

Symphonic Prog


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3.52 | 81 ratings | 12 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 2012

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Father Bachus (4:11)
2. Focus 10 (5:59)
3. Victoria (5:38)
4. Amok In Kindergarten (5:10)
5. All Hens On Deck (5:55)
6. Le Tango (5:37)
7. Hoeratio (5:48)
8. Talk Of The Clown (3:05)
9. Message Magic (4:00)
10. X Roads (5:49)

Total time 51:12

Lyrics

Search FOCUS X lyrics

Music tabs (tablatures)

Search FOCUS X tabs

Line-up / Musicians

- Thijs van Leer / Hammond, keyboards, flute, vocals
- Pierre van Der Linden / drums
- Bobby Jacobs / bass
- Menno Gootjes / guitars

Releases information

Eastworld Recordings

Thanks to windhawk for the addition
and to Snow Dog for the last updates
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Hocus Pocus: Best ofHocus Pocus: Best of
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Audio CD$9.64
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Hamburger ConcertoHamburger Concerto
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Audio CD$9.96
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Moving WavesMoving Waves
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Focus 3Focus 3
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Ship of MemoriesShip of Memories
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Mother FocusMother Focus
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Best of Focus 2Best of Focus 2
Import
Imports 2011
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FOCUS X ratings distribution


3.52
(81 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
15%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
42%
Good, but non-essential (32%)
32%
Collectors/fans only (9%)
9%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

FOCUS X reviews


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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Focus X' - Focus (7/10)

Focus have developed. By that, I mean that they have changed their sound over time- they're still Focus at heart, but things are different. Not 'different' in the way that some of progressive rock's most loved bands tempered their sound into commercial radio to the chagrin of their fans; just different, and by different, I mean jazz. Jazz has always been an aspect of progressive rock at large, but the classic incarnation of Focus tended to focus on the style's roots in classical and European folk. For the classicists looking for a piece of the classic Focus, their latest album "Focus X" delivers, but expect more than what you bargained for.

"Focus X" is an album of two sides. The first half (consisting of the first four songs) relies on a fusion form of smooth jazz. Largely instrumental, it is guitar-driven mellowness that bears a very close resemblance to the recent work by Pat Metheny. The piano backs up the sound with some tricky rhythms and the occasional flair for the theatrical that Focus are best known for. For many listeners (myself included) who know this band for their yodel-jam in "Hocus Pocus", this will come as a bit of a shock, albeit a very chilled one. The trademark flutes are relatively scarce here, instead leaving it to the guitar and piano to take centerstage. After a fiery entrance with "Father Bachus", "Focus X" devolves into a few fairly relaxing jazz pieces. The musicianship is excellent and the production is crisp, but at the end of it, one cannot help but feel that the 'mellow' approach isn't best suited for Focus. The theatrical, folky charm is what these Dutchmen do best, and as if they read my mind before the fact, that's precisely what they offer on the latter half of the album.

By "All Hens on Deck", Focus have picked up their pace once again. Although the jazz aspect lasts a mere fraction of the overall length, it feels quite a bit longer than it is, if only because it's so slow compared to the rest. I might describe this more energetic sound of Focus as a mixture of the strange charm of Magma and Zeuhl, with the composition and structure of Camel. Although standard, lyrical singing is present here, it's used quite scarcely. The vocals- when there are any- are used as an instrument themselves, another vehicle to get this sense of weird, carnivalesque bombast across. For anyone who has heard "Hocus Pocus" before, this won't be any surprise.

"Focus X" ends on a far better note than it started with. "Message Magic" is a beautiful piece of instrumental melodic rock, with a guitar tone that could tame a lion. "X Roads" picks up the pace one last time, taking the listener on a final trip that I might only describe as a Dutch take on a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. Focus have made a two-tiered attempt on their tenth record, and for a large part, it works. The jazz is not particularly impressive, but the musicianship is solid and constant. Focus' greatest offering lies in their more traditional craziness towards the end. The shift from one style to the other doesn't feel completely natural, but on the whole, Focus do not disappoint.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#833772) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, October 06, 2012

Review by richardh
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I have to admit to liking this 'New Focus' better than the old seventies version. Hocus Pocus was very nice but stuff like Hamburger Concerto and the longer jazz improvisations was not my cup of char. Of course there is no longer the mighty Jan Akkerman and many cite that as a reason for not giving the modern line up a try. Shame really as the last two albums proved what a tight and focused (oh dear) band they are but not lacking any creativity allbeit there are no long complex tracks to get your teeth into.

Unsurprisingly this has ten tracks. The first track Father Bacchus is an up tempo start with Van Der Linden showing lots of energy. Focus 10 is another variation on the theme they used right from their early beginnings. Pleasant enough. Victoria starts soft piano and guitar reminescent of the track Brother but also the ELP track Our Father.The amusingly entitled Amok In Kindergarten is very jazzy and pleasant. All Hens On Deck picks up the pace and its needed really. Birds Come Fly Over is more jazzy stuff with lovely flute.Hoeratio is a slower atmospheric peice. My favourite track on the album is Talk Of The Clown. Oldsy folsky and displaying a personality of its own.Message Magique is another pleasant but slightly unintersting track . The last track Crossroads is my second favourite track. Very nifty stuff that leaves us wanting more. In fact it should and could have been longer and not sure why it had to be curtailed.

Overall I would say a very pleasant listen but no advance on Focus 8 and Focus 9 which I prefer and rated 4 stars apeice.

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Send comments to richardh (BETA) | Report this review (#848140) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, November 01, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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Send comments to Windhawk (BETA) | Report this review (#850269) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, November 04, 2012

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
3 stars Focus are not a band I have indulged in that much over the years but I am very aware of their best material and the impact they have had on the prog scene. My Focus experience is based mainly on hearing odd instrumentals such as Harem Scarem and Hocus Pocus, owning 'The Best of Focus', and apart from hearing the debut, 'In and Out of Focus', and 4 star gems 'Focus 3', 'Moving Waves', and 'Hamburger Concerto', my Focus experience is reasonably sparse when it comes to the more recent lineups. However, a new album from virtuoso musos is irresistible so here we go.

It opens with manic flute, blistering drums and a driving rhythm, worthy of the legacy of Focus. It sounds a tad like the old rhythm of Hocus Pocus but that is okay as they invented it. Father Bachus is one of the best songs here no doubt. It is followed by Focus 10, the name of the album, and it has a cool lead guitar melody and nice flute from the legendary Thijs van Leer, who plays Hammond, keyboards, flute, and has a stint on vocals, though nothing as frenetic as on his classic works. Of course without Thijs it would not be Focus; for me it is like Dave Brock who must be present or it is not Hawkwind. He is joined by Pierre van Der Linden on drums, a triumphant return and one of the great Focus drummers heard on 'Moving Waves', Bobby Jacobs on bass, and Menno Gootjes on guitars. It is the same lineup as 'Focus 9' but without Niels, and only Bobby and Thijs has stuck with the group since 2002's 'Focus 8'. It is great that van Der Linden has returned as his drumming lifts this album to a new level of excellence. The revolving door policy is part of Focus history but I miss Jan Akkerman's guitars, however they play well under the direction of Thijs. Bert Ruiter, Colin Allen, and Jan Akkerman were the definitive line up for me though, and of course the drumming of van Der Linden.

The sound has changed now, no longer dangerous with lengthy excursions, and manic improvised vocals, but this album has neat little packages that can be described as pleasant and quirky jazz fusion music. Victoria is very relaxing melodic guitar driven music with the odd off beat moment. Amok In Kindergarten has delightful piano and jazzy percussion at first, then moves to a night club sound, with jazz keys and guitars, and some King Crimson style time sigs.

All Hens On Deck is a definitive highlight with crazy flute the way we love Thijs to play, and very fast tempo with those distorted guitar crunches. This is terrific with dynamic time switches, and when Thijs begins his loony intonations it is back to classic Focus. I recommend this to any Focus fan as it is so likeable and captures the incredible dexterity of the group perfectly. It actually sounds like Magma's Christian Vander in places especially when Thijs begins the low key intonations. It is a similar style to the 'Focus 3' opener Round Goes The Gossip. The ending is hilarious and Thijs is having a lot of fun obviously.

Le Tango is back to the more serious side of the band and has dreamy flute a catchy piano hook and the vocals are really well executed and way different than other Focus I have heard. The vocals sounds a bit like Robert Wyatt or even the Canterbury bands such as Caravan, it is quite a folk tinted sound, and very pretty melody as well.

Hoeratio is an odd slow piece with ethereal guitars and some low non English vocals that are gutteral and weird; I have no idea what Thijs is saying here but he puts a lot of passion into it. The guitars on this are excellent, soaring and emotional. It gets dark towards the end with weird chord changes and Thijs carrying on like a prog dictator, perhaps not saying anything, but this is again like Magma in style.

Talk Of The Clown is an amusing title so I expected some amusing music, and it is playful joyous Pied Piper flute backed by a medieval guitar sound. It feels like an Elizabethan jig reminding me of the odd Gentle Giant forays into the Middle Ages.

Message Magic has a strong percussive edge and some floating piano lines, and then the guitar brings in a lovely melody. It is one of the more beautiful pieces from Focus. It is very relaxing compared to the quirkiness of past tracks here. The flute augments the beauty and this is definitely a more romantic approach from Focus.

X Roads finishes things off with some fast Latino beats, jazzed up piano and bass, and excellent guitar flourishes. It cruises along nicely with a solid melody, and Thijs has a stint on vocals telling us he does not want to know how he feels at the crossroads, 'and there is no time to lose, love is far ahead and far behind, how can we still look back at the past it doesn't last, we can not change the mad times, I will love you till the end just like the time that keeps on growing.' I like what Thijs says here as it enhances the feelings in the music and it makes sense in its simple message. The bass solo over the manic percussion is wonderful too, and this is another of the highlights on the album.

'Focus X' shows there is still life in these dinosaurs of Symphonic Prog, and in a few tracks it captures the old Focus magic admirably. It is a new approach for the band, way more accessible than 'Focus 3', 'Hamburger Concerto' or 'Moving Waves' of course, as there are no multi movement suites. As Thijs states on the album, 'how can we still look back at the past, it doesn't last' and the band are clearly moving into new directions with this music. It has a great Roger Dean cover artwork which is never a bad thing, though it is not one of Mr Dean's most memorable designs. The album may lead newcomers to the group to check out the 70s material, but they will be in for a shock as this is a different animal. I enjoyed it and they are obviously brilliant musicians, but the album didn't jump out and bite me like other Focus albums I have heard. It is great that the band continue to create even after all these years and they still have a lot to offer, remaining one of the greatest instrumental based groups in history.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#900717) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, January 28, 2013

Review by Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Psych/Space Team & Band Submissions
3 stars They were underway touring Europe and I took the chance to see them in Hannover one year ago - an excellent gig by the way. However, I must admit I was surprised definitely when I heard the first announcement - a new album since 6 years on hold. Alongside with founding member Thijs van Leer on Hammond organ and flute, drummer Pierre van Der Linden is aboard, another early member who entered the band for the second album 'Moving Waves', where they finally really got started. Of course nobody can totally substitute Jan Akkerman on the guitar actually, but Menno Gootjes acts very close.

I know them since the 1970s and for me it's obvious that the opening song Father Bachus starts Hocus Pocus reminiscent in some way, with intent, right? That means, even if I would not know which album I'm listening to ... assuming that ... the FOCUS reference becomes immediately clear though. So overall this effort is made of songs with a familiar blend of symphonic and jazz rock elements, this time again with the strong emphasis on the latter for sure. Okay, let me point out the outstanding Victoria then, smooth, with piano attendance, a more courageous one featuring alternating moods.

Don't know what terrible story they associate with the instrumental Amok Im Kindergarten - the composition by itself shows a fusion-esque outfit in any case, releaxed but no less than tricky. X Roads is a song I always prefer to hear when dealing with 'X', yet another lively exemplar with strong jazz rock fundament and some solo attempt regarding the rhythm branch. Including several solid though not really thrilling songs 'X' comes not that intense and brilliant considering their early 70's albums, but is definitely worth a listen.

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Send comments to Rivertree (BETA) | Report this review (#903811) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review by Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Someone spiked the cornflakes or what?

Focus is giving one nasty lesson to youngsters with their newest album: don't underestimate us. The drums are fantastic, proving that Van der Linden still have plenty of gasoline in the tank. Where does he get such energy? And Van Leer is equally essential as before, he's still vigorous on piano and upmost at the flute. Probably my favorite flutist of all-time, he jumps from shredding to jazz licks with ease.

The guys are in splendid shape and they treat us with an album above your average contemporary band with loads of techs but with no feel. I don't see why people would snub this album, it sports everything proggers love, from the sci-fi cover to the jazz rock instrumentals we all know and love.

A real follower of the spirit of the 70's and another great entry in their gallery.

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Send comments to Menswear (BETA) | Report this review (#929974) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
3 stars In case you didn't know who you are listening to, they spell it out for you. Literally!

Focus X is, as the title implies, Focus' 10th studio album (not counting Jan Akkerman's & Thijs Van Leer's 1985 album entitled Focus and appropriately listed here as a Focus album). What strikes the listener almost immediately when hearing this new album is how close it is in both style and quality compared to classic Focus. If you are a fan of those four first albums from the first half of the 70's, by all means pick up Focus X. The band sounds almost as energetic as ever and they seem to have fun playing this music.

The contents of this album are largely instrumental, jazzy and folky tunes. Some vocals and vocalisations, but no yodelling this time! I enjoy this, just as I enjoy the classic Focus albums, but it is not something that I would listen to many times over. Nice sleeve picture by none other than the great Roger Dean.

Good, but not essential (unless you are a Focus fanatic)

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#935501) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
3 stars With "X", it feels to me that Focus is running on cruise control. There are many elements of the classic Focus, although only Thijs van Leer and Pierre van Der Linden of the old version of the group remain in the band. But on the down side, they show us nothing new, and at times appear to be trying too hard to recapture the old glory.

Nothing is more indicative of this than the opening track, Father Bacchus, which strains to sound as much like Hocus Pocus as it can without calling for accusations of it being the exact same song. And it doesn't help having van Leer shout over the beginning of the song "Ladies and gentleman, let me present Focus, F-O-C-U-S, Focus!"

The rest of the tracks show Focus to now be a competant light prog fusion band, playing elegant jazz with more than a little finesse. Menno Gootjes proves to be an adequate replacement for Jan Akkerman, but the material, while good, just doesn't stay with me very long after a listen.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#942033) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review by memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A classic band still creating good music.

This is Focus, and within this progressive rock realm, who doesn't know their music? Well, I believe we all are aware of who they are, but some of us may have thought they had stopped composing and releasing albums, surprise, they are here with a new CD entitled "X" which offers 10 songs and a total time of 51 minutes of pure Focus' music, I mean, you will surely have some reminiscences of their first albums here.

And that can be exemplified with the opener track "Father Bachus" which I am sure will take you to the past and remember their "Hocus Pocus" hymn. The rhythm is similar, it is good rock with Thijs' flute and excellent guitars by "Menno Gotjies" this time. Nice bombastic first track, so be prepared to what's coming next. "Focus 10" starts with a cadent guitar accompanied by soft drums and organ, so the sound is a bit jazzy. It is undeniable that the music offered here will remind us to the old 70s Focus, so after so many years the essence is still the same, which might be a double-edged knife if we are looking for bands that reinvent themselves.

"Victoria" starts like the previous song finished, with delicate piano; later drums, guitar and bass join and together create a new structure whose temperature will make different changes, I mean, you can notice where the rhythm is faster and more emotional, but also when it slows down and becomes melancholic. At 2:20 there is a nice talk between organ and guitar, so a new passage begins. "Amok in Kindergarten" has a darker mood, maybe due to the bass sound in the beginning, but later it becomes softer and with the delicate piano and acoustic guitar its sound is even sweet. The progressive rock concept may not be exemplified here at its best, however, here we can appreciate the jazz tendency that the band also shares.

The rockier side returns with "All Hens on Deck", you can even feel the rhythm and shake your body, I like when Focus turns this rockish because it is like showing another of its faces and not getting stuck in the classical or jazzy style. The combination of guitars and flute is great, but greater the energy of the drummer here. This may be one of my favorite songs of this album, in which we can also hear to Thijs' vocals. "Le tango" has a sexy sound with Spanish acoustic guitar, a cool bass, flute and constant drums, but more important, it has lyrics! Something pretty strange in Focus, but here we can enjoy a voice which produces a totally different sound, so here we can appreciate the innovation. Delicious track!

After that different song, "Hoeratio" returns to the essence of Focus with that particular style that blends jazz, classical and symphonic music, here a new voice is added, not singing but only speaking like telling a story, sadly I don't understand what he says, he speaks Latin I am afraid, and honestly, I believe this time Focus failed with this experiment, at least I did not like the voice, it screwed up the music. When the voice finishes a rockier style appears, with hard rock style and bombastic guitar riffs. "Talk of the clown" returns now to the pastoral and beautiful Focus sound that can be appreciate since the first seconds with the flute and guitar.

The last couple of tracks are "Message Magic" and "X Roads", the first has that soft rock mood, while the second has a delicious rhythm with Latin hints. The fist can be described as just another Focus song, while the second as a nice way to finish the album. Well, Focus X is without a doubt a very good album, Thijs van Leer is still a monster and it is great to know these classic bands have still something to offer, however, I do not consider this to be outstanding or revolutionary, it is simply an album easy to enjoy, but not mandatory in our collections. My final grade, 3 stars.

Enjoy it!

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Send comments to memowakeman (BETA) | Report this review (#1012233) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Latest members reviews

5 stars X marks the spot, and Focus X marks the REAL return of the band. Whereas the previous two albums did not quite have the energy and appeal of the original albums of the early seventies, Focus X is a completely different story. It is like a crossroad venturing into a new exciting era of the band. ... (read more)

Report this review (#926264) | Posted by DZ_NL | Friday, March 08, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars FOCUS: X (2012) 8/10 It seems that the old bards got a second wind! After a rather lackluster albums "8" and "9 / New Skin" that were recorded after their comeback in this century, the Dutch band Focus released at last album that continues in the best traditions of the 70th years and gives ... (read more)

Report this review (#897896) | Posted by Gandalff | Wednesday, January 23, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars When I unwrapped the latest album by Dutch progrock band Focus, I got a nice surprise: drummer Pierre van der Linden is once more holding the drumsticks. Van der Linden, who re-entered Focus on their previous album 'Focus 9', is probably the best drummer ever in the Dutch rock scene and he wa ... (read more)

Report this review (#862998) | Posted by Drawbars | Tuesday, November 20, 2012 | Review Permanlink

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