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Focus - Focus 9 / New Skin CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.22 | 100 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars This is an hard to rate album. I am a big fan of the '70 Focus and this 21th century version of Focus isn't so different from the original. Theirs one big problem though: Jan Akkerman didn't join the reunion. Akkerman is one of my favourite guitarist in the world, so this is quite a dissapointment. Thijs van Leer and Pierre van der Linden are now the basismembers of Focus. Thuis van Leer was their main songwriter and van der Linden was their best drummer.

First of all, after all these years... does it still sound like Focus? Amazingly, yes it does! The classical influences, the guitarsolo's and the vocals are 100% Focus. The only problem is the sound.. it's a modern recording that somehow doesn't seem to work for this once legendary progformation. The music is somehow more flat then it was, making it harder to creates atmospheres. It doensn't sound so special anymore... the musicianship isn't to blame for this; all the instruments are very well played. Might this be my own feeling of nostalgia?

However, I am now going to discuss the most important compositions of the record. Black Beaty is the opener of the album and a sort of happy jazz composition with Focus-like storyline inversions in musical theory. The melodies end in a unexpected way. Mediocre song overall. The next composition Focus 9 is much better. Its a ballad withoud lyrics, a great composition. This is the truth meaning of building up a song and it's emotions. The guitar parts by Niels van der Steenhoven are very good but still in short for whe used to have Jan Akkerman.

Hurkey Turkey 2 isn't one of my favourites. It's main theme is a standerd rock theme. Then the theme with the flutes doesn't impress me very much an the middle clownsection is irritating. A missed shot. Sylvia's Stephson however does impress me. Great opening melody with those nice organs we expect to hear from Focus. Atmospheric, perfect. But then after minute 2 1/2 some strange theme is intruduced that has nothing to do with the rest of the song. This is a pitty, some other part instead of this theme would have finished the song, but now it's just a bit strange. Niel his Skin is quite boring song. Guitartheme based is doesn't make me feel warm at all. It's almost sounds like elevator music. Music that sounds professional but not interesting.

From here on I'm going to skip a few songs. Aya-Yuppie-Hippiej-Yee is one of the bether instrumental songs of the album. A theme from their first album is recycled however. Nice tensionbuilding and a great achievement of Niels van der Steenhoven and Thijs van Leer playing together. A live version of this song I saw was very nice too. Some great drumpart by Pierre van der Linden finish this good song. Curtain Call is song that's very good but does not get a lot of attention because of the length of the record (73 minutes). Atmospheric, 100% Focus, with flutes!

European Rap(sody) is a strange creation. Beginning like a classical opera overture it sounds great. Some chords are hard for the beginning ear but will be appriciated by the hardcore progfans. After a while suddenly a polka theme is introduced... how strange. However, it does seem to work for Focus. After minute 5 we have another suprise: a main theme with van Leer talking about song they've played. Basically he mentions all their most important songs with nice instrumentation under it. In the end, it's a song hard to appriciate for it's strange form. After this song you get sick of this album with yet another 11 minutes on the clock... when is it going to end? It's way to long! It might have been a masterpiece if all the best parts were used in 50 minutes instead of 73. Some parts are brilliant and others are boring... with the length of this album this is realy a big problem. Its actually the main problem. And boring means elevater like music. Not simple or bad.. but just not interesting.

In Summary; it's an album with great compositions and great musicanship. Though it's much to long; the more Jazzorientated progfans will like it. For me it just doesn't work completely like the older Focus albums did. It's hard for and '70 band to decide wether to have a brandnew sound or more of the old. This struggle is to be found on this album. Three stars.

friso | 3/5 |


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