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Focus - Focus Con Proby CD (album) cover

FOCUS CON PROBY

Focus

 

Symphonic Prog

2.52 | 95 ratings

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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.

GruvanDahlman | 3/5 |

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