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Focus - Ship Of Memories CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.16 | 179 ratings

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5 stars Focus - Ship of Memories (1976)

On this album, somehow hidden to most fans of the band, Focus found some new ways to express it's more then capable musicianship. With Thijs van Leer on organs, keyboards and flute and no less then Jan Akkerman on the electric guitar some sensation can be suspected. On bass we have the professional Bert Ruiter and during the album we get to listen to three different drummers, among who Pierre van der Linden of the original Focus line-up.

Somehow the word spread that 'Ship of Memories' is an album full of leftovers from other records, but I must say the material sounds as if recorded in the same period. The style and sound is consistent. Having that said, the album does have a different approach then most other Focus records. There are very few vocals by Van Leer and there's more fusion to be found. The compositions are shorter and the sound is very full and well developed. There are little influences from classical music and the sound is rooted in heavy jazz rock. Somehow most compositions have distinctive atmospheres and it's apparent that on some tracks Jan Akkerman plays particularly psychedelic, fierce and confronting. I myself can't imagine any of these compositions being 'leftovers', because most of them are simply brilliant. Perhaps they weren't suitable for other albums because of the distinctive atmospheres that are less accessible then the symphonic styled tracks of Focus.

'P's March' is an opening track with two face; the folksy parts with flute (that perhaps sound a bit too optimistic) and the darker parts with brilliant guitar screams by Akkerman. Non of his solo's are melodic, but they somehow cut through metal. 'Can't believe my Eyes' is a heavy, dark psychedelic fusion track ? one of my favorites! The style is very distinctive; a bit troubling and exciting. The chords progressions are very original and the solo's of Akkerman psychedelic and confronting. The way he interprets these chords schemes without thinking to much about harmony, but instead focusing on the dark atmosphere is really a prove of artistic brilliance. It sure took me a while to understand this track though. 'Focus V' is another instrumental with a slower pace and a more clean style. The melodies sound intimate, yet again distinctive. 'Out of Vesuvius' is a great vehicle for very professional fusion jamming with lot's of great solo's of both Akkerman and Van Leer. Just listen to the thickness of the sound!

On side two 'Glider' is a great compositions with a funky fusion main theme and a symphonic/progressive refrain with some nice psychedelic screams by Van Leer. Great track. 'Red Sky at Night' is a composition that has some drama to it, which is very attractive for listeners of progressive rock. The emotional solo's of Akkerman really touch something whilst the impressive chords and especially moog bass by Van Leer make this a unique track. The flute parts are really welcome and it's good to see how the song be send into folky directions. Very catchy this one. 'Spoke the Lord Creator' is an optimistic track with some traces of classical music. This is perhaps the only track that really would have worked well on the debut or Moving Waves. Jan Akkerman's 'Crackers' (a track he would also record on self-titled album and play live frequently) is not a very attractive track because it's a pure fusion track with that let's dance vibe. 'Ship of Memories' turns out to be a short atmospheric impression by Pierre van der Linden. The opening has some nice drums and the hormonium piece that soon follows sound nostalgic, but not too professional.

Conclusion. This is my favorite Focus album, albeit a bit non-Focus-like. The distinctive atmospheres, the great use of fusion styles (which I find hard to find elsewhere!), the artistic bravery of Jan Akkerman (some of his best solo's), professional performance and great recording make this album a real winner. I can image fans of Focus being disappointed after first spin, but most of them will grow into it. For fans of the progressive fusion style this is the most attractive Focus album. Furthermore I would recommend repeated listening before making judging on this album. Somehow, after years of little replay this record started to fascinate me. I'm going to reward this one with the big 4,5 stars rating. Overlooked and underrated in my humble opinion.

friso | 5/5 |


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