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Focus - Ship Of Memories CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.16 | 179 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 3 2/3 stars, really - Focus' "Ship of Memories"is a collection of old takes and leftovers that this Dutch band released as a means to deal with the ultimate crisis of its classic line-up (Jan Akkerman's departure) while keeping up with the recording contract. The "Mother Focus" album had been an almost total disaster in artistic terms, showing a band that used to be grandiose until recently ("Hamburger Concerto" had been an amazing follow-up to the "Focus III" and live albums) going down as a muzak ensemble. This Focus had evidently fallen far out of focus. This album was not designed to show sings of improvement or further decay, but it actually happened to be a very good late testament for the Akkerman and Van der Linden days. In fact, most of the material comes from the time between the live album's release and the "hamburger Concerto" sessions. While in America prog, Kansas was elaborating one of its finest compositions ever with the linkage and rearrangement of various leftovers ('Magnum Opus'), Focus revealed that it could deliver pretty good ideas that didn't have much to envy those tracks that ultimately had made it for the first 5 studio efforts. One must really reconsider the traditional meaning of the word leftover in this kind of situations, even though the sound production quality is irregular throughout the album. 'P'S march' kicks off the album alternating an adapted joyful classical piece and a slow jazz-rock portion, combining light spirit and melancholy in a typically Focus kind of way. 'Can't Believe My Eyes' is a jazz-rock jam that exposes some of the most dynamic playing by Akkerman: despite not being too fast, it is energetic and it rocks big time. On the other side of things, 'Focus V' states a very reflective mood, based on eerie mellotron/organ layers and ethereal guitar phrases: the latter's controlled dynamics fits well the flute solo that appears somewhere in the middle. A lovely piece, indeed, it is a crime that it should be kept in the dark until this album was released. 'Out of Vesuvius' goes to a similar territory to that of track 2, if a bit funkier: some cadences may remind us of the 4th section from the 'Hamburger Concerto' suite. The album's second half starts with 'Glider', which basically is the original demo of what eventually became 'Mother Focus'. Unlike the insipid final result, 'Glider' happens to be a ballsy, effective exercise on rock-meets-funky, with a pleasant use of jazzy disco elements. There is also a funny entry of a rhythm machine, which joined with the extra percussion seems to flirt with the disco thing. But this is no 'Invisible Touch' or 'No Reply at All', this is a great piece of humorous, catchy rock: the added flavors provided by Akkerman's solos and Van Leer's multiple keyboard inputs are properly fuelled by the rhythm duo. 'Red Sky at Night' is a majestic exhibition of progressive romanticism: shifting things from the classy frivolity of 'Glider', this piece states a portrait of reflectiveness through its well-construed melodic development. The flute solo is pure Van Leer magic. 'Spoke the Lord Creator' is closer to the Focus that recorded the debut album, a bit na´ve yet catchy and proficiently performed. 'Crackers' displays a sort of strength that was sorely missing in "Mother Focus", while its framework remains similar to most of the tracks that were included in it. The namesake closer is a brief, experimental piece performed by a van der Linden doubling on drum kit (a ceremonious roll) and harmonium (soft chord progressions): the idea of a ship setting out to sea is well portrayed here. Surprisingly good, this album outdoes the preceding and follow-up efforts that Focus came out with in the wake of its career. Unlike the current resurrection era, way back then, the leadership of Van Leer alone wasn't enough.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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