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Focus - Focus Plays Focus [Aka: In and Out of Focus] CD (album) cover

FOCUS PLAYS FOCUS [AKA: IN AND OUT OF FOCUS]

Focus

 

Symphonic Prog

3.49 | 329 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nš 429

"In And Out Of Focus" is the debut studio album of the Dutch progressive rock band Focus and was released in 1970. Focus was formed in 1969 by keyboardist, vocalist, and flautist Thijs Van Leer. He recruited the bass guitarist Martijn Dresden and the drummer Hans Cleuver. Later, they were joined by the guitarist Jan Akkerman. The result of this had its climax with the release of their debut studio album "Focus Plays Focus", better known as "In And Out Of Focus".

"In And Out Of Focus" was the first and only album of the band to feature the original line up. So, the line up on the album is Thijs Van Leer (vocals, organ, electric piano, Mellotron, harpsichord, vibraphone and flute), Jan Akkerman (guitars), Martijn Dresden (bass guitar) and Hans Cleuver (drums and percussion).

Unfortunately, "In And Out Of Focus" was little noticed outside the Netherlands. Because of that, dissatisfied with the lack of success of this first album, Jan Akkerman left the group to form another band. Hans Cleuver and Martin Dresden also left Focus shortly after that. However, Jan Akkerman and Thijs Van Leer joined again and with two new members the bassist Cyril Havermans and the drummer Pierre Van Der Linden, they continued with the Focus musical project.

"In And Out Of Focus" has eight tracks. The first track "Focus (Vocal)" written by Thijs Van Leer and Hans Cleuver is a very calm track with soft vocals. It's a sweet opener with a nice and simple musical atmosphere where we can hear a gentle guitar playing with a nice sound, a repetitive bass line and a good drum beat. The second track "Black Beauty" also written by Thijs Van Leer and Hans Cleuver is a different song from the previous one. It's a song that sounds more like a song of the 60's. It's a good song with a strong and well elaborated melody but with no great instrumental parts and that sounds a bit dated. This is a nice song but with nothing special on it. The third track "Sugar Island" written by Thijs Van Leer and Jan Staal is a song with many common parts with the previous song. It's also a song that sounds to the 60's and so, it's also a bit dated, too. However, this is, in my opinion, a better song. It has some fine flute playing by Thijs Van Leer and it has also a good guitar performance of Jan Akkerman. The fourth track "Anonymous" written by Thijs Van Leer, Jan Akkerman, Martin Dresden and Hans Cleuver is, without any doubt, the first great musical moment on the album and that finally sounds like the Focus we all know and love. This is a typical Focus track that became as one of the classic songs of the band. The performance of all band's members is absolutely extraordinary and shows clearly the great musical talent of all of them. The fifth track "House Of The King" written by Jan Akkerman represents another great musical moment on the album and it's another legendary track from the band. This song shows perfectly well the compositional abilities of Jan Akkerman and the perfect harmony between the flute of Thijs Van Leer and the acoustic guitar of Jan Akkerman. Despite be one of the shorter songs on the album, it represents really, one of the most exciting and refreshing musical moments on it. The sixth track "Happy Nightmare (Mescaline)" written by Thijs Van Leer, Martijn Dresden and Mike Hayes is another different track and it's also a less typical song of the band. It's a very good song influenced by jazz and with pleasant harmonies and with a beautiful use of the mellotron and the electric guitar, too. The seventh track "Why Dream" written by Thijs Van Leer and Hans Cleuver is a song with a kind of a weird starting but that develops gradually and that finally ends in a magnificent way. It's a song with a melancholic tune but that has, at the same time, a nice and strong melody. The aggressive guitar performance of Jan Akkerman is absolutely spectacular and it's very well accompanied by the Hammond organ of Thijs Van Leer. The eighth track "Focus (Instrumental)" written by Thijs Van Leer is a revisiting of the peaceful opener track. This track is, without any doubt, the best and the most progressive song on the album and it's another classic gem of the band. It's an astonishing track with about 10 minutes with incredible improvisations that moves constantly between guitar, keyboards and flute. This is Focus at their best and represents perfectly the progressivity and the quality of their music and how great they can be.

Conclusion: I must confess that I'm sincerely convinced that "In And Out Of Focus" is an underrated album on this site. I know it has some weaker musical moments such as "Sugar Island" and especially "Black Beauty". However, it has also some great musical moments such as "Anonymous", "House Of The King" and especially the title track "Focus". As we all know, all these songs became classic tracks of the band. By the other hand, despite some tracks are a bit dated, "In And Out Of Focus" is, in my humble opinion, a marvellous debut album that already has the seeds of the musical magic formula that would put Focus and Netherlands on the progressive rock map. Of course it isn't, for sure, their best album, but it's certainly an enjoyable and diverse work. Somehow, we can say that Focus is the father of the Dutch progressive music. Focus it's also one of the best and most representative progressive rock bands of the 70's.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |

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