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Focus - Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer: Focus CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.47 | 83 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Actually, this is not a Focus album but an Akkerman/Van Leer album, but since this duo of geniuses who knew each other so well but didn't always look eye to eye despite their shared musical interests in jazz-rock, prog and classical music were keen on the idea of taking back the essential Focus sound and refurbish it in the 80s era of digital sonic explorations, naming this album "Focus" happened to be logical and natural. This is the sort of thing that Focus should have released after the amazing "Hamburg" experiment, since the band finally suffered from inconsistency and loss of creative energy after reaching such a tremendous apex. Something is going terribly wrong with a great band when a compilation album ("Ship") immensely surpasses a studio effort ("Mother") and then, the following album's few highlights are written by newcomers. This "Focus" album conceived by this new encounter of Dutch progressive minds is the definitive testimony of the musical imagination that Focus had still in store but took so many years to take shape and meet its material reality. So, once you get this album and are treated with the stylish romanticism of 'Russian Roulette' and the lovely, refereshing flavors of 'King Kong', you can almost touch the creative vigor in pure Focus style. Van Leer remembers his old-time partner's vibe so well that you might bet that he wrote Akkerman's polished guitar lines for 'Russian Roulette' in his sleep; meanwhile, Akkerman seems to have Van had Leer's agile flute playing physically present in front of him while writing 'King Kong'. Nevermind if the digital keyboards are overwhelming in places or if the use of rhythm computers and an electronic drum kit feels "cold" or "lacks the human touch". The chemistry is there, unhidden, revealing in the wide open, and fueled with authentic creativity. 'Le Tango' is a track I find less brilliant than the first two, but it is still entertaining and well-constructed: it features Argentinean airs among its solid jazz-pog displays, of course. Adding rockier guitar parts (both electric and synth guitars) and exotic moods, 'Indian Summer' provides a captivating exercise on jazz-rock in its most refined form. Another rocker is 'Olé Judy', a piece that might as well have been expanded 1 minute longer since its catchiness doesn't seem to wear out yet while we get to the fade-out. I own both the vinyl and CD versions of this album, so I'm aware that the two long tracks are even longer in the latter edition. I admit that I find the 'Beethoven's Revenge' modern jazz-funky jam a bit too exhausting in its 18+ minute incarnation: it worked better for me in its 10+ minute vinyl version. On the other hand, the captivating lyricism of 'Who's Calling?' does resist the longer CD format quite efficiently. This is romantic, eerie prog rock at its best, Focus-style and all. It might have been entitled 'Focus VI' or something, since its introspective intimacy makes it quite related to the spirit 'Focus V' (from the "Ship" album). Overall conclusion: a very good album that provides the perfect testament of the Akkerman/Van Leer partnership, a long overdue progressive tribute to the significance of Focus that our friends Jan and Thijs paid from the bottom of their hearts. Better, way better than what other old 70s prog bands were doing at the time.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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