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Focus - 3 CD (album) cover

3

Focus

 

Symphonic Prog

3.79 | 508 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Way out of focus!

"Focus 3" was released by the band at the height of their commercial success. With the hit singles "Hocus pocus" and "Sylvia" in the bag, the bag felt confident enough to produce a double LP.

Unfortunately, while they possibly had enough quality material for a good single album (or maybe I should make that an EP!), they fell into the trap of arrogant self indulgence. This may seem a harsh assertion, but the evidence is clear. Take for example "Anonymous two", which runs to some 27 minutes, and is spread across one and a half sides of the LP. Remove that track and we have exactly 40 minutes, or one album's worth, of material.

Starting with the positives, "Sylvia" is probably the best instrumental single ever released. Jan Akkerman's guitar work here is quite extraordinary, transforming what is already a wonderful melody into a unique masterpiece. The brief closing track, "House of the king", is a very Jethro Tull like flute dominated piece, with a soft (guitar) centre. "Love remembered" Is a delicate flute piece, reminiscent of King Crimson's "I talk to the wind" while "Focus III" initially follows the previous eponymous tracks with some nice organ backed lead guitar. Unfortunately, it all too soon moves away from the composed element into some more improvisation.

And that's pretty much it. From the opening bars of "Round goes the gossip", Focus make it clear that this album is to be mostly a directionless jam session where the band members take turns to indulge themselves in centre stage noodling. The album is virtually devoid of vocals, other than occasional yodelling by Thijs van Leer, and some strange chants on the opening track.

There is so much padding here, it makes American footballers look like synchronised swimmers. "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" manages to drag on for over 14 minutes, without going anywhere whatsoever. It features leads by organ, flute and guitar with occasionally pleasant interludes, but the themes do not sit well together and the constant improvisation is tedious and lifeless. While I'm (perhaps obviously) not a great fan of unstructured improvisations, I suspect that even those who do enjoy such music will find "Focus 3" to be poor.

" Anonymous two" is just awful, It sounds as if the band have just turned up at the studio with nothing prepared, switched on the recording machine, and jammed for half an hour. After about 20 minutes (on the LP version) the track fades, only to reappear on the final side of the LP. Just when we thought things could not get any worse, the piece descends into a lengthy drum solo, oh joy of joy!! The following "Elspeth of Nottingham" is a breath of fresh air, being a short, relatively simple folk based piece, but in all honesty after what went before anything would sound good.

In summary, with "Focus 3" the band shot themselves in the foot big time. They rewarded their fans with a double album of the band members indulging themselves in self gratifying improvisation, with little thought of quality. Perhaps Focus got lucky with their hit singles and "Moving waves" album, and "Focus 3" was actually a fair representation of their true direction. There is no doubt the band members are extremely gifted in terms of their performance skills. The message this album sends however, is that compositionally they were devoid of ideas, and had little in the way of quality control. Fortunately, they would go on to turn things around with the sublime "Hamburger concerto" album.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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