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Focus - The Focus Family Album CD (album) cover

THE FOCUS FAMILY ALBUM

Focus

 

Symphonic Prog

3.12 | 6 ratings

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Matti
Prog Reviewer
3 stars I rank this classic Dutch band among the finest prog bands of the 70's, perhaps as No. 1 of non-British artists. In their halcyon days both Thijs Van Leer (organ, flute, vocals) and Jan Akkerman (guitars) composed excellent, often classically influenced music, but within a few years most of that excellence was gradually lost and Van Leer disbanded the group in 1978. Later, as we know, he recruited new musicians and reformed Focus without Jan Akkerman, and on the new Millennium the band has produced several albums that have gained good reception among prog listeners.

Sad to say but the later discography of Focus isn't yet very familiar to me. Let's see how this 2-disc compilation manages to convince me of its strength -- although it's not all Focus but contains also solo material from Van Leer, drummer Pierre Van der der Linden, guitarist Menno Gootjes and bassist Udo Pannekeet, as well as two tracks from SWUNG, an improvisational project project of Gootjes, van der Linden and bassist Bobby Jacobs. Something like "Yes, Friends and Relatives" (1998), even with the same cover artist Roger Dean. The varied material is put in a mixed running order, ten tracks per disc (by the way, both discs are only c. 44 minutes long). The 12-page booklet introduces tracks shortly.

Both discs start with Thijs Van Leer's flute solo piece (seemingly recorded in nature, birdsinging included) from 2017. They are meditatively relaxating but as close to art music as New Age. // Pierre Van der Linden's drum & percussion solo numbers, from from an album initially made for friends only, are frankly not very interesting in their dryness. // Menno Gootjes' solo pieces for acoustic guitar are very enjoyable, proving he's a virtuoso player familiar with old music such as Bach. // A few years ago I listened to the two SWUNG albums: to me they were rather boring, jam-based doodling, despite great musicianship, but the samples work nicely in this compilation. // Udo Pannekeet's ambientish solo pieces for bass guitar sound surprisingly bright and airy.

And now onto FOCUS material that form the majority of the compilation. Advanced fans owning the albums will be delighted that there are no album tracks per se, instead either unincluded songs from the sessions or remixes of album tracks. 'Song for Eva' was recorded during the Focus X sessions but not included due to its 9-min length. Very good, and if the album is on this this high level, it's undoubtedly worth hearing. 'Victoria', originally from that same album, is here in a vocal remix. Without the vocoder this would be a better piece, in the classic, melodic Focus style. 'Mosh Blues' is a blues instrumental recorded in Brazil 2012. Having never been very keen on blues, this is just a filler to me; the sung version featuring Jo de Roeck (on 2nd disc) is better.

'Birds Come Fly Over (Le Tango)' is here sung by Thijs, whereas on Focus X it was sung by Ivan Lins, who in turn sings 'Santa Teresa' from the X sessions. This is perhaps the least interesting of the vocal tracks here. 'Five Fourth' is a nice instrumental in the classic Focus style, dating from 2014, and 'Winnie' a melancholic instrumental from Focus 11 sessions.

The inclusions of solo stuff from various musicians (or trio improvisation, in the case of Swung) make this compilation very varied, and occasionally slightly uneven too. As an introduction to Focus in this Millennium it makes me wish to hear the albums. 3 stars.

Matti | 3/5 |

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