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Focus - Hamburger Concerto CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.24 | 1006 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars I don't envy whomever has to decide how to classify artists into subgenres on this site! Focus is symphonic prog - - OK, works for me. Hamburger Concerto opens with "Delitę Musicę," a prog-folk number written by guitarist Jan Akkerman, which is followed by "Harem Scarem," a symphonic piece by keyboardist Thijs van Leer with a distinct jazzy (though not necessarily fusiony) interlude. After van Leer's "La Cathedrale de Strasbourg," which seems largely symphonic, side one ends with Akkerman's "Birth," whose clear folk, jazz, and classic-rock elements are at least as prominent as its symphonic elements. Based on this LP side, one might guess this was a symphonic prog artist, but guesses of prog-related or possibly "eclectic prog" might also be reasonable.

Anyway, side two is given to Hamburger Concerto's title track, written jointly by Akkerman and van Leer. On the digital download I have, this is followed by "Early Birth," a variation of "Birth" which, as noted by prior reviewers, acts as a reprise of that song, and is a nice way to end the album, even if the original LP ended with "One for the Road," the final section of "Hamburger Concerto." Surprisingly, although it's divided into six sections with distinct writing credits, the 20-minute "Concerto" does not come across as a medley of distinct songs; its sections flow together nicely. At the same time, its variety of themes and styles compliments the first side and its stylistic contrasts.

This album appeared a year or so after Focus hit the US top ten with the single "Hocus Pocus." Maybe I'm the only one who views "Hocus Pocus" as a novelty song, but at least technically, yodeling in a pop song was a novelty in in 1973 - - and I'm pretty sure it still is. While "Hocus Pocus" has the potential for being annoying, I enjoy it. Hamburger Concerto is not a "Hocus Pocus" soundalike, but there's no doubt that it's a product of the same band. And by the time van Leer is using his voice as an instrument for the fourth or fifth time on side two, it does approach obnoxiousness.

Nonetheless, Hamburger Concerto is a good listen. Other than my minor complaints about the (wordless) vocals, I'd say this album maintains a consistent level of quality in performance and composition. Maybe the most prominent exception is the album's high point, "Harem Scarem." I agree with those who say that "Harem Scarem" is the song on this album which is most like "Hocus Pocus;" although parts of "Concerto" sound more like parts of "Hocus Pocus," "Harem Scarem" more resembles "Hocus Pocus" from the standpoint of composition.

A good, though nonessential, product from Focus.

patrickq | 3/5 |


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