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MOTHER FOCUS

Focus

Symphonic Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
1 stars Very poor follw-up to their Hamburger Concerto. This is more sung than the previous three altogether. It sometimes baffles me to see how a band can alter from excellence (Hamb Conc) to mediocrity (this one). None of the tracks here are any better than very very very average mostly because they ran out of ideas.

This album spells out the end for this band but it will be a long horrible one: A strong bottom-of-drawer album (much better than their normal studio albums to come) , then some weird association with singer PJ Proby , and an association with Belgian guitar master Phillipe Catherine, replacing Akkerman for that album.

This one is to be avoided at all costs.

Report this review (#22941)
Posted Monday, February 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This record is really alive and rythmic. Not really progressive, the songs are rather short, mostly lasting 2-3 minutes. The keyboards are often floating ("Soft Vanilla", "Someone's Crying", "No Hands Up", "Father Bach"), the kind of floating backgrounds TRIUMVIRAT and Gary Wright used to employ.

The guitarist makes some simple guitar solos, and they are rather sentimental. The Clapton-esque "I need a Bathroom" is a bit surprising and maybe disappointing. "Bennie Helder" is probably the best one: very rythmic, alive, melodic, loaded and a bit progressive. "All together" sounds maybe a bit country!!! But it is not bad!! "Focus IV" is a good mix of piano and romantic guitar high notes.

I'm sure many FOCUS fans would find this record as bland as shopping center music, but IMO, it is not bad at all, rather well made and non monotonous.

Report this review (#22942)
Posted Thursday, April 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars Disco Focus would have probably been a more suitable title for this last Focus album before Akkerman and Van Leer decided they hated each other`s guts.ABBA could have been easily called in to lay down vocal tracks on this funky one. Although traces of the classical themes which made their earlier work shine are still present on tracks like Bennie Helder and Father Bach this record has absolutely nothing to do with previous work. Guitarist Jan Akkerman`s pre-occupation with more upbeat,simpler and shorter songs undoubtedly had a lot to do with the drastic change in musical direction.This is also reflected on his post Focus solo work.There`s certainly a feeling of tension in the music as Akkerman persists with the funk thing despite Van Leer`s attempts to slip in the odd classical phrasing here and there. Akkerman even makes his singing debut on I Need A Bathroom which was penned by bassist Bert Ruiter. The addition of American drummer Dave Kemper in place of Colin Allen does nothing as Allen was probably fed up with the incessant bickering between Akkerman and Van Leer. Disco Focus is definitely not a happy album from our once happy Dutch Masters and ultimately sounded the death knell for the band. From Masters of Rock to Masters of Shlock, avoid this horrible and tragic way for this once brilliant band to bite the dust.
Report this review (#22943)
Posted Monday, April 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
martin1.palme
5 stars I had seen some poor reviews of this album long before I heard it. I had some slight reservations initially, but quite soon I realised that the album was not only classic Focus, but added a disco style poignancy to the melodies. The superb harmonic progressions in Bennie Helder alone would be sufficient to justify purchase, but the rest really works too. The album works as a whole, there are no fillers, and the best way to listen is to play the entire thing from start to finish. I must admit that I am always slightly disappointed when it's over. Maybe it just appeals to a drifting personality, there are some especially ambivalent musical moments, but I feel it needs a bit of defending against all the knocks.
Report this review (#22945)
Posted Wednesday, October 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
bestmusicexpe
4 stars This is not bad and certainly not disco. If you want a band TOTALLY out of their realm AND doing disco, then listen to Queen do disco on Hot Space. Here, Focus just does more structured, 3-4 minute, jazzier, poppier songs. Earlier albums had a time range of: Moving Waves- 2min to 23 minutes Focus 3- 2 & a half minutes to 28 minutes.

This one has a range of 1:30 to 4:02. So if you want extended drawn out cuts, then don't get this one.

The highlights: Bennie Helder, Hard Focus, Focus IV, All Together... Oh That, No Hang Ups & Soft Vanilla.

The lowlights: With everything else in the middle i pick 3: I Need a bathroom (Sung by BERT RUITER, not Jan as another reviewer says) Father Bach & Once in a while i think Someones Crying is on the list. Sometimes it isnt bad though.

While most focus is to sit in a chair and think about what you are hearing, this one is better for reading to.

Report this review (#22946)
Posted Sunday, May 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars All I wish to say is that this is not Disco, the album is a tight collection of beautifuilly recorded songs in the style of the Jazz Crusaders, members of which Thjis van Leer had worked with on his solo projects of the period, notably the incredibly beautiful and rare album "O My Love". Get it if you can find it. "Mother Focus" by modern standards would be termed "smooth jazz" and is not so much progressive rock but none the less is worth adding to your Focus collection. I also feel that "Hamburger Concerto" is not as strong as their previous albums "Moving Waves" and especially "3". These are great because Pierre van der Linden is still the drummer. (Colin Allen is rather boring in my opinion.) For that matter Live At The Rainbow is worth seeking out, though it's not the best of the van der Linden albums. PvdL also worked on the first "Trace" album with his keyboard virtuoso brother Rick, which I personally think really influenced TvLeer's keyboard style. By the way, "Trace" is a fabulous album, completely instrumental.
Report this review (#52600)
Posted Friday, October 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is an album of fill-in tracks, pleasant enough, but lacking a centre of gravity, a total contrast to Hamburger Concerto.

There is some good material, but it isn't developed. This is particularly true of delightfull "Bennie Helder" which features the most stupid fade out ending of all Focus albums!

The threw away better material than this - listen to "Ship of Memories".

Report this review (#52692)
Posted Friday, October 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars I can remember being perplexed and disappointed when hearing this. Returning to it I find I cannot warm any more these days to it - in fact it sounds positively embarrasing at times. My first impression was the thinness and predictability of the soundscapes: horrible string machine creeps in on many tracks (replacing the glorious mellotron of Clochard & Pupilla), talk-box guitar & electric sitart replaces the tough humbucking overdrive of Akkerman's custom Les Paul, and the drums have been relegated even further to backbeat status. Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against a shift to disco rhythms (closet Abba fan that I am) and Akkerman's funk could be top-notch (Crackers from Ship of Memories is tight white- boy funk in the vein of White Cherry) but the ideas here are thin and rarely worked out. Listen to how the high class 'No Hang-ups' (actually premiered on their previous Hamburger Concerto tour) just dribbles away into a pointless fade rather than become a Focus epic. Focus iv is a poor relation to it's sublime forbears - no direction and that horrible string machine again... Bennie Helder (who?) and Father Bach certainly merit a listen, and Mother Focus is not too bad, but the rest are sub-MOR jazz noodles unworthy of this band. In they end they were following a trend: ELP - from Trilogy to Love Beach / Gentle Giant - from Octopus to Giant for a Day / Focus - from Moving Waves to Mother Focus.
Report this review (#54479)
Posted Thursday, November 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars In the words of The Critic, "It stinks!". I don't consider Hamburger Concerto to be Focus's best album like most (that honour goes to Focus III, in my opinion), but the fact remains that this album is a terrifying step down from the one previous. Sure, there are a few nice flourishes like on the opening track, ending track and Focus IV, but that's about it. A few nice flourishes. The rest is just not worth your time. Thus, the album itself is not worth your time. Maybe worth hearing once just to find out if it's truly so bad (much like Love Beach, Invisible Touch, etc.), but then it's quitting time after that. One star
Report this review (#80925)
Posted Sunday, June 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This album came to me at the right time, and I can only say that it is a very enjoyable listening experience, but don't expect anything like 'Answers Questions, Questions Answers' or 'Eruption' (both earlier classics). The album is built around many shorter tracks, and I'd wish that some of them were longer, as certain tracks are suggestive of lengthy jams but fade out before they get going. I don't get the 'disco' vibe that some reviewers have felt with this album, but some of the numbers are quite funky - 'Hard Vanilla' is a good example, also 'I Need A Bathroom'. Other songs have an 'armchair prog' feel to them - 'Soft Vanilla', 'Tropic Bird' - maybe bordering on 'muzak', but they are actually beautiful tracks. The track 'Focus IV' is almost the quality of previous material but way too short to compete, and most other tracks are worthy of hearing anyway, even if a little uninspired. Van Leer uses a lot of keyboards, and less of his flute on this album, and the sounds generated often paints the music with the sound of '78 or '79, thus making the album sound ahead of its time. Of course, this is just an opinion, everybody's taste differs - some will like, others will hate, fortunately, I like. Good, but not strictly essential.
Report this review (#102312)
Posted Sunday, December 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Is this one an underrated album? I don't know, but I just give four stars.

Easily the weakest points of the LP are the sung track, "I need a bathroom", and the empty and repetitive Soft Vanilla, Hard Vanilla and All togheter..., but the rest... aren't bad! The wonderful Someone's cryin'..., put my mind flying upon the clouds, and the imprescindible Mother Focus and Bennie Helder are definitively... enjoyable. Focus IV is another beautiful song, but unfortunately Mr. Thys puts some funky arrangements (I recommend the Jan Akkerman's solo version called "Soft Focus", from his album "Blues Hearts"; it's wonderful: no funky touchs)

No Hangs Up is a very sad songs, that touches me deeply, and the short ending Father Bach is also good. Do try it, anyway.

Greetings, prog fellowship.

P.D.: My english isn't the best. I'm sorry.

Report this review (#108212)
Posted Sunday, January 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars "Mother Focus" is elusive; what happened since Hamburger Concerto that would change the band's style from brilliant prog rock to average and utterly dull funk? It can't be the line-up as it's not too different from the last album - the band's two key members are still here. I guess Focus were trying to try to get some more cash, but this is rarely the way to go in case of progressive bands. There are some bright moments here but they are few and far between. "Bennie Helder" is the best one on here, and was evidently written by Thjis (it's pretty obvious from the harmony). "Focus IV" is not too bad, although the dullest in the Focus series. Unfortunately nothing positive can be said about most of the rest. Actually the title track is a great composition but on this album you will find the muzak version of it. Check out "Gilder" on their album of unreleased tracks "Ship of Memories" and you will hear a fantastic reworking of it (or is this the reworking of "Gilder"? - I don't know). For big fans of Focus there still might be something of interest, hence the 2 stars. "Mother Focus" signaled a change for progressive rock, this signal was followed up by "The Missing Piece", "Love Beach", "Tormato" or "And then there were three". In this aspect Focus were pioneers.
Report this review (#128030)
Posted Tuesday, July 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Slartibartfast
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Soft Focus. The title is a play on words, think of a swear word actor Samuel L. Jackson uses a lot. This is lite jazz stuff, but as mellow music goes, it is great listen. Elevator music should be this good. As far as classic prog artists going into commercialistic music in the '70's, this may have been a first coming out in 1975, Yeah, the album is lopsidely mellow, but what the funk? I've been listening to it for years and its nice music to relax to. Tropic Bird reminds me a lot of my honeymoon in Hawaii, even though, I'd been listening to it for more than a while before.
Report this review (#132995)
Posted Monday, August 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars After the release of a masterpiece ("Hamburger Concerto"), a follow-up album is not always an easy task to put together. And this is instantly confirmed as soon as you start to listen to "Mother Focus". The title track sets the pace with a groovy and jazzy mood also available in "Soft Vanilla". Both numbers are rather weak (especially the latter one, with its "elevator" type of music).

What to write about "I Need A Bathroom" for instance ? A completely useless funky track. Since, their sense of humour is quite high, the listener will have to suffer some "Hard Vanilla" after the soft one. Same awful stuff as well. To remain into the jazz - piano - bar mood, just have a listen to "Tropic Bird".

So far, the band frequently released a song called "Focus" (as such, II, III). They were always one of the best number of the album. So, "Focus IV" just follows the tradition. It is one of the very few true "Focus" song. Nice flute and guitar. Of course, it is a bit mellow but after all those awful songs, it gives you a bit of relief (almsot four minutes, actually). In this context, I guess that the spacey and aerial "Someone's Crying...What!" also belongs to the good songs (?) available on this work.

But the second part (well I guess it is) "All Together...Oh That!" is a country type of song which is rather unpleasant as well. So, the massacre goes on. "No Hang Ups" is also a traditional "Focus" song. Very similar to "Focus II" and its Camel-ish sound. Very pleasant and my fave from this album. Extremely melodic and emotional. What a pity that it ends so abruptedly. It could have last some more minutes...

Some disco beat with "My Sweetheart". Stop please ! Hopefully the end of this joke is almost over with a very short tribute to "Bach" I guess. Not too bad.

The ones who complained that "Focus" produced too long and improvised jams on "Focus III" (and I belong to those ones) can not do the same here. The longest song clocks at 3'58. Fortunately, it will be the best one.

If you want to dicover this band, by no means you should start with this effort. Actually you'd better never listen to it. I wouldn't be too harsh though, and because this album do hold two great songs ("Focus IV" and ""No Hang Ups") I will rate it with two stars.

Report this review (#135078)
Posted Monday, August 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Look out for the steam iron, Marylin!

Following up their finest hour "Hamburger concerto" was always going to be a major challenge for Focus. To their credit, the band decided not to attempt to make "HC2", but completely changed their approach; thus we have an album of no fewer than 12 disparate short tracks. Things were less than rosy in the Focus camp by this time, "Mother focus" being the last by the band to feature both of their main protagonists (Akkerman and Van leer) together. A further album would appear ("Ship of memories"), but this was a collection of unreleased material similar to Led Zeppelin's "Coda".

Interestingly, a significant number of the compositions here are by bassist Bert Ruiter; were Akkerman and Van Leer holding back material, aware of the impending band implosion, or had they simply run our of ideas?

Things begin in a fairly conventional Focus way with the title track, Akkerman's acoustic guitar soon giving way to a burst on lead. Van Leer adds some yodels and other vocalising and provides backing in the form of the now ubiquitous polyphonic synthesiser. Things take an immediate dip though with Bert Ruiter's "I need a bathroom", his repeated singing of the title causing significant empathy on the part of the listener.

Van Leer's "Bennie Helder" is a "Sylvia" like pop number with a pleasant melody, the lead guitar of Akkerman coming in briefly towards the end of the track. Ruitar then takes over the writing for the remaining three tracks on side one. "Soft vanilla" is straightforward piece of lounge jazz. It is immediately followed by "Hard vanilla", a funky rendition of the same melody. "Tropic bird" reverts to the smooth "Soft vanilla" style, Ruiter's bass being the lead instrument.

The second side opens with Van Leer's "Focus IV", the longest track on the album at a shade under 4 minutes. The "Focus" title for the track brings with it certain expectations, and it is certainly the closest we get to a proper lead guitar solo by Akkerman. The track is a bit too light but it is arguably the best of the bunch on the album, with fine flute, guitar and keyboards. It is however necessary to overlook some superfluous bursts of funky synth towards the end.

Jan Akkerman's main writing contribution is a pair of consecutive laid back numbers. While they are pleasantly soothing, do not approach them expecting the dynamics of his contributions to previous albums. The second, "All together.. oh that" has a distinctly country flavour emphasised through the twanging guitar. Band comrade Paul Stoppelman writes "No hang ups", a track which seems to gel the band together better than any other here. Akkerman's guitar has its familiar ring, and Van Leer supports him with some fine organ work. Unfortunately it fades several minutes too early. "My sweetheart" is another enjoyable but disposable light pop number. The album concludes with "Father Bach" (the title continues the punning of the title piece), an arrangement of a classical theme by Van Leer.

In all, not a bad album by any means, but there again do not approach "Mother focus" expecting to hear a lot of similarities with previous albums by the band. This is very much a Focus lite album.

The sleeve is a bizarre image of a fighting ship firing a cross shaped laser at a steam iron which is about to land on a naked Marylyn Monroe like figure!

Report this review (#141215)
Posted Sunday, September 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Geesh. _Mother Focus_ is a great album. Very underrated. It's nothing like Hocus Pocus or the lengthy Eruption from _Moving Waves_, but it's a softer Focus showing their musical versatility. This one needs defending for sure. If a comparison can be made, think of the direction Soft Machine took with later albums like _six_, _seven_ and _bundles_. Think of the tracks like _Soft Weed Factor_ and _chloe & the pirates_. This is the sort of direction Focus approached on MOTHER FOCUS. This is definitely an album for a sunny summer day or breezy spring day. If you're a laid back individual, this would appeal to you. It reminds me of the same mood Sopwith Camel came up with when they recorded their masterpiece _The Miraculous Hump Returns To The Moon_. Highlights include Bennie Helder (3:32) 4. Soft Vanilla (3:03) 5. Hard Vanilla...and the interesting _I Need A bathroom_ which is not far removed from Neil Young's _t-bone_ from the album _Re-Ac-Tor_. Same idea. :-)
Report this review (#163645)
Posted Monday, March 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Mother Focus is underrated album, but deservedly so. It is sad to hear how poor product was recorded by almost the same group of musicians who delighted the prog world just a year before, with the masterpiece Hamburger Concerto.

Here the music is totally collapsed into an easy-listening, lounge music, a jazz-funk crossover, that is a nice background for rediculous TV commercials or housewives' documentary series. But not for prog rock audience. Simply put, this album is boring to death. Imagine the watered-down STEELY DAN mixed with the worst CAMEL of the 80s and add some SPYROGYRA spices. Even similarly dull instrumental music of SKY at the turn of the 1980s sounds interesting when compared to Mother Focus. Too cheesy and slimy syrup music to pay attention to. Avoid.

PERSONAL RATING: 1,5/5

P.A. RATING: 1/5

Report this review (#164146)
Posted Monday, March 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Actually, not a bad little mid'70s fusion-ey album here. Just a lousy Focus album.

The good news, 4 of the 12 tracks (the title tune, Bennie Helder, Focus IV and especially No Hang Ups) rank among the band's really good tracks. The bad news, the remaining 8 tracks are perhaps the worst tunes (or to be kinder, the least distinguished) that any version of Focus ever committed to vinyl. And in the case of the charmingly titled I Need A Bathroom, maybe among the worst tunes anyone's done. God bless bass player Bert Ruiter, but good night ... was this Ruiter-authored tune a stinker! And horror of horrors, this was the track that got a fair amount of play on FM radio at the time. Some DJs have a sense of humor, I s'pect.

Still if you get the courtesy of picking and choosing the songs you want from this album, I highly recommend the four noted above. As for the rest, well ... !

Report this review (#194666)
Posted Monday, December 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Soft Vanilla for sure, but I love this album in the same way I love Rubber Riff by Soft Machine and Blitz by Thirsty Moon. It's transitional fluff probably in part to keep with the times and in part because this monster four piece ran out of useful ideas. Akkerman is restrained, the music is a mishmash of background music like the kind you'd hear in an elevator or grocery store. It is tasteful and has a place in my collection as background music, a curiosity I pull out sometimes when I'm washing my car. Serious prog fans should check out previous releases, Focus is a great band. This is not a great album, but All Together....Oh That! is a superb, awesome instrumental that features pedal steel and terrific piano and wouldn't be out of place on a Flying Burrito Brothers album. That song is worth the price of the album for me. It's gorgeous, if you have a chance listen to it
Report this review (#1245442)
Posted Tuesday, August 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Another review for an album from 1975.

A more accessible album from FOCUS in comparison to their previous albums. After their very good and more elaborated (in Progressive Rock Music terms) "Hamburger Concerto" album from 1974, it seems that by 1975 the band was taking things more easily musically speaking, and they decided to record a more "light" album, which in comparison to their next album ("Focus con Proby") still sounds like a FOCUS's album, maybe more thanks to Jan Akkerman's presence on guitars, in his last album appearance with the band in the seventies. The band took a more Pop Rock direction, still with some Prog Rock music inlfuences, but also adding a bit of Jazz-Rock and Funky Music influences. Humor is still present in "Mother Focus" and "I Need a Bathroom". But mainly with three songs written by Bert Ruiter the Funky / Jazz-Rock / Pop comercial musical influences are more present in this album ("Soft Vanilla", "Hard Vanilla" and "Tropic Bird").

The most "Progresive Rock" songs in this album are "Focus IV", "Someone's Crying . . . What?", "All Together . . . Oh, That!", "No Hang Ups", "My Sweetheart" and "Father Bach". All sounding like "Light Prog" but still a bit "Progresssive".

FOCUS as a band was going to explore more the Jazz/ Rock Fusion musical influences with their next album, titled as "Con Proby". Apparently, Akkerman didn't like the new musical direction that the band was trying to have for their next album. So, he left the band (or was fired), and then, with two new guitarists and a new drummer the band recorded the "Con Proby" album (with lead singer P.J. Proby) in 1977, sounding like their lost most of their original musical identity. But some of the first steps towards that Jazz/ Rock Fusion / Funky musical styles were taken in this "Mother Focus" album in 1975, but still having some of the "old" FOCUS's Prog Rock musical style of their previous albums.

This is not a bad album, but also it is not one of their best albums. A 2.5 stars rating from me for this album.

Report this review (#1504386)
Posted Sunday, December 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars At the time I did not have this album and for a long period I also did not know why the great guitarist Jan Akkerman left the band. Now listening to other Focus I can understand: after the glorious Hamburger Concerto, this was a major blow. Lots of prog bands were stuck in a rut one time or another during their career, but clearly Focus was one of the first. It seems that This Van Leer�´s jazz/rock leanings and Bert Ruiter�´s love for funk music gained the upper hand here over their previous symphonic sound. I understand that the guitarist was losing ground after the departure of Pierre Van Der Linden (who also wanted to remain in the classic symphonic sounds of old) and now it showed. In any case, Mother Focus is proof that the band (or part of it) wanted to try other things. The results were dismal, however: longe jazz, funk and soul tracks, a little jazz/rock fusion too, but everything way below anything they had created before. Only two tracks here justify their former glories: Focus IV and No Hang Ups, both still inspired (but not much) and bearing all Focus trademark sound: beautiful guitar solos, nice organ background, excellent flute interventions.

But there are truly awful tracks too, like I Need A Bathroom (fitting title!) and the pseudo funk My Sweetheart. Overall the feeling remains of a great group who just menage to release a mediocre album to fulfill their contractual obligations, for the LP lacks any real direction, inspiration or energy. A real let down after the fine Hamburger Concerto. And the end of an era for this classic band. Now I truly understand and have to agree that it was better for Akkerman to leave the band then to stay aboard, if that meant another album like this one.

Rating: two good songs to justify a 2 star rating. For collectors, completionists and hardcore fans, only.

Report this review (#1740317)
Posted Sunday, July 2, 2017 | Review Permalink

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