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GOLDEN OLDIES

Focus

Symphonic Prog


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5 stars This "Golden Oldies" album is the FOCUS album I had always wanted to have, but didn't exist. All great titles from the Focus history, re-recorded in a perfect way with a perfect line up. Old Focus grandmaster Thijs van Leer is wielding his flute and is taking care of the keyboard parts, once more the most important and most talented Focus drummer Pierre van der Linden is caressing and beating up his drums in a perfect way. As always on the twenty first century albums by Focus there is Bobby Jacobs on bass guitar and with Menno Gootjes Focus have probably found the best guitar-player in their career.

Not only the recordings are new, the arrangements have been refined, adding extra piano parts and doubling rhythm guitars. You get perfect renditions of classics like Focus I, Focus II and Focus III. The flute solo in Focus I is so well recorded and played! Songs like Sylvia and the Jethro Tull-like "House Of The King" have found their definite versions.

Hocus Pocus opens this album in a completely renewed version, although I have to admit that the yodelling has even deteriorated, comparing to the previous recordings. "Tommy" (written by Solution sax-player Tom Barlage) starts with a long complex drum break by Pierre van der Linden and gives us a perfectly performed guitar lead by Menno Gootjes.

21st century songs comprise "Aya Yippie Hippie Yee" (who thought of that stupid title), "Neurotica" and the beautiful masterpiece "Brother" in which Menno makes his guitar weep in a fantastic lead.

This album is recommendable to those who already know Focus and would like to hear all band classics in a modern recording, but it is also a great way to discover this band for those who didn't know the band yet. They will get well-balanced melodic progressive rock by a great band, that started its career in 1970 and is still going strong!

VintageST

Report this review (#1189971)
Posted Tuesday, June 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Focus is a Dutch rock band which is one of many band that with their unique view on music created what today is considered progressive rock. On this page "Golden oldies" is the twelfth album but in their own counting it seems to be their eleventh. "Golden Oldies" from 2014 has a black cover with a golden Focus' sign and the name oldies comes from the fact that this is a re- recording of earlier material such as their main theme "Hocus pocus" and others.

Thijs Van Leer plays organ, flute, vocader and sings, Pierre van der Linden drums, Bobby Jacobs plays bass and Menno Gootjes guitars. The record is very even: from the first second to the last the listener is caught in its world. The play is brilliant, they have done a very good job to make this music and these versions are very talanted.

I could say that every track is my own favourite but there are differencies. "Neurotica's" vivid and unstoppable happy melody makes it a 10/10 by me and the softer "Tommy" is also lovely(9/10). "Sylvia" is a both hard and romantic piece(9/10), "Hocus Pocus" is both hard and high intentioned music and a funny joke(9/10) and all the other get 8/10 from me. "It feels like "Focus 1" and "Focus 3 & 2" are the most experimental and I like them very much as well.

This record is near perfect for me but, I hesitate still. If it had been the first try, if we had never heard these songs, the astonishing feeling perhaps had been bigger, but the fact that these songs are already recorded by this band lowers the rating from five to four stars.

Report this review (#1234380)
Posted Monday, August 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
Matti
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I took the liberty to change this album into the compilation category, sorry if someone strongly disagrees with me of its nature. A new line-up led by Thijs Van Leer re-recorded the band's existing material, spanning from the not-so-strong debut and the highly acclaimed album classics of the early seventies to Focus 8 (2002). Therefore the title Golden Oldies not only sounds stupid, it's also partly false. Sadly the leaflet is also very cheap-looking. All in all I see this CD as a missed opportunity for a more noteworthy new release of the premier Dutch prog legend. And I'm quite surprised of the high average rating, unusual for a compilation of no more than an album length. Hopefully I don't sound too critical: it's great that this wonderful band still exists in the first place.

What else starts the CD than their biggest hit 'Hocus Pocus'. With the original version still fresh in my mind, I fail to see any good reason to re-record it (or these oldies in general), except for the way the royalties are dealt. There are no notable differences compared to the originals. In my opinion the excellence of FOCUS relies a lot in the equal creative partnership of Van Leer and the original guitarist Jan Akkerman. As a compilation this one naturally more or less excludes the stuff that Akkerman composed (with the exception of 'House of the King' - I haven't heard the debut completely; maybe Van Leer's composing gifts weren't blooming yet on that album). I have nothing against Menno Gootjes' excellent guitar work here, and it truly cannot be said that the guitar as an instrument would be in a minor role throughout this CD.

Indeed, in the terms of music alone this is a very good listen, and quite handy as an introduction to the band if one happens to need one. But for those who already have the classic albums this is pretty ignorable release, and if a newcomer would want to proceed further in collecting Focus, this may turn out to be a frustrating set to own.

I don't know where 'Aya Yuppie Hippie Yee' originates from, but apart from some deliciously wild flute playing it's one of the weakest tracks. 'Neurotika' and 'Brother' are from Focus 8 (I haven't heard whole studio albums by the Akkerman-less newer line-ups). 'Neurotika' is considerably rockier than the art music influenced classic era, but it is a good, lively track in its own way. 'Brother' comes nearer to the classic Focus sound but I don't like the raw vocals in it. Presumably Van Leer's wife wrote the lyrics? Happily the CD in general is very much instrumentally oriented, as the whole Focus output is.

The appeal of a compilation has a lot to do with the representation (the visual and the informative side), and in that sense "Golden Oldies" leaves a cheapie feel. For the music alone this would be four stars.

Report this review (#1255572)
Posted Friday, August 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars Not all olden and golden

The horrible name 'Golden Oldies' might suggest that this is a compilation album, but in fact it is an album of re-recorded versions of tunes from throughout the band's career. As such it is a lot less interesting than an album of brand new material and it is indeed appropriate to wonder why they felt the need to do this at all. The re-makes of tracks from more recent albums like Aya-Yuppie-Hippie-Yee originally from 2006's Focus 9 and Neurotika and Brother from 2002's Focus 8 are particularly questionable as these are neither olden nor golden. In my opinion these would better have been left out in favour of more classic Focus tunes.

Not surprisingly they open with their biggest hit Hocus Pocus which is still fun to listen to, but this new version does not add anything of value to the original but instead takes away some of its original charm. The best part of this album is definitely tracks three through six: House Of The King, Focus 1, Sylvia and a medley of Focus 3 & 2. These lovely classic Focus tunes sound very good here and make Golden Oldies worth a listen for Focus fans. However, this is also something of a lost opportunity as they could have included several more.

This album is hardly essential and if you possess the original studio albums, you really do not need this one.

Report this review (#1256622)
Posted Saturday, August 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
ProgShine
COLLABORATOR
Errors & Omissions Team
4 stars Now, let me say that I wasn't expecting ANYTHING when I received this CD. To be honest I was indeed expecting something: a bad something!

I usually don't like re-recorded albums and most of the time I see no point in a band doing it in studio, if you want to record the actual state of your band after changing in its line-up do a live record...

Also, for Focus to do it I can see only ONE explanation: that the band cannot reissue their classic albums because of some issue, that would explain why to go to the studio to do new versions of such classic songs.

Now, having said that let me go to the main topic which is: is this a good record or not?!?

The overall answer is YES!

Focus managed to print in the new versions something very hard for a band to do: maintain the original feel and yet bringing something new to the versions.

In general if you ever saw the band live in the last 10 years or so there's no surprises here. Also if you own one of their live CDs/DVDs of the same period you also know this versions. But, as I said, Focus managed to re-record this songs and give them a new and fresh look but keeping everything that made the originals classics. That's something.

Following leader Thijs van Leer (Hammond, keyboards, flute, vocals) are Pierre van Der Linden (drums) - also from the golden period - , the long time bassist Bobby Jacobs and the new axeman Menno Gootjes. Is nice to see also Jan Dumée doing the screaming vocals part on the classic Hocus Pocus cause he also marked the story of the band when the returned to the stages some 15 years ago.

Overall a great re-recording album. But if you're too `puritan` just skip it.

Report this review (#1351371)
Posted Friday, January 23, 2015 | Review Permalink

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