February 17, 2019
Focus was, and sometimes still is, a Dutch progressive rock band who found success in the United States during the first half of the 1970’s. Formed in the late 1960’s by Thijs Van Leer; their early line-up included guitar virtuoso Jan Akkerman. Albums such as Moving Waves (1972), Focus 3 (1971), and Hamburger Concerto (1974) sold several million copies in the United States and produced the quirky hit single “Hocus Pocus.”
The Focus Family Album is a two-disc, 20 track CD that includes 10 tracks by the band and 10 tracks by various current and former members; hence the name of the album.
The group tracks are modern era in origin, originally recorded for several different projects. The represent the band’s current approach and are competent progressive rock.
The solo tracks are more eclectic and experimental. How good they are depends on the listeners ability to stretch their minds.
Individual solos dominate the individual band members contributions. Pierre van der Linden presents two tracks from his experimental Drum Poetry album. Band leader This van Leer donates two flute pieces that run counter to the drum tracks. “Hazel” is an acoustic guitar piece by Menno Gootjes that demonstrates his precise style. Udo Pannekeet brings a unique approach to his bass playing through the use of a fretless bass on “Song For Yaminah” and a six string bass on “Anaya.”
The album is not a cohesive affair. The full band tracks have a finished feel, while the individual pieces find the members experimenting and, in some cases, doodling on their own. In many ways it is the band deconstructed.
The Focus Family Album is a niche release for hard core fans of the band. If you want to experience their full power and creativity, check out their 1970 releases.
January 10, 2017
Focus is a Dutch band formed in 1969 by vocalist/keyboardist/flute player Thijs Van Leer and featuring guitarist extraordinaire Jan Akkerman. They are a progressive rock band that takes the road less traveled by making use of odd rhythms and the use Van Leer’s flute as a Dominant instrument.
They gained their greatest commercial success and fame during the first half of the 1970’s. The band disbanded in 1978 but a number of reunions led to their reformation during 2002. Focus 8, released in 2002, was the first release of this new phase of their career. Three more studio albums have followed but their new release, Focus 8.5, was recorded between their eighth and ninth studio albums, hence the 8.5 title.
During the 2005, Focus was touring in South America and all the tracks were recorded between concerts. Even though the tracks have lain dormant for over a decade, they are not throw-a-ways. All are original composition by the band members and producer/musician Marvio Ciribelli.
It is the South American connection that defines the album and music. They make use of a number of local musicians who fuse traditional Latin rhythms with their progressive rock sound. This is particularly true for drummer Marcio Bahia who joins band member Pierre Van Der Kinden to create a depth of layers to the percussion. It all adds up to a very different, yet satisfying, progressive rock album.
“Focus Zero,” at over ten minutes, takes a classic approach with dashes of improvisation layered over the melody and rhythm section. “Surrexit Christus” and “Millennium,” with two drummers, explore a number of rhythms. “Rock 5” is a rhythmic orchestral piece. “Talking Rhythms” is only drummers Van Der Linden and Bahia going at it.
If you are a fan of Focus, this will be a treat. If you have not been exposed to their sound, this album will be an adventure.