It was good to be at the 100 Club on Oxford Street in London reccently to hear Focus in fine fettle on the day they released their new album - Focus 11. We didn't hear any tracks from the new album, although for the very first time they played Song for Eva as found on the previous Focus Family album. Otherwise it was much as usual, starting with the golden oldies Focus 1/Anonymus/House of the King and moving on to a nice version of Eruption then Sylvia and, form the more recent era, All Hens on Deck and finishing with La Cathedrale/Harem Scarem and finally Hocus Pocus. The encoure was Focus 2. No Focus 3 this time round. Two hours of sheer joy for most of us though some of the crowd appeared to be rather distracted. The support act featured Finnish Finnish vi=ocalist and slide guitar expert Erja Lyytinen.
Looking at the music of Dutch rock band Focus, started in the late sixties by Thijs Van Leer (b /31/03/48) with Jan Akkerman (b 24/12/46). Van Leer still performs and records under the name today (official site here). Akkerman's site here.
|My autographed copy|
I have had opportunity now to listen to the new Focus album several times. It is difficult to review a Focus album early on as their stuff usually repays many, many plays and it is often not until the umpteenth play that the full subtleties of a recording are sometimes appreciated. So far one is very positive certainly.
There are appropriately 11 tracks on the album. As usual, most track are entirely instrumental but with one vocal track. This time it is How many miles? a sort of pop song with fairly juvenile English lyrics but s good track. Two tracks were previewed on the previous stop gap album Focus Family - Clair-Obscur and Winnie. I think they are exactly the same as on the previous album. The other retreads are the opening track Who's calling? a reworking with a nice opening riff of the final track on the 1985 album called Focus and featuring Akkerman and van Leer. The second track, Heaven, will be familiar to some as a reworking of the original version of My sweetheart. This track is on the final Focus Akkerman album Mother Focus but first saw the light of day coupled with Love Remembered in 1974 in a concert in Japan.
The other seven tracks appear to be brand new. The stand out at the moment is Focus 11, the closing track, which keeps up the strong tradition of excellence those tracks all have. All the tracks on the album are van Leer compositons except for Mare Nostrum by the new bass player Udo Pannekeet. Palindrome appears to be a musical experiment that might well have come off. Mazzel is a rare reference to things Jewish. In general, the tracks feature the usual mix of bass, drums, guitars, organ, flute, lots of piano and some occasional vocalisations from van Leer.