Saturday, July 13, 2024

Focus – Focus 12

Focus have now joined the ranks of those bands who can trace their existence back fifty-plus years, which is some achievement, and their lineup still includes founding members, band leader and principal songwriter Thijs van Leer, and drummer Pierre Van der Linden. In their pomp, they were tagged as a prog band, which would probably still be true today, though their music contains strong hints of jazz and classical overtones. It didn’t hurt they also had virtuoso musicians in Van Leer, on keyboards and flute, and guitarist Jan Akkerman, and they carved out their own niche with stylish and inventive rock music.

If this is your first exposure to Focus, you should be aware they’re a band which performs mainly instrumental music, with the occasional yodel from van Leer, though his high pitched voice has dropped a decibel or two down the years. This becomes apparent from the opening notes of the funky/jazzy ‘All Aboard,’ which sounds like a good way to open a set. Akkerman has long since left the band but, in Menno Gootjes, they’ve replaced him with another outstanding guitar slinger and he’s that good, he’s more than capable of making you forget Akkerman was ever in the band. Listen to his stunning solo on ‘Fjord Focus’ .. it’s a fantastic piece and was recorded in only one take. As Menno says, “just listen and be taken on an adventure”.

Several of their earlier releases contained some lengthy epics but there’re none on this album, with the longest being a mere five minutes. Two tracks, ‘Bela’ and ‘Born To Be You,’ barely run to five minutes and are just van Leer tinkering on the keys. Tracks like ‘Gaia’, ‘Positano’ and ‘Bowie’ are all fair enough tracks but sound like the band is playing within itself. However, on ‘Focus 13’ the band really lets rip with some intense playing and is something more akin to Focus back in the day. A shout-out must go to drum man Van der Linden who, despite being 78 (van Leer being a mere 75) stands out on ‘Meta Indefinita’ with some sterling drum fills.

As you’d expect, the playing on this album cannot be faulted, but several of the tracks have the feel of a band going through the motions. Given the talent in the band, more tracks like ‘Fjord Focus’ and ‘Focus13’ would have made this a much more positive album.

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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Focus have now joined the ranks of those bands who can trace their existence back fifty-plus years, which is some achievement, and their lineup still includes founding members, band leader and principal songwriter Thijs van Leer, and drummer Pierre Van der Linden. In their...Focus - Focus 12