Thursday, July 14, 2016

Focus - 1971 - Focus II (Moving Waves)

Focus II (Moving Waves)

01. Hocus Pocus (6:42)
02. Le Clochard (2:01)
03. Janis (3:09)
04. Moving Waves (2:42)
05. Focus II (4:03)
06. Eruption (23:04)
-a. Orfeus, Answer, Orfeus
-b. Answer, Pupilla, Tommy, Pupilla
-c. Answer, The Bridge
-d. Euridice, Dayglow, Endless Road
-e. Answer, Orfeus, Euridice

- Thijs van Leer / vocals, Hammond organ, harmonium, Mellotron, soprano & alto flutes, piano
- Jan Akkerman / electric & acoustic guitars, bass
- Cyril Havermans / bass, vocals (6-b)
- Pierre van der Linden / drums, percussion

LP Imperial - 5C 054-24385 (1971, Netherlands) Initial edition entitled "Focus II" , later abandoned
LP Sire - SAS-7401 (1971, US) Entitled "Moving Waves" and new cover art (both adopted from then on)

Focus was pretty much a new band with the release of Moving Waves. Not only had the band completely restructured their rhythmic section but with it came a shift in direction. Thijs van Leer's vocals were used much sparsely, but the moments when he did bursts into song it sounded nothing like the voice that he depicted on the band's debut release. Lastly, Moving Waves is also the album where Jan Akkerman made his first prominent appearance as the guitarist that we know him as.
Hocus Pocus kicks off the album on an unusually rock style that was nowhere to be found on In And Out Of Focus and is a welcoming addition to the band's softer symphonic rock sound. It doesn't take Focus long to return to the more familiar ground and Le Cochard almost makes me forget any preconceived notion of the band's going into a Heavy Prog direction. First side of the album continues a very mellow phase with songs like Janis and the album's title track. Focus II is really not an exception to this rule but at least this one has a few sparks along the way. The guitar playing by Jan Akkerman reminds me actually a lot of Andrew Latimer's style, or maybe it was the other way around!

Side two consists entirely out of the 23 minute suite titled Eruption and is a loose conceptual piece depicting the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. I've honestly never payed much attention to the track's theme and just enjoyed the music as it is. Just like the few other lengthy tracks that Focus would produce in the early '70s, the material does feel a bit thin in comparison to its hefty time margin. At least this composition doesn't rely heavily on an instrumental jams between the band members, which is something that will become more prominent on the next release.

Overall, I'd say that this is another great album by Focus. It might be considered a step in the right direction after the much more commercially oriented In And Out Of Focus, but I'm not entirely convinced by that. This is nonetheless an excellent album that should be in every serious prog rock music collection.