Friday, July 15, 2016

Jan Akkerman and Thijs Van Leer - 1985 - Focus

Jan Akkerman and Thijs Van Leer 

01. Russian Roulette 5:54
02. King Kong 3:55
03. Le Tango 4:55
04. Indian Summer 5:50
05. Beethoven's Revenge (Bach-One-Turbo-Overdrive) 10:47
06. Ole Judy 3:52
07. Who's Calling 7:30

- Jan Akkerman / acoustic, electric & synth guitars, Linndrum programming
- Thijs van Leer / Hammond, Fender Rhodes, Fairlight, Yamaha DX7, Roland JX3P, grand piano, soprano & alto flutes, vocals,

- Tato Gomez / bass (1,4)
- Ruud Jacobs / bass (5), co-producer
- Ustad Zamir Ahmad Khan / tabla (4)
- Sergio Castillo / drumfills (3)
- Ed Starink / Fairlight synthesizer programming

This is a highly underrated album and (almost) stands comparison with Focus' 70s peaks of Moving Waves and Hamburger Concerto.
This van Leer plays flute and synths with all his usual skill and Jan Akkerman's guitar playing still has fire in its belly, particularly the blazing soloing on Ole Judy and the evocative atmospherics of Who's Calling? Russian Roulette is my favourite track, having a lovely relaxed piano/guitar motif which repeatedly segues into more upbeat sections with great precussive piano.

The weakspots are Beethoven's Revenge which is a somewhat pedestrian funk number and Indian Summer which, while pleasant enough, sounds like something they might play in my local Tandoori!

Also there are no proper drums on the album (where was Pierre van der Linden?) and the use of synthesised percussion can be annoying (this was the 80s after all). But still Focus' talent was more than enough to rise above that naffest of decades to produce a very enjoyable album.

Focus - 1978 - Focus Con Proby

Focus Con Proby

01. Wingless (5:35)
02. Orion (4:08)
03. Night Flight (3:40)
04. Eddy (5:54)
05. Sneezing Bull (4:27)
06. Brother (5:19)
07. Tokyo Rose (5:08)
08. Maximum (8:40)
09. How Long (5:16)

- P.J. Proby / lead vocals
- Thijs van Leer / keyboards, synths, flute (5)
- Eef Albers / lead (1-4,7) & rhythm (9) guitars
- Philip Catherine / acoustic (5), lead (5,8,9) & rhythm (1-3,6) guitars
- Bert Ruiter / bass
- Steve Smith / drums

I think that P.J. Proby did a wonderful job of the vocals, especially when you realise that the musical backings were so far from his usual backings. Heck, this is Prog Rock, I fail to see how and other famous 60's Legend could begin to fit into the mould as well as P.J. did. It's an ABSOLUTE CREDIT to P.J's vocal abilities, and I feel that he was the right choice for Focus. He added the right kind of spice that they needed to sound good. I take my hat off to the man. P.J. you did excellent work and my favoutites are "Brother" & "Tokyo Rose."

Focus - 1976 - Ship Of Memories

Ship Of Memories

01. P'S March (4:48)
02. Can't Believe My Eyes (5:23)
03. Focus V (3:02)
04. Out Of Vesuvius (5:50)
05. Glider (4:39)
06. Red Sky At Night (5:51)
07. Spoke The Lord Creator (2:33)
08. Crackers (2:44)
09. Ship Of Memories (1:47)

Bonus Track on CD editions:
10. Hocus Pocus (US Single version) (3:25)

- Thijs Van Leer / vocals, organ, Mellotron, clavinet, flute
- Jan Akkerman / guitar, sitar
- Bert Ruiter / bass (1-5,8), vocals
- Martin Dresden / bass (7)
- Pierre van der Linden / drums (1-5,9)
- David Kemper / drums (6,8)
- Hans Cleuver / drums (7)

This album is a collection of unreleased tracks, including obscurities and different takes.
Most of it was recorded during 1973.

Another underrated album. This one features outtakes and rarities from mostly 1973, one track from the first line-up and a few from the later line-up (Mother Focus). Side one is truly great! First track P's March was intented to be a single and fits fine with the early single "House Of The King". Second one "Can't Believe My Eyes" contains very good guitar-work by Jan Akkerman and Focus V is a smooth track, but very beautiful. One of Focus' best tracks in my opinion. Out of Versuvius turned out later as a passage in "Hamburger Concerto" The music's quality on this record is really good and sometimes I'm surprised they are outtakes. Especially if you like the Focus from 1973 (Focus II & 3) you will appreciate this album.

Focus - 1975 - Mother Focus

Mother Focus

01. Mother Focus (3:04)
02. I Need A Bathroom (3:05)
03. Bennie Helder (3:32)
04. Soft Vanilla (3:03)
05. Hard Vanilla (2:35)
06. Tropic Bird (2:43)
07. Focus IV (3:58)
08. Someone's Crying... What! (3:19)
09. All Together... Oh That! (3:42)
10. No Hang Ups (2:56)
11. My Sweetheart (3:36)
12. Father Bach (1:33)

- Thijs van Leer / keyboards, flutes, vocals
- Jan Akkerman / guitars
- Bert Ruiter / basses, vocals
- David Kemper / drums
- Colin Allen / drums

- Thijs van Leer / keyboards, flutes, vocals
- Jan Akkerman / guitars
- Bert Ruiter / basses, vocals
- David Kemper / drums
- Colin Allen / drums

Focus here featured virtuoso guitarist Jan Akkerman for the last time, not to work with his long-term writing partner Thijs Van Leer for another ten years. Mother Focus also sees Focus' highly skilled bass player Bert Ruiter try his hand in songwriting. The outcome includes the one of the finest funk tracks on the album -- the hilarious "I Need a Bathroom." The album begins with quite possibly the finest track on the album -- and maybe the most typical Focus -- the titular "Mother Focus." The funky theme underlying the number sets the mood for the rest of the LP with aplomb. Indeed, Mother Focus is far from the usual instrumental material. For this reason, Mother Focus may not appeal to the usual fans of the Dutch proggers. The number of feel-good tunes making up the album's core makes up for the lack of a rocking single in the style of "Hocus Pocus." A mellower, happier aura permeates the recording as a whole, particularly noticeable in the soothing "Tropic Bird." Undoubtedly, though, Mother Focus is let down by the lack of Akkerman's and Thijs' presence. The whole album cries out for one of them to jump out and take center stage for a while. Instead each track is filled with numerous melodies and rhythms, with only the occasional jaunt from Akkerman. Mother Focus is a fine album in its own right, but maybe not what one would be expecting when taking into account the progressive rock features of their earlier albums. Funk predominates in the last respectable Focus LP.