New album that maintains vintage style …
Studio Album, released in 2002
1. Rock & Rio (3:27)
2. Tamara’s move (5:17)
3. Fretless love (6:08)
4. Hurkey Turkey (4:15)
5. De ti o de mi (6:30)
6. Focus 8 (6:19)
7. Sto ce raditi zwota (5:26)
8. Neurotika (3:47)
9. Brother (5:39)
10. Blizu tebe (6:38)
11. Flower shines (5:41)
Total Time: 59:07
– Jan Dumée / guitars, vocals
– Bobby Jacobs / bass
– Thijs van Leer / Hammond organ, flute, vocals
– Bert Smaak / drums
Releases information Cd. Musea FGBG 4472.AR
It’s my natural tendency not to take a closer look of band(s) who were very successful in the 70’s and then disappeared, all of sudden by virtue of one or two members of original line-up, made another effort in 2000 with new album. I thought, their come back is just merely for commercial reason and take a benefit from the fact that the music industry is now a bit booming by promoting the memorable releases. By no exception is this Focus 8 album. I could not imagine that I would be able to accept the fact on “musical degradation” of old band like Focus who was very successful with songs like “Focus 3”, “Sylvia”, “Hocus Pocus” (in fact this song was used by global television network as background of TV news), by releasing a new album. So, when I saw this CD at local CD store, I was not interested to get it and, even worse, no intention to search the review of this album on the net!
But then when this year I got a chance to listen this album due to courtesy of my long time prog friend, Hardiansyah Rizal, I’m happy with the fact that this album still maintain the style, the energy and, most importantly, the quality that the band produced in the 70s knowing that only one member of the legendary line-up remains: Thijs Van Leer. Regardless you know the band before or not, you can enjoy this album stand alone and make an imagination that this is the kind of music the band played in the 70s. The only difference is probably the recording quality that this album
What I mean here is that we can compare this with Focus 3, even from the opening track Rock & Rio (3:27) which directly reminds me to the band’s 70s nuance. It’s the way the band has delivered music so far and it’s kicking! If you are not familiar with track by track of Focus legendary albums you might think that this is part of the old albums. Of course, if you can not differentiate vintage and modern recording. The composition is for me quite compact where the musical density quite sounds like complex for normal music buffs, especially on the intertwining roles of keyboard, guitar that overlay the dynamic and tight basslines. I am amazed with this song.
The next track “Tamara’s Move (Allegro-Adagio-Allegro)” (5:17), brings the memory back to the 70s because this song is led by flute solo with some break using male vocal line. This kind of music is representing the sound of old Focus especially with the changing style / tempo in the middle, featuring stunning guitar solo. Yes, man, I am really happy enjoying this track and I can say: FOCUS IS BACK! “Fretless Love” (6:08) takes us to a musical break as the song starts mellow with ambient nuance using slow flute work backed with nice acoustic guitar and keyboard. The song moves in crescendo until at approximately minute 1:30 it really takes off into medium tempo music featuring a nice combination of flute, acoustic guitar and organ punches while drums and bass serve as rhythm section.
“Hurkey Turkey” (4:15) starts differently compared with other previous tracks because it uses soft guitar riffs followed music and then guitar provides excellent textures through a sound effect that you can hear clearly with a descent headphone moving from left to right channel. What follows is a short guitar solo, followed with organ and then overlaid by flute. Guitar then takes another solo to lead the song. “De To O de Mi” (6:30) is another excellent track which opens with tight bass lines in slow tempo with drums as beat keeper followed with thin organ line at background. The guitar (electric) then takes the music through its solo that serves as melody line. The song has some symphonic element in the middle of the track through the sounds of organ.
The album title track “Focus 8” (6:19) is another guitar-led instrumental with slow tempo where keyboard, bass and drum serve as rhythm section. Composition-wise this is a bit boring to my ears even though this is not a bad song at all. The music reminds me to the Path Metheny Group and it’s probably too mellow for me, “Sto Ces Raditi Ostatac Zivota?” (5:26) starts with an ambient flute-work backed with acoustic guitar fills. The song moves in African style with male chanting at background and acoustic guitar serves as main rhythm section followed with electric guitar that takes the lead melody. The beauty of this song is the insertion of flute sounds in some passages.
“Neurotika” (3:47) brings the music into an “upbeat” tempo and this song shares similar vein with the band old-time hit “Hocus Pocus” in music as well as singing style. It’s so interesting to have this song enjoyed after slow tracks. This is not as energetic as “Hocus Pocus” but it has excellent soul as its predecessor. The electric guitar, backed with organ sound, is really stunning especially when the vocal enters at the same time. “Brother” (5:39) brings the music into a dark mellow nuance in the vein of Focus 3 (the song) where it starts in ambient mood through a long sustain organ work. Drums takes the role in inviting the bass guitar and electric guitar to enter the music, maintaining the slow tempo. At approx 1:59 the music moves into higher tone which takes the involvement of flute into the music. It’s nice. This is truly a guitar-led music with some insertion of organ and flute as some transition pieces. “Blizu Tébe” (6:38) seems like an extension of previous track where the electric guitar still take the role as melody-maker of the music. It’s a nice composition. But, I think it would be much more powerful if the ending part comprises musical passages with faster tempo to conclude the track. This album has “Flower Shower” that serves as a Bonus Track. It’s quite strange but fun music.
Overall, I admire Thijs Van Leer who still have the passion and energy to reform the band and making a new album that maintains the quality of old time’s albums like Focus 3 or Hamburger Concerto. It’s of course an excellent addition to any prog music collection. Highly recommended. Keep on proggin’ ..!
Peace on earth and mercy mild – GW