[ KEY REVIEWS | SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
Track List: 1. Rock & Rio 3:27 (Van Leer) 2. Tamara's Move 5:17 (Dumee) 3. Fretless Love 4:15 (Van Leer) 4. Hurkey Turkey 4:15 (=) 5. De Ti O De Mi 6:30 (Jacobs) 6. Focus 8 6:19 (Van Leer) 7. Sto Ces Raditi Ostatac Zivota 5:26 (Dumee) 8. Neurotika 3:47 (Van Leer) 9. Brother 5:39 (=) 10. Blizu Tebe 6:38 (Dumee) 11. Flower Shower (bonus track) 5:41 (FOCUS) Line-up: Thijs Van Leer -organ; flute; vocals & vocalizes Jan Dumee - electric & acoustic guitars; vocalizes Bobby Jacobs - basses; synthesizers Bert Smaak - drums With: Ruben Van Roon - drums (on track 8) Produced by: Geert Scheijgrond & FOCUS. Engineered by G. Scheijgrond at "Peptide" studio, Holland. Mastered by G. Scheijgrond & Dick Kemper at "S & K".
Preamble. Certainly, like all of you, I salute Thijs Van Leer (welcome back to the Prog scene!), the founder and permanent leader of Focus, and thank him for reviving this legendary name by joining one of Focus's cover bands. Now however, let's see what the music of Focus MK-VIII is about.
The Album. I don't know why the titles of a few tracks of this album are written in one of the East European Slavonic languages (and not even in Dutch!), but I can try to translate them into English. The meaning of De Ti O De Mi (5) should be the same as that of "I'm there where you are". Sto Ces Raditi Ostatac Zivota (7) sounds most likely equal to "Do everything to survive your life". Finally, Blizu Tebe (10) is nothing else but "Closer to you". And now, I can start to describe the new Focus album and, in addition, put into words my thoughts upon it. Stylistically, the music that is presented here brings to the listener not only the familiar, distinctively original, and immediately recognizable spirit of this Legend, but also a decent dose of something new, which wasn't typical for a 'classic' Focus. Above all, this concerns the sound of today's Focus, which, overall, is heavier than ever before, even though there is only one track on the album, the stylistics of which represents a real fusion of Classic Symphonic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal. This is the album's opener, Rock & Rio, which, at the same time, is much in the vein of Hocus Pocus from "Moving Waves" and, of course, includes inimitable joking vocalizes by maestro Van Leer and highly virtuosi (just brilliant!) arrangements that, moreover, are full of magic. Honest! By the way, all the eleven tracks on the new Focus album are either excellent compositions or masterpieces. No merely good tracks here, not to mention mediocre ones! While created in Focus's best traditions, most of the compositions on the album are, however, richer in the elements of Prog-Metal than in those of Jazz-Fusion. (Whereas before, the elements of Jazz-Fusion were much more typical for Focus than those of Prog-Metal.) In short, "Focus 8" sounds by no means like being the mould of Focus's classic style, but is a really fresh album by the band that is still capable to amaze. Here are the tracks, the contents of which completely conform to the predominant stylistics of the album, which is certainly Classic Art-Rock with elements of Prog-Metal and bits of Jazz-Fusion: Tamara's Move, Fretless Love, Hurkey Turkey, Sto Ces Raditi Ostatac Zivota, Neurotika, and Brother (2, 3, 4, 7, & 9). Two of them, Hurkey Turkey and Neurotica (4 & 7), are, on the whole, much in the vein of the aforementioned Rock & Rio (1) and Hocus Pocus and feature joking vocalizes as well. Structurally though, these two, and especially the second one, are closer to the band's most popular song than the album's opening track. Tamara's Move (2) is the only real song on "Focus 8". However, it features only a few vocal parts, all of which are of a quiet character and are in many ways similar to those on the title track of "Moving Waves". The album's bonus track, Flower Shower (11), is about a pure Classic Art-Rock where, however, everything sounds like being an excellent musical joke, even though the vocals, performed here by the two unknown, male and female, guest singers (lyrics are in German), are clearly operatic. Finally, all three of the following compositions: De Ti O De Mi, Focus 8, and Blizu Tebe (5, 6, & 10), sound like the classic Focus ballads (and these are the Classic Art-Rock ballads), though the second half of the album's title track is both slow and heavy. Also, these three are the only compositions on the album that don't contain any solos of flute. Here, the main soloing 'battles' develop between solos of guitar (that, by the way, are often not unlike those of Jan Akkerman) and those of Hammond organ. It must be said that varied interplay between solos of organ and those of electric guitar (most of which are harsh), along with solos of flute and, rather often, of bass as well, play a prominent role on most of the album's tracks. Unlike those of organ, there is the only bright solo of synthesizer on "Focus 8" - on the album's opening track, while the passages of electric piano are present only on the title track of the album. The solos and passages of acoustic guitar play a very significant role in the arrangements on Fretless
Summary. What a wonderful return! The renovated Focus won't remind you of some of one decrepit Prog-Dinosaur decided to get back and make money on the wave of a revived interest to Progressive Rock. So, unlike PFM, Greenslade, and many others, Focus bravely stepped into the 'afterlife' and immediately took the bull by the horns with their truly hard-edged and highly progressive album "Focus 8". I heartily recommend this masterpiece and undoubtedly one of the best Symphonic Art-Rock albums released in the new millennium to all of the true Progressive Rock lovers.
VM: November 27, 2002
[ KEY REVIEWS | SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]