Focus — Focus X
(FWUS043, 2013, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2013-07-15
Focus today, ten studio albums and 40+ years on from their 1970 debut, is still very much recognizable as the same band, due to the long term guidance and helmsmanship of keyboardist, flautist, and chief composer Thijs van Leer. He doesn’t sing as much anymore (guest singers join for the one main vocal track, and the spoken parts on the jazzy closer “Crossroads”) and absolutely no yodeling, but his writing is stronger than ever. On board is bassist Bobby Jacobs, who has been with the band for a good dozen years, also serving as producer; drummer Pierre van der Linden, who played with the band on their classic albums Moving Waves, Focus 3, and Live at the Rainbow has been back on board since their last album, New Skin. The newest member is hotshot guitarist Menno Gootjes, the latest in a long succession of carefully selected and versatile guitarists to fill the jazz and rock counterpoint to van Leer’s classicism and funkiness in their sound. The album kicks off with “Father Bacchus,” a seemingly obligatory Gootjes penned re-take on the basic “Hocus Pocus” sound, but from there the disc gets a lot more interesting. “Message Magique” written by Ben van der Linden is a positively beautiful and overtly melodic classical piece with an unforgettable melody. Van Leer’s funky flute work and vocalizing come to the fore on the rocker “All Hens on Deck.” “Amok in Kindergarten” is another standout, offering a warm and melodic rock bridge between jazz and classical worlds, with cooperative piano and guitar work that begs for repeat plays. There are many more excellent works herewithin, and this may well be Focus’ finest album since the band reformed in the mid-90s.
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more