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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Focus

Golden Oldies

Review by Gary Hill

Dutch band Focus is legendary, yet many Americans have only heard one song from them, “Hocus Pocus.” This compilation set opens with that track and showcases a lot of different moods and sounds from Focus. Yet, despite a lot of variation, the quality remains solid throughout. This is a great set through and through and a great introduction. I should note that I have already reviewed several of these songs previously and have used those reviews here for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hocus Pocus
The best known tune from Focus, that opening riff kicks in and you are hooked. This is a killer rocker with some great jamming. When you consider it’s arguably the most popular rock track to feature yodeling (are there really any others?) and you’ve really got something special. One section after another tracks it through crazed jamming and different instruments shine at different parts of the song.
Tommy
This is a gentle yet powerful piece of music. It lands somewhere in the territory between fusion and melodic progressive rock. It has a few alterations as they work through. We get some pretty intense guitar soloing on this and the cut contains some non-lyrical vocals.
House of the King
There’s an olde world music section that opens this. Then acoustic guitar fires off in a rocking pattern. As the rest of the band kick in and the flute solos over the top this feels very much like something Jethro Tull would do. It runs through like that until around the two minute mark. Then they shift it to a more hard rocking jam for a short time before returning back to the Tull-like territory to continue.
Focus 1
Organ sounds start this one. That instrument holds it for a while. From there they move out into a fusion styled number that’s slow and melodic. It’s also powerful and evocative. This becomes quite an intriguing jam as it continues. We’re taken into some definitely Jethro Tull like territory at times.
Sylvia
Taking us through a number of alterations, this is very much a mainstream progressive rock piece. It has classical music and more in the mix. The melodic guitar soloing is classy and the whole piece just works really well.
Focus 3 & 2
Keyboards start this in a mellow, but very powerful and dramatic, way. This grows upward feeling a bit like something from Vanilla Fudge. There are definitely classical music elements here. Still, this is a great mellower rocking song.
Aya-Yuppie-Hippie-Yee
Starting as a melodic progressive rock powerhouse, this is another killer track. It works out to more hard edged stuff. It has some great jamming and at times feels like a cross between “Hocus Pocus” and Jethro Tull. The vocals on this are decidedly Focus and the cut gets into more of a jazzy groove later.
Neurotika
This one is very much like “Hocus Pocus” in a lot of ways. It seems to share some melodic elements at times, even. It’s a cool tune with yodeling. It’s also got some fusion and more.
Brother
What an amazing song this is. It’s a hard rocker, but still has plenty of progressive rock in it. It has real vocals. In some ways this reminds me of a progressive rock take on Manowar’s “Defender.” It’s a killer tune with some great drama, power and melody. I think it’s my favorite song ever from Focus.
 
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