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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Focus

The Focus Family Album

Review by Gary Hill

I'm often skeptical of the "Family Album" or "Friend and Relatives" or "Friends and Relations" albums. That's because they are often unauthorized sets built by a small record label to try to capitalize on the popularity of a group by releasing music that's related to that act under their name. That is not the case here.

This album is an officially sanctioned release. Each disc of the two CD set includes one song each from Thijs Van Leer,  Menno Gootjes and Pierre Van der Linden and one from Swung (which includes Bobby Jacobs, Menno Gootjes and Pierre Van der Linden). The alternating songs are all from Focus. The packaging is classy with artwork from Roger Dean and a nice booklet. All in all, this is a cool set with some great music.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc One
          
Thijs Van Leer - Nature Is Our Friend

The sounds of nature serve as the backdrop for a flute solo. This is a pretty and quite organic sounding piece of music.

Focus - Song for Eva
A folk prog kind of sound opens this. A spoken lyrical recitation comes over the top of that calling to mind The Moody Blues a bit. They turn out to a melodic prog jam from there with some cool guitar soloing over the top. I really like this song a lot. The bulk of it is instrumental and quite tasty.
Pierre Van Der Linden - Riverdance

Here we have a drum solo piece. I'm not a big fan of drum solos, but this is entertaining.

Focus - Victoria
I love the classy folk prog melody that begins this number. It grows out with a real classic sound from there. I love just about everything about this piece. It has some great shifts and changes. The rather understated vocal arrangement is cool. There are some great fusion elements at play here. All the instruments really shine without taking attention from the song itself.
Menno Gootjes - Two-Part Intervention
Intricate lines of classical guitar make up the concept for this piece. It is quite pretty and intense while still remaining mellow.
Focus - Mosh Blues
A harder rocking jam, this is classy stuff.  The organ brings a bit of retro texture. I love the guitar soloing on this. The whole tune just rocks like crazy. The vocal bit brings a groovy, rocking texture. I love the flute solo segment that follows, too.
Swung - Raga Reverence 1
This jam makes me think of the Grateful Dead in a lot of ways. It's a classic sounding instrumental piece that works so well.
Focus - The Fifth Man
This is a hard rocking number with a lot of classic Focus sound to it. In fact, at the very beginning it reminds me just a little of "Hocus Pocus." That changes quickly, though. This is a killer hard edged, energized prog rocking number.
Udo Pannekeet - Song for Yaminah
Another instrumental, this is full fusion. It's melodic and quite potent. 
Focus - Claire Obscure
This comes in with a very classical approach. As it shifts and turns it gets more fusion oriented. It's another effective instrumental. 
Disc Two
        
Thijs Van Leer - Let Us Wander

Again, nature serves as the backdrop for a flute solo.

Focus - Birds Come Fly Over (Le Tango)
There is a swinging, Latin groove to this tune. It has some great jazzy jamming built into it. The vocals are more along the melodic lines of sound. He gets really deep at times. There is a bit of a trippy psychedelic edge to this a lot of the time. The cut really jams.
Pierre Van Der Linden - Spiritual Swung
Here we get another drum solo. This one just doesn't do much for me, but again, that's because I'm not a devotee of drum solos.
Focus - Santa Teresa
Folk prog, not that far removed from something like The Strawbs or Procol Harum would do, is the order of business here. I like this one quite a bit, but it's not among my favorites. That said, the jam with the flute solo is great.  The more powered up section that follows is pretty cool, too.
Menno Gootjes - Hazel
Another acoustic guitar solo, there is a folky kind of vibe to this in a lot of ways. It still has some classical elements at play, but isn't far removed from the kind of thing one expects from Steve Howe.
Focus - Fine Without You
This is a blues rocker that works really well. It's "Mosh Blues" with some killer vocals from Jo de Roeck. I wouldn't really think of this as prog, but they do work out toward fusion and prog quite a bit on the extended instrumental segment.
Swung - Raga Reverence 5
There is some of the Grateful Dead thing that showed up in the previous cut from Swung. This one rocks out a lot more, though. It's a killer instrumental that works so well.
Focus - Five Fourth
Combining fusion and great instrumental rock, this cut is classy stuff. It has some great melodies and instrumental work built into it.
Udo Pannekeet - Anaya
I love the bass work that opens this thing. A fusion based number, this has a lot of bass soloing in the mix. There is some funk as this works forward later.
Focus - Winnie

A melodic number, this has a lot of fusion in the mix. I love the drama of the cut. The piano and guitar really add quite a bit to the piece. There are some intriguing changes on the piece. 

 
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