(2018 - In And Out Of Focus Records - EU)
It is a celebration to see so many important bands from the 70's prime progressive rock scene, either regroup and rebound with brilliant results, or at least tell the world they still exist. Focus may be the most noted Dutch band imported to the USA in those treasured days of yore, who even got quite a lot of radio time, with 'Hocus Pocus' (1971, from their studio album 'Moving Waves', which was written by then members Thijs Van Leer and Jan Akkerman), and that song still remains a full-fledged classic that truly represents the word epic. With this, their eleventh release, original members Thijs Van Leer (piano, organ, vocals, flute, and synthesizers), and Pierre van der Linden (drums), bring along Menno Gootjes (guitars), who has been with the band since 2016, and new addition Udo Pannekeet (bass).
Is it still Focus? With Roger Dean artwork on 5 of the 6 panels of this digipak (you really need to buy the physical album or CD to appreciate this), and the initial hyper track 'Who's Calling', the stage is set. After an off to the races selection of new compositions, even better than you remember them in their early days, it is a slam dunk! Yes, this is classic Focus with the wow factor intact. Not withholding, sure to please, the classical mode from Van Leer arises with 'Theodora na na na' (track 3). These musicians have more than enough spunk, and Van Leer gives us some of that yodeling/trick tongue trademark, to remind everyone of the yesteryears. There is playfulness with 'Heaven' (track 2) giving off a 'Charlie Brown' cartoon atmosphere. And there is ballad, symphonic, and progressive rock with generous doses of fusion. I did not realize until hearing '11', how much Focus sounds like Gentle Giant. The 98% all instrumental quartet create some amazing and complex rhythmic exchanges. Also, it is obvious how much Focus influenced Happy The Man, so much in fact, that I felt I was listening to that band on several songs.
All you need to know is this crucial Dutch band is still running on all the same cylinders, or better than before. The energy, precision, and bright ideas are as sharp as ever. In fact, Focus has a new spring in their step and will disperse the notion that anyone is too old to rock and roll. This 2018 full length (11 songs to represent the title '11') not only surprises, it shocks. From royalty in the glory days of progressive rock, comes an updated but supreme edition of Focus. Recommended.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 2 - 1 - 2019