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Focus: Focus 11

For their eleventh studio album, Dutch legends Focus continue on with the more jazzy sounds that have permeated their more recent efforts, 11 also sporting some pretty nifty Roger Dean artwork and, you guessed it, eleven new songs. For a band whose history goes back to 1969, it might seem somewhat surprising that they've only now just released their eleventh studio album, but after a long period of inactivity in the '80s and '90s this is their seventh new release since 2002, which includes live albums and compilations. The current line-up of the band consists of:


Thijs van Leer - keyboards, flute, vocals
Pierre van der Linden - drums, percussion
Menno Gootjes - guitar, backing vocals
Udo Pannekeet - bass

Thijs van Leer and Pierre van der Linden are obviously members from the classic era of the band, but Gootjes has been around for a number of years, and Pannekeet is the newest recruit, joining around the time of their Focus 8.5 release. Though still technically a 'prog' band, Focus now employ a wealth of jazz-fusion sounds into their repertoire, which you can hear on the wonderfully quirky & complex "Mazzel", guitars, keys, and flute all intertwining with each other over some tricky rhythms. "Who's Calling" and "Heaven" are both harder rocking prog tracks, thick with Hammond organ, piano, flute, and crunchy guitar riffs, while "Theodora Na-Na-Na" takes a dreamy jazz approach, ripe with synths, steady percussion, and majestic piano. Vocals appear on the more pop based track "How Many Miles?", while "Winnie" is a lush, prog/jazz piece that is a great vehicle for Gootjes' yearning, Jeff Beck styled guitar solos and dreamy flute from van Leer. Complex, rumbling heavy fusion returns on "Palindrome" and "Mare Nostrum", Gootjes again flexing his guitar muscle amid furious drumming and symphonic keyboards. Focus offers a more straightforward rock instrumental with "Final Analysis", again highlighting guitar and keyboards, while closing title track "Focus 11" offers up majestic sounds of glorious prog-rock, with piano, flute, guitar, bass, and drums all working together splendidly to create sheer melodic magic.

Now 50 years into their career, the legends known as Focus are still creating sensational new music, which is pretty damn remarkable. This was a late 2018 release that I didn't get to in time, but what a better way to start out the new year with a standout from the prior year that knocks your socks off! Better late than never!


Track Listing
1. WHO’S CALLING ?
2. HEAVEN
3. THEODORA NA NA NA
4. HOW MANY MILES ?
5. MAZZEL
6. WINNIE
7. PALINDROME
8. CLAIR-OBSCUR
9. MARE NOSTRUM
10. FINAL ANALYSIS
11. FOCUS 11

Added: October 9th 2019
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 1436
Language: english

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Focus: Focus 11
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2019-10-10 03:08:31
My Score:

When bands so easily come and go it is hard to believe that 2019 brought a new Focus album and the best part is the band didn’t mail it in, in fact, it’s like being in a time warp and returning to the early ‘70s. Original band member Thijs van Leer (piano, organ, vocals, flute, synths) is joined by Menno Gootjes (guitars), Pierre van der Linden (drums), another Focus long time veteran and newcomer Udo Pannekeet (bass).

This will be another album that will be among the top of my best of list at the end of the year. The compositions and performances are just so classy, these veteran musicians demonstrate the meaning of the word craftsmanship. The band is tight, the songs relatively concise and the melodies are all over the place. That isn’t to say this isn’t complex because that is not the case. It’s just the band is able to take some fairly complex arrangements and meld them with some great melodies. One of the catchiest songs is also the only one to feature lyrics. “How Many Miles?” could have been a single although the band still lay down some fantastic interplay between organ, piano, guitar and flute. Leer’s voice is also in fine form and I wouldn’t have had any problems with more lead vocals, if the band had decided to go that route. The first track “Who’s Calling?” sets an urgent pace and really gets the blood flowing showcasing the band’s tightness. With “Heaven” the lilting melody could have come from the 15th century but it would also work in an Amsterdam pub. Another absolutely infectious piece. The moody and atmospheric intro of “Winnie” shows the band’s more experimental side while “Mare Nostrum” is both thoughtfully mellow and frantically fast paced. Another classic slice of ‘70s influenced prog this band was known for.

The hard rocking progressive “Palindrome” is another stand out track highlighted by Linden’s aggressive drum work, biting guitar riffs and full bodied keyboards.

Whenever the old guard makes a great album it is always something special and that’s exactly what we have hear with this latest Focus disc. Highly recommended to fans of the band and progressive music across the board.



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