While it can certainly be argued whether this latest release from the great Dutch progressive rock icons Focus is actually a Focus album, the fact is the CD is here. I make that statement simply because the only original member here is keyboard/flute player Thijs van Leer, and he is joined by members of the Focus tribute band Hocus Pucus. The story has it that Hocus Pocus had invited van Leer to sit in with them one day at a rehearsal, and the ensuing magic that culminated from this meeting prompted all present to play some live gigs together, which the fans loved and hence Focus is reborn.
Many of the trademark Focus characteristics are present throughout this CD, although obviously the sound of the band is much more modern. "Fretless Love" contains some melodic guitar work from Jan Dumee, and while he is no Jan Akkerman, he's certainly no slouch in the chops department. The flute of van Leer is ever present on this tune as well, and I notice that he is playing the instrument much more on this album, which gives a very strong Jethro Tull feel at times. The band goes for a heavier, guitar/organ feel on "Rock & Rio", complete with yodels from van Leer, perhaps the only yodeler in prog rock history! "Hurkey Turkey" is another rocking number, with booming bass lines, swirling organ, stabbing flute, and bluesy guitar lines. The title track is a more emotional, atmospheric piece, full of yearning guitar and piano melodies, while "Sto Ces Raditi Zivota" has a breezy, Carribean jazz feel. A distant cousin to "Hocus Pocus" can be heard in "Neurotica", and the searing, emotional guitar work on "Blizu Tebe" is quite impressive. I could have done without the silly opera/yodel mess that is "Flower Shower", but it does show that the band is having a good time.
So, does Focus 8 compare to the group's classic stuff from the early 70's? No, but I don't think it was ever meant to, plus it's not even the same band. It still is a quality example of Dutch prog, with lots of classical, rock, and jazz snippets thrown in for good measure. Welcome back Focus!