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FOCUS Live At The BBC HUX 051 (2004)


Some of us have been waiting a little while for this release! In fact nearly 30 years have passed since 1976 when Focus made their last tour to the UK - famously since Jan Akkerman had just departed and his place been taken by Philip Catherine, a substitution that in the minds of many Focus fans was tantamount to the demise of the group.

In short, this CD confirms that Focus imploded at the very time they were discovering a new and valid direction. Much of the playing is beautifully spacious and laid back - Maximum for instance is stretched out to 14' compared to 8'36 on Focus con Proby, and the same feel is evident in the slower opening sections of Virtuous Woman.

Another feature of the band's performance is their effective use of dynamics, the opening of Virtuous Woman or the final notes of Little Sister being good examples. The lengthy improvised sections of Eruption and Anonymous II have given way to more tightly constructed works with Focus' trademark colourful harmony and imaginative soundscape.

Of Catherine's two compositions Sneezing Bull is probably the more successful, with characterful musical ideas and textures, and tight rhythm. By comparison Angel Wings is more relentless with strong, hard driven guitar lines that here, at least, show no sign of the 'less frenetic style' referred to in David Randall's fascinating sleeve notes.

Arguably this set works better on CD than it did as a live show at the time, especially in view of some fans' disappointment at Akkerman's absence, and the fairly small amount of old material performed; so to anyone who is unsure or sceptical about the band's output from this period, can I recommend that you get a copy of this CD as soon as possible.

So how much difference did Akkerman's departure really make? In spite of what many Akkerman fans were saying at the time, the band's style had made its most fundamental change with the release of Mother Focus in 1975 which had already heralded a softer, jazzier sound and a move away from quasi-symphonic canvasses.

Catherine's style may have been different from Akkerman. Yet this was after all a mostly new set, and who knows how Akkerman would have played it? If Focus had changed as much as some were claiming, it was at any rate not just a change of personnel that had brought this about. Catherine's sound is warm and glowing and effortless - and it is hard to imagine it any other way.


Review by Simon Lawford

Buy this CD

Related>> Focus 8 CD

Related>> Masters From the Vaults DVD

Related>> Masters From the Vaults DVD

Related>> Focus In America DVD

Jan Akkerman/Focus Book

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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