Rock & Rio - Tamara's Move - Fretless Love - Hurkey Turkey - De Ti O De Mi -
Focus 8 - Sto Ces Raditi Zivota - Neurotika (rehearsal track) - Brother - Blizu Tebe -
Flower Shower (bonus track)
Focus 8? No!! The return of Thijs van Leer in a Focus context will draw
inevitable comparisons with the original concept and earlier incarnations.
It is very easy to sit out this new CD comparing it directly to former glories,
so for example, here we have a Hocus Pocus update, there's a House Of The
King clone and so forth...This is an easy trap to fall into, and it is a credit to the new band that
they do not rest solely on former laurels. Focus 8 marks a return to the true nature
of Focus music: tuneful, memorable and a little bit rocky when they want
The immensely likeable 'Tamara's Move' by guitarist Jan Dumée fair rattles along, and like 'House
Of The King' would lend itself to an upmarket travel show. Thijs has one
of the most distinctive flute tones and whilst comparisons with Ian Anderson
of Jethro Tull will always be made, so be it - there's more than enough room for both
of 'em. Anyway, these days Ian sounds more like Thijs than he did back in 1973.
'Fretless Love', has an echo of Focus II about it and degenerates to admirable
beat combo stuff with fluid figures from Jan Dumée, whilst 'Hurkey Turkey' could be a show-stopper
live. Thijs at one point called this 'Alicante' and envisaged Jan Akkerman
playing the guitar part. Dumée carries it off admirably. It has a somewhat
irrepressible heavy riff with Latin overtones. A winner especially when Dumée lets rip
with some judicious axe meltdown towards the end.
Of the other band members, the appropriately-named (for a drummer) Bert Smaak
and Bobby Jacobs (Thijs' stepson) lay down a pretty nifty rhythm track, and
Jacobs gets his own showcase on 'De Ti O Be Mi' which sounds in places like the soundtrack
to some nasty South American movie. It's also a showcase for Dumée's
Akkermanesque flourishes, perhaps the most overt references on the whole
album. Because of this, the Akker-faithful may find the experience somewhat derivative
and slightly painful and may, therefore, reach for track skip.
Yes, Thijs does get to yodel again but it's all very controlled and complementary, as on
the inevitable 'Hocus Pocus/Harem Scarem' update 'Neurotika' which appears here as a 'rehearsal take'. This track manages
to take in thirty years of Van Leer's recording history (yes, including the ill-fated 'I Hate Myself' album),
whilst the return of the Hammond is to be savoured. The bonus track, however, is rubbish.
There is enough here to satisfy all who love the old albums right up to 'Focus con Proby' (note the inclusion of 'Brother') and it has to be said this
album has elements of them all. Perhaps in summary, the band could have veered a little from the safety of
the Focus blueprint but Focus 9 may yet further develop their own voice. There
is no doubt that this offering is going to put a smile back on the faces
of prog rockers everywhere. And is Jan Dumée better than Jan Akkerman? Oh, just enjoy!