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FOCUS Focus 8 (Musea 2003) Released January 2003

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 to be.

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!


Review by David Randall

© 2002 All rights reserved.

Related>> Masters From the Vaults DVD

Related>> Focus In America DVD

Buy this CD

Tamara's Move (Jan Dumée)
© 2003 Focus/Hubers International. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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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