Focus – Focus 12

Focus – Focus 12

CONFUSINGLY, Focus 12 is the veteran Dutch proggers’ 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th or 17th studio album, depending on how you count them. As an additional headscratcher, the track named after the band (there’s one on nearly every album) is Focus 13.

But there’s no confusion about the music, which channels the band’s classic 1970s sound – 10 powerful and melodic instrumentals packed full of electric guitar pyrotechnics, swelling Hammond organ, nimble piano and trademark flute. Sadly, there is no yodelling but, on the plus side, band founder Thijs van Leer has refrained from indulging in the groaning vocals that marred one of the tracks on the previous album.

Fjord Focus (see what they did there?) is a loud, confident opener, with dramatic keyboard chords under Menno Gootjes’ urgent guitar, driven by the busy drums of Pierre van der Linden. It soars through glorious chord changes, adding flute over piano arpeggios. Focus 13 channels the debut album’s band-titled instrumental, a lovey, sedate ballad that bursts into life halfway through, with Gootjes and van Leer trading bluesy licks on guitar and organ.

On Meta Indefinita, Gootjes sounds like David Torn as he leads what appears to be an improvised session with ethereal guitar phrases, while van der Linden thrashes out an unstoppable rhythm. The jazzy All Aboard sees van Leer take centre stage on flute over a busy walking bass from Udo Pannakeet, and Nura opens as a Bachian organ exercise, then turns into a heavy rock thrash! There’s even a lovely solo piano piece dedicated to David Bowie.

At 76 and 78 respectively, founder member van Leer and relative new boy van der Linden (he joined for the band’s second album, Moving Waves, in 1971) show no signs of slowing down, and pack as much energy into the music as they did more than 50 years ago. In this they are very ably supported by Pannakeet and Gootjes, who produced the album as well as penning some of the tracks.

Gootjes, in particular, is a worthy successor to original guitarist Jan Akkerman – he may not possess the latter’s slightly manic edge but he is a fast and fluent player who produces emotive melodic lines, as well as some powerful, hard rock riffing.

With a cover by the iconic album artist Roger Dean – now 79 – Focus 12 is a thoroughly enjoyable album from one of progressive rock’s most entertaining bands. It may not quite reach the heights of their 1970s classics but it’s a damn good try, and should keep every Focus fan very happy indeed.

Later this year, Focus will be touring with the reformed Asia and Curved Air, and I know who my money is on to be the stars of the show – especially if they do a bit of yodelling.

01. Fjord Focus (4:24)
02. Focus 13 (5:09)
03. Bela (4:08)
04. Meta Indefinita (4:36)
05. All Aboard (4:31)
06. Born To Be You (1:48)
07. Nura (3:57)
08. Bowie (3:24)
09. Positano (3:28)
10. Gaia (4:16)

Total Time – 39:40

Thijs van Leer – Keyboards, Flute
Pierre van der Linden – Drums, Percussion
Menno Gootjes – Guitars
Udo Pannakeet – Bass

Record Label: Spirit Of The Unicorn | Cherry Red Records
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Date of Release: 5th July 2024

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