Focus – The Focus Family Album (In and Out of Focus Records, 2017)
Acclaimed Dutch band has been experiencing a renaissance in recent years with superb progressive rock albums, international tours and artwork by iconic illustrator Roger Dean. The Focus Family Album is a 2-CD set with 15 previously unreleased pieces and alternate adaptations.
Disc One opens with Nature Is Our Friend, a great flute solo piece by founder and bandleader Thijs Van Leer.
Track 2, Song For Eva, is one of the best compositions in the album. It begins with a spoken word part taken from Lord Byron’s “They Say That Hope Is Happiness.” The rest is a masterful instrumental with admirable bluesy prog guitar work, nearly eight minutes of guitar goodness by Menno Gootjes.
Each member of the band has solo pieces in The Focus Family Album. Riverdance is a drum and percussion work by Pierre Van Der Linden, from a drum album he made from friends.
“Victoria” is an anthemic Focus instrumental that appeared in the album Focus X. This is a vocal remix version with vocoder.
Menno Gootjes picks up the acoustic guitar on Two-Part Intervention, recorded after the Focus 11 sessions.
Mosh Blues is a powerful blues jam recorded in Brazil while on tour.
Raga Reverence 1 is a piece by Swung, an improvisational jazz-rock trio formed by Focus members: Menno Gootjes (guitar), Pierre Van Der Linden (drums) and Bobby Jacobs (bass).
The Fifth Man is a hard rocking track recorded in 2014 that nearly made it to Focus 11.
Bassist Udo Pannekeet, who joined Focus in 2016, delivers a masterful fretless bass performance on Song For Yaminah.
The last track on Disc 1 is the laid back Clair Obscur featuring masterful guitar work by Menno Gootjes. It’s an early version of the piece that appeared in Focus 11.
Disc Two opens with another classic Thijs Van Leer flute solo, a mesmerizing piece titled Let Us Wander? That includes birds and other nature sounds.
“Birds Come Fly Over (Le Tango)” was released in Focus 10 with vocals by Ivan Lins. Here, the song features the original vocals (and his unmistakable trademark whistling) by Thijs Van Leer. It has a Latin American flavor and features superior guitar work by Menno Gootjes.
“Spiritual Swung” is the second solo drum piece by Pierre Van Der Linden.
Brazilian singer Ivan Lins sings in Spanish on “Santa Teresa” a song by Thijs Van Leer dedicated to Chile. Originally meant to be included in Focus X, it only appeared in the Japanese edition of Focus X. Great work by Lins on vocals, Van Leer on flute and Gottjes on guitars.
Hazel is an exquisite, skillful acoustic guitar solo by Menno Gootjes.
Focus plays the blues on “Fine Without You,” featuring vocals by Jo De Roeck and superb blues organ by Thijs Van Leer and electric guitar work by Menno Gootjes.
Instrumental trio Swung returns with a second improvisational piece titled “Raga Reverence 5.” The three musicians experiment and create new parts during Focus soundchecks and downtime.
“Five Fourth” is classic Focus, a symphonic progressive rock instrumental with delightful guitar and organ interplay.
Udo Pannekeet performs a funk jazz bass solo titled “Anaya” on his 6-string bass, along with drum programming.
The last track, “Winnie” is another wonderful instrumental from the Focus 11 sessions featuring memorable guitar by Menno Gootjes and flute by Thijs Van Leer.
The Focus Family Album physical edition comes in an 8-panel digipack with artwork by Roger Dean. The booklet includes credits, lyrics, photos and illustrations.
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