- Audio CD (30 September 2016)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: CD, Import
- Label: IN AND OUT OF FOCUS RECORDS
- ASIN: B01J2MF448
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
X: DIGIBOOK CD EDITION CD, Import
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Reissue of this album from the Dutch prog rock legends. Focus X, their 10th album, was the group's first studio album in six years. The album features Menno Gootjes on guitar, replacing Niels van der Steenhoven, who played guitar on the ensemble's previous album Focus 9/New Skin. Focus X features Sir Thijs Van Leer, Pierre Van Der Linden, Bobby Jacobs and Gootjes. The cover art is designed and painted by Roger Dean.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The core style explored on this production is one with half a foot or thereabouts placed inside 70's jazzrock. It's a smooth and melodic variety of the species, with melancholic oriented guitar soloing backed by smooth organ textures and wandering piano motifs as core elements throughout. An often used and effective detail is how the flute and guitar will take turns in providing lead motifs, and even while relatively brief in length the compositions tend to contain multiple themes, or at minimum distinctly different lead motifs. The various themes and motifs are repeated, and the use of recurring elements in general are the main identity providers.
Most pieces have been given additional elements that separates them somewhat from the rest too. Like the spirited, bass riven insert in the otherwise slow melancholy of Victoria, the whimsical lead vocals of All Hens on Deck, the careful rare lead vocals of Le Tango or the spoken words that appear in Hoeratio. And for Talk of the Clown Focus opts for a dramatic shift in style, this brief piece with marching drums and elegant playful flute comes across as a theme tailor made to be used for a 70's children's TV show more than anything else. All of these are well made and well performed items, high quality material if you enjoy music of this kind. On this occasion, while I do hear the jazz and jazzrock orientation, my main impression is that those who enjoy early 80's Camel should find this production to be quite to their taste.
That is, with the exception of the first and last song of this disc. Father Bachus comes across as the perfect opening song for a concert, an energetic romp with 70's driving guitars wandering off into folk-tinged excursions closer to the likes of Jethro Tull as well as standalone driving drum sequences, while concluding piece X Roads does much of the same but now with more of a distinct, energetic jazzrock expression at the core of the proceedings. Standout tracks in style and interest both, and I kind of expect that these two pieces will be used to open and end the regular set of Focus concerts, at least in the near future. These compositions appears to be tailor made for just such purposes.
All in all a well made album, with words like accomplished and solid at the forefront of my mind if I were to describe it briefly. With two pieces of minor magic in the shape of Father Bachus and X Roads. Focus doesn't bring anything new or innovative table however, but if you enjoy bands with a secure and firm grip on endeavours of a more retrospective nature then this most recent production of their should be well worth a visit.
My rating: 80/100
And where at first it all sounds a bit too familiar, the nice surprises uncover on repeated listening.
With 10 songs this album is also pretty compact compared to its predecessor "Focus 9 - New skin", certainly if you consider two songs to be a bit below their standard ("Hoeratio" and "Talk of the Clown").
The rest is quite strong though, with many highlights:
1. "All hens on deck" is rocking harder than Focus ever did before. Sharp interplay of all 4 guys, with a great guitar riff supported by the growling organ and goofy vocals of Thijs van Leer. This should have been the opening track really!
2. Then Victoria with some fanatasy could be the single candidate, with a lovely melody including a funky midway tempo change, possibly a nice follow up to their classic Sylvia.
3. Amok in Kindergarten: a jazzy light touch, but a complex puzzle of a song, still very enjoyable though. This reminds me of the sound on "Focus 3", and at the same time elaborating on recent ballads from the recent "New Skin" album.
4. Father Bacchus: great new track by Menno Gootjes, rocking hard & expanding on former classics with a fresh flute melody.
5. Focus X: this song grows on you, just like the album does as a whole. Beautiful!
6. Crossroads: this is the surprise at the end, Pierre van der Linden really gives this song it's irresistable drive. He is drumming extremely well throughout the album.
7. Birds come fly over: A nice remake of the song "Le Tango" from the Akkerman & van Leer album in the 80's. Ivan Lins sings it very carefully with a bit of an unstable voice. But he does add in some "emotional" extra value to the song. And even if Focus would come up with 10 more versions of Le Tango it is okay with me as it remains a great song anyway.
So Holland's best band did it again: a quality piece of work that gets better with each time you listen to it!