Focus - Focus 11

Focus Focus 11 cover
Focus 11
In And Out Of Focus Records
Focus have been around for a loooong time. And while they enjoyed a solid decade from the late 60s to the late 70s after that period – they only sporadically reunited, until resuming typically in 2002 and since then they’ve been doing on strong ever since.
“11” is their first proper album of new material in some time, if we discard the best of, anniversary and guest efforts, the actual and spiritual sequel to 2012’s “X”.
In 2019 the sole original member is the bands multi-instrumentalist leader and vocalist Thijs van Leer, who also handles keyboards and flute as well. Drummer Pierre van der Linden has been around for a considerable amount of time, I mean while he’s technically not an original member he’s been with the band for most of their existence. Guitarist Menno Gootjes and bassist Udo Pannekeet are more recent post millennial additions to the fold, but seem to slot in quite perfectly. While not hyper complex for the most part, these guys can play and offer a really tasty jam of a jazzy rock fusion with plenty of folk splashes liberally applied here and there.
Opener “Who’s Calling” makes for an adventurous introduction to Focus nowadays, who quickly fall of the wagon to and pick things up with “Heaven”, which has the organ and flute coming to the fore reminiscent of the band themselves as well as Tempest and Dixie Dregs, I’d say with it playful arrangements and jazzy interlude.
“Theodora na na na” is way more laid back, a jazzy blues workout, that’s just cool and never really picks up any steam.
“How Many Miles” is the first vocal track on the album and while it seem to kick up a bit of a fuss at first it’s timid measured nature, places it between focus and soft “Tull” territory to the point that it’s monotony could be perceived as a bit of a bore.
“Mazzel” is a more energetic – organ based jam – that’s not too intrusive and feels absolutely like something the band would come up with, even in their sleep.
“Winnie” (a rather bizarre title – I must say) is a soft, smooth bluesy jam, with some flute making it more “peaceful” in a nice sort of hypnotic way.
The aforementioned songs do get the listener relaxed enough, for the next track’s, “Palindrome”, crazy jazz percussive workouts that would require all of their attentions.
“Clair-Obscur” is a photographic style where light and shade are used extensively in a photo (chiaroscuro) in French and here is a soft melodic, attempt that remains rather balanced between the two.
“Mare Nostrum” initially repeats a single phrase for much of its first couple of minutes, only to progressively get a lot more involved and energetic, which can only be considered as a good thing after a series of easy on the ear, mellower moments that are way too relaxing.
“Final Analysis” manages to strike a nice balance between its technocratic percussion and melodic piano lines that carry it forward despite pulling it in opposite directions with no clear winner.
The final piece of the puzzle, nay the album comes in the form of the eponymous “Focus 11”, a smooth jazzy piece with a very subtle touch of flute and nice interplay between the instruments. Its pleasant tones send the listener off in the best possible way.
All in all, a pretty solid album, a bit heavy on the melodic, jazzier moments, but not really lacking focus (excuse the pun) or cohesion that is likely to please established fans, but is unlikely to bring in a younger crowd, so late in the game.