In the eyes and ears of many Focus die-hards ‘Mother Focus’ was the end of an impressive run for the kings of Dutch progressive rock.
Written by: Eric
ALBUM: Mother Focus
SERIAL: 2344 053
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Netherlands
LINEUP: Thijs Van Leer – keyboards, flute, vocals * Jan Akkerman – guitars * Bert Ruiter – bass, vocals * David Kemper, Collin Allen – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Mother Focus * 02 I Need A Bathroom * 03 Bennie Helder * 04 Soft Vanilla * 05 Hard Vanilla * 06 Tropic Bird * 07 Focus IV * 08 Someone’s Crying.What! * 09 All Together.Oh That! * 10 No Hang Ups * 11 My Sweetheart * 12 Father Bach
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In the eyes and ears of many Focus die-hards this album was the end of an impressive run for the kings of Dutch progressive rock. Following a trio of classic releases – ‘Moving Waves’, ‘3’ and the universally acclaimed jewel of their catalog ‘Hamburger Concerto’, the band were following the mid-decade trend towards shorter, more concise material much like their British contemporaries ELP and Gentle Giant.
But trouble was brewing within as the arguing between Thijs Van Leer and virtuoso guitarist Jan Akkerman became too much for frustrated drummer Collin Allen who left early in the recording and was hastily replaced by American David Kemper for the remaining sessions and subsequent tour.
Up to this point Classical rock was their bread and butter but what we have on ‘Mother Focus’ was less Bach and more light jazz, treading dangerously close to disco but it wasn’t entirely a bad thing. There’s only a pair of cuts with voice, the opening title track featuring Van Leer’s trademark wordless falsetto (remember ‘Hocus Pocus’?) and Akkerman’s first vocal appearance on a Focus album ‘I Need A Bathroom’.
He probably should have kept his desire to sing a secret as he just doesn’t cut it, sounding way too much like Bob Dylan to these ears. Ugly, but from here on the side varies with ‘Bennie Helder’ sounding like Focus of old while ‘Soft Vanilla’ and its disco-swishy counterpart ‘Hard Vanilla’ reminds me of fusion outfits Caldera, Nova and the like.
The flip fares better with the more typical ‘Focus IV’ and the sublime ‘Someone’s Crying.. What!’ bookended with the country-ish ‘All Together.. Oh That!’. Nicely done and ‘No Hang Ups’ has that familiar sound with beautiful interplay betwixt Akkerman’s soulful guitar and Van Leer’s subtle keys. Although closing with the minute and a half ‘Father Bach’ only reminds the listener of the grandeur and progressive innovation that they were previously known for, most of which is unfortunately missing here.
The excellent odds ‘n sods ‘Ship of Memories’ mopped up unreleased material from previous album sessions although Akkerman was long gone by the time 1978’s ‘Focus Con Proby’ hit the racks. Very much a jazz fusion album featuring soul star PJ Proby on vocals and not one, but two guitarists as well as well as future Journey and GDM fave Steve Smith on drums. The overall effect was closer to the late ’70s Santana albums but again, light years from the groundbreaking band these guys once were.
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