(Cherry Red Records)
Expecting the unexpected is never a bad shout when it comes to the Dutch titans.
The band may be moving through their twilight but they remain downright willful in their refusal to pull down the creative shutters. Instead, windows are flung wide to whatever takes their fancy, an admirably adventurous approach writ large accross this 20-track collection.
Released to coincide with a South American and European tour, the album stands as something of a signpost to both their recent past and ever-restless future. Bringing together tracks recorded with talented collaborators in far flung studios, alternate takes from the Focus X sessions and solo interludes from each of the current line-up, it’s a set that’s nothing if not varied.
You could do with a sat-nav as the band journey to everything from old school blues and stomping rock through Latin feistiness and classical grace. There’s even a little flirt with reggae, albeit in a tentative toe-in-the-water kind of way.
Not everything absolutely works (Five Fouth seems a little cumbersome; Birds Come Fly Over is a hybrid where the vocal is maybe miscast) and, not surprisingly, there are moments that feel like an extended jam whose destination is uncertain.
But plenty here hits the mark.
Thijs Van Leer’s trademark Hammond and Menno Gootjes’ guitar gold make often dazzling dance partners – the splendidly titled Mosh Blues a big, bold riff-driven highlight. Pierre Van Der Linden, whose two solo percussion workouts admittedly could carry ‘purists only’ tags, remains an ever-inventive force on drums.
And judging by his fairly breathtaking contributions here, new bass ace Udo Pannekeet has been a gift from the Gods. His solo pieces – one a Pat Methany-esque jazz glide and the other all fun and funk – are stunning. Pannekeet alone should make sure Focus enjoy renewed oxygen to their creative flame.
*Read an exclusive interview with Thijs Van Leer in Volume III of HRH Mag – out in November. Subscribe now to avoid disappointment or pick up your free copy at HRH Prog VI.