Saturday, October 17, 2015

Focus - 1972 [1988] "Moving Waves"

Focus II (re-released as Moving Waves) is the second studio album from the Dutch rock band Focus. The album includes the hit "Hocus Pocus" and "Eruption", a 23-minute adaptation of Jacopo Peri's opera Euridice which tells the story of Orpheus and Euridice. Focus II was released in October 1971 to positive critical reception. It went on to reach the top ten in the UK, US and the Netherlands.

The single "Hocus Pocus" was Focus' biggest hit and gained the band international popularity. The song, similar in some regards to the riff-driven hard rock of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, anticipated many aspects of 1980s heavy metal music, and especially the guitar work of Yngwie Malmsteen with Akkerman's use of the harmonic minor and Hungarian minor scales, uncommon in rock music in the early 1970s.
Radical departures in musical styles follow in the remaining tracks of the album. "Le Clochard" ("The Beggar" in French), also entitled "Bread", is a melancholy classical guitar piece by Akkerman with van Leer backing on Mellotron strings. "Janis", another Akkerman-penned ballad, becomes a flute showcase for van Leer with multiple tracks on that instrument. "Moving Waves", a piano and vocal solo by Thijs van Leer, features lyrics by Sufi poet/master musician Inayat Khan. "Focus II" features the entire band in a classical-jazz fusion instrumental with graceful changes of time signature.
"Eruption" is a 23 minute long instrumental piece, a hard rock version of the tale of Orpheus and Euridice and an updated and more modern version of Jacopo Peri's opera Euridice. An uncredited melody from Monteverdi's L'Orfeo opens the suite, and a later segment includes the haunting "Tommy" (after its author Tom Barlage of the Dutch fusion band Solution). The Zappa-inspired "The Bridge" is a heavily syncopated jam session, culminating in some solo guitar riffs reminiscent of "Hocus Pocus" . "Euridice", penned by Eelko Nobel, is a classical lied which segues into the Gregorian "Dayglow", then van der Linden's drum solo, "Endless Road". The suite ends with a return to its opening themes, uniting them with "Euridice" with van der Linden's freeform percussion effectively evoking the sound of fireworks for the finale.

The album that boosted Focus into at least semi-fame outside of continental Europe, Moving Waves blasts off with their hit single, "Hocus Pocus." Built around a killer guitar hook by Jan Akkerman and a series of solo turns by the band, this instrumental replaced "Wipeout" as a staple of FM radio. The bizarrely hilarious vocal and accordion solos by Thijs van Leer -- one of which absurdly concludes with rousing stadium cheers -- have to be heard to be believed. After this over-the-top performance, the other tracks seem comparatively constrained: the gentle "Le Clochard" features some gorgeous classical guitar over Mellotron strings. The album concludes with "Eruption," which while mimicking the multi-suite nomenclature of Yes and King Crimson, is essentially a side-long jam session. Stop-time Emersonian organ solos alternate with languid sections of jazzy guitar redolent of Santana, while still other sections are flat-out electric blues-rock stomps. It's impressive playing, though it comes off as a bit meandering after the tightly structured solos that began the album.

"Moving Waves" is an easy to like classic prog recording. This is my favorite FOCUS release from their repertoire. "Moving Waves" contains some killer prog moments with classical piano and outrageous guitar riffs. "Hocus Pocus" is their signature piece with the famous yodeling of Thijs Van Leer. I love the gooves these guys get into and the presence of the 'ol Mellotron and classic guitar rock gives "Moving Waves" a high ranking on my all time favorite list.

This Netherlandish progressive masterpiece is one of the most hard rock progressive album made during that era: indeed Jan Akkerman's incisive and razor electric guitars are omnipresent: pure hard rock solos a la Led Zeppelin, and barely less timid aggressive riffs. The drums are restless, very complex and fast. The keyboards mostly consist in organ, mellotron, piano and harmonium. The intensely yodeling of Thijs Van Leer on "Hocus Pocus" is LEGENDARY: you are going to want to sing it! "Le clochard" has a beautiful floating mellotron in the background and impressive & relaxing acoustic guitar parts that should impress Steve Hackett himself. The peaceful and rhythmic "Janis" contains mellow flute parts a la Camel. The lead vocals on "Moving Waves" remind me early King Crimson. "Focus 2" is an OUTSTANDING very progressive track: Jan Akkerman "dances" with his melodic electric guitar: it seems that the other instruments follow his partitions, creating very structured and pleasant melodies through rhythm & air changes.
On side 2, the epic "Eruption" is a REAL progressive masterpiece, sometimes comparable to Jethro Tull's "Thick as a brick": the same organ sounds, tons on drums, very melodic bass, straightforward hard rock electric guitars; there are some intensely floating mellotron & backing vocals parts; there is a part which was composed by the Netherlandish fusion band Solution, coming from the "Divergence" album; there is a poignant & melodic piano part, accompanied with electric guitar and flute; the drum solo is absolutely impressive, having a bit the Neil Peart's style.

Tracks Listing

1. Hocus Pocus (6:42)
2. Le Clochard (2:01)
3. Janis (3:09)
4. Moving Waves (2:42)
5. Focus II (4:03)
6. Eruption (23:04)
-a. Orfeus, Answer, Orfeus
-b. Answer, Pupilla, Tommy, Pupilla
-c. Answer, The Bridge
-d. Euridice, Dayglow, Endless Road
-e. Answer, Orfeus, Euridice

Total Time: 41:41


    Thijs van Leer – Hammond organ, piano, mellotron, harmonium, flutes, vocals
    Jan Akkerman – guitars, bass guitar
    Cyril Havermans – bass guitar, vocals on "Pupilla"
    Pierre van der Linden – drums, percussion



  2. MAN!! your site is awesome!! so many of these bring back great memories when i heard them on vinyl. Thanks a million!!

  3. men, you're the best