A sunset never blazed so brightly – the penultimate Focus album was their most perfectly achieved statement, a beautifully composed and produced celebration of the Akkerman/van Leer partnership at a creative, if not social, peak. A real synthesis of their musical strengths – crunching riffs, memorable tunes, classical motifs, whimsy, humour, and those carmine Akkerman guitar runs threading the whole thing together. Brief lute & flute appetiser Delitae Musicae is followed by Harem Scarem, a buoyant jeu d’esprit with a nice boogieish piano riff and clipped, sparky guitar. La Cathédrale de Strasbourg is a lazy evocation of youthful van Leer camping holidays, a sweet vaguely choral melody and an atmosphere of churchbell summeriness. Birth is a powerful flute-led trip into a melting pot of Akkerman’s musical influences, and the long concluding suite Hamburger Concerto blends more great tunes than you can shake a plectrum at into a rich, resplendent panorama of the group’s intermeshed interests and skills.
Well, the watery, dispirited Mother Focus album was to follow, and the colourful scrapbook Ship of Memories, but Hamburger Concerto was really where an intriguing musical journey came to an end on the rocks of agitated egos: both Akkerman (especially) and van Leer (occasionally) were to go on to produce interesting work, but little with such joyous coherence.