Most helpful positive review
56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Pop, rock, progressive rock? Who cares! Call it what you like. Just listen to it!
on 13 March 2006
This second album from Focus was so well composed and executed that it has easily stood the test of time. It is good music through and through; clever, exciting, beautiful and moving. This dutch band really knew what they were doing musically and boy could they play! They were (and still are) essentially an instrumental band with the melody carried by guitar, flute, keyboards and occasionally vocals. Focus didn't appear to be too much swayed by music fashions or commercial pressures of the music business when they recorded this album and that is one of the reasons why it sounds as fresh and exciting today as it did when it was released in the early 1970's.
The album kicks off with the one that was released as a 45, "Hocus pocus" a thunderous, relentless rocker composed by Akkerman & van Leer. Suitably titled and very clever, it has lots of surprises, tricks and dazzling guitar licks, and a damn good dose of comedy thrown in to add to the entertainment. Keyboardist Thijs(pronounced Tys) van Leer plays the jester with his wild flute playing, whistling, yodeling and other crazy vocal gymnastics, effortlessly hitting notes higher than Brian Wilson ever went on any Beach Boys recording. Not to be outdone, guitarist Jan Akkerman provides a lot of the thrills and excitement with his amazing gibson les paul antics and oh what a cracking job by the rhythm section, drummer Pierre van der Linden and bassist Cyril Havermans.
In contrast to this on the next track Jan reveals his talent as a classical guitarist by playing his own composition the gentle, haunting "Le clochard". Nice touch by Thijs with the mellotron backing which adds a touch of eeriness to the piece. GORGEOUS. Track 3 "Janis" is another Akkerman composition and features Thijs on multi-tracked, interwoven flute parts. This is probably the weakest track on the album, but is still interesting to listen to. The impressionistic title track "Moving waves" is one of the sayings of Hazrat Inayat Khan set to music by Thijs on vocals and piano. Listen to the words with the music that van Leer has written. The rippling piano chords and the crescendos and diminuendos conjure up the image of the ocean waves as they "become excited and then all calm together". The ascending last few chords rise with the waves as they "reach upwards" (to the moon). This is good composing. Track 5, oh yes! Thijs van Leer's "Focus II" with jazz and classical influences and beautifully sensitive guitar playing by Jan. It is typical of Akkerman to add expression with the use of dynamics and subtle phrasing to enhance a melody as he does on this magical piece. STUNNING, however the best is yet to come.
The last track is made up of several different compositions, most by Thijs who came up with the overall concept "Eruption", aptly titled lasting 23 minutes. It commences with a line of music borrowed from Monteverdi's "L'Orfeo" with Thijs on Hammond organ and Jan using his violin guitar effect ( volume control tweaking. You hear a smooth note without the sound of the plucking). The sound is mesmerising and instantly captures your attention. After a minute or two it bursts into life taking you on a journey through the most amazing music, including stunning guitar solos that never get tedious and a couple of incredibly skillful drum solos which add hugely to the overall piece and don't lose one's interest for a second. The richly melodic guitar oriented Pupilla/Tommy segment is spine tinglingly sublime! The range of musical styles in this piece is incredible, from the renaissance style "Orpheus" and "Dayglow" to the Latin American organ solo segment of "The Bridge". The impact of each composition is enhanced by the contrast between it and the next, but despite the great variety it all flows and makes musical sense. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Thijs shows us how good a flautist he is as his instrument produces the richest timbres. His jazz/rock Hammond organ playing is fabulous. I wonder if dutchman Eddie van Halen was paying homage to Focus when he used the Title "Eruption" for his ground-breaking piece for solo guitar in the Late 1970's.
Musically the band was in a different league to any other at the time if you consider the musical progressions within each piece of music and the expertise of each band member. Jan Akkerman is a hugely talented musician. Technically brilliant with a lot of feel and a real understanding of music, he must be one of the best and most versatile guitarists in the business. Pierre van der Linden is a great drummer and definitely a musician, hugely enhancing the music with his highly creative and technically clever drumming. Cyril Havermans (later replaced by Bert Ruiter) plays a highly musical, rhythmic and solid bass. Thijs van Leer is a multi-talented musician with a great gift for composition and has written music which stands among THE MOST EXCITING, ORIGINAL AND BRILLIANT ROCK/POP MUSIC EVER RECORDED. If there is a genius in this band, then it is him.
If you want to hear something dramatically different then give "Moving waves" a listen. This is one of the best albums of "rock/pop" music ever recorded.