Focus - Focus 9/New Skin

Year of Release: 2006
Label: Red Bullett
Catalog Number: RB66.253
Format: CD
Total Time: 73:41:00

Who would have thought the famous Dutch band Focus would still be around these days? Friends such as Earth and Fire will never get back together again, whilst acts such as Supersister and Alquin only reformed for a one-off reunion tour. Only Kayak is still around as a band these days, but surely Focus tops it all. Not only do they still perform live and do they give us loads of flashbacks with the older material, they also compose brand new songs for our pleasure. Recently, a completely new album was released also featuring new found guitar player Niels Van Der Steenhoven. But more about this guy later. The album opens with "Black Beauty" which contains all the typical Focus ingredients such as the immortal organ, the close to Jan Akkerman sound of the guitar, the patented drum sound of Pierre Van Der Linden and the original whistling by none other than Thijs Van Leer. Should this song have been released in the seventies it would have become as huge a hit as "Sylvia" or "Hocus Pocus." Sadly those days are gone, so I'm afraid one has to digest this new Focus product as a complete album rather than treat yourself to one cut which gets tons of airplay. Next to the uptempo wacky stuff, the band has always approached material with a high emotional value as well. The wonderful romantic "Focus 7" surely is a great example of this.

A lot of people remember Thijs Van Leer because of his successful Introspection albums which were a huge hit in restaurants at the time. Classically trained Van Leer fully concentrates on the flute for these compositions. In "Hurkey Turkey 2" the flute is omni-present, which sees Focus deliver it's own adaptation of Mozart's "A La Turka," although using a hilarious rhythm. The new Focus has been together for a while now, yet as usual some changes in the line-up needed to be made. Frontperson Thijs Van Leer is now backed by old buddy Pierre Van Der Linden on drums. His stepson Bobby Jacobs fills in on bass. Bobby's dad is the brother of the famous bandleader Pim Jacobs who died a while ago. This means that jazz singer Rita Reys is Bobby's aunt. It will be clear that Jan Akkerman has not been mentioned at all in this whole process [except in passing -ed.]. For a couple of years, the new Focus had the superb guitar player Jan Dum?e as a fourth member. Jan has recently been replaced by the young talented Niels Van Der Steenhoven who already delivers a very own composition here with "Niel's Skin," a funky, jazzy improvisation which uses various rhythms and sees Van Leer having a field day on the organ.

Sung by guest singer Jo De Roeck "Just Like Eddy" is a reprise of the song "Eddy," which was released way back in 1977 on the Focus Con Proby album. Composed with Bobby Jacobs, "Aya-Yuppie-Hippie-Yee" depicts the band's newborn vitality and "joie-de-vivre." At more than ten minutes, "European Rap(sody)" not only is the longest track on the album, it's also the weirdest by using a Russian atmosphere in the beginning, adapting deep vocal contributions from Thijs. Just like Barclay James Harvest did with Beatles songs for their song "Titles," so is the second part of "European Rap(sody)" based around titles of older Focus songs spoken in rap form. It sounds like kind of a retrospective that highlights all of the band's impressive career. Now that's what I call original!

The tribute to Pim Jacobs in "Pim" sounds uncomplicated and playful with Niels Van Der Steenhoven as a true virtuoso who lets his guitar chords blend ever so well with Thijs' wonderful organ and flute playing. With the intimate "It Takes 2 2 Tango," the album closes in a very dreamy way, illustrating that Focus is once again ready to inject more incredible music over the coming years. With two older members of the band and two young musicians, Focus now contains maturity, creativity and skill all under one roof. If the music industry would hand out Michelin stars, I'd say that Focus has been a two star band all these years and has just been awarded their well merited third star by means of this brand new album Focus 9/New Skin. Now have a nice dinner everyone and ? tuck in!

Black Beauty (4:13) / Focus 7 (5:22) / Hurkey Turkey 2 (4:03) / Sylvia's Stepson - Ubatuba (4:48) / Niel's Skin (6:03) / Just Like Eddy (5:08)/ Aya-Yuppie-Hippie-Yee (5:20) / Focus 9 (7:57) / Curtain Call (4:32) / Ode To Venus (4:26) / European Rap(Sody) (10:22) / Pim (3:00) / It Takes 2 2 Tango (8:01)

Thijs Van Leer - Hammond organ, flute, vocals
Niels Van Der Steenhoven - guitar
Bobby Jacobs - bass
Pierre Van Der Linden - drums

In And Out Of Focus (1970)
Moving Waves (1971)
Focus III (1972/1991/2001)
Live At The Rainbow (1973)
Hamburger Concerto (1974)
Mother Focus (1975) Dutch Masters (1975)
Ship Of Memories (1977/2001)
Focus Con Proby (1978)
Electric Bird (1979)
House Of The King (1983)
Greatest Hits: Moving Waves (1984)
Focus: Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer (1985)
Best Of Focus (1994)
Hocus Pocus: Best Of Focus (1994)
Pass Me Not (1995)
Focus 8 (2002)
Focus 9/New Skin (2006)
Focus X (2012)
Focus 8.5/Beyond The Horzon (2016)
Live In England (CD/DVD) (2016)
Live In Europe (2016)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin NL

Added: February 20th 2007
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 2545
Language: english


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