Off to a good start
Jeffrey J.Park | Massachusetts, USA | 06/15/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Released in 1970, this debut by the Dutch prog band Focus is fairly well developed and many of the elements of the classic Focus sound are in place - a sound that would come to glorious fruition on the excellent Moving Waves (1971) and Focus III (1972). Featured prominently on this album are the incredible talents of virtuoso guitarist Jan Akkerman and flautist/keyboardist Thijs van Leer (love the Hammond organ work and his flute work is killer). Let us just say that their playing is impressive even at this early stage. Supporting them is a solid bass player and an excellent drummer. Come to think of it, Focus always had good drummers. With respect to the vocals, they are actually pretty good and fit well with the material.
What sets this album apart from their definitive works however, are tinges of 1960's psychedelia, which can be heard to varying degrees on Black Beauty, Why Dream, and especially on the perky, chirpy tune Sugar Island (an anti-Fidel Castro track). I suppose the psychedelia makes sense however - this was 1970 after all. Other tracks, while extremely enjoyable, show evidence of growing pains such as the Jethro-Tull inflected House of the King, along with the jazzy (and mellotron heavy) Happy Nightmare (Jan rips it up on this tune). Because I have no imagination whatsoever, my favorite tracks include those that sound just like classic Focus - the opening track Focus (vocal), the blistering instrumental jam Anonymous, which features excellent solos by Jan and Thijs (although I could have done without the not-so-hot bass solo), and the awesome closing instrumental track Focus. I guess it is worth noting that iterations of the tracks Focus and Anonymous would turn up on subsequent albums (e.g. Focus II and III, and Anonymous II).
Although this album has been (supposedly) remastered by Red Bullet (2001) and features excellent sound quality that is about it - there are no liner notes or photos whatsoever.
All in all this is a great debut by a fantastic prog rock band and is highly recommended along with Moving Waves and Focus III."