Focus – Moving Waves
For their second album, 1971′s Moving Waves, barmy Dutch proggers Focus decided to open the proceedings with a barnstorming festival of foolishness entitled ‘Hocus Pocus’. The rest, as they say, is history, with the aforementioned opener going on to be their most recognisable tune (though ‘House of the King’ and ‘Sylvia’ run it a close second and third), still gaining recognition as recently as 2010, when it popped up as the soundtrack to Nike’s World Cup ads.
Rightfully so too, as it’s a splendid seven minutes of Netherlandic nonsense, with a tongue lodged so firmly in its cheek, there’s a very real danger it might starve to death. The fact it’s a cracking good tune, to boot, only increases its appeal onehundredfold. If you’re reading this now – and how else would you know I just said that? – then there’s every chance you’re already acquainted with the rare delight that is ‘Hocus Pocus’; if not take a look at this bastard.
But that’s just one song on an album of six. Is this sum part greater than its whole? Is the brilliance bound to the buffoonery of one track? Does anybody actually care?
Moving Waves (aka Focus II) fails to maintain the considerable momentum initiated by ‘Hocus Pocus’, but then again, it makes no real attempt to. The opening track can be seen as something of a – albeit glorious – “novelty”, when put into context with the rest of the album. The remaining five tracks are serious pieces, not relying on an overriding hook, such as the one that forms the backbone of Focus’s most famous song.
‘Le Clochard’, with its Morricone-styled guitar melody and creeping Mellotron textures, lays the footings early on for the rest of Moving Waves’ self-imposed sobriety. An instrumental ensemble in all but the yodelling and insane gibberish of ‘Hocus Pocus’ and a vocal passage on the title track; Focus consistently demonstrate their off-skew musical prowess throughout the course of the album.
The fragrant, often vociferous guitars of Jan Akkerman and, of course, the keyboards and flute of Thijs van Leer dominate the proceedings, driving the album onwards to the epic conclusion that is the 23 minute ‘Eruption’. With jazzy interludes and all manner of motifs thrown into the prog hotpot along the way, Moving Waves is a tour-de-force of eccentric musicianship, combined with beltingly good compositions. The tone may be, for the most part, deliberately earnest, in stark contrast to the album’s wonderfully disorientating opener, but that detracts nothing from what is another sterling work by a band known largely – if not entirely accurately – for their cheerful brand of irreverent Dutch insanity.
Moving Waves by Focus is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk
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