Out of Focus



Bron: Het Parool
21 Maart 2003

World-famous band. Especially “Live at the Rainbow”, containing live recordings from 1973, when the band chemistry, at least on stage, reached a fireable intensity, is a record I still play a lot. (Just shoot me, old prick, for it).
“Focus II”, “Focus III”, “Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!” en “Eruption”, the dissonant guitar intro of “Hocus Pocus” – the music with that unique combination of Hammond-organ and rock guitar, still did not loose anything of its power.
In Focus, a rock guitar was not the only issue, it was the wild, inventive, rhapsodic, lyrical musician Akkerman, who played the guitar beyond all imaginable boundaries.
That “sound”, that “timing”, those melodic abilities, that spectacular technique and that incredible, gypsy kind of musicality!
No, there was no other guitar player like Akkerman. Together with organist, flautist and yodeller Thijs van Leer he formed a band (let’s also not forget the great drummer Pierre van der Linden, who later joined the band), until the band split up, much too early and apparently also unnecessarily.

In the book “In and out of Focus: the music of Jan Akkerman & Focus” by the Britt Dave Randall, Van Leer says that the split up was due to the success of his solo-album “Introspection”. Akkerman no more than endorses this in an indirect way: he thought that Van Leer sold out the band artistically with “Introspection” (soft Bach-orchestrations by Rogier van Otterloo).
One might like to know more about it, but Randall does not dig very deep. It’s more amazing that he quotes from interviews by Dutch music-magazines to a large extent and doesn’t add any facts from his own opinion.
Randall restricts himself to the insipid mentioning of biographical facts out of Akkerman’s life. Meanwhile he misspells many Dutch names of streets and towns. He even thinks that, in The Netherlands, Christmas is celebrated on December 5th – (but Sinterklaas and Santa Claus are rivals). That would not have mattered much, if he would have come up with some important facts about the music of Akkerman and Focus. He fails to do so. And when he gives it a try (the Zappa-inspired “The bridge”) he completely fails. Fact is that, after reading his descriptions you never feel the urge to run to your record-collection to play that record once more. Jan Akkerman and Focus deserve a better book. But that might still be published one day.

Review: Erik Voermans
Translation: Irene Heinicke
Source: Het Parool
21 March 2003