In And Out Of Focus Records [Release date 03.11.14]
‘Swung’ was evidently conceived and recorded during downtime from the “day job” – for Bobby Jacobs and Pierre van der Linden this means the current incarnation of Focus. Although that band is on the road regularly, new material comes along slowly and the latest release (‘Golden Oldies’) was actually a re-recording of former glories.
Enter ‘Swung’ which brings together former (post-2000) Focus guitarist Niels van der Steenhoven and the current incumbent Menno Gootjes. Outside of the constraints of Focus, and the inevitable shadow of Akkerman, both players can let rip can’t they?
Volume 1 is the sort of improvisational long-form piece that Akkerman might have attempted around the time of ‘Profile’. The band explore jazzy territory and there are few memorable tunes or riffs and no overdubbing.
Adventure 5 and 7 have an infectious groove and are standouts. A whole side of this would have put them alongside an album like Rock Candy Funk Party which featured Joe Bonamassa. Focus fans will recognise the vibe throughout from the track ‘Niels Skin’ on Focus 9/New Skin (2006).
On Volume 2, with Menno Gootjes, a similar journey is taken. From the violin-toning of ‘Raga Reference 1′ through to – yes you’ve got it – ‘Raga Reverence 8′ this disc benefits from guitar overdubs although still jazzy and improvised. Throughout, Pierre van der Linden is a colossus on drums and the free-form nature suits him well.
Overall, think of a less inhibited Eric Johnson: it doesn’t really sound like Focus though. It’s a case of “set the controls for the heart of the Swung … and see where it takes us.”
Producer and bassist Bobby Jacobs describes the project as giving an outlet for their noodling at soundchecks. For Focus obsessives this is probably good enough reason to purchase, although the addition of keyboards (and flute?) would have added some balance if probably missing the point. Nicely recorded, though. ***
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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