Focus 8.5/Beyond the Horizon Focus and Friends Cherry Red Thijs van Leer may have had a habit of parting company with guitarists, but that doesn’t mean the man with the supersized sideburns doesn’t have a sense of humour. Hence, one suspects, the decision to subtitle this album Focus 8.5. The title is a reference to fact the album’s unreleased tracks were recorded more than a decade ago during a 2005 South American tour by the Focus 8 line-up. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just another collection of warmed-over outtakes. It is a refreshing and energetic fusion of jazz, prog and world music.
Van Leer and drummer Pierre van der Linden represent the classic early 1970s band that hit the charts with instrumentals such as Hocus Pocus and Sylvia. They are joined by van Leer’s stepson, Bobby Jacobs, on bass and Focus 8 guitarist Jan Dumee as a capable replacement for the legendary Jan Akkerman.
The friends include Brazilian bass supremo Arthur Maia, saxophonist Mario Seve and drummer Marcio Bahia.
Nods to the band’s baroque-tinged origins in Focus Zero and Surrexit Christus are complemented by a move into new territory with the joyful Latin explosion of Hola, Coma Estas and the retro jazz-rock of Rock 5.
The seven tracks (or nine, depending on how you count the quirky interplay of drums on Talking Rhythms) penned by the band or producer Marvio Ciribelli are nicely recorded and end too quickly.