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Focus - Focus 9 / New Skin CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.09 | 94 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
2 stars New skin, old tricks

If not counting Jan Akkerman's and Thijs Van Leer's 1985 album Focus (appropriately listen here as a Focus album), then 2002's Focus 8 was the first album of new Focus material since the 1970's. This was a welcome return after such a long absence and Focus 8 was a good album. Four years later came Focus 9, subtitled New Skin. The fact that the album opens with a re-make of an older number (Black Beauty, originally from the band's 1970 debut) is in itself a warning sign that they had already run out of inspiration (again), but this actually is a rather nice version that is not too similar to the original and as such is worthwhile. The album continues with three strong tracks, showing promise and settling the listener into the comforting belief that Focus has made yet another good album. However, initial appearances mislead and the album soon deteriorates. The rest of the album sadly alternates between dull and downright embarrassing.

Niels' Skin is just Focus by the numbers, sounding as if they were running on autopilot. It is however with Just Like Eddie that disaster first strikes. This vocal number is dull and faceless, featuring totally anonymous vocals (by whom I don't know). It does not sound at all like Focus and as such is absolutely out of place on this album. Aya-Yuppie-Hippie-Yee, on the other hand, sounds again very much like Focus, and the track has its moments. But in the end it sounds like the band is just rehashing old ideas, trying to make another Hocus Pocus.

The title track is the second anomaly of this album (as well as an anomaly in the history of the band's trademark self-titled compositions). Focus 9 is an acoustic piece that totally lacks direction. Perhaps it was improvised on the spot? It is dominated by piano and acoustic guitar and as such also sounds out of place here. By now it should be clear that New Skin is an inferior Focus album. It is also a backward-looking album showcasing a band desperately trying to be what they once were. This is nowhere more obvious than during a vocal part of European Rap(sody) in which the lyrics are entirely based on song titles from the band's own past. It is rather lame.

Finally, another problem with this album is that it is just too long for its own good. It would have benefited from being shortened, and there are indeed several tracks that we would have done better without. I don't recommend getting this album until after you have most other Focus albums.

SouthSideoftheSky | 2/5 |


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