Getting into Focus

As the recording diary shows, Focus had a big influence on this album. Not because it sounds like them, but just because they reminded us what was possible. We saw them at, of all places, a blues-rock festival in Bude. We were on the bill in the afternoon and they were headlining.

Thijs van Leer and Pierre van der Linden were there from the early days and there were two new guys we didn’t know: Udo Pannekeet on bass and Menno Gootjes on guitar. I only had one Focus album, one of those brilliant Polydor Flashback compilations with the spray can title. I’d just never got round to them, I got distracted by the blues. Bob, however was a massive fan, Focus III being a formative album for him. He was utterly starstruck.

You’re always worried of course. Will it just be a shadow of what it once was, will it be the same without Akkerman, all that stuff. And of course it was soaringly brilliant, a band still in evolution, still finding new things to say but without ever losing its essential… well, Focus. We were exhausted, intimidated and inspired.

Next morning, we all agreed: let’s not try to do a blues-rock album. We’d all compromised a bit to find common ground, me being the slightly hysterical blues purist and metal fan, Russ being the punk, Bob being weird and into all kinds of odd things, Derek being an actual proper musician from when rock was rock, and Ian being utterly inscrutable. But he definitely has a touch of Rick Wright in there somewhere.

So we decided to just let it happen and out came Different Horizons. Not a blues-rock album, but bluesy and rocky and whatever else. I think you can hear the best of five individuals working as a band. Only one harmonica song and that owes more to War than to Sonny Boy. And sound effects and everything.

Not just because Focus re-engineered our consciousnesses in Bude. But it didn’t half help. And I now I have all eleven Focus albums and Focus XI is just as much a kick in the face as Moving Waves.

4 thoughts on “Getting into Focus

  1. A wonderful Halloween gig to showcase the album and say a loving and brilliantly musical farewell to Bob. What wonderful musicians you all are, and how stunningly your two guests sat in with those incredibly challenging guitar lines that Bob revelled in. Sadly the 2020 Bude Blues Festival had been rescheduled for this weekend after the first lock-down and gone west (even further ) by the latest measures.

    I would love to know where was the house in Cornwall that inspired the album – and where the album cover photo was taken from, as I had a house on the Moor for 10 years.

    1. Thanks Simon! Yes it was great to be part of that evening. Joe and Del both brought so much to the music and made it a proper celebration of Bob as a writer and a musician. I think Derek will be in touch to give you details of the cover pictures. Here’s the house – our Headley Grange! https://abnb.me/2fUVbHE8dbb
      Thanks for your support and kind words. Stay safe and see you at some kind of gig, somewhere.

  2. Congratulations on a great album. And it’s interesting to read about the inspiration behind the creative process. The album strikes me as more prog-rock than blues, reminding me of an era when mighty keyboard/guitar bands such as Supertramp (Crisis? What Crisis?), Procol Harum, Argent and of course Floyd roamed the land. The songs are always thoughtful and intricately structured, with some cool sound effects to help the narrative thread here and there. Tremendous work all round. Well done.

    1. Thank you David, that means a lot. And yes, we were definitely conscious of shrugging off the blues and exploring other ideas. I have a theory that classic rock kind of bifurcated around 1977 (when punk was trying to give it a kicking) and that blues-rock is kind of one half of it. The other half – the proggy, arty stuff! – seemed to have gone into a very niche space until I discovered it alive and well and VERY loud in the metal scene. But we definitely felt there was room for an album that drew upon the roots you describe, so I’m very pleased you noticed it! Thanks again – hope you’re keeping safe.

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