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27 Jan 2017

Focus “Hamburger Concerto” 1974 Dutch Prog Rock




Focus “Hamburger Concerto” 1974 Dutch Prog Rock
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This Dutch Quartet revolutionized the rock world in the early 70's in large part due to the unparalleled talents of Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer. The first gentleman is a guitarist extraordinaire, both on acoustic or electric , as well as a world class master of the medieval luth. Thijs on the other hand, is an accomplished ivory tickler (harpsichord, piano and mostly Hammond organ) as well as a master flutist. Previous albums, Moving Waves and 3 were steeped in the extensive "Jazz-Jam'' style, long riveting tracks loaded with blistering fretwork and towering interplay with flute and organ. Why this album remains a treasure 30 years later? 
Hamburger Concerto is the crowning achievement of Focus' career, as subsequent albums clearly lack the sizzle and fire of this masterpiece. From the opening renaissance intro "Delitiae Musicae" , the listener is in for one hell of a ride, a musical journey of epic proportions, with a mature sound and an obvious search for perfection. "La Cathedrale de Strasbourg" is warmly enchanting. The side long Hamburger suite is a divine slab of first rate prog-rock. Check out the sheer thunder and passion of Akkerman's guitar on "Birth" , arguably one of the finest 10 solos ever recorded. 

If you do not own this jewel, I suggest to return to your country album collection and stay there! Your punishment is deserved and you have been warned.....by tszirmay ......

Baroque and Roll is only one of the many eclectic ways to describe the wonderful sound of Focus on the Hamburger Concerto album. The baroque influence shines through here more than on any other album previous but the music is consistently as strong as the previous two studio albums at least. No yodelling here as on "Hocus Pocus" which kicked off Moving Waves but the opener proper (after "Delite Musicae" served as a fine gentle prelude) on this album while not being the forceful driving rock anthem that "Hocus Pocus" was still bears an identity to the hard rock traits of Focus and especially the guitar playing of Jan Akkerman and in fact both songs come from the same common ground musically and even the names of both have a trait in common too but it would be wrong to state that Focus were trying to achieve the same effect as both tunes are quite different, "Hocus Pocus" is a unique track that could never be copied without it sounding too blatant. I even heard some whistling in there somewhere... If Focus are a progressive rock, which they have been cited as, then they are like no other. In my opinion the typical prog rock outfit takes themselves too seriously but Focus add humour to their depth of textures and allow some fun to creep into the songs while never losing face. The rocking "Harem Scarem" has some odd noises thrown in for good measure alongside some fluid and clean musicianship as is par for this entire album which is joyful and a fine exploration of varying styles like the afore mentioned baroque with the lute making sweeping moves. But it is the guitar playing which is the biggest draw for me when listening to Focus and in that department they never fail to excite. Hamburger Concerto is an electrifying album with a sense of theatre involved in the execution and arrangement, especially on the 20 minute plus title suite. It is unlike anything else in my book and certainly works better than previous lengthy workouts. I still cannot split their first three albums, they all have their own merits but they might just have progressed a little more with the Hamburger Concerto. A band this consistent merging good songwriting talent with carefully executed musicianship must be heard. Focus is an apt name for a band who play this sharp......by Philo ..............

The album Hamburger Concerto is great from start to finish, but it can take some time to fully enjoy its sonority and melodies. At first I tried to listen to the huge "Hamburger Concerto" track by parts just to try to get a glance from it, but that was not enough to get a good idea. You really have to put the song and listen from beginning to the end. And, oh my god, only for the last 3 minutes of this track I could die while listening... The end of Hamburger Concerto is simply the best musical climax ever achieved in music yet (from my experience). It has the power of the best Camel climax but is more powerful! If the whole album was as powerful as the end of that song, I would give 5/5 on this album without hesitating. However, as good as it is, 4. 6/5.0 is a better overall score. 

Higly recommanded if you like to sit there and listen to music that will take you far away... and blow you away at the same time!...... by belz ..............

Harem Scarem and Birth are beautiful songs and Hamburger Concerto is a prog beast. Still, I didn't like it as much as Anonymus Two and I think this album pales in comparrison to Focus Three. Still, this is a great Focus album and it shouldn't be avoided.....by Carl floyd fan ....

Harem scarem is almost in the same mould than Hocus Pocus with hilarious vocals and energetic guitars. La Cathedrale De Strasbourg is simply gorgeous with subtle singing and delighful bells and percussions. Birth by comparison pales a bit but is still a fine classical rework tune and a highlight on almost any other Focus album. 

But the Concerto in itself is the real gem taking up a full side of vinyl, each movement being named after a manner of cooking the hamburger. For once I cannot blame Focus to stretch out an idea too long. This 20 min+ track is absolutely stunning and is riveting you to your sofa until the track is over. This is the album to prove that even almost instrumental prog can full of humour without proper lyrics. 

Easily their better album , I can assure you that you will not regret this.......by Sean Trane ...........

The Burger Kings 
By far Focus' best and more complete and accomplished album. 

Although "Hamburger Concerto" itself only occupies the second side of the LP, the whole album flows beautifully from start to finish. There's nothing like "Hocus Pocus" here, or the rambling jazz laden indulgences of other albums ("Focus 3" comes to mind). Instead what we have is a classically constructed piece of pure smooth prog rock. Guitar and keyboards share the lead most of the time, with Van Leer's flute and vocals (sounds not lyrics) kept relatively brief. 

There really isn't any point in going into individual track details, it's very much an album to hear from start to finish. The closing section of "Hamburger concerto" ("One for the road") however is stunning, Akerman's guitar work being reminiscent of their beautiful single "Sylvia". 

A beautifully constructed and performed album, which surpasses by a country mile anything else by the band. The CD version has one extra track, an early version of "Birth". 

The sleeve notes talk about the album being premastered (not remastered) whatever that means!....... by Easy Livin .......

While Focus 3 did have some great stuff, I also thought the album got bogged down by excessive guitar and drum solos ("Anonymous II" was the guilty verdict). The band then recorded Live at the Rainbow in 1973, which was recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London during the peak of their success. They were to record a followup to Focus 3, but the band was starting to have one of their bad times, Jan Akkerman not wanting to talk to anyone and Pierre van der Linden having enough of it and leaving. 

Some of the material for this never-released album ended up on the outtakes album Ship of Memories. Pierre simply teamed up with ex-Exseption keyboardist Rick van der Linden (no relation) and ex-Cuby & the Blizzards bassis Jaap van Eik to form a band called Ace, but since a British band was already calling themselves Ace (the group with a pre-Squeeze/pre-Mike & the Mechanics Paul Carrack, who had that hit with "How Long"), this Dutch supergroup had to call themselves Trace. Focus simply added a new drummer named Colin Allen, who a member of the Scottish group Stone the Crows. He was no match for Pierre van der Linden, so he simply resorted to more conventional rock drumming. 

So the new album with this new drummer, Hamburger Concerto ends up being regarded by many as their last truly great album, many go as far as regarding it as one of their best, and that I can agree. It was the rock critics who were less kind to this album. "Delitae Musicae" is a short, medieval piece played on lute by Jan Akkerman. This piece, no doubt, showed Akkerman's love for early and medieval music. "Harem Scarem" is the first cut with full band interaction. You'll notice right away this piece isn't as intense and in your face as "Hocus Pocus". And because Colin Allen isn't Pierre van der Linden, the band focused on a more sophisticated sound, which works just fine. 

You'll still hear that classic Focus sound, with the yodeling, and Akkerman's trademark guitar playing, and organ playing from Thijs van Leer. Thijs also gives us some "yeah, yeah, yeah" voices in this song too. "La Cathedral de Strasbourg" shows a more the more medieval influences of the band, with Akkerman giving some medieval style playing on his electric guitar, but there's also full band interaction, as well. "Birth" has a more Jethro Tull-like feel, especially from Thijs van Leer's flute playing. Then comes the side-length title track. Starts off classical-like, but then there's no mistaking this is simply a great prog rock piece, there are some mellower passages that get me thinking a bit of Pink Floyd. Synthesizers make their first mark on a Focus album, Thijs van Leer started to include an ARP Odyssey with his usual gear of Hammond organ and piano. 

This album doesn't feature any drum solo at all, unlike their previous albums, but then Colin Allen had no need for them. This is truly a great album to have, and I highly recommend it! 
by Ben Miler.............

Focus 
*Thijs Van Leer - Organ, Flute, Piano, Harpsichord, Moog, Vocals 
*Jan Akkerman - Guitar 
*Bert Ruiter - Bass Guitar 
*Colin Allen - Drums

Songs / Tracks Listing 
1. Delitae Musicae (1:13) 
2. Harem Scarem (5:52) 
3. La Cathedrale De Strasbourg (4:59) 
4. Birth (7:46) 
5. Hamburger Concerto (20:19) 
i) Starter 
ii) Rare 
iii) Medium I 
iv) Medium II 
v) Well Done 
vi) One For The Road

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..

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