Gary Steel is slowly compiling all his album reviews in one place. This is a work in progress, or what we call a “live document”. Today is the letter ‘F’.
Fischer Z – Word Salad (United Artists)
Suffering from the same syndrome as 10cc – lots of interesting, quirky ideas melded to pop music does not necessarily great music make – Fischer Z’s album is a clean-sounding, sterile cross between that group and the new wave. Only ‘Lies’ and ‘Remember Russia’ have a certain menacing factor. 5/10
Dutch band Focus represents all that is good and bad about that dated genre some call ‘techno-rock’ or ‘art-rock’ or ‘classical-rock or…
Virtuoso musicians from classical backgrounds, the group first played together in the Dutch version of Hair in 1969, and subsequently practised their own formula on some six albums before biting the dust in 1977.
Their music was a somewhat polite amalgam of formalist classical, jazz and rock influences. Unfortunately, the jazz content is in this case a ‘style’ rather than the real jazz definition – improvisation. The rock influence is some cutting, repetitious riffs, electrified instruments and little else.
The influences combined produced a sometimes exhilarating blend, but most often sound not a million kilometres away from that awful piped Muzak heard in so many office foyers.
But shame, shame – it’s thoroughly enjoyable. Focus On Focus is an obituary ‘best of’ compilation. Criminally, it’s a Dutch-compiled release with eight of the 14 tracks from the group’s waning days in 1977. Only six tracks are from their height of popularity in ’72-’73. Another grumble is the shoddy packaging, including badly translated liner notes on the back sleeve.
But Focus On Focus makes for enjoyable background music, and your mother will like it, or at least some of it.
The best tracks are the classic novelty ‘Hocus Pocus’ (Euro heavy metal yodelling ditty), the early Jethro Tullish ‘House Of The King’, ‘Tommy’ and ‘Sylvia’, both relaxed, lush pieces with lovely lyrical guitar.
The rest are very pleasant but the novelty quickly wears off. ‘Haren Scarem’ tries to repeat ‘Hocus Pocus’ and fails dismally, while ‘No Hangups’, ‘Focus IV’ and ‘Focus II’ cross the dangerously thin line between good taste and easy listening pap.
The worse moments come on the last-made material. The effete ‘Mother Focus’ can only be described as cheap twaddle, while ‘Brother’ (presumably PJ Proby on vocals) goes for sheerly embarrassing melodrmatics. Cringe.
It’s a shame. How could a group of such exceptional instrumentalists as Thijs Van Leer (keyboards, flute), Jan Akkerman and Philip Catherine (guitar) so so low?
When it worked, the formula worked well, but they failed because their combination of different musical forms was calculated and shallow, and the group had limited feeling for the rock idiom, despite their (mistaken) choice to work within the popular music field. 6/10
Ellen Foley – Night Out (Epic)
Ellen Foley does the Phil Spector wall-of-sound technique on Night Out. 5/10
Foreigner – Head Games (Atlantic)
Foreigner was contrived to fill the gap left by Bad Company during their years of slumber. This latest finds them wallowing in a stylish production with nothing to sing about, or play. 3/10
John Foxx – Metamatic (Virgin/RTC)
John Foxx is no Numan clone. His Metamatic may sound strikingly similar on initial listenings, but repeat plays reveal a depth of vision lacking in Numan’s posturings. Numan acknowledges Foxx, former leader of Ultravox, as a major influence. Try ‘Underpass’ and ‘No-One Driving’ for starters. 8/10
Foxy – Hot Numbers (Epic)
Heavily percussive Cuban-influenced disco with weak vocals. 5/10