I let the latest solo album by ex-Focus guitarist Jan Akkerman pass me on by. I listened to it initially and it just didn’t hit me at all. I even thought how he and Focus should reunite since Focus’ latest album did nothing for me either. But as I do frequently, I decided to revisit “Close Beauty” with fresh ears. I am glad I did.
I am not sure what I expected from Akkerman when I first listened to this. I mean he does certainly showcase his ability, though a good bit of it is done on an acoustic guitar. This does subdue a few things but when you pay closer attention (like I didn’t do the first time!), it’s clear that he is an incredible talent. The first few songs, “Spiritual Privacy” and “Beyond the Horizon” have a Latin vibe to his playing which is very cool. The title track finally shows off some electric guitar in the second solo part. It’s beautiful piece that crosses prog with new age and jazz.
Things really get interesting with “Retrospection,” which has a wonderfully atmospheric start that has Akkerman using his volume knob to solo over an organ backdrop. The song does kick in for a bit before it’s back to a jazzy acoustic solo. The song has a lot of tasty moments and movements, the track covers a lot of ground. I love a good journey! A favorite for sure.
The slow bluesy “Tommy’s Anniversary” is another favorite. It has a lushness and a sway that is really uplifting. Akkerman is able to really stretch out on this one. This is a song that I completely missed the first time through. This is one you have to check out. Next is a funky jazz cut called “Don Giavanni” which does have some great solos from Akkerman. At this point, I am wondering what in the hell was wrong with me the first time!!
I also really like the poppy “Fromage” which proves that Akkerman can still write a catchy hook. It also has a tasty solo of course! “Good Body Every Evening” is another one that I really like. Some jaw dropping playing here. It reminds me a bit of vintage Jeff Beck (a personal favorite of mine). Fantastic song! The bottom line is that “Close Beauty” is a beauty and I needed to get closer to see that. Don’t miss this one like I almost did. Jan Akkerman does not need Focus. He has his guitar and that’s all he ever needs to make some beauty.
1. Spiritual Privacy (Sunset Tango) (7:02)
2. Beyond the Horizon (7:06)
3. Reunion (4:39)
4. Close Beauty (3:00)
5. Retrospection (6:13)
6. Passagaglia (2:56)
7. Tommy’s Anniversary (8:17)
8. Don Giovanni (4:06)
9. Meanwhile in St. Tropez (4:51)
10. French Pride (3:00)
11. Fromage (5:20)
12. Good Body Every Evening (8:16)
Label: Music Theories Recordings
Release Date: October 25, 2019