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Jan Akkerman: Jan Akkerman

Out of Focus and into focus.

Despite titular appearances this is not Jan Akkerman’s first solo album. But it is the one that established the guitarist’s career after he left the flailing Focus in 1976.

Not that he didn’t already have a reputation, regularly topping the international sections of music paper polls. But on Jan Akkerman he redefined his style from rock to jazz rock, taking an emery cloth to his more brittle tones in the process.

At a casual listen this instrumental album could almost be dinner jazz. Blow By Blow it ain’t. Akkerman’s style is calculated and clean, focused on tone and form and he rarely lets emotion get in the way of control. The result sounds smooth but beneath the veneer there’s a hive of activity on an invigorating range of moods from funky to ethereal and very little noodling. Even the string arrangements, which could have been treacle, are lush but sinewy.

Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.