Ever wondered what Jan Akkerman was doing before Focus? Me neither. But in 1969 he was making Brainbox a very classy, punchy blues-rock act. The four-piece, fronted by the tough and capable voice of Caz Lux, rocked as hard as most Brit bands of the era – and was tighter.
Akkerman’s soloing on the go-for-broke Dark Rose is of a phenomenally high standard, its sound softened by flute (from sessioner Tom Barlage) – making it a precursor of Focus. Brainbox are on top of everything – drummer Pierre van der Linden is machine-accurate, supplying an almost breakbeatish groove for Summertime, and Andre Reynen’s bass is to the point, leaving space for the guitarist’s licks, some of which have since become rock clichés – but weren’t back then. The 45, Down Man, is impressive, and if the 12-bar Sinner’s Prayer is pub-rocky, it is at least short.
On the other hand, Sea Of Delight is 17 minutes long, lurking where Eight Miles High meets Led Zep’s IV, with Akkerman soloing on 12-string like few could – and it never gets dull. The lone drawback is a glut of predictable covers – Scarborough Fair, Reason To Believe, etc – but all are handled with taste. Shame that it was the guitar star’s only album with the group.