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Focus - 3 CD (album) cover

3

Focus

 

Symphonic Prog

3.78 | 421 ratings

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Progfan97402
4 stars Back in 1993 I started buying Focus albums. Moving Waves was the first Focus album I ever heard, I won't forget hearing "Hocus Pocus" in 1989 as a teenager (right smack in the era of New Kids on the Block) and being blown away by this song (to be honest, I remembered hearing this song as a small kid, so it wasn't new to me, just that in 1989 it really caught my attention). I often wondered why I never heard any other Focus songs on the radio. When I finally heard Moving Waves, that album blew me away, not just "Hocus Pocus", but the side-length "Eruption". OK, so I now understand, it's mostly instrumental, which radio stations tended to stay away, and the best cut, other than "Hocus Pocus" was too long and maybe not the most radio friendly. I then bought Focus 3, the US pressing on Sire with the die-cut cover (but without the rainbow "Focus 3" effect, it's just simply a rainbow "Focus 3" logo) and I didn't quite liked it as much. This album really proved to me why you never heard any other Focus songs on the albums, but through the years, I can see why I was a bit hard on the album. Perhaps a bit excessive at times, but then it dawned on me, Cream likely did similar things live, but they'd do it in a blues-based manner, which Focus would never do. "Round Goes the Gossip" is the only song with singing, in fact the little bit of Latin is the only singing (other than the phrase "Round Goes the Gossip" being repeated over and over). "Love Remembered", Jan Akkerman's piece is a pretty sappy piece, with acoustic guitar and Thijs van Leer's flute, with something like a Theremin or an Ondes Martenot. "Sylvia" was a minor hit in the States, but apparently a major one in Europe, I have absolutely no recollections of this song on the radio, so obviously it didn't have an impact on FM radio the way of "Hocus Pocus" here in the States. Regardless this song is much more typical Focus than "Hocus Pocus", so while you might want to play "Hocus Pocus" to jog people's memories, "Sylvia" is a song to direct the uninitiated (that is if their reaction was "I remembered Hocus Pocus"). "Carnival Fugue" (I now also own a French pressing on the Az label that amusingly titled it "Carnival Fudge" on the label, but still titled "Carnival Fugue on the cover). starts off with classical piano and jazzy guitar, before going into a rhythm that reminds me of the Beatles' "Do You Wanna Know a Secret". "Focus III" also demonstrates all the best quality of Focus, I really love Jan Akkerman's lead guitar playing and the organ playing. I remembered hearing Petula Clark's "Don't Sleep in the Subway", and I noticed that Focus borrowed from this song! "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" gets more lengthy, with lots of guitar and organ jams, plus a slow organ-dominated piece. But it was the next song that really stuck a craw with me, and that's "Anonymous II". At times I can easily dismiss it as nothing but a wankfest, demonstrated the '70s at its most excess, other times I considered it a great and ingenious jam where each member gets their chance to solo. I really like the Bert Ruiter bass solo that starts off slowly before eventually the rest of the band starts back in and then the whole band jams. It's the Pierre van der Linden drum solo that can seem a bit excessive, but then I'm sure he's getting ideas from Ginger Baker's Cream drum solo on "Toad". Then it dawned on me: I am certain Cream did similar stuff live. Of course, with them the music would be much more blues-based, Ginger Baker would do a drum solo like on "Toad", playing drums like he rides a bicycle (Baker's drumming was influenced by his biking), and I seriously doubt Jack Bruce would dive into a bass solo (he probably knew better), the closest I can think of is Blind Faith's "Do What You Like" (which was basically Cream minus Jack Bruce, and instead Steve Winwood, and Ric Grech, formerly of Family). Of course, "Anonymous II" was a sequel to the original off In & Out of Focus (Focus Plays Focus), drawn out nearly three times longer. "Elsbeth of Nottingham" is clearly Jan Akkerman's piece, totally medieval influenced, with lute and recorders. Although "House of the King" has been featured on some pressings of In & Out of Focus (and only released as a single in Holland), it makes a reappearance here on album because some countries didn't have that song on In & Out of Focus. When I first bought Focus 3, I often wondered why "House of the King" seemed so out of place on the album. It's an earlier recording, with Hans Cleuver and Martijn Dresden instead of Bert Ruiter and Pierre van der Linden. Regardless, this is truly a classic, in the Jethro Tull vein, and one of the finest songs of Focus, too bad that didn't get picked up for American FM radio airplay.

So I'm still a bit torn over this album, it's agreed perhaps a bit of baggage could have easily been removed, but make no doubt the amount of great brilliant material included.

Progfan97402 | 4/5 |

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