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Focus - Hocus Pocus / Janis CD (album) cover



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2 stars One of the most recognizable and unusual songs from the top 40 charts in the earl;y 70`s by perhaps the least recognizable groups from that era, Hocus Pocus by Focus peaked at #20 in the UK and made it into the top 10 in the US. While achieving legendary status amongst prog rock fans with their 1971 album Moving Waves, they were paradoxically reduced to the one hit wonder bin with this unusual "novelty" single. It nevertheless paved the way for a couple of lesser known more conventional singles, Sylvia and House Of The King, the latter which was actually recorded in 1969 and originally released on the 1970 album In And Out Of Focus ( it had also previously appeared as a single with Black Beauty on the flip side ).

The B side featured here, Janis, a pastoral lament with melodic flute dubbing accented by jazzy guitar colouring reflects just how overshadowed the rest of Focus` music was by this outlandish Rondo-type composition. A firebreathing piece which contained alternating speed-of-light guitar runs with hysterical yodelling and furious flute connected by frantic drum interludes and heavy guitar riffing, other effects such as deranged accordion, mad whistling and gobeldygook vocals were axed from the single version heard here which clocks in at 3:18.

Written in the studio over a Pierre van der Linden drum improv ( even though he doesn`t even get a writing credit ! ), the track was more of a jab at how serious art rock was becoming at the time and was not meant to be taken seriously. Janis was in fact more representative of the band`s musical prowess and a better indication of what else was to be heard on the 1971 Moving Waves full length LP from which both tracks were taken.

This first single release of Hocus Pocus is perhaps the one which is of more interest to serious collectors as other later single editions featured different B sides including Sylvia and a "fast" version of Hocus Pocus on American releases in early `73 that also appeared on the `75 Dutch Masters compilation and the 2001 Red Bullet CD remaster of Ship Of Memories. Also of note is the sleeve photo here which depicts the previous Focus lineup which had appeared on the 1970 In And Out Of Focus album. Martin Dresden and Hans Cluever were replaced by Cyril Havermans and Pierrevan der Linden on bass and drums recpectively by early 1971.

If anything, the single is an example of the distances that exist between record execs motives and artist`s intentions. They couldn`t even get the cover right here! Nonetheless, it spawned a hit for the band and propelled Focus into rock music folklore. Over the years many bands have attemted to cover the song with varying measures of success most notably German metal band Helloween and UK metal legends Iron Maiden.

Report this review (#223772)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Side One of this single has the edited version of "Hocus Pocus", FOCUS's most known song, which was a Hit in several countries in Europe and in the U.S. With a mixture of Heavy Rock guitar parts played by Jan Akkerman and very good drums played by Pierre van der Linden, with some humor by Thijs van Leer, with him playing organ, harmonium, flute, singing without lyrics, yodelling, whistling, and even laughing. I still laugh when I watch to some videos of the band playing this song live, because van Leer was making funny faces and sounds during the part of the song on which he sings and makes his yodelling. A funny song, which in this single edit really lacks some of the best moments. But anyway, it is also a good edited version. There was, at least in the U.S., a single which had this edit on Side One, but on Side Two it had an even faster version of this song, also shorter in lenght in comparison to the original studio version which appears in their "Moving Waves" album from 1971, and also with some Funky music arrangements. The band in concert and on TV appearances tended to play "Hocus Pocus" in a similar way to the faster version, just playing the song and having a lot of fun, and with some of the members of the band almost laughing while seeing and listening to van Leer.

In 2010 there was a brief "revival" for "Hocus Pocus" in the popularity charts in some countries, thanks to its brief appearance on a TV ad. The TV ad was for some sport shoes. The TV ad became very popular and the song too, for a brief period of time.

In the Side Two there is "Janis", which also is a song from their "Moving Waves" album. It is a song with acoustic and electric guitars, several flutes, plus drums and bass, all played with very good arrangements.

For me, their "Moving Waves" album is a very good album. Maybe their best album. And these two songs are very good representatives from that album.

Report this review (#1480675)
Posted Friday, October 30, 2015 | Review Permalink

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