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3

Focus

Symphonic Prog


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5 stars This is the ultimative Focus album!!! Akkerman shows off...he plays...jazz..rock... folk...pop..prog. licks like there´s no way back !! Van Leer ..yooodlls and keeps the keyboards hot...its a faboulos album. If you liked their first 3 albums...then you`ll love this !!! Every style of music (we love, that is)is contained within´this album !!! Focus!!! Yes please do!!!
Report this review (#22913)
Posted Thursday, November 27, 2003 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars By the third studio album Focus reaching their apex. A double vinyl, this came with a different sleeve (much nicer) mostly black with a cutout of their faces arranged in a square figure. Bert Ruiter is now at bass and the classic line-up is now complete. all of them will show their prowess throughout the four sides of music.

Side 1 starts with some rearranged classical themes but the highlight is another gigantic hit was Sylvia (although a bit too similar to House Of the King IMHO) but Gossip is also fine. Side 2 starts with yet another reworking of the main eponymous theme before plunging into a suite reminding me of Eruption on the previous album but more eventful.

Side 3 is their magnum opus although this 20+ min version of Anonymous can seem long to some (6 min drum solo plus 3 min bass solo - this does pick-up as it reaches 100 MPH at the end) the rest is almost faultless. Side 4 concludes the Anonymous theme and has a short but delightfull elspeth of Nottingham where Jan Akkerman shows that he can also play the luthe quite well. Another rendition of their first hit HOTK ends the album.

Although I find focus always diluted a bit too much the ideas they had, stretching out some solos, reworking their themes, and here they pushed it to the maximum, this is IMHO their second best album after Hamburger Concerto.

Report this review (#22906)
Posted Monday, February 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This double LP album by Focus is mostly very good. It is progressive hard rock with many mellow parts. The album is mostly instrumental. The keyboards are vintage: ambient & rhythmic organ overload, melodic piano and a few harpsichord parts. The organ is sometimes quite dirty and distorted. The usual excellent flutes Thijs Van Leer uses to play are omnipresent: some are delicate and tender like Camel used to play in the 70's, and others sound more nervous and dynamic like the ones on the Jethro Tull's "Thick as a brick" album. The refined drums do a very good job. Jan Akkerman plays TONS of melodic & hard rock electric guitar solos, which can be recognized among 100 other guitarists' solos. Jan Akkerman plays many excellent & refined acoustic guitar melodies. He uses a smooth pedal volume effect on the "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" track. The complex and impressive "Carnival fugue" has some jazz rock tendency a la ELP, especially the piano. The 6 first minutes of "Anonymous two (Part 1)" are excellent; unfortunately, everything suddenly stops, and then there is a lengthy monotonous guitar & bass bit, which causes the track to restart too slowly: when it is well restarted, Akkerman plays a long Zappa- esque guitar solo. "Anonymous 2 (Conclusion)" contains a lengthy drums solo, which takes again too much time to start: I find it not very spectacular. The Tull-esque "House of the King" was the music theme of the Quebec city TV series "De tout de tous", if I remember well.
Report this review (#22926)
Posted Thursday, April 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
richardh
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I find it difficult to get excited about Focus once I get past 'Hocus Pocus'.This album doesn't have that which is a shame but it does have their other big hit record 'Sylvia' with it's wonderfull and distinctive guitar melody.The rest is very much Focus being Focus.You can't compare it with anything else that easily.To me it's ok although at times it sounds too much like a longwinded studio jam session.I think most people would be satisfied with just having one of their greatest hits type compilations.
Report this review (#22915)
Posted Tuesday, June 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 'Focus III' is IMHO Focus' top achievement. Not only do these guys deliver some of their most inspired playing, but also manage to work as a unit with a level of compenetration that hides the ongoing rivality between van Leer and Akkerman (sometimes, a not so healthy one). Akkerman continues to explore new sources of introspective music ('Love Remembered') and mediaeval tradition ('Elspeth of Nottingham'), while keeping his ability to turn his guitar on fire with a polished skill beyond words, in the hardest passages: he really shines in 'Answers Questions' and 'Anonymus II', and his Hammond layers on 'Focus III' create an awesome background for Akkerman's guitar leads. Van Leer is also in a state of "business as usual", displaying his mastery on both on keyboards (mostly Hammond organ) and flute, and also some burlesque vocals. The interplays between van Leer and Akkerman in the opening track are breathtaking, executed with energy and a touch of sheer class. Drummer extraordinaire Van der Linden feels at home here: only one yar had passed since he entered the band, yet his drumming had become an essential feature of Focus' musical essence. When the excellent bassist Bert Ruiter made his entry into the ranks of Holland's masterband Focus, the rhythm section achieved its highest level of strength and sophistication; Ruiter proved to be the perfect complement to van der Linden's top-notch drumming style so far,... and may I add that this is a difficult task, since van der Linden enjoys stretching out his role to the point of becoming fundamental for the band's melodic aspect, with his constant tricky rolling. Ruiter's penchant for jazz and funky definitely allowed Focus to keep their own focus on their jazz leaning: the amazing 27-minute 'Anonymus II' only shows you how enthusiastic and frenzy the foursome were about it (a special mention goes to van der Linden's tribal oriented drum solo). The same thing could be noticed on 'Questions Answers'. The lighter side of the album is present in the latin-jazz/bossanova tinged 'Carnival Fugue' and the catchy 'Sylvia' (a top ten single in the UK, actually), two attractive numbers that serve as relaxing motifs, among a repertoire that tends to sound really aggressive (though not heavy, remember, the jazz factor is predominant here). This is the second of a series of three albums that are a testimony of both Focus' and the prog genre's finest hour. An essential masterpiece!

P.D.: Well, I don't like the inclusion of 'House of the King' here. It belongs more properly in its original album 'In and Out of Focus'. The tour-de-force 'Anonymus II' would make the perfect closure to 'Focus III'.

Report this review (#22917)
Posted Sunday, June 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album, despite it`s moments of brilliance was just too l o n g. Originally released on vinyl in 1973 as a two record set, Focus could have pulled this off on a single album. The CD re-issue on one disc even makes it seem longer.The principal reason for this was the inclusion of two rather long showpieces one of which took up a side and a half on the original vinyl issue.

The first was a reprise of a classically based musical idea entitled Anonymous which was first heard in a more compact form on the 1969 album In and Out of Focus. Anonymous II commences with the full band stating an upbeat classical theme which then branches out to allow each member to present their own interpretations and variations. This section makes a glorious start with Hammond and flute explosions from Thijs van Leer but after this falls to pieces with the bass and drum sections being the most drawn out. Akkerman provides some guitar pyrotechnics in between but even this starts to border on noodling. The conclusion returns to the original theme and there is some brief intricate Hammond /guitar interplay.

Much the same goes for the other longer track, Answers Questions? Questions? Answers although we are spared solos from the drums and bass which remain in support roles. The piece is set up by a catchy and dynamic jazz-rock intro then tapers off with classically influenced flute and guitar explorations by Van Leer and Akkerman. The piece doesn`t really resolve itself and I usually skip over the latter part.

Now for the good news. The remaining tracks make the album worthwhile but I must caution that the version of House of the King presented here is the identical recording made in 1969 on In and Out of Focus and features an earlier lineup although this is not indicated on the liner on either the CD or Vinyl. A great Akkerman composition with a flute melody played over an acoustic rythmn guitar which is often mistaken as a Jethro Tull piece but in actuality very representative of the early Focus sound. Unfortunately it appears as the very last track and would have fit more appropriately earlier on. Sylvia became a hit single for the band and has a more mainsream "pop" sound to it than the other pieces on the album.The other tracks include Focus III, the sequel to Focus II which continues on with the tradition of naming a short classicaly influenced number on each successive album by the band thus far and has an an almost haunting melody as does Love Remembered which is one of the most beautiful Akkerman compositions with the melody being carried by van Leer`s flute. It was also redone in 1978 on the album Aranjuez by Jan Akkerman & Claus Ogerman with a full orchestra . Round Goes the Gossip is the only track where van Leer provides us with some quirky vocals as well as some latin chanting combined with some exciting dynamics and buildups and guitar riffing from Akkerman. Carnival Fugue is a track which sort of reminds me of Gentle Giant`s approach to using classical themes and phrasings. It begins unmistakably in classical mode and builds up to a jazz tempo and resolves into a celebatory finish with a rare chance to hear Thijs van Leer playing the piccolo. I wish they could have done more of these types of compositions. We also get a lute track by Akkerman complete with farm animal sound effects evoking the images of the old English countryside scenes. It seems out of place here and would have been more appropriately included on one of Akkerman`s solo works.

If you have the patience to sit through the longer tracks I would say by all means go for this one because they do have their moments. Not an essential album but certainly a must have for Focus fans.

Report this review (#22918)
Posted Monday, June 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Regarded as a progressive masterpiece, this 3rd record of the famous dutch band Focus, sounds if not without inspiration, without a real progressive organization. The fact it has no vocals left it hard to make something with a deep meaning. Instead of making several separated songs with quiet and lost instrumental passages, if they had linked all the great themes and jams that this record has, with the daring ideas commom in the english and italian scene, focus 3 could be a much better album in artistic and technic level.
Report this review (#22920)
Posted Friday, July 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album is really classic and legendary. No reason for not owning this album if you really love prog rock. This album combines jazz, rock, fusion and classical music altogether into one piece of music. The first time I fell in love with the album (and with the band!) when my brother, Jokky, played 5th track "Focus III" sometime dated back mid 70s. WOW! it BLEW my mind man ..!! What a stunning organ intro and soft guitar these guys were playing! I could net let my finger not to push the rewind button having completed with this track. Not only that this track is excellent but the follow-up track that is continued seamlessly, "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" is very uplifting and fantastic as well. It has a strong influence of jazz, rock and classic. Oops . it's not the end yet. It has blues component as well!!!!

My CD version has "Anonymous Two" with a duration of 26 minutes as last track of this album. It's another amazing track with an upbeat music in the vein of jazz with great flute solo. Overall, this album is excellent and highly recommended. Rating 4/5. - Gatot Widayanto, Indonesia.

Report this review (#22921)
Posted Tuesday, August 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
Proghead
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars To me, I don't think that "Focus 3" lives up to the greatness of their previous album, "Moving Waves". Here the band witnessed a minor lineup change with bassist Cyriel Haversman replaced by Bert Ruiter (who later joined EARTH & FIRE. He would end up dating that group's vocalist Jerney Kaagman). The American Sire Records LP received a different cover from its European counterpart, with a die-cut cover, and some copies having the rainbow "Focus 3" logo with a rainbow effect. Here the band went for a double album. They originally intended the album to be a single album, but there was enough material to make it a double. But my problem is the band went a bit overboard on some of the cuts. But of course there's still some excellent material too. "Round Goes the Gossip" is the album's only cut with vocals. "Love Remembered" is a Jan Akkerman piece dominated by Thijs van Leer's flute, and some strange electronic effect (a Theramin maybe?). This pretty much a laid-back piece. "Sylvia" was the minor hit on this album, not anywhere as over-the-top as "Hocus Pocus", it's dominated by Akkerman's trademark electric guitar lead, and the few who heard this song on the radio got a better idea how FOCUS was like than "Hocus Pocus" (which, while I thought was a great song, the band themselves thought of it as a joke). "Carnival Fugue" starts off rather jazzy and mellow, but then they repeat this cheery rhythm, complete with organ and flute.

"Focus III" is another demonstration of Akkerman's laid-back use of electric guitar, and the organ parts remind me a bit of PINK FLOYD. I also can't be helped but be reminded of a song EARTH & FIRE recorded for their album, Song of the Marching Children (1971) called "In the Mountains". "Focus III" bears an uncanny resemblance to that song, and I'm sure Akkerman got the idea from EARTH & FIRE (but then the EARTH & FIRE connection with FOCUS, as mentioned came from Bert Ruiter dating Jerney Kaagman, and by the end of the '70s, joining EARTH & FIRE after that band's previous bassist Theo Hurts had left). "Questions? Answers! Answers? Questions!" is another great extended piece with an extended atmospheric passage complete with flute and organ. But here's the piece where I thought the band went overboard: "Anonymous II". They took a piece from "In & Out of Focus" and make it nearly three times longer. This piece often generates in to a big wankfest. There are some nice flute passages from Thijs van Leer, but Bert Ruiter endlessly noodling on his bass for a few minutes before the rest of the band kicks in is going a bit far, in my book. There's also a drum solo about three times longer than IRON BUTTERFLY's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida". Most of this piece is simply an excuse to show off Jan Akkerman's guitar playing. "Eruption" from their previous album ("Moving Waves") works much better because at least it was divided in to suites and allowed the band to work on many different themes and maybe keep some of the excess in tow. The next cut is a wonderful Jan Akkerman piece, "Elsbeth of Nottingham". Here's the band's exploration in to medieval music, complete with lute and recorder. The final cut is "House of the King", one of their finest piece. This piece already appeared on "In & Out of Focus", but for some strange reason they decided to tag that very same song on this album. Probably because the US version of "In & Out of Focus" never featured that song. Regardless, the song bears more than a striking resemblance to JETHRO TULL. Although there's lots of great material on this album, there's some excessive baggage the band needed to cut off. Still recommended, after you get "Moving Waves".

My rating: 3 1/2 stars

Report this review (#22924)
Posted Sunday, March 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Focus is one of the more representative band of the seventies because they wanted at the time seduce the auditors but they also feel free to play the music they have in mind without compromise or limits.

Seduction. From "Round goes to the gossip" to "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" : I have no doubt than every people who appreciate complex rythms, high technical level, great interplay and beautiful melodies, be convinced fy Focus III.

No compromise. Anonymous two ( 27 minutes on CD version with Conclusion ). A kind of jam on some very strong musical structures. I love this piece not only because the musicians are awesome but more important because each solo seems to come from the heart of each musician. Focus is free and when I'm listening to this music I feel myself free.

Give this record a chance. You'll love one part or another ... and maybe, if you're lucky as I am, the complete work.

Report this review (#22925)
Posted Sunday, March 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars O GOD THIS DUCHT PEOPLE KNOW HOW TO DO MUSIC. THIS A GREAT ALBUM. and have also a jazz and folk touch but this progressive at their best. you must have this if you want to know the good prog music. In sometimes this sound's like a camel lost album, but it has his own kind of sound and thats make a superb album buy or do somenthing to get it now!!!!!!!!!!!!.
Report this review (#35332)
Posted Sunday, June 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
Progbear
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Success, however modest, went to their head and they had to do a double LP. Predictably, it was overblown and overextended, but not nearly as bad as many. Indeed, it starts off quite promising, with the quite enjoyable "Round Goes The Gossip". The fact that the vocals are in Latin may strike many as pretentious, but it works for the piece, oddly enough. The dazzlingly melodic guitar-rocker "Sylvia" was their biggest European hit. My favourite tunes are "Carnival Fugue" and "Focus III". The former starts off with solo piano, gradually growing fugal as the other instruments enter one by one in fugue formation, and ending with an energetic piccolo solo. The latter is another soaring, melodic guitar-fronted prog-rocker, a splendid spotlight for Akkerman's talents.

It starts to go off the boil a bit for the amusingly titled "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" which begins with a strong and deep 9/4 groove, but is mainly a vehicle for meandering solos that don't have much purpose. But for sheer purposelessness, one need only look at the lengthy "Anonymus [sic] II". It does have some interesting musical content, but such is few and far between in a piece that contains at least two minutes of bass solo and over six of (groan) drum solo. I ask you, did this really NEED to be twenty-seven minutes long?

The answer is no.

Report this review (#45530)
Posted Monday, September 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Way out of focus!

"Focus 3" was released by the band at the height of their commercial success. With the hit singles "Hocus pocus" and "Sylvia" in the bag, the bag felt confident enough to produce a double LP.

Unfortunately, while they possibly had enough quality material for a good single album (or maybe I should make that an EP!), they fell into the trap of arrogant self indulgence. This may seem a harsh assertion, but the evidence is clear. Take for example "Anonymous two", which runs to some 27 minutes, and is spread across one and a half sides of the LP. Remove that track and we have exactly 40 minutes, or one album's worth, of material.

Starting with the positives, "Sylvia" is probably the best instrumental single ever released. Jan Akkerman's guitar work here is quite extraordinary, transforming what is already a wonderful melody into a unique masterpiece. The brief closing track, "House of the king", is a very Jethro Tull like flute dominated piece, with a soft (guitar) centre. "Love remembered" Is a delicate flute piece, reminiscent of King Crimson's "I talk to the wind" while "Focus III" initially follows the previous eponymous tracks with some nice organ backed lead guitar. Unfortunately, it all too soon moves away from the composed element into some more improvisation.

And that's pretty much it. From the opening bars of "Round goes the gossip", Focus make it clear that this album is to be mostly a directionless jam session where the band members take turns to indulge themselves in centre stage noodling. The album is virtually devoid of vocals, other than occasional yodelling by Thijs van Leer, and some strange chants on the opening track.

There is so much padding here, it makes American footballers look like synchronised swimmers. "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" manages to drag on for over 14 minutes, without going anywhere whatsoever. It features leads by organ, flute and guitar with occasionally pleasant interludes, but the themes do not sit well together and the constant improvisation is tedious and lifeless. While I'm (perhaps obviously) not a great fan of unstructured improvisations, I suspect that even those who do enjoy such music will find "Focus 3" to be poor.

" Anonymous two" is just awful, It sounds as if the band have just turned up at the studio with nothing prepared, switched on the recording machine, and jammed for half an hour. After about 20 minutes (on the LP version) the track fades, only to reappear on the final side of the LP. Just when we thought things could not get any worse, the piece descends into a lengthy drum solo, oh joy of joy!! The following "Elspeth of Nottingham" is a breath of fresh air, being a short, relatively simple folk based piece, but in all honesty after what went before anything would sound good.

In summary, with "Focus 3" the band shot themselves in the foot big time. They rewarded their fans with a double album of the band members indulging themselves in self gratifying improvisation, with little thought of quality. Perhaps Focus got lucky with their hit singles and "Moving waves" album, and "Focus 3" was actually a fair representation of their true direction. There is no doubt the band members are extremely gifted in terms of their performance skills. The message this album sends however, is that compositionally they were devoid of ideas, and had little in the way of quality control. Fortunately, they would go on to turn things around with the sublime "Hamburger concerto" album.

Report this review (#73266)
Posted Monday, March 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Focus III is the third album of Thijs and Jan. It was my first album from Focus, which I purchased. I was not disappointed. The album has good tracks, and good tracks only. I can't point out any bad songs, they're all at least pretty good or fine. These two dutch musicians have good sense of music. This album is very easy and relaxing to listen. The songs:

Album kicks off with 'Round Goes the Gossip', which was my least favourite track when I first listened the album. It has grown to me. It is good piece of progressive rock with weird noises. The second track is short, but beautiful' Love Remembered'. Very relixing and soft tune in the songs. I close my eyes every time I hear the song no matter where I am. The next song is one of my favourites: 'Carnival Fugue'. First minute is very beautiful and emotianal piano playing. Then the song is devoloping into its finesse. That is progressive. The groove in this song is great. Nice track. Moving on to 'Focus III', which is pure focus song. It has the elements that make the song fit the title focus. Very easy goin' and soft track. 'Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!' is very good track. It is long, but can keep up with quality, the song doesn't disappoint at any point of its structure. Bass playing is nice, drumming very good, but guitarring is great. Great work by Jan Akkerman. The song top quality from Focus. 'Elspeth of Nottingham' is one of my favourites. The medieval guitars and flutes is what I enjoy the most. Middle-Ages have always fascinated me, and the music that resembles any historical period has a special place for my ear. Very good track. But not good as the epic 'Anonymous Two'. This is my alltime favourite Focus song. It has everything, the solos from each instruments are great, the track is structurally great and it is very full package of music and instrument solos. It is long, but it starts off immideatly and finishes quickly. Great track!

The album is very good and full of good music. I can't decide which one is better, this one or 'Hamburger Concerto'. Though I love this album so much, I can't give this album 5 stars. It is not essential: a masterpiece of progressive music, but I would say it's excellent addition to any prog music collection. Highly recommended and a good place to start to listen Focus.

Report this review (#80094)
Posted Friday, June 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think that "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" is one of the magic moments of rock. Brilliant, challenging but unpretentious. Great skills, great improvisation, great personality. "Anonymous two" comes close. "Carnival fugue" is a nice joke the band could afford. Overall a fantastic album, in spite of its lenght. I am really impressed with the players' musical background and versatility.
Report this review (#82559)
Posted Monday, July 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This album, despite being (originally) a two L.P. album, is not as good as "Moving Waves".

"Round Goes the Gossip": this is a good song, starting this album with a bit of humour, with van Leer repeating "round goes the gossip" several times in the song. Like in the album "Moving Waves", the band starts this album with a song with a bit of humour.

"Love Remembered": the best song in this album, IMO. It has acoustic guitar, flute and synthesizer, with bass and drums in the background. I originally heard this song (with "Sylvia" too) in the first Mexican version of the "Moving Waves" album released here in 1973 (with "Janis" and "Le Clochard" being deleted in favour of "Sylvia" and "Love Remembered", which were their hits in Europe then). This song has some very good atmospheres and it is, with "Focus II" from the previous album, one of my favourites from this band. I remember than before listening to this song on albums, this song was used in a T.V. commercial in my country (but I can`t remember the product announced in the commercial!). Great song!

"Sylvia": another very good song, with the melody played by Akkerman in his electric guitar, plus very good organ arrangements and energetic bass guitar and drums.

"Carnival Fugue": it has several sections, even including a classical piano arrangement, until the "carnival music" is played with a bit of humour, including a flute.

"Focus III" and "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!":two instrumental musical pieces which are good, played one after the other, with "Questions..." starting with a melody played several times by the bass guitar. I previously listened to both songs in the "Live at the Rainbow" album. I prefer these studio versions.

"Anonymous Two ": a long instrumental musical piece which in the CD is not divided in two parts. It sounds to me like an extended improvisation which had some parts previously determined before playing it. The best part of this long piece is the drums solo. If other Prog bands did some "excesses" with their music, this is Focus`"excess in Prog music" in this album. The musical piece is too long and not very interesting in comparison to "Eruption" from the "Moving Waves" album. That song has better arrangements than this, and also includes a drums solo.

"Elspeth of Nottingham ": a very good instrumental musical piece played with acoustic guitar and flutes. It is one of the best from this album, very influenced by medieval music, I think.

"House of the King" wasn`t included in the CD, because it was more like a "filler" in the 2 L.P. set, being a song taken from their first album.

In conclusion, this album is good, but IMO, their "Moving Waves" album is better.

Report this review (#110898)
Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This CD represents Focus at their maximum potential. Not as variated and fresh as Moving Waves, but this one is more regular, more complete than his predecessor.

"Focus 3" has two jazzy numbers: "Carnival Fugue" and the opening track; also contains a wonderful slow track with flute and accoustic guitar, "Love Remembered"; two long-lenght pieces that many persons could find a little bit boring and ambiguous, but just pay attention to the terrific musicians, overall on Jan Akkerman, one of the best prog guitarist, and you will not get boring if virtuosity pleases your ears. Then, a beautiful lute piece, very renaissancy, with backround flute and subtle percussions: simply impressive. And there are two typical Focus songs, from the vein of MV, and what can I say... those are truly excellent. All these tracks are composed and played in a symphonic way, in the unique style that just Focus has.

NOTE: I agree with Cesar Inca and I would like to count out the addition of "House of the King" as the last track.

Well, just go, get it and hear it! Highly recommended!

Report this review (#115015)
Posted Tuesday, March 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Atkingani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Very unbalanced FOCUS album: it mixes some enjoyable and uplifting short tracks with predominantly boring and dull long tracks - anyway, even the long tracks present some fine parts, thence the result is a bit above the average. Sad that some themes could be better exploited making this album something really unforgettable; well, in my very humble opinion.

FOCUS were at their peak then and one could expect that this double album would get the higher grades but its classification was timid. Otherwise, being the band so popular at the time, we may see a fine production with meaningful arrangements and a special care with the vocals in order not to spoil excessively the songs.

'Round goes the gossip' is a good opener, a kind of jazz-fusion song, with exquisite vocals (Latin?) and nice instrumentation. It bears a clear band's signature, with abrupt changes and weird moments, however well-placed within the theme making it a very catchy track. The frenzy-like heard on the opening song is replaced by a pastoral and bucolic melody named 'Love remembered', a band's visiting to the romantic side of the things. I still have fresh in my memory how this song was used as background to TV ads and assorted issues.

'Sylvia' is probably the best known track here, another FOCUS standard (together with 'Hocus Pocus'). The song is basically a flurry of sounds all meticulously connected even the general atmosphere makes the listener believe that it's nothing more than a mess - but this is the essence of progressive and very much of the FOCUS style. 'Carnival fugue' begins relaxing and keeps growing and growing to the point where the promised carnival almost happens.

'Focus III' is pleasant and amusing, making a fair preparation for the lengthy 'Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers?' a track full of agreeable moments but slightly damaged by the instrument jamming which seemed unnecessary. 'Anonymous 1 & conclusion' drags for almost half an hour with nothing more than a few nice segments that are insufficient to make this track to be remembered.

The folky 'Elspeth of Nottingham' shows some interesting moments when first heard but with time and the continuous hearings it becomes weary and dispensable. Fortunately the album ends with the colorful and amazing 'House of the King', pity that it lasts only a pair of minutes; additional minutes would be healthy here.

As mentioned, the long tracks, responsible for more than fifty percent of the album are the weakest points here, they could have been shortened while some short tracks could have been extended; nevertheless the feeling that a single album should have been more effective persists after more than 30 years of listening. "Focus III" is a good album and that's enough.

Report this review (#124168)
Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you think of "Moving Waves" as second tier prog, you might change your opinion after hearing this one. Right of the start we hear a lot of jazz-rock influence on this album - something that was largely absent on their last two. "Round Goes the Gossip" is one hell of a track with the band sound much more comfortable than ever before. There is a very fast swinging section in the middle of the song that saw the band flirting with bebop, with quite good results. The rest of the album has all the trademarks that Focus was known for - memorable melodies, virtuostic musicianship, etc... The only flaws on this albums are: 1. Drawn out jam sessions on Anonymous II, 2. muddy production - I really hope someone comes up with a good remaster of this, but who knows if that's possible. I think this album is totally essential first tier prog on the same level as the big 5 or big 6!
Report this review (#127683)
Posted Friday, July 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Beside the marathon jams here this would be just another good album. BUT to me the jams make the album. They are full tilt ahead as if you were a concert with them and you the only one there. The jams could have been 6 min. songs but go all out 1 full side and 1 is a 1/2 full .but great stuff. Not that it is totally comparable but yet it is somehow. Think Space Trucking live Deep Purple Made in Japan.On studioo it is fraction in time of what it is live. Bliss'o'rama
Report this review (#127747)
Posted Friday, July 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I remember when I heard Focus for the first time six months ago, I was impressed by their song strangely titled "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!", and specially, by Akkerman's guitar skills. So I bought this album to start to dig into their music and, well, what an introduction! The numerous textures, the lovely vintage sound, the neo-classical passages combined with rock and the solos maje this a very good album, that makes me get more into the Focus musical world. For me, this is a truly neo-classical album because that influence is so evident and strong that makes this an unusual part in my CD collection. Also it has a raw, not-so-worked production, that makes me appreciate it even more.

All the songs here are worth some listens, but the highlights for me are: the opener "Round Goes The Gossip", which features the ocassional vocals (which always repeat the same, btw) and good melodies, always having that classical touch, and despite it can be quite repetitive, it's very enjoyable, at least to my ears; "Love Remembered" is more mellow, sad, cold, and is dominated by a very deep flute melody, another short but great track; "Sylvia" is completely catchy and features one of the most emotive and intense melodies I've EVER heard, Akkerman creates a lovely atmosphere with that melody, and all the song builds around it, it's a memorable piece of music, unbelievable!; "Focus III" is more quiet and emotive, and goes growing and progressing around another fantastic melody by Jan's guitar, reaches a nice climax, and there's when I thought this disc worthed my money; immediately to "Focus III" goes "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!", a long song I loved from the beginning, this one, while not being carefully composed (as is almost the rest of the album), it's a kind of Jam with amazing keys, flute and guitar solos, and a great 9/8 riff. The same thing with "Anonymous Two", but this one gets unnecesarily long (26 minutes), and can bore after some time.

Overall, "Focus III" is a nice journey to cold lands, 67 minutes of great neo classical music, in other words, real Symphonic Prog. It served to me as a good introduction to the band, and of course I'm looking forward to more albums of this genious dutch. I recommend it!

Rating: 4.0/5

Report this review (#129892)
Posted Monday, July 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Is one of the essencial albums of Focus in my opinion Moving waves, Focus III and Hamburger concerto is the golden trilogy of Focus. The compositions are complex, of course is long. The songs "Answers? questions! questions? answers?" and "anonymous two" are two long songs but Who cares? is very wonderfull. Shows the influences of the classic music in their music. Jan Akkerman plays the guitar like god. The music are so inspirative, fuzzy and brillant. Get this album if you like classic compositions.
Report this review (#131763)
Posted Sunday, August 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars When I first heard FOCUS III, I was distinctly underwhelmed. It doesn't feature anything as in-your-face as "Hocus Pocus" and there are no traces of mellotron either, so at first sight there's nothing as gloriously symphonic as the previous album's "Eruption". Furthermore, when FOCUS III was still a double LP, I felt a little shortchanged because the second disc consisted mainly of a 26-minute jam in which all four of the band's members were accorded equal space, which left me with an over-long bass solo (one that started fairly quietly, i.e. with a lot of annoying crackle on the record-player) and an even more forgettable drum solo.

But now the album is available as a single CD, I'm happy to report you're still getting loads of music, and everything feels just right! You can treat the 26-minute jam any way you like, let the ff-button be your friend, you will probably enjoy those fiery guitar and Hammond organ solos, and recently, I must admit, I've even started enjoying the bass one! (Modern technology means no more crackle.) Furthermore, I feel that the catchy "Sylvia", and the three compositions following it, are among the strongest stuff Focus ever did. I've never been convinced by the HAMBURGER CONCERTO, but "Focus III", here, is a gorgeous tune, deeply moving, and having it segue into the highly adventurous "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" (the kind of extended instrumental only true prog masters pull off) was a touch of genius. (By the way: surely Pink Floyd nicked the opening of "Focus III" for their far inferior "Pigs"?)

Back in mid-1970s Belgium, my friends and I were envious that our northern neighbours, the Dutch, were conquering the world with bands like Focus. (As well as Shocking Blue and Golden Earring, of course - to say nothing of Mouth & McNeal!) Apparently, certain Belgian prog bands were active even then (some attempting the Canterbury style!) but none of them ever cracked the international market, whereas simply everyone seemed to know Focus. More than thirty years later, I'm happy to recommend this album!

Verdict: Three-and-a-half stars.

Report this review (#132641)
Posted Saturday, August 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Giving this album such a low rating seems wierd to me because i actually find it enjoyable and worth buying. it's not nearly as good as hamburger concerto, but it does have some really strong moments especially round goes the gossip (the rocking song) and Sylia (the pop sucess). The rest of the album is also decent, but it is just a little bit tough to get into.

Love remembered is a very pretty little song with some nice flute and acoustic guitar work. It's just not memorable enough to bring you back to it time and time again. The story seems the same for the rest of the album. Carnival fugue and Focus III are both perfectly decent songs focusing on the talents of the bands leaders, but they are really unessential songs

Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! is the albums return to some really good music. It is an extended track that gives some extended improv time to both Thijs van Leer and Jan Akkerman who really shine with some magnificent playing. The track just has to many slow parts that lose your interest for it to be a great song.

After the interesting but unessesary Elspeth of Nottingham we get to the albums 26 minute closer. While the beginning and end of this song are quite brilliant the middle is really blahhh. It is a song i would have really loved had it been 16 minutes long rather than 26.

I really hate giving this album a mediocre album because it is worth buying and there is an awful lot of quality music. The kicker though is that it also has alot of music that unnessesary or really quite boring. If the highlights of this album were copressed onto a single album rather than a double album i might be giving 4 or possibly 5 star rather than 3. Despite that i still half recommend it.

Report this review (#134838)
Posted Saturday, August 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Some bands already showed the illness of producing too long efforts in the glory days of prog (the seventies). This is prolonged till today of course with bands like TFK, Cast etc. I don't have anything in particular against long albums when they are good throughout their lenght but when, like "Focus III" it is filled with long and uninteresting instrumentals (almost improvisations) I can't really applaude.

This album starts with a really poor track : "Round Goes the Gossip" might sound funny but this repetitive and uninspired jazz- rock number is unpleasant. But this mistake will be erased with the next "Love Remembered" which is a brilliant and fully symphonic song. Their hit "Sylvia" follows. Although commercially successful, I far much prefer "House Of The King" (I discovered "Focus" with this number in 1971).

The band will deliver another jazz-oriented song with "Carnival Fugue". Extremely quiet during its early stages, it turns into a jazz jam and ends up with good fluting. More in-line with their traditional style. I have to say that so far, this album does not really kick me.

Like "Focus" have done on prior releases, a "Focus" titled song is featured. This time "Focus III" of course. Well, like the other ones it is a great number. Fully symphonic and gentle. Keyboards are so nice and the guitar so emotional. This is "Focus" at their best. Fianally, the album picks up with this subtle song. My fave on this album.

Although a bit lenghty, I quite like "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!". Sounds as an early Crimson song. Very gentle flute and a soft backing band for almost eight minutes. Jazzy mood again, but really smooth and pleasant. The song then accelerates and delivers a great guitar solo. This is another highlight.

I can not be as positive with the medieval madrigal "Elspeth". Absolutely pastoral and useless.

Now, "Anonymous Two" (the band seems to lack in creativity while choosing their titles. "Anonymous" was already one of their song on their first album). While I reviewed their first album, I mentioned that Thijs really sounded like Ian while playing flute (but BEFORE Ian played these great and wild flute breaks). When you listen to the intro of this... piece of music; the same feeling prevails.

After this, the band enters into a long jam session of over twenty minutes. Some pleasant moments but not too many, I'm afraid. Sounds as "Focus" is willing to impress its audience and show their high technicity. It's OK for a while, but not over twenty-five minutes. Some will probably feel different (KC fans who like their improv style while playing on stage).

The bass solo is rather irritating and useless to my ears. It is followed with a rich and powerful guitar break. Actually, each musician has its moment (like in the extended version of "Get Ready" from "Rare Earth" but in a different style).

This album is not for everyone. While I really liked "Moving Waves" (which I have rated with four stars) I can't enter into this one. You can be bored to death for half of it, while some other moments are very pleasant. This album is not consistant and should have been cut down to forty minutes or so to be able to generate some kind of thrill to me.

As such, I would say that it is for die-hard "Focus" fans and I am not even sure that they would spin this one very often from start to fininsh.

Two stars.

Report this review (#134960)
Posted Sunday, August 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars When anything goes, not everything works. That's the case with Focus III. There is some classic Focus music here, if you can wade through the fairly pointless and repetitive jamming. Usually in prog, longer songs indicate higher quality, focused music. Here? The exact opposite applies, and the quality is directly inversely proportional to song length.

Round Goes the Gossip, Sylvia. Here Focus take to rocking. The former is a highly energetic and entertaining piece--sure it's goofy, but it's catchy, playful, and all that is good about Focus (think Hocus Pocus light). Sylvia features a gorgeous melody, as well as memorable guitar/organ interplay...just a great listen.

Love Remembered, Elspeth of Nottingham. Focus smartly include a couple mellow tunes, and both are keepers. Love Remembered is a simple yet enjoyable flute piece over distinctive guitar, and Elspeth is a wonderful, haunting folksy tune.

Carnival Fugue, Focus III. Here we have more evidence that Focus is capable of penning concise prog when they put their minds to it. Carnival Fugue builds nicely, each of the three movements picking up the pace and energy. Focus III continues the series in high fashion, alternating foreboding and bouncy melodies. Great tunes!

Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!, Anonymous II. Filler, padding, loose jamming--whatever you want to call it, it's not that great. The former lays down some nice grooves and of course has classic, Focus-quality guitar and organ, but the 14 minute run time is definitely too long. However, that appears concise when compared to Anonymous II: this beast has MAYBE 8 good minutes of music. The rest is meaningless and boring bass and drum solos. Focus really laid a stink bomb with most of this one.

Plenty of great music for Focus lovers and prog lovers alike to be found here! Just don't expect to be blown away by the jam tunes, and you'll be fine. Fortunately Focus really got its act together for the next album!

Report this review (#140576)
Posted Tuesday, September 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my humble opinion, this is one of the most overlooked prog albums of the 70's. I have been listening to Focus longer than any other band, and I consider this double album to be their finest ever. Released in between the two more critically acclaimed albums Moving Waves and Hamburger Concertp, I think this album has the most to offer in terms of consistency and musical genius. Every track on the album has something to offer, but the real high points are simply magnificent. The first is Sylvia, which was a big hit here in the UK, and is one of the best Focus songs of all time. The second is the beautiful Focus III, which seems to get better with every listen. The rest of the first disc are all great, and the album finishes with the ingenious epic jam Anonymous 2, which is a modification of the track Anonymous from their first album. All and all a practically spotless album, and one of my favourite ever prog releases. 5 stars!
Report this review (#156423)
Posted Sunday, December 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A double album is always a daring task, even for the most accomplished and creative artists and many have fallen into that trap. FOCUS is no exception.

The third album consists basically of re-cycling and re-hashing the successful formula of the Moving Waves, only this time the whole package runs excessively too long. Almost 27 minutes of Anonymous II is boring to death with its never-ending improvisations and repeating the musical themes from the successful first part from the debut album. Even the rest of the material is not so compelling (even the standard Focus instrumental part III is not on par with earlier versions) and at best moments sounds quite average. You can enjoy listening but you are also easily bored or urged to skip.

Still, there are three exceptional pieces. Sylvia has a seducing melody of anthem-like proportions, excellent guitar riff and solo with tasty vocal parts - no wonder it was a hit and remained one of the band's best moments. Answers, Questions... is everything that Anonymous II is not - extremely elaborated, energetic improvisational jam, close to jazz fusion style and with marvelous performance of bass, guitar and flute. Finally, there is a sweet acoustic medieval-sounding miniature Elspeth of Nottingham that includes lute-like string instrument.

CD version of Focus III includes 8 tracks. Anonymous II as a single track minus totally redundant House of the King which is on the debut album. Hell, if they ask me I would erase the entire Anonymous II section and make a decent single-disc-length album. Then it might deserve 4 stars...

PERSONAL RATING: 2,5/5

P.A. RATING: 3/5

Report this review (#162999)
Posted Saturday, March 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It would be easy to say that after the success of "Moving Waves" FOCUS caught the ELP disease. In other words they became arrogant and pompous, and so delivered a double album with lots of solos and jamming. Just writing that makes me laugh because though it may be true, it just means we got some amazing prog music out of it. I personally prefer "Moving Waves" but it's the things that a lot people don't like about this double album that makes it a four star record for me. And that would be the amazing solos and the extended jams. I really like the way they just play on and on during the two longer tracks.

"Round Goes The Gossip" is the only track with vocals and they're in Latin ! Something about this song that I liked from the first time I heard it. Still like it a lot. It opens with some cool drumming before becoming an uptempo and catchy song. The guitar, organ and drums shine throughout. We get a calm with vocals 1 1/2 minutes in that is broken by some more fantastic drumming.The tempo seems to get even faster before 3 1/2 minutes. They're flying. Quite the display of organ and bass work as drums pound away. "Love Remembered" is mellow with acoustic guitar and flute. Drums and a fuller sound arrive 1 1/2 minutes in. "Sylvia" is a fun, uptempo instrumental with guitar, drums and organ dominating the sound. I can see why this became a hit for them on the radio. Vocal melodies 2 minutes in are kind of funny. The guitar and organ late are incredible sounding. "Carnival Fugue" opens with slowly played piano melodies for 1 1/2 minutes when tempo picks up and other instruments join in. It becomes jazzy as tempo picks up even more after 3 minutes. Organ and flute follow. "Focus III" is very laid back to begin with, then the sound gets louder 2 minutes in with some good guitar and organ. It returns to the mellow soundscape from the beginning after 3 minutes. This is such a beautiful, pastoral sound. Again it gets fuller just like before at 5 minutes and it ends on this note.

"Answers ? Questions ! Questions ? Answers !" is uptempo with lots of organ. You have to love the guitar style here. Nice contrast with the mellower passage that follows.This contrast continues. Nice guitar solo after 3 minutes followed by an organ solo and then a flute solo. Cool. This flute / drum section seems to go and on forever. Nice. The guitar replaces the flute after 8 minutes. This sounds so amazing as it goes on for over 3 minutes. I could listen to this all day. This is my favourite song on here followed by "Anonymus Two". Next up is "Elspeth Of Nottingham" a title that no doubt gives a nod to the medieval flavour of this song.This is my least favourite song on here. "Anonymus Two" is an uptempo track to begin with as organ pulsates and guitar and drums help out. Check out the Ian Anderson-like flute a minute in. It's aggressive and leading the way. Some powerful organ 3 1/2 minutes in goes on a tear. I love this section as they just jam. The song just stops 6 1/2 minutes in. We then get a long bass solo and the song starts to build 9 minutes in. Organ 13 minutes in is outstanding. The guitar joins in and it's even better ! A change 19 minutes in as the jamming stops and a new melody takes over. Then a long drum solo before the song ends with a guitar / drum / organ melody.

Lets face it, if you don't like the two longer tracks then you don't like well over half of this recording. So I can understand some of the lower ratings even though I belong with those who think this is an excellent double album.

Report this review (#165095)
Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm slightly annoyed by this album. It just seems to drag on and on without any real payoff. The symphonic textures I liked in their first two albums seem off here, and much of what I hear in terms of fol- rock seems derivative of Jethro Tull. The jams are boing, uneven, and simply not that good. Bored, annoyed, yes; but I'll still give it three stars because its impressively unconventional.
Report this review (#170657)
Posted Sunday, May 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I find all of the music on this album to be at least pretty darn good. There are parts here and there where it ventures into really really good. The few vocals on this album in 'Round Goes the Gossip' are mostly in the background and add to the ambience of the song nicely. 'Elspeth of Nottingham' is an excellent change of style for the band. It sounds more folky than your average Focus tune. I have no hesitation in giving this a 4 rating.
Report this review (#175826)
Posted Monday, June 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars After a solid debut and a better second release (Moving Waves), FOCUS had really crossed the borders of Netherlands and were gaining a solid fan base all along Europe and even in USA, so they had to do something specialr not to loose this popularity, instead they did something better, they took the risk and went for a double album.

"In and Out of Focus" presented us a band worried to make sober and solid music, with echoes from the 60's and a delicate style of jamming, then moved towards a more spectacular instrumental sound, using the voice almost only as an extra instrument in "Moving Waves", but in "Focus III" we find a more mature band that reached the balance between pomp and virtuoso attributes, a band with enough courage to go further to the past up to the Medieval era in search for their roots, but using a clear Flemish style or Hard Rock when required, in other words a band with the guts to be different, not just a bunch of guys following the model that came from UK, they took the best of both worlds to create something exquisite and unique.

The album is opened with "Round Goes the Gossip" a vibrant track that starts with a drum intro that leads to an elaborate and complex multi instrumental passage in which Thijs Van Leer uses his versatile voice to create strange sounds, part in joke part completely serious and complementary of the music. The peculiar way of playing the organ is shocking, les lush but extremely complex, jumping from melodic passages to jazzy cacophonies, just can describe this song with five words....Progressive Rock at it's best.

"Love Remembered" is the perfect contrast, instead of the usual aggressive style of Thijs flute, he goes for a delicate and melancholic melody, the drums play a crucial job supporting all the weight of the song and Ian Akkerman adds his subtle touch with the guitar, only three minutes long, but it's said that you'd better leave the listener with the taste of honey in the lips rather than saturated, again incredibly beautiful and melancholic song.

The story of "Sylvia" is quite original, before joining FOCUS, Thij's Van Leer was a chorus singer for a pair of well known Dutch crooners, as he tells in the DVD "Masters from the Vault", tired of making oohs and aaahs, he and Sylvia (another singer of the chorus) asked their bosses to allow them to sing one song each one, they allowed but Sylvia's song was terrible, so Thij's wrote this track for her, but the girl hated it and he just kept it hidden somewhere with all his music.

When the band was working on "Focus III", they were short of material, so Thijs remembered this track, searched for it, deleted the lyrics and recorded it with the band, surprisingly was one of their biggest hits.

But what to say about the song? Not specially complex or frantic, mostly a catchy melody with an excellent guitar work and some subtle yodeling, the Hammond touch is a perfect addition, but that's how things work, it became a world hit despite they have better tracks.

"Carnival Fugue" begins with a dramatic piano intro in which Thijs makes his formal training evident while Jan Akkerman adds soft and barely listenable guitar sounds, but then the classical influence gets evident, both piano and guitar start a tandem work with clear Baroque leanings, until out of nowhere a radical change happens and the band enters into Fusion territory in the vein of "Miles Davis", that leads to a humorous Psyche oriented passage with Bossa Nova hints, this guys keep surprising me, no matter how many years pass.

Now is the turn for "Focus III" an incredibly beautiful song where Akkerman creates a fantastic atmosphere working with Thijs as one man, dark, somber and mysterious is one of my all time favorites, and despite not being a very long track, seems that never ends because it morphs into "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!", one of the most dramatic epics that FOCUS has released, the pass of decades has not damaged it, by the contrary it has turned into a timeless classic that always makes me tremble. The incredible organ performance enhanced by the magical style of Jan Akkerman playing the electric guitar with the delicacy of a Flamenco guitarist is simply unbelievable, this track flows perfectly from start to end as a 1,000 pieces puzzle where everything fits in its right place.

Won't even attempt to comment it more because words can not describe the beauty of this epic, or how the psychedelic atmosphere of the first break, thick as the morning mist falls into the audience, almost a magical experience.

In the CD I got, "Elspeth of Nottingham" comes before the complete version of "Anonymous 2" something very adequate, because this travel in time to the 1300's with lute (I guess because is not mentioned) and piccolo prepares us for another epic that must nbe listened as a whole and not divided.

The album is closed with "Anonymous Two" which begins with the Hocus Pocus main section but immediately moves towards a frantic flute and drum section a la Jethro Tull, Thij's Van Leer proves us his dexterity rocking as an expert, while Akkerman, Ruiter and Van der Linden give a heavy Rock support, showing us how a band is supposed to work, one guy takes the lead in a semi solo and the rest keep working to enhance the effect.

But in this track not only Thijs is the star, there's a turn for each musician to shine with controlled solos, because even though they are essentially playing alone, they keep coordination among all the members to maintain the general atmosphere of the song intact.

In the original version the album is closed with the excellent "The House of the King" already released in their debut album, but IMO it would sound out of place in "Focus III.

After 70 minutes of great Progressive Rock, the album reaches its end, and always feel tempted to play it again immediately, a sign that it ever bores me.

Even though by my words everybody can notice I'm a FOCUS fan, won't give 5 stars to this fantastic album, because I believe their next release "Hamburger Concerto" is much more solid and I reserve the maximum rating for that one.

I'm sure some people won't enjoy this album as much as I do, because FOCUS is not for everybody, especially for people who grew listening British and Italian Symphonic exclusively, maybe because they are too eclectic or simply because it's not easy to get used to the Dutch masters' style, but the quality of the album is beyond any doubt as the fact that no Prog collection is complete without "Focus III".

Four stars that would be 4.5 if the system allowed it.

Report this review (#180955)
Posted Thursday, August 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Focus III is the third studio album from dutch progressive rock act Focus. Originally released as a double album this album shows all sides of the band. The classical music influenced part, the jazz/ rock part and the jamming part. I am not one of those who feel that the previous album from Focus called Moving Waves is a masterpiece. In fact I only find it midly enjoyable. This album is a bit more interesting but unfortunately has as many flaws as it has enjoyable moments.

Round Goes the Gossip starts the album and it´s a humourous song which I find pretty good. It´s one of the few songs here with vocals. Love Remembered is a very beautiful song. I´ve just recently reviewed Steve Hackett´s Voyage of the Acolyte and Love Remembered reminds me of some of the most mellow flute driven pieces from that album. Sylvia is very classical music inspired and comes of sounding a bit silly to me. Carnival Fugue and Focus III are both enjoyable songs but again the mood and the ideas doens´t really suit me. Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! is a 14:03 minute long song with some arranged sections but also lots of jamming. It´s pretty good but overstays its welcome IMO. Elspeth Of Nottingam is a classic music inspired acoustic guitar piece which is pretty interesting.Anonymous Two is an endless 26:24 minute long jam. Guitar solo, organ solo, bass solo and drum solo. Too much jamming IMO and way too little arranged sections. The small dose of arranged sections, are very enjoyable, so it´s a shame Foucs does´t focus much more on that part of their music. Jamming is great in a live environment but on a studio album it´s simply too boring. I don´t always feel this way about long jams, but the mood Focus create just doesn´t fit my taste.

The musicianship is excellent and it´s Focus most interesting asset IMO. Bassist Cyril Havermanns has been replaced by Bert Ruiter, but that doesn´t change much as far as I can hear. It´s still the guitars from Jan Akkerman and the keyboards from Thijs van Leer that dominates Focus sound.

The production is excellent. Great sound.

As I said in my review of Moving Waves I think Focus are outstanding musicians and I really enjoy listening to them play. I have a problem with the compositions though as I don´t much enjoy the mood in the songs. Focus sound comes of as a bit silly to my ears most of the time which is a real shame. I´m sure they could have made some really good music if they focused more on songwriting than on playing. 3 stars is all I can give. This is one of those albums I´ve had for a number of years but only take out on occasion and quite frankly it´s a bit dusty every time.

Report this review (#186983)
Posted Sunday, October 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars With the release of the bands third album in 1972, Focus accomplishes a massive achievement for symphonic progressive rock with a double LP that reveals the real musical potential of the band. The music that radiates from this work of art speaks loudly, incorporating a wide selection elements within itself that make it impossible to pinpoint the brilliance of the music to one single aspect. would seem impossible to believe that 4 musicians with ordinary rock instruments could produce such richly textured music. With these ordinary instruments they manage to compose music that, when listened to briefly, causes no deep impressions. However, if listened to attentively, it is possible to extract a wonderful mixture of talent, creativity and spontaneity.

For this album, the band eliminates lyrics completely, allowing themselves to focus on instrumental elaborations, and long, colorful jams. The lyrics, as in most cases, change a songs dynamics, given that they cover up the instruments, attracting a spotlight to the words that forces the instruments into second hand. Without the limitation of lyrics, the music was set free in a sense. But it is not solely the absence of lyrics that makes this album deserve attention . This so called musical freedom allows underlying aspects to rise above ground into the deserved spotlight, unleashing all the instrumental power that the band could muster into a beautiful symphony that transpires loads of musical feeling, exploring a variety of musical universes and emotions. Another fundamental thing that must be spoken of when this LP is mentioned, is how well the musicians are tuned in with each others wavelengths. It feels as if they were all aiming for the same musical target, and with the clear skill and dedication that each composer possesses they easily hit the bulls-eye. For each fragment of each track, the instruments seem perfectly teamed up with each other to produce those heroic, happy, catchy, beautiful and wonderfully harmonic, point and counterpoint melodies, that Focus is so famous for. This album demonstrates how they are skilled at capturing and transforming the abstract musical energy floating around their heads into a masterful sculpture.

Focus hit the right key on the organ for this album.

Report this review (#201634)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars On their 3rd album 'Focus III' the band hit their height and ranks undoubtedly as the bands most progressive and complete work (IMHO). Jan Akkerman and Thijs Van Leer are at their tops musically and along with Ruiter and Van Der Linden deliver some of progressive rocks best! I snagged the Red Bullet Remastered CD version which offers some differences to the vinyl...different running track order and some slight differences. Highlight for me is the 14 mins epic track "Answers? Questions! Questions ? Answers!" which delivers some incredible instrumental classical rock to the forefront and IMHO is the best thing they ever recorded! Beautiful album for sure and one of those albums you have to hunt down
Report this review (#223872)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Focus is a band I really love. Some of the reason for my love is this album. Well, most of it.

Focus does intricate, very quirky and melodic symphonic prog with a lot of interesting rhythm patterns and flutes. Everything with a lot of humour and some gentle nods to Ian Anderson & Jethro Tull. Focus can also be a very poetic band with a lot of very melodic flutes and guitars. I am fan of both sides of Focus and I rate them as one of the best prog rock bands ever.

The opening track Round goes the gossip is one of the trademark fast and quirky Focus tracks. Good stuff, but I am more a fan of the poetic side of this band. The very beautiful flute driven Love Remembered is followed by their second ever biggest hit Sylvia. This is a fantastic track. It is also Focus signature track. Well, they are most famous for Hocus Pocus from the Moving Waves album. But Sylvia incorporates everything that's great with this band. Poetic music lines and quirky fast melody at the same time. Fantastic stuff. Carnival fugue follows and the album now takes a sharp left turn into a much more classical music and symphonic prog area. I am not a big fan of Anonymous which I think is too long winded and lack some ideas. The rest of the album is great though with House Of The Kings as a highlight.

This is one of Focus best albums, just bettered by Hamburger Concertos which I think is their best ever album (and among the top five best ever prog rock albums ever released). This album is still an excellent addition to any homes and highly recommended.

4.5 stars

Report this review (#237967)
Posted Monday, September 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Focus' third album - a 2 LP - is perhaps most representative of their live performances of the seventies. The album has some great melodic jazz infused symphonic prog pieces, but also a lot of jazz-rock jamming ('Anonymous Two') with all musicians taking leads. Jan Akkerman reaches the hight of his fame in these years and his fast played Les Paul is just outstanding; fierce when jamming and gentle and melodic when playing the composed pieces. The compositions of organ player and flutist Thijs van Leer combine classical music, jazz, rock and folk in a natural way. The instrumentally performed song 'Sylvia', originally written for a Dutch cabaret singer (stand-up comedian) who rejected it, is an important chart hit for the band. Its optimistic - if not heroic - appeal, its classic guitar chords & leads and the high pitch wordless vocals of Van Leer (no yodeling this time) make this a standout track. 'Round Goes the Gossip' is a great progressive opening track with fast paced jazz-rock attacks of Akkerman & Van Leer and a magical ever-rising chords lick in the end. Focus III is among their best instrumental / melodic pieces. The jamming of the band is quite good, but I do think this album would have had higher rating if the composed pieces and the jams had been separated better on the vinyls. One (mostly) composed album and a bonus LP full of jam-based pieces would have probably made this a classic prog album.
Report this review (#249959)
Posted Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars After Focus' great second album, Moving Waves, this was a bit of a letdown. While there are some good tracks, there is nothing anywhere near as spectacular as Eruption. This album has a jazzier feel to it, similar at times to Soft Machine's fusion era.

There are few lyrics on the album (at least on mine, the 1988 I.R.S. CD, which does not include House Of The King, and is plagued by a miserably bad mix), and where there are lyrics, they are pointless, like where Thijs Van Leer constantly repeats the title is the otherwise nice Round Goes The Gossip.

The two long songs, Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers and Anonymus Two are mostly jams. The guitar solos are great, but the bass solo is weak, and the drum solo goes on way too long (don't they always?).

So this was a nice album at the time of it's original release, but it doesn't seem to have held up over the dacades since.

2.5 stars

Report this review (#250614)
Posted Saturday, November 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Quiet One
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Focused on Jams? Jams!

Focus, the only band from my native-country that I really like, but that's just because I don't know much about the music of The Netherlands. Their third offering entitled simply as '3', released in 1973, is surely my favorite album of theirs being the perfect blend of 70s rock at its peak with prog sensibilities.

While most Symphonic Prog bands from the 70s that didn't belong to the U.K. were considered rather derivative, the Italian scene plus Focus, and a couple of other notable groups, demonstrated to be inspired by the U.K. bands but to have their own unique approach. There's said to be similarities with ELP, but Thijs van Leer wasn't a heavy Moog user and his Hammond-Organ playing was more subtle and jazzy, somewhat like Peter Bardens from Camel. Focus does show some Genesis and Tull approaches sporadically, mainly due to the flute and organ, but if you take a look to the big picture, this Dutch band was really playing their own kind of Prog Rock influenced by Classical, Blues Rock and Jazz Rock, the latter being the main difference between the classic U.K. Prog Rock bands. If there's one band that I would relate with Focus is Camel, but that's only because the jazz element on both, though in times, in the softer songs both bands sound alike in a good way.

The band mainly plays in a very rocking way through this album, notable proof is the 26 minute mind-blowing jam called 'Anonymous II', where Jan Akkerman, a splendid guitarist, delivers heavy riffs in an original way unlike anything by Blackmore, Page or Iommi, while Thijs screams out a blasting flute solo and later on a powerful, inspired organ solo. There's even space for a groovy bass solo, something that Squire or Rutherford wouldn't do. The jam later evolves into the hard rock-powder of Hocus Pocus with a drum section and a fantastic guitar solo.

'Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!' is a similar affair, just a bit jazzier. The rest of the album though, is more related to the classic Focus style with lovely or energetic short tunes, mostly prog-related stuff with touches of either classical ('Carnival Fugue'), jazz or blues, highlights being Jan's guitar or Thijs' flute, both deliver emotional melodies and solos.

So why is '3' my favorite Focus record? Well, I simply love both of the long jams and the rest of the album is as good as the gentle tunes from Moving Waves. Though less Progressive since there's no ''Prog epic'', '3' is by far the album I get more enjoyment from this band. This is not Focus's strongest album in composition terms though, that'd be Moving Waves or Hamburger Concerto.

4 stars: excellent prog rock record with focus on two long jams which may not be every Prog fans cup-of-tea, but for me those are the best part of this album. Highly recommended if you are someone who likes a varied Prog Rock record with emphasis on the rock part. If you're looking for the ''Symphonic'' Focus, check both Hamburger Concerto and Moving Waves first.

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Posted Monday, August 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars This album was actually my introduction to Focus and there is a definite nostalgia connected to this music for me. Still, I must be honest and admit that Focus 3 is really not the great album I want it to be.

The band had a great deal of material prepared for this album and decided not to leave any of it in the recording studio. If that was not the case, at least that's the feeling I get whenever I listen to it! I honestly think that Round Goes The Gossip and Focus III are two of the band's best achievements. Sylvia, Love Remembered, Carnival Fugue and Elspeth Of Nottingham work as nice interludes, but then we have those lengthy jam tracks, towards the end of the album, that completely contradict everything that came before them. I'm talking about Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!, clearly titled perfectly for a jam track, and the 26+ minute monster jam titled Anonymous Two. The individual solos spots get tiresome pretty fast and, if I had my say, this track could have easily been cut down to only about 4-5 minutes in length!

Even though Focus 3 might not be the great album that my memories what it to be, it's not really a total disaster either. I can definitely recommend it to everyone who has already heard the essentials like the debut album, Moving Waves and Hamburger Concerto. The music that is good here might actually be the best that Focus have ever recorded while the low points only suffer because they feel excessive. Therefore a good, but non-essential rating with a plus sign at the end!

***** star songs: Round Goes The Gossip (5:13) Sylvia (3:32) Focus III (6:04)

**** star songs: Love Remembered (2:49) Carnival Fugue (6:09) Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! (13:55) Elspeth Of Nottingham (3:06)

*** star songs: Anonymous Two (26:19)

Report this review (#308578)
Posted Saturday, November 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars My review is based on the single compact disk version, which omits the TULL and GRYPHON-like "House of the King", and shrinks "Carnival Fugue" and "Focus 3", while tacking about 5 unofficial minutes atop "Questions...". A small shift, but indicative of the group's tendency to dabble in the courtly and wallow in the improvisational, and a wish to be remembered that way, at least at record company executive level. In fact, a full 45 minutes are devoted to "Questions.." and "Anonymus 2" combined. The former is the better of the two with many quiet and boisterous passages alternating. Akkerman's slightly bluesy leads and Van Leers organ combine gracefully. Pastoral flute passages also intermingle with raunchy electric guitar in this overlong but impressive piece. "Anonymus" is a jam with an interminable funky bass sequence and paltry few highlights. The dearth of captivating and convincing themes makes this album non essential, even if fans of fusion and wicked lead guitar might enjoy the longer tracks for their own sake. 2.5 stars rounded down.
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Posted Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I find this album by focus absolutely gorgeous and is by far the one I hear the most. It brings to my memory very special moments I lived with my wife at Bornos Festival in Cadiz, Spain, two years ago in a fantastic concert by the band.

This album not only contains the wonderful Sylvia that causes me chills down the spine, but also my preferred song in the Focus saga in the form of Focus 3. But this album strong pieces are Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! and Anonymous Two, where the extended jams are flawless and the interplay between Thijs Van Leer's keyaboads and flute and Jan Akkerman's crunchy, bluesy and jazzy guitars are incredible. Pierre Van Der Linden shines all along the record, he's so dynamic and imaginative. In the shorter songs Carnival Fugue and Elspeth Of Nothingham there's a mellower aura and medieval touches that make them quite sweet. Round Goes The Gossip stars the album in a rocky mood with good licks from Akkerman and the only voices recorded in the album. For me the weaker song in the collection is Love Remembered, it doesn't really reach me.

All in all, 4 stars, strong album from Focus!

Report this review (#312661)
Posted Thursday, November 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 3 continues the super-energetic symphonic progressive rock sound that Focus utilized in the past, except they made more of it. This was my first Focus album, and it made a very good impression on me. All the musicianship is very tight, and the music a lot of the time sounds playful and whimsical without sounding stupid.

"Round Goes the Gossip" serves as a nice introduction and immediately shows the energetic side of the band at full force, while later also showing the slightly goofy side of the band with its bizarre group vocals and hypnotizing guitar motif. Eventually, we're treated to hyper-jazz-fusion mode.

"Love Remembered" is largely a flute and acoustic guitar duet with some light percussion and bass. Very soothing. "Sylvia" is fantastic rocker with some great usage of organ sounds and Camel-like guitar solo lines. This is one of the tracks that always seemed like a stand out to me. "Carnival Fugue" starts as a jazzy piano solo, but develops into a funky-classical-jazz rock energy hodgepodge that is very fun to listen to, although I never really considered this to stand out at all on its own. The title track is another Camel inspired tune that is really melodic and soothing with pleasant guitar solo almost all the way through the entire length.

"Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" is a lengthy blues and jazz inspired jam with a few lounge music touches. Definitely one of the best songs for chillin' out to. This features incredibly tight musicianship, of course. "Anonymous Two, Pt, 1 & Conclusion" is another super strong jam but this time utilizes more flute playing . It starts energetic, but the midsection gives way to a more subdued bass dominated car-chase funk passage. It picks up again, featuring a rough guitar solo and maintains itself as jam-tastic. "Elspeth of Nottingham" is simply a beautiful medieval lute inspired tune that serves as a great cool down from the previous two jams of complete furiosity. "House of the King" is a very Jethro Tull inspired flute dominated jig with plenty of blues and folk influence.

I've always felt that Focus garnered great crossover appeal for Jethro Tull fans into the realm of symphonic prog. This album is fantastic, as are most of Focus' other releases. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#431188)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is an odd album that, to my mind, epitomizes the quandary that is/was FOCUS: Nothing feels finished, polished, worked through to its best possible end result. And this seems the case with all Focus albums: INCREDIBLE individual talents (here sporting THE favorite Focus cast of all-time--Jan Akkerman, Thijs van Leer, bassist Burt Ruiter and drummer Pierre van der Linden) collaborating only half-heartedly leads to flashes of utter brilliance--sometimes unparalleled in all of prog world!--but then there are the lows where things just didn't feel heart-felt or worked through, as if the band thought they might as well ride out the recording sessions with "the best they could get."

Here's my vision of how a Focus studio session would unwrap:

Band arrives. (Not all at the same time--which irks the early/on-time members.) Talk. Warm up. Rehearse some parts. Quickly set levels and push 'record' and play. Play back. "It's good." "There are some amazing parts!" "It could be better." "Do we want to try it again?" "No--" "F#*k no!" "Okay, then. Next song." --and repeat.

This album is such a hodge podge. The musical styles present here are all over the map. From humorous, tongue-in-cheek, Robert Wyatt-like jazz-rock-pop with, 1. "Round Goes the Gossip" (5:16) (8/10), to the syrupy romantic adult contemporary jazz piece, 2. "Love Remembered" (2:49) (10/10), to an attempt at an pop instrumental anthem in 3. "Sylvia" (3:31) (8/10), to MICHEL LE GRAND-like lounge classical piano jazz in, 4. "Carnival Fugue" (6:02) (8/10), to the reworking on a variation of an old group song and coming out with 5. "Focus III" (6:07) (my favorite version of the song) (9/10), to the loose but exhilarating free-form jamming of 6. "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" (19:54) (one of my all-time favorite songs--and all-time favorite guitar exhibitions) (10/10), to an attempt at a modern electric classical symphonia (but ends up sound more like a re-hashing of "Answers? Questions!...") in 7. "Anonymous II" (26:19) (8/10), to ancient/medieval with, 8. "Elspeth of Nottingham" (3:11) (10/10), and topped off with one of their old standards--released previously on their first album (with different drummer and bass player)--a JETHRO TULL-sounding piece here used to fill space on Side 4, 9. "House of the King" (2:23) (8/10)--all of which exhibit's compositional mastery, creative experimentalism, and, of course, instrumental virtuosity. Too bad it doesn't all work. Amazing that it sold so well--especially as it is an all-instrumental album.

Could've been a masterpiece with a little more work. But, heck! A double album is a lot of work!

Report this review (#459482)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Magnus Opus of Focus.

Focus keeps on growing. Moving Waves (or Focus II) was already very good, but this third record is even more magical. The songwriting is even more intellectual and because Focus III contains two records Focus had the possibility to record extended jams of each member. The first record contains new material and the second can be seen as a bonus record, containing almost no new material, but old material of their first record, but now with long jams on it.

Round goes the Gossip is another perfect openingtrack of Focus. This song is highly intellectual and has a brilliant instrumental jazzrock bridge with nice interaction of Thijs van Leer on keys and Jan Akkerman on guitar. The second song is really mystical with the flute as maininstrument (also played by Thijs van Leer). The third song is guitarbased and the fourth song is pianobased. I hope you can imagine the variaty on only the first side! The guitartrack Sylvia is somewhat special to me. My wife's name is Sylvia and she could not be honored more then by this great song with nice melodies. The ending atmosphere of side I is great: a phantasy landscape created by high pitch flutes, bass lines, optimistic guitarmelodies and organs.

The second side of Focus III contains two longer compositions with typical Focus-like progression. Dynamic, great melodies and solo's! The second record does have some great jams, but I do admit I don't listen to it as often as the first record. As I said before I consider it as bonusmaterial and as such it is a great addition. For fans of the guitarjamming of Jan Akkerman I'll advise to listen also to his solowork Profile.

In my opinion Focus is here at it's peak. This is their magnus opus. 4,5 stars!

Report this review (#655553)
Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
1 stars I have little to say about this almost unbearable album

From my point of view the fact that it is a double album (filled with uninteresting songs) makes it boring to listen; I don`t like the opener track "Round Goes The Gossip" sounds clownish, absolutely nothing interesting, "Love Remembered" is almost at the same vein as "Janis" (from the previous "Moving Waves"). "Sylvia" could be the highlight of the album but its not as good as I expected. The rest of the album doesn`t inspire to write more but unbearable and unmemorable.

So I will give it

1 Star, because I think that is what deserves this lukewarm effort

Report this review (#808725)
Posted Wednesday, August 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Right before the tour supporting the ''Moving waves'' album, bassist Cyril Havermans left Focus to pursue a solo career and was replaced by Bert Ruiter, whom Jan Akkerman knew from the recording of his 72' album ''Profile''.Focus had already blew the music world, as the Melody Maker characterized them as the "Brightest hope for the year", Akkermann as the "Best guitarist in the world" and even Pierre Van Der Linden as the "Greatest drummer in Europe".''Focus III'', the third studio album of the band was originally intended to be released as a single LP, but the band had already recorded so much material, that decided to release it as a double-LP in the process.This was originally released in November 1972 on Imperial in Holland and a number of other labels for the rest of the world.

Things get serious already from the start and the short instrumentals of side A establish Focus as a premiere Symphonic/Jazz-Rock act.Excellent combination of intense Jazz Rock with Classical-indluenced keyboard passages in four great tracks full of lovely melodies but also technical abilities with some superb guitar workouts by Akkermann, a fascinating rhythm section and Van Leer's dreamy flutes and deep organ waves.The second side opens with the self-titled track, where Focus try to revive the beautiful atmosphere of ''Focus II'' from ''Moving waves''.Light, instrumental Symphonic Rock with a growing tempo based on careful and melodic guitar solos and atmospheric Hammong organ.With the 14-min. long ''Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!'' Focus enter their more jazzy and improvised side.Powerful Jazz-Rock with shifting moods, funky tempos, a fair amount of virtuosity and solos, ending up offering quite solid performances by a group of talented guys.This was also the first attempt of Bert Ruiter on contributing to a Focus' composition.

The second LP is almost exclusively driven by the long 27-min. improvisation ''Anonymus II'', which start the first side and ends covering 7 minutes of the second one.For a studio jamming this is actually a nice track.Endless dynamic grooves blended with numerous technical solos with jazzy guitars and sharp Hammond organ all the way, interrupted only by a JETHRO TULL-esque flute interlude and a drum solo by Van Den Linden towards the end.It actually sound pretty tight as a whole to become monotonous on the way and the impressive execution catches the listener's attention until the end, maybe this is a bit overstreched.The pair of closing tunes saw Focus in a mix of Classical Music and Medieval Folk with ethereal flutes and delicate acoustic guitars with ''House of the King'' having again some sort of JETHRO TULL-esque vibe.

This is a great album indeed.The long jamming tracks prevent it from being absolutely seesntial and a single LP with the best moments would make this stand next to some Prog classics.Still this is a very solid release of instrumental Symphonic/Jazz- Rock with a few really fantastic pieces.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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Posted Sunday, December 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars "Focus 3" is the third album for these wonderful symphonic instrumentalists, and it is quite an ambient relaxing journey apart from the odd outburst in the first half. The double vinyl album was the first time I heard it at a friend's house, and I was not all that impressed initially. It tended to drag on with some tracks going on too long for their own good, but this grew on me and I consider it a masterful album these days. It really is a headphone album, not something to throw on and have going in the background. Highlights include the pipe whistle exploration of Carnival Fugue, and I love the opener with Thijs crazy vocal intonations, Round Goes the Gossip, one of the best Focus tracks. The epic at the end is an incredibly complex composition and one of the best from Focus.

The musicians here are the best Focus lineup I believe, the amazing Jan Akkerman on solo & acoustic guitars, Bert Ruiter on bass, the incredible percussion of Pierre van der Linden, and of course the visionary extraordinaire Thijs van Leer on vocals, organ, piano, alto flute, piccolo, and harpsichord.

Some tracks are very subdued and merely prepare us for the epic to come. Focus III is peaceful and relaxing definitely; the band were capable of some stunning beauty in their compositions. Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! (a title that reminds me of Giraffes? Giraffes!) is a 14 minute journey, composed by Akkerman and Ruiter, with a ton of happy Hammond, a rollicking tempo and some great Akkerman guitar passages. It kind of has a Santana flavour, and then it settles into lovely ambience with flute and a dreamy tempo. Then Akkerman cuts loose on some vivacious guitar work. Again after this flows along gently and Akkerman has one more guitar outlet. This is definitely the highlight track of the album thus far.

Side 3 features Anonymous Two (Part 1) and it is continued on Side 4. This long epic gives Thijs a chance to go mad on flute and he is absolutely incredible, on these faster tracks. He would have to be one of the best flute players along with Mr Anderson. You can even hear his vocals as he blows similar to the style of Jethro Tull. Next there is a barrage of Hammond blasting as good as you are likely to hear. It even has a bit of the Hocus Pocus melody hidden in there. Then it settles into a very serene passage with an extended bass solo by Ruiter. It goes for a while with an improvised feel, then the guitars return and that shimmering Hammond. Akkerman unleashes fury on his axe jamming along boldly along the fast paced signature. It ends with a huge drum solo from virtuoso Pierre, and then it ends with a quirky melody. Another definitive highlight and Focus at their absolute best.

Finally we have Elspeth Of Nottingham that is Elizabethan Medieval flavoured, something they return to often, and it ends with House Of The King. It kind of fits neatly onto one CD but the vinyl release is my preference as it is well packaged and a product of the 70s.

It is one of the best albums from Focus with some of their brightest moments with the epic track and the Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!; so dynamic. The band were experimenting with many styles and here on this album they are at their most symphonic and experimental before the jazz influences came in. I think 4 stars are deserved as this is definitely one of the best I have heard and is the most consistent album out of all the Focus albums I have heard.

Report this review (#900167)
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars I first heard focus in the mid 70s when I borrowed a compilation "Dutch Masters"off a friends elder brother.I was 14 and into all things heavy(hendrix,zep,purple,etc).Focus was a refreshing change and I was hooked.Focus 3 ironically was my third purchase and is still my fave along with Hamburger Concerto all though it is not without its faults.Its very dark sounding album,Jan Akkermans guitar tone in particular,purples Machine Head comes to mind.Its also very live sounding with apparently few overdubs.Opener Round Goes the Gossip is an odd mix up of ideas with a jumpy main theme,echoey vocals repeating the title,a jazz mid section with some stunning musicianship,and a quite section with some nonsensical vocalising from vanLeer(he threatens to go into some yodelling but restrains himself).The gentle Love Rembered is lovely.Beautiful flute from van leer.Next is the hit Sylvia with anthem heroic style guitar from Akkerman.His tone is brighter on this track.Carnival Fugue starts with a jazz feel with van Leers piano runs outstanding(think Keith Emerson).It turns mid way into jokey jumpy section pjayed on piccolo? with Akkermaan answering on guitar.For years I didn't like this part but it has grown on me.Side 2(on vinyl) is Focus 3 and Answer Questions and is really one long track.I can sit down relax with a beer by myself and just drift away this although some of akkermans jamming near the end tends to grate.Side3 and well into Side4 is Anonymous2 a re recording of an earlier version on the first album.Nothing more than a jam in the studio it has its moments particularly the first six minutes where van Leer out flutes the Anderson.I like the propelling drum solo to,but the bass solo is too long and Akkerman gets a bit too spiky and discordant.The return of the main theme at the end is great.Elspeth of Nottingham is a lovely lute solo,very medivial.House of the king was not on the Australian release so ends up here as the last track(also probably to make up for the short time of the side).Despite the faults I love this record and I have worn out 3 copies including a german pressing with a poster which I have never seen elsewhere.I now have it on cd but have copied with the correct running order including House of the king.
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Posted Thursday, May 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
Progfan97402
PROG REVIEWER
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 radio, 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.

Report this review (#1651531)
Posted Saturday, December 3, 2016 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Most people are introduced to Focus through the Hocus Pocus single, which thanks to its yodelling makes people think of them as, if not an outright novelty group, at least a somewhat comedic lot. The more serious side of Focus, however, gets perhaps its best workout on Focus 3, a double album of instrumental prog with jazzy inflections. Album closer House of the King, borrowed from the debut album to avoid side 4 becoming weirdly short, nicely illustrates how far the band have come from their early days; the piece sounds like an unabashed attempt to riff on the style of early Jethro Tull, whilst the rest of the double album showcases a much more original sound.
Report this review (#1677978)
Posted Tuesday, January 10, 2017 | Review Permalink

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