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Focus Live At The Rainbow album cover
3.48 | 153 ratings | 26 reviews | 24% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Live, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Focus III (3:54)
2. Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! (11:38)
3. Focus II (4:27)
4. Eruption: (8:29)
a) Orfeus
b) Answer
c) Orfeus
d) Answer
e) Pupilla
f) Tommy
g) Pupilla
5. Hocus Pocus (8:29)
6. Sylvia (2:48)
7. Hocus Pocus (reprise) (2:47)

Total Time: 42:32

Line-up / Musicians

- Jan Akkerman / guitars
- Bert Ruiter / bass, backing vocals
- Pierre van der Linden / drums
- Thijs van Leer / keyboards, flute, vocals

Releases information

CD: EMI Records CDP 7 48969 (1988)
Red bullet Productions BV RB 66.190 (2001)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to SouthSideoftheSky for the last updates
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Buy FOCUS Live At The Rainbow Music

FOCUS Live At The Rainbow ratings distribution

(153 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(24%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

FOCUS Live At The Rainbow reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Another one of those Focus album that came with different sleeve depending on which side of the great pond you lived on. This is a very controversial album , some calling it useless but it is not that bad but most constuctive criticism is absolutely true.

One of the things I always regretted is that Focus always stretched out whatever few good ideas they had , and it is quite evident if you see them live. The Question Answer suite is listlessly rendered live and that Eruption version would not even wake me up if I slept in the crater of the volcano.

On the positive side the two Focus themes are fine (but why two of those?) and at the end of the record they stretch out Hocus Pocus around Sylvia .

It would have more stars if it did not feature that boring Eruption suite (and the concert version adds nothing new to the studio one although it is shortened for inclusion).

Not essential .

Review by Guillermo
3 stars This live album was a disappointment for me in some things. One of the best things is that the band sometimes played with great energy, but in other parts of the album they sound somewhat "nervous" and "out of tune", like Akkerman`s guitar in some places. "Focus II" lacks the mellotron and the piano of the original version, so this live version is not very good. I read that using the mellotron in tours was a real problem for keyboard players in those days, because the instrument was out of tune easily. So maybe Thijs van Leer didn`t use it in this album for this reason.
Review by Philo
3 stars After the consistent flow of top drawer albums where Focus unleashed their self styled brand of Humorist progressive rock with a baroque and jazz leaning the Focus At The Rainbow album came across as a bit of a disappointment. When listening to a live album I want to hear the buzz and excitement of the band that have just begun and are building up momentum and energy as they move through the concert, but this is not what I get when listening to the album opener "Focus III". I felt a little lost and something of a gate crasher. The performance is good but the overall recording/production is somewhat muted here and there and the song arrangement for this listener sound uncomfortable and not at ease what so ever, almost as if the band themselves were at odds. The album versions of the tracks that appear on this live set are far more superior to this recording, but I was lead to believe that Focus At The Rainbow was a storming album which may have some sway at how disappointed I am with it as it lacks a serious vibe and ambient. That is not to say that Focus Live At The Rainbow actually poor, but the electricity and energy is missing in action and as I previously stated muted. "Hocus Pocus" which opened up the the excellent Making Waves album sounds trite and unconvincing. Akkerman's guitar sounds swallowed up in a melee of a poor guitar and amp set up and nowhere near as brash and edgy as the studio album counterpart. "Sylvia" gets lost in the sandwich that is the "Hocus Pocus" and its reprise at the end as the album more or less falls flat. I may even come back in time to have a different view on this album but usually a Focus album has me converted right away, but they were a band full of surprises. For me this is just another one. Disappointing and not a recommendation of what Focus could do with the talent they had in Jan Akkerman and Thijs Van Leer on board who sound a little off on this recording.
Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I always read terrible reviews about this album something with I don't agree, of course is not one of their masterpieces, but the quality of the music and the selection of songs is outstanding.

Probably some fans aren't too happy without The House of the King, but the mood of the concert is different to any other band, somehow dreamy and oneiric, with that atmosphere that covers the audience as a thick cloud of mist that covers the listener but instead of suffocating him the music helps to relax (Except of course for Hocus Pocus).

The album starts with the excellent Focus III, a beautiful track with a gentle intro of keyboards and guitar, it's pleasant to listen how the music perfectly flows, almost with no interruptions or dramatic changes until around the third minute when it turns more jazzy oriented as to prepare the organ ending, a short piece of art.

With no interruptions they lead us to Answers? Questions!! Questions? Answers! that creates a perfect contrast with the soft Focus III, the intro is almost frantic at some points based in Akkerman's great guitar riffs and Thijs Van Leer amazing keyboard plus an extra instrument in Thijs voice, because he's one of the few vocalist that doesn't use his voice for singing but for adding extra sounds and laments.

In this track there are many changes and sudden explosions with an organ that sounds very close to the Italian Farfisa of the late 60's that gives the strong Psychedelic sound, but around the middle Thijs offers us one of his incredible flute semi-solos ((with drums background followed by another semi solo by Jan Akkerman that reminds me a bit of Steve Hackett, From that point the songs keeps flowing gently with a jazzy atmosphere where all the members of the band are simply amazing. Eleven minutes of different but very talented prog' rock.

Talking about music that gently flows, it's the turn for Focus II, again introduced by Thijs keyboard enhanced by Jan's guitar and a very competent Bert Ruiter in the bass, the keyboard parts are faster than in Moving Waves affecting in some way the soft and perfect balance of the original version, but still very good and relaxing.

Eruption is based in the tragic Greek Myth of Orpheus, the man that created music who was destroyed after her true love's (Euridice) death and went to the rescue, of her down to hell.

The icy queen of the Underworld: Persephone, impressed with the beauty of Orpheus music, pleaded with her husband Hades to let Orpheus bring Euridice back to the land of the living. Hades could not deny his queen her request, and agreed to let Orpheus bring Euridice back on one condition: that he should not look upon her until they were both back in the land of the living. When they were about to reach the light, Orpheus felt doubts and turned back to see Euridice for a second before her soul was taken back to the world of the underworld.

The problem with this beautiful and complex song is that the version for The Rainbow Theater is too short (8:30 minutes against the 23:04 of the original version), this track was composed to musically describe a story and when mutilated for a live concert lacks of sense.

Despite this fact, works as an excerpt, because gives us a clear idea of the beauty of the music with the complex baroque sections like taken from a Cathedral and the peaceful passages that join perfectly with the next sound explosion. Jan Akkerman's solos require special attention because reminds me of Carlos Santana at some points.

The next track is the famous Hocus Pocus which as we all know is just a joke where Thijs yodels at his entire pleasure while Bert Ruiter and Pierre Van Der Linden backup him with appropriate bass and drums, don't take it seriously, not even Akkerman's guitar riffs, as I said before it's just a joke.

The last track (because Hocus Pocus Reprise is really a filler to complete the planned time) is Sylvia, Focus first commercial hit, Thijs dedicates this song to a girl that used to sing with him when both worked as backing vocalists for a well known Crooner from the Netherlands. Originally had lyrics but at certain point Thijs decided to use his voice for anything but singing, good track even when more commercially oriented.

Focus concerts were probably the simplest of Progressive Rock, they almost didn't used lights or created an spectacular show, they only did what they knew best, play their music, and for God's sake, they always did it well.

If you want to listen a frantic concert where people shouts and joins the band, don't buy it, but if you want a rare testimony of Focus calmed style on stage, it's a great purchase.

Despite the previous terrible reviews I'll give this album 4 stars because it showed me a new perspective of Focus working together.

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a live album by Focus. It is an excellent live performance of the early Focus. The selected tracks are interesting: there are "Hocus Pocus", "Focus 2" "Sylvia" and a shortened version of the epic "Eruption", among others. The sound is pretty good, and the musicians almost sound like on the studio albums. The polite crowd favorably responds at the end and the beginning of the tracks. On "Focus 2", Jan Akkerman seems not at his best: he often hesitates: I think the track is a bit played too fast. The mellow version of "Eruption" is particularly brilliant. "Hocus Pocus" is almost better than the studio version: they play it much faster. The yodeling is very well succeeded, and there are even a couples of further extravagant vocals parts and whistling: IMPRESSIVE! The other shorter version of "Hocus Pocus" is also fantastic, with again another special & different yodeling.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When I tuned in Jakarta Alternative Station (the new radio that focused on seventies rock music) last night I heard they aired good stuff which most of them are 'rare' collection like Birth Control 'live' which I never heard before. But one track they featured was the one that I have been familiar with, ie. "Hocus Pocus" from "Live at The Rainbow" version. I then spun the CD in its entirely and it reminded me back to the glory days of seventies when prog and rock music were dominating the music industry. It's a rewarding experience listening to the album that I have not played for such a long time. Then I checked this site and found out a very "surprising" reviews about this live album which I think it's underrated for Focus as a legendary prog band. I said to myself that it can't be this album is rated with less than 4 stars because the overall performance of the band is really terrific.

Right after the release of Focus III album, the band recorded and released this live album at the Rainbow. The famous track "Focus III" (3:54) kicks off this live set with soft organ work combined with stunning guitar fills. It then flows seamlessly to "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" (11:38). By my definition, this track is performed lively and much more dynamic than the original studio version. I like the hard- edge guitar work combined with soaring organ sounds and excellent bass lines. "Focus II" (4:27) begins with a long sustain organ sound in an ambient nuance followed slowly with guitar fills / solo. The msuic tirns into high points with guitar leading the way as main melody combined with dazzling drum and punctuated organ sounds. The short drum solo during transitions have made the song more enjoyable and it's rockier.

"Eruption" (8:29) shows the band's relatively complex arrangement on stage; combining mostly organ sounds augmented with drums while guitar seems to play as fillers during opening part but it then plays bigger role after that especially during solo part with bluesy touch. "Hocus Pocus" (8:29) is a famous and legendary track by Focus and the band plays it differently throughout this show. It kicks off with a rocking guitar fills / riffs that a bit improvisational and it truly rocks! Jan Akermann plays his guitar skillfully augmented with drum. The track is performed flawlessly on stage even with the unique distant vocal style. The drum by Pierre van der Linden is also excellent as it dynamically create beats for the music. "Sylvia" (2:48) is for me a classical pop based music with organ as main rhythm and guitar plays lead melody. It's performed excellently by the band. "Hocus Pocus" (reprise) (2:47) concludes the album wonderfully.

As Ivan said, if you want to listen a frantic concert where people shout and join the band, don't buy it, but if you want a rare testimony of Focus calmed style on stage, it's a great purchase. I fully agree with him. In fact I did purchase this album not on a purpose but the first spin I was amazed about the show because I was familiar with all tracks featured here. Focus was one of the bands that colored my rightplaced childhood era. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by OpethGuitarist
2 stars A modest live album.

This is a pretty splotchy live album. Sometimes Focus seems all over the place, and while the tunes are still recognizable, some of it isn't very coherent. This isn't to say the band lacks talent, ability, or musical quality, it's just that compared to many other live records, this is less than stellar.

Most of this is entirely instrumental, (really Akkerman) noodling all over the fretboard. Questions Answers goes on for far too long, and should have been condensed. Wrapping Hocus Pocus around Sylvia was a bad idea as well. With a little more thought and preparation, this could have been a much better record.

Don't take my criticisms too much. I prefer studio albums over live albums almost exclusively, as I've never particularly enjoyed the live sound except in rare circumstances. Focus is a wonderful little Dutch band, but I'd start with the early studio albums before coming to this live piece.

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is my first review of the legends Focus though I've heard and liked solo Jan albums. I have to say I was a little less impressed than I expected to be but still rate this as good.

There are some tasty licks throughout but also some sloppy play and a general lack of cohesive play and underdevelopment. Inconsistent is perhaps the most accurate word for this set.

My favorite tracks are probably "Focus III" and "Focus II" that seem to get some energy out of the guys. "Hocus Pocus" is a song I've always had some trouble stomaching, the vocal games lost their novelty for me the second time I heard the song back in the 80s. The seven part track "Eruption" would seem to be a showcase number but never gets off the ground for me. There is some nice guitar work towards the end but nothing important. "Sylvia" is a nice melody but they seem to be just wringing it out by force rather than the more tasteful rendition it deserved.

All in all this is not a bad album but it's not great either. Recommended for Focus fans and guitar aficionados but only mildly.

Review by ZowieZiggy
4 stars It's very strange that a band like "Focus" who was jam oriented would cut by half one of their best songs. Still, it is what happened with "Focus III" one of the very few good songs from their third album. The same treatment is applied to "Eruption". A twenty-three minutes epic reduced to eight. Although the original showed some weak moments, this is maybe a bit severe.

Anyway, it's not too bad. Almost inaudible for about two minutes (they should have chosen other parts from it), the listener will get a great and wild moment (but just over a minute) before being brought back into the most tranquil and peaceful mode which remains during the majority of this version. Here and there, you 'll be awaken by stronger part like this during this fabulous guitar break almost sounding like a Santana one (and I really mean it).

The same emotional guitar play is featured during "Focus II". It sounds as if Latimer was playing with "Focus" before founding "Camel". "Answers" was the other pleasant moments of "III" and remains so. The flute is really beautiful and since I am quite found of this instrument, I reallly enjoy it every second.

The sound recording is excellent and even if it hardly can be considered as a masterpiece this is a pleasant live album. I would have liked to get songs of the caliber of "Focus I" or "House Of The King". And even if I believe that there are no better version of "Hocus" than the studio one, this one is crazier, funnier.

Four stars.

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars There is nothing essentially wrong with this live album, but it's not a very good one either!

First of all, if you already own studio albums Moving Waves and Focus III, then this one is redundant, unless you are a devoted fan. Live versions bring no added value and are actually less convincing than the originals.

While the first half of this record is good indeed (Focus II and III, Questions, Answers...), the second one is much less so. Performed twice and suffocating Sylvia, Hocus Pocus is very bad sounding, like the band were too exhausted playing this popular track.


P.A. RATING: 2/5

Review by kenethlevine
2 stars Recording quality notwithstanding, the offerings on this live production are not all that different from the studio recordings that gave them breath. This is not surprising given that FOCUS generally seems unimpressed with studio gimmickry and prefers their own technical flash.

The choice of material is nothing if not predictable, and it is rather telling that even abridged versions overstay their welcome, a testament to the superficiality of the compositions themselves. I do hear more Emersonian influence on "Eruption" than I remember, ELP having followed a far steeper commercial trajectory during the previous three years. "Hocus Pocus" lacks the immediate punch that was dealt in the studio, while the "Focus 2", Focus 3" and "Sylvia" are versions up to par with their antecedents.

If you are a fan, you probably already have this and are not regretting the investment if not singing its achievements from your veranda. If you are new to Focus, you'll do better than to chase this rainbow. Try a compilation or "Moving Waves".

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Not focused enough

After only three studio albums in as many years, Focus released this live album in 1973. In my opinion, the band had yet to reach their artistic peak at this point (which came with 1974's Hamburger Concerto). Had they waited another year or two to record their first live album, they could have made it into a double album featuring tunes from all of their four first albums which are also their best four. This could, for example, have been released in 1975 instead of the uninspired Mother Focus album to keep the Focus brand alive while the band would have had time to regain some new inspiration.

Still, Live At The Rainbow is not a bad live album as it stands. It showcases Focus in the live setting performing some great early numbers. Strangely, some numbers are severely edited for no apparent reason, while others (most notably Hocus Pocus) have been extended beyond reason! I find the album as a whole reasonably enjoyable even if I feel that it could have been much better than it is. It is worth hearing for sure, but it does not hold up well in comparison with many other classic Prog bands' live albums from around the same time.

Live At The Rainbow remains a good addition to any collection that already holds all of the band's four first albums, but it is by no means the ultimate place to start investigating Focus. Start instead with those studio albums.

Good, but not essential

Latest members reviews

2 stars I agree with some of the other reviewers on this site when it comes to this album. While it is true that the band technically performs very well, this recording somewhat lacks the energy required to keep one interested in a live album which is essential since otherwise we are listening to the sa ... (read more)

Report this review (#1546228) | Posted by Master of Sensation | Wednesday, March 30, 2016 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Focus in a live setting gives just some more energy then in the studio setting. The song selection for this live record is good and the production is just fine. The songs are often played a bit faster then the studio versions. Something one may expect of Focus are long jams, but this is not th ... (read more)

Report this review (#755546) | Posted by the philosopher | Sunday, May 20, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars What a unique combination Akkerman - van Leer! Sorry to see that this great ego's didn't synergate for many years, but they have given us some beautiful songs. Especialle 'Tommy' and 'Focus II' are my favourites. As in many bands the rhythm section isn't often mentioned, and that's why Id like ... (read more)

Report this review (#278404) | Posted by jannie | Sunday, April 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Live at the rainbow is not the most interesting Focus record. It is something to fill the space between III & Hamburger concerto. This live record opens with one of the best things Thijs van Leer ever wrote: Focus III. Immediadely followed by an Bert Ruiter/ Jan Akkerman composition: Answers? ... (read more)

Report this review (#275125) | Posted by Rolf Bos | Sunday, March 28, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I like this album. Focus play the most important tracks that we want listen in they live performances. They begin with calm track of Focus III and have some guitar problems (Jan Akkerman smoke something?) but we was in 70 years my friends, and improvisations in live concerts show us how good a ... (read more)

Report this review (#252500) | Posted by Joćo Paulo | Tuesday, November 24, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars It is a great shame that there is no real good live recording of this fantastic band. This album is just one of many half decent live albums and do not give this band the service they deserve. Focus best recordings is most definate the studio albums. This despite of the raving reviews their gi ... (read more)

Report this review (#220885) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Saturday, June 13, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars An album which often divides opinion amongst Focus fans - something of a rarity in that it's a live album which actually sounds live without multiple studio overdubs trying to 'tweak it to perfection'. If you are looking for note-for-note reproductions of studio performances this probably is not ... (read more)

Report this review (#194899) | Posted by barp | Wednesday, December 24, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The first album in any format that I ever bought, it's impossible for me to take a detached and wholly objective view of this record - but can you ever really do that with music that you love? I've owned 3 copies on vinyl and I've just ordered the JVC remastered version from Japan - which will ... (read more)

Report this review (#97506) | Posted by planetbass | Tuesday, November 7, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Recorded during the top their career, and Jan Akkerman was considered the next greatest guitarist virtuoso, Live at the Rainbow shows Focus at its best. The band plays really well of each other and it shows. The intricate and variative parts to the songs are far more "alive" than on the studio ... (read more)

Report this review (#52522) | Posted by flying teapot | Thursday, October 20, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars If you could only have one Focus album, this would be it. The opening section of Answers Questions is pure magic and illustrates perfectly Akkerman's prowess as both a rythm player and a soloist in the space of a few bars. It still excites me as much now as it did when I first heard it at the a ... (read more)

Report this review (#52514) | Posted by | Thursday, October 20, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars All the best of Focus in one album. Restrained and sober, classy interpretations, here they seem to be another band compared to the rest of their musical production, nothing to do with the not-always-welcomed pretentious twistings of the studio albums. I wish they were always this way. This r ... (read more)

Report this review (#22939) | Posted by ita_prog_fan | Saturday, May 7, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Excellent album, a must have, especially if you dig the old cathedral sounds of Mahivishnu Orchestra. Some of their albums can be a bit mellow, but this live album is a true exception Not liking the yodeling is the same as not liking the flute in Jethro Tull. Recorded in 1973, but has stood ... (read more)

Report this review (#22933) | Posted by | Saturday, August 14, 2004 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Mediocre live album released during a period when the band was at it`s peak and touring extensively. Even guitarist Jan Akkerman in an interview with The New Musical Express summed up the band`s performance during this period : " I played sevral times good but most of the time rotten, just because ... (read more)

Report this review (#22930) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Thursday, April 29, 2004 | Review Permanlink

3 stars 98% of live album in rock history are not essential and this makes no exception. Anyway, it can be a nice addiction for Focus fans, as it documents the band at the peak moment of their career. It's a pity the "Focus III", one of the best tune of early '70 prog, is played here in a short version. ... (read more)

Report this review (#22929) | Posted by | Wednesday, April 14, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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