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FOCUS

Symphonic Prog • Netherlands


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Focus picture
Focus biography
Founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1969 - disbanded in 1978 - reunited 1985, 1990, 1999 - reformed in 2002

Of all the groups in the 1970s that combined elements of rock and classical music, FOCUS is, without a doubt, the most notable Dutch group widely known outside the Netherlands. This band has created excitement all over the world during the past few years with their unique sound and musical approach. The two main musicians in the band were flutist/keyboardist/singer Thijs Van LEER and guitarist Jan AKKERMAN. They played a stylishly inventive rock with flutes, keyboards & dazzling guitar, defining the Dutch prog sound. An inspiration to FINCH, TRACE & numerous others. In 1978, the group finally split up, without making too much noise.

Best albums are "Moving Waves" (1972), "3" (1973), "Live at the Rainbow" (1973), and "Hamburger Concerto" (1974). "Waves" and "3" represent the best of the band's earlier intensely progressive period with plenty of sidelong tracks and healthly extended solos. Most will agree that "Live at the Rainbow" and "Hamburger Concerto" (last good album) were their best, moving into a period of more pure classical and jazz influence.

"Focus 8" marks the return of Thijs Van LEER in the true nature of music: tuneful, memorable and a little bit rocky when they want to be. This album contains everything you might want from a FOCUS album ... plenty of flute and keyboards from Thijs, tasty guitar playing from Jan DUMÉE and even some yodeling vocals. Perhaps in summary, the band could have veered a little from the safety of the FOCUS blueprint but "Focus 9" may yet further develop their own voice. No doubt about it, we'll have to count on FOCUS in the new millennium to all of the true Progressive Rock lovers.

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FOCUS discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

FOCUS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.48 | 324 ratings
Focus Plays Focus [Aka: In and Out of Focus]
1970
4.09 | 736 ratings
Focus II [Aka: Moving Waves]
1971
3.80 | 525 ratings
3
1973
4.25 | 1070 ratings
Hamburger Concerto
1974
2.74 | 221 ratings
Mother Focus
1975
3.16 | 178 ratings
Ship Of Memories
1976
2.59 | 122 ratings
Focus Con Proby
1978
3.42 | 90 ratings
Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer: Focus
1985
3.65 | 152 ratings
Focus 8
2002
3.23 | 109 ratings
Focus 9 / New Skin
2006
3.44 | 140 ratings
X
2012
3.47 | 56 ratings
Golden Oldies
2014
3.61 | 51 ratings
Focus And Friends: Focus 8.5 / Beyond The Horizon
2016
3.53 | 57 ratings
11
2018

FOCUS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.47 | 138 ratings
Live At The Rainbow
1973
3.34 | 26 ratings
Live at the BBC
1996
3.83 | 18 ratings
Live in America
2003
3.00 | 6 ratings
Live Legends - The Greatest Hits of Focus
2004
2.69 | 15 ratings
Focus The Greatest Hits
2004
4.00 | 1 ratings
Live in Southamerica
2004
4.55 | 11 ratings
Live In Europe
2009
4.04 | 8 ratings
In Concert 1973
2016
4.78 | 13 ratings
Live In England
2016
4.00 | 2 ratings
Focus 50 - Live in Rio
2021

FOCUS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.07 | 27 ratings
Masters From The Vault
2002
3.94 | 31 ratings
Live In America
2003
3.98 | 16 ratings
The Ultimate Anthology
2004
4.14 | 7 ratings
Live in England
2009

FOCUS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.20 | 5 ratings
Masters of Rock 1971 - 1973
1974
4.32 | 6 ratings
The Story of Focus
1974
4.21 | 5 ratings
Focus - Special Polydor
1975
4.94 | 13 ratings
Dutch Masters 1969 - 1973
1975
4.33 | 3 ratings
Focus on Focus 1970 - 1978
1979
4.17 | 6 ratings
House of the King
1983
2.73 | 6 ratings
Greatest Hits of Focus
1984
3.52 | 68 ratings
Hocus Pocus: The Best Of Focus
1994
0.00 | 0 ratings
Masters from the Vaults
2003
3.08 | 7 ratings
The Focus Family Album
2017

FOCUS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.04 | 4 ratings
House of the King
1970
3.29 | 11 ratings
Hocus Pocus / Janis
1971
2.76 | 8 ratings
Sylvia
1972
3.17 | 5 ratings
Tommy / Focus II
1972
3.05 | 3 ratings
Hocus Pocus 2
1972
3.14 | 9 ratings
Harem Scarem
1974
2.54 | 7 ratings
House Of The King / O Avondrood
1976

FOCUS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Hamburger Concerto by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.25 | 1070 ratings

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Hamburger Concerto
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Review Nº 461

Focus is a Dutch progressive rock band formed in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in 1969, by Thijs van Leer. The band has undergone numerous formations in their history. Formed of members of the pit band for the Dutch production of the rock musical "Hair", Focus released their debut studio album "In And Out Of Focus", in 1970. But, their debut gained little attention outside the Netherlands. They only started to gain popularity following the success of "Focus II", released in 1971. The success continued with "Focus 3", released in 1972 and "Hamburger Concerto", released in 1974.

So, "Hamburger Concerto" is the fourth studio album of Focus and was released in 1974. As happened before, for the third time, the band suffered another change into their line up. Pierre van der Linden, the drummer of the group was replaced by the ex-Stone The Crows drummer Collin Allen, even before Focus recorded "Hamburger Concerto".

So, the line up on the album is Thijs van Leer (vocals, keyboards, organ, flute and piano), Jan Akkerman (guitar), Bert Ruiter (bass guitar) and Collin Allen (drums).

"Hamburger Concerto" has six tracks. The first track "Delitiae Musicae" written by Jan Akkerman is a short but at the same time magnificent piece which instantly sets what will be the classic mood on the album. This is a beautiful classic piece of music influenced by the Renaissance and Medieval music that introduces us perfectly well in the mood of this fantastic album. The second track "Harem Scarem" written by Thijs van Leer represents a musical proposal completely different. It's a very rock oriented song, with some jazz influences, very frantic from the start to the end. This is a song where we can perfectly see, on the vocals and "lyrics", some the usual "insanity" of Thijs van Leer. It's another magnificent piece of music with impressive guitar and piano works. The third track "La Cathedral De Strasbourg" written by Thijs van Leer represents another change in the musical direction on the album. It's an extremely beautiful piece of music with very calm voices and with church organ and bells. This is a perfect song, an incredible and beautiful track, one of their best and one of my favourites too. It's a song that evokes perfectly well the grandeur and majesty of the Gothic Cathedral of Strasbourg. The fourth track "Birth" written by Jan Akkerman represents another surprising, perfect and magnificent musical moment on the album. It's a song with a nice harpsichord introduction by Thijs van Leer that changes and oscillates the musical atmosphere of the song between the classical and rock. It features also solos between Thijs van Leer and Jan Akkerman, where they show their skills, perfectly well. This is truly a unique and brilliant song and it's also absolutely delightful. The fifth track is the title track "Hamburger Concerto". It's divided into six parts. All the six parts were written by Thijs van Leer and Jan Akkerman, alternately. This great piece of music represents the epic moment on the album and is a suite with about 20 minutes long. This theme always was and remains one of Focus' most accomplished pieces of music, in terms of musical construction, and it has an incredible mixtures of styles and genres and represents also one of the best progressive musical moments, ever made by anyone. This piece of music is, in my humble opinion, the best and the perfect way to describe and show the music of Focus, and how their music can be so beautiful and perfect, in some moments. Believe me, you only can understand what I'm saying if you hear it. The sixth track "Early Birth" written by Jan Akkerman is, as the name says, a reprise of "Birth". It's, in reality, a magnificent and perfect way to close the album. Unfortunately, since is a song that comes after the title track, there is a tendency not to be noticed, what is totally unfair. This is also a great song, in the same vein of "Birth", where once more we can hear a great guitar work by Jan Akkerman, a great flute solo and also a good bass playing.

Conclusion: I completely agree with Easy Livin when he says that "Hamburger Concerto" is by far the best and more accomplished album of Focus. It's true that "Moving Waves" and "Focus 3" are two great albums. We we even can say, in a certain way, the same about "In And Out Of Focus". However, "Hamburger Concerto" is another thing. "Hamburger Concerto" is their most progressive album and it's also the only perfect album made by Focus. It's also their only album that deserves to be considered a masterpiece. "Hamburger Concerto" is also one of the best albums produced in the 70's. I even dare to say that "Hamburger Concerto" is one of the best and most perfect progressive rock albums ever made. "Hamburger Concerto" represents the band in the peak of their form and explains why Focus is considered the best Dutch progressive rock band, why is considered one of the best and most influential progressive rock bands, and finally, why it's so respected, even today, in the progressive rock world. Unfortunately, "Hamburger Concerto" represents also the last great album made by them, in the 70's, and the beginning of the divorce between Thijs van Leer and Jan Akkerman, what would take place in the next year, after the release of their fifth studio album "Mother Focus".

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer: Focus by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1985
3.42 | 90 ratings

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Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer: Focus
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by DangHeck

2 stars Right off the bat, we have, for me, a big ol' nope! Just plain weird to me. This is how an otherwise exciting reunion of founders Akkerman and van Leer kicks off... Focus, I guess, but in the '80s! Is this opening track gospel-tinged? Or is it "Soul"? I'm not saying anything is "off limits" but a strange (unsuccessful) choice, indeed.

Really, seriously, the only track of note, in my opinion, is the one that follows: "King Kong" (thankfully, to me, not a cover of Zappa haha). Driven by flute and acoustic guitar, we also have, instead of the unfortunate (here) drum machine, hand-drums(?!), I assume. A nice choice, a nice series of choices, that make this song beautiful and interesting, while not bringing about classic Prog pomp (that one might anticipate specifically from Focus themselves). A good track that I would hope Prog fans would enjoy.

The next two tracks of any sort of note are the two epics, "Beethoven's Revenge" and "Who's Calling?" But don't get it twisted: don't waste your time on the latter (for sure). Both sound good, but are pretty static. Forgive my true (likely annoying, set-in-my-ways) colors here, but I'd rather just listen to Oldfield. And for me, that's saying A LOT. I also just can't (as mentioned above) get behind the drum machine much at all. Jan does sound pretty good here though (on "Beethoven's..."). I mean, I suppose you would call this "Progressive Electronic" but with acoustic/classical guitar. Overall, especially for the former of the two epics, better in theory than in practice. Best parts arrive in the middle section around 9:00, where van Leer gives us some tasty faux-organ.

Noch ein mal: very static. A bit of a shame. But not a big shock. Not even remotely close to a 3/5.

Now that that's out of the way, how about a little time of introspection about when this came out, 1985. Interestingly enough, and this by the way is the only reason I wanted to do this, next on my shuffle was "Marathon" by Rush off of Power Windows, released the same year. This is by no means, for me personally, a highlight of their career, but it's still a fine song on a fine album. Rush was still relatively young and relatively hungry (and knew very well how to transform with the times). What else, of note, was released this year, 1985? Misplaced Childhood (Marillion), Hounds of Love (Kate Bush), Le Poison Qui Rend Fou (Present), Metal Fatigue (Allan Holdsworth) and Energetic Disassembly (Watchtower), just to name the top 5 rated albums here! We can look elsewhere and we should.

 Mother Focus by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1975
2.74 | 221 ratings

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Mother Focus
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by Greta007

4 stars When I bought this album in the 70s, I was as disappointed as many other Focus fans. I loved the excitement and daring of Moving Waves and Hamburger Concerto, and was not prepared for the smooth jazz of Mother Focus.

Now, over four decades later, I find this album to be outstanding early morning music. You know, when you don't need to be assailed by frantic music. By contrast, this album is sprightly, mildly upbeat and easy on the ear, like third stream smooth jazz.

If you want to dig deeper, there's surprising complexity in the detail. It's not just a knock-off album. Looking at Jan Akkerman's subsequent work, it's clear that he wanted to move away from hard rock.

Tracks of most interest to prog fans would be Mother Focus, Bennie Helder and Focus IV.

I give it four stars **** because, for the most part, the music in my collection can blow a listener's head off at twenty paces, so it's nice to have mellow alternatives like this that's are neither pop nor clichéd.

 Focus Plays Focus [Aka: In and Out of Focus] by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.48 | 324 ratings

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Focus Plays Focus [Aka: In and Out of Focus]
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

3 stars Not a fan of focus although this my favourite album by them.

The opening instrumental contains pastoral rhythm section with relaxing guitar lead, a bit to long but still nice (7mins would be better).

Why Dream is a nice and memorable short song. Happy Nightmare (Mescaline) is the same kind of soft late 60s early 70s poppy song, both are tasteful.

Anonymous opens with a stately classical infused intro then heads into flute dominated hard rock then piano with the same vivacious energy then bass solo over mean hi hats then the band comes together to bring it home, a nice instrumental that doesn't where it's self out.

Black Beauty and Sugar Island unlike Why Dream/Happy Nightmare are bad late 60s/ early 70s pop. Lame cringe inducing songs.

Focus (Vocal) is alright, doesn't feel like a real song though, feels like it's purpose is the same as Bulb (Egg) or Surely (Supertramp)

Overall this is a solid debut by a legendary band, Focus. Just shy of 4/5 because of the tracks black beauty and sugar island.

 3 by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.80 | 525 ratings

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3
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nº 433

The Dutch progressive rock band Focus was formed in Amsterdam in 1969 by vocalist/keyboardist/flutist Thijs Van Leer, bassist Martin Dresden, and drummer Hans Cleuver. With the subsequent addition of guitarist Jan Akkerman, the group released their debut album, "In And Out Of Focus", in 1970. Later, Dresden and Cleuver were replaced by bassist Cyril Havermanns and drummer Pierre Van Der Linden. The band released their next album, "Moving Waves", in 1971.

"Focus 3" is the third studio album of Focus and was released in 1973. Shortly before the band went on the live tour to support their previous studio album "Moving Waves", the bassist Cyril Havermans quit the band and was replaced by the new bassist, Bert Ruiter. The departure of Cyril Havermans was amicable. It came about, in part, as the result of his desire of includes more vocal parts on the music of Focus. As we know, Focus is primarily an instrumental rock band.

So, the line up on the album is Thijs Van Leer (vocals, keyboards, flute, piccolo and recorder), Jan Akkerman (electric guitar, acoustic guitar and lute), Bert Ruiter (bass guitar) and Pierre Van Der Linden (drums).

"Focus 3" has eight tracks. The first track "Round Goes The Gossip" written by Thijs Van Leer is a good progressive song to start the album. It's a well humoured song with a curious and strange consecutive repetition of the title song, by Thijs Van Leer, as if it was a lyrical song. It's a very catchy track, a kind of a jazz-fusion song, with some nice instrumentation. The second track "Love Remembered" written by Jan Akkerman is a very simple and short song but very beautiful to hear and to remember. It's a very relaxing song with a soft tune and a nice pastoral and bucolic melody. This is, basically, a song with acoustic guitar, flute and keyboards, and also with bass and drums on the back. The third track "Sylvia" written by Thijs Van Leer is another very good song, probably the best known track on the all album. It became as one of the classic Focus' songs. It's a very melodic song conducted by the electric guitar performed by Jan Akkerman and with great musical performance by all other band's members, in the supporting role. This is another catchy song with an emotive melody that once more shows the other side of the band, the melodic side of Focus. The fourth track "Carnival Fugue" written by Thijs Van Leer is a song with several and varied musical sections. It's a song that begins in a calm and relaxing way and that grows and grows all over the song. This is a jazz oriented song with good instrumental playing and it's also a song more in the line of their traditional musical style. The fifth track is the title track "Focus III". It was written by Thijs Van Leer. It's a song that continues the Focus series, with good song writing and great musical performance by all band's members, as is usual. Like the other Focus' themes, it's a great piece of music, gentle, very symphonic and very emotional. The guitar and the keyboard performances are great, and this track represents, for me, one of the highest points on the album. This is Focus at their best. The sixth track "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" written by Jan Akkerman and Bert Ruiter is the lengthiest track on the album. It's also a very good song that can keep the great high musical quality of the all album. This is essentially an improvised song with great keyboard, flute and guitar solos. It's another jazzy oriented song, very pleasant to hear and that reminds me the good old King Crimson's musical times. The seventh track "Elspeth Of Nottingham" written by Jan Akkerman is a very beautiful medieval madrigal very well performed by classical guitar and flute. Personally, I always loved the middle ages music, and because of that, this song is a blessing for my senses. This is another great track that keeps the high quality of the music on the all album. The eighth and last track "Anonymous Two" written by Thijs Van Leer, Jan Akkerman and Pierre Van Der Linden is the magnus opus of the album. This is a long instrumental piece of music, the lengthiest on the album, with an excellent instrumental performance. It's, essentially, another improvised song, but that seems to me most enjoyable and interesting played live than performed on a studio album. Anyway, this is a good track but i'ts far way from being as good as "Eruption", recorded on their last studio album "Moving Waves".

Conclusion: "Focus 3" is another great album of Focus. It's, without any doubt, better than "In And Out Of Focus" but, it's also definitely less good than "Hamburger Concerto". However, comparatively with "Moving Waves", I know that the opinions are divided. While the majority of fans will go for "Hamburger Concerto" as the best Focus album, relatively to their next best studio album, the opinions are divided between "Moving Waves" or "Focus 3". For me, sincerely, I don't have a clear opinion by one of them. I really love both at the same level. In my opinion, "Focus 3" hasn't great highlights and worth more as a whole. "Moving Waves" has two great highlights "Hocus Pocus" and "Eruption" but it has also a weak point, its title track "Moving Waves". So, "Focus 3" is a great album with great musical moments, very well balanced and cohesive, very well performed and produced and that essentially worth more as a cohesive piece.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Focus Plays Focus [Aka: In and Out of Focus] by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.48 | 324 ratings

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Focus Plays Focus [Aka: In and Out of Focus]
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nº 429

"In And Out Of Focus" is the debut studio album of the Dutch progressive rock band Focus and was released in 1970. Focus was formed in 1969 by keyboardist, vocalist, and flautist Thijs Van Leer. He recruited the bass guitarist Martijn Dresden and the drummer Hans Cleuver. Later, they were joined by the guitarist Jan Akkerman. The result of this had its climax with the release of their debut studio album "Focus Plays Focus", better known as "In And Out Of Focus".

"In And Out Of Focus" was the first and only album of the band to feature the original line up. So, the line up on the album is Thijs Van Leer (vocals, organ, electric piano, Mellotron, harpsichord, vibraphone and flute), Jan Akkerman (guitars), Martijn Dresden (bass guitar) and Hans Cleuver (drums and percussion).

Unfortunately, "In And Out Of Focus" was little noticed outside the Netherlands. Because of that, dissatisfied with the lack of success of this first album, Jan Akkerman left the group to form another band. Hans Cleuver and Martin Dresden also left Focus shortly after that. However, Jan Akkerman and Thijs Van Leer joined again and with two new members the bassist Cyril Havermans and the drummer Pierre Van Der Linden, they continued with the Focus musical project.

"In And Out Of Focus" has eight tracks. The first track "Focus (Vocal)" written by Thijs Van Leer and Hans Cleuver is a very calm track with soft vocals. It's a sweet opener with a nice and simple musical atmosphere where we can hear a gentle guitar playing with a nice sound, a repetitive bass line and a good drum beat. The second track "Black Beauty" also written by Thijs Van Leer and Hans Cleuver is a different song from the previous one. It's a song that sounds more like a song of the 60's. It's a good song with a strong and well elaborated melody but with no great instrumental parts and that sounds a bit dated. This is a nice song but with nothing special on it. The third track "Sugar Island" written by Thijs Van Leer and Jan Staal is a song with many common parts with the previous song. It's also a song that sounds to the 60's and so, it's also a bit dated, too. However, this is, in my opinion, a better song. It has some fine flute playing by Thijs Van Leer and it has also a good guitar performance of Jan Akkerman. The fourth track "Anonymous" written by Thijs Van Leer, Jan Akkerman, Martin Dresden and Hans Cleuver is, without any doubt, the first great musical moment on the album and that finally sounds like the Focus we all know and love. This is a typical Focus track that became as one of the classic songs of the band. The performance of all band's members is absolutely extraordinary and shows clearly the great musical talent of all of them. The fifth track "House Of The King" written by Jan Akkerman represents another great musical moment on the album and it's another legendary track from the band. This song shows perfectly well the compositional abilities of Jan Akkerman and the perfect harmony between the flute of Thijs Van Leer and the acoustic guitar of Jan Akkerman. Despite be one of the shorter songs on the album, it represents really, one of the most exciting and refreshing musical moments on it. The sixth track "Happy Nightmare (Mescaline)" written by Thijs Van Leer, Martijn Dresden and Mike Hayes is another different track and it's also a less typical song of the band. It's a very good song influenced by jazz and with pleasant harmonies and with a beautiful use of the mellotron and the electric guitar, too. The seventh track "Why Dream" written by Thijs Van Leer and Hans Cleuver is a song with a kind of a weird starting but that develops gradually and that finally ends in a magnificent way. It's a song with a melancholic tune but that has, at the same time, a nice and strong melody. The aggressive guitar performance of Jan Akkerman is absolutely spectacular and it's very well accompanied by the Hammond organ of Thijs Van Leer. The eighth track "Focus (Instrumental)" written by Thijs Van Leer is a revisiting of the peaceful opener track. This track is, without any doubt, the best and the most progressive song on the album and it's another classic gem of the band. It's an astonishing track with about 10 minutes with incredible improvisations that moves constantly between guitar, keyboards and flute. This is Focus at their best and represents perfectly the progressivity and the quality of their music and how great they can be.

Conclusion: I must confess that I'm sincerely convinced that "In And Out Of Focus" is an underrated album on this site. I know it has some weaker musical moments such as "Sugar Island" and especially "Black Beauty". However, it has also some great musical moments such as "Anonymous", "House Of The King" and especially the title track "Focus". As we all know, all these songs became classic tracks of the band. By the other hand, despite some tracks are a bit dated, "In And Out Of Focus" is, in my humble opinion, a marvellous debut album that already has the seeds of the musical magic formula that would put Focus and Netherlands on the progressive rock map. Of course it isn't, for sure, their best album, but it's certainly an enjoyable and diverse work. Somehow, we can say that Focus is the father of the Dutch progressive music. Focus it's also one of the best and most representative progressive rock bands of the 70's.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 3 by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.80 | 525 ratings

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3
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars The singer (or the distinguished organist, pianist and flutist Thjis Van Leer) hardly ever sang. In this album, which lasted seventy minutes and was therefore released at the time in double LP, he goes to the microphone only on one occasion, namely in the opening track "Round Goes The Gossip". This quartet so anomalous managed incredibly to go through a season of great commercial success (1972/73 two- year period, more or less), while performing practically instrumental music, that flows between rock, progressive and fusion. Beyond the remarkable technical expertise, the merit is due to the ability to make singles (one per album, no more) with a strong melodic impact and therefore deserved success.

A 13-minute mini suite "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" immediately reconnects to follow "Focus 3". Bert Ruiter plays the first riff with his Fender Jazz Bass, which is immediately alternated with organ and guitar solos. The passages are articulated and mix various genres, mainly jazz and rock. And then the slow passages in which the transverse flute resurfaces, played softly. "Elspeth Of Nottingham", like "Love Remembered", represents another perfect marriage between classical music and progressive rock. The guitar is played like a sixteenth-century goliard, the flute is Renaissance. Very beautifull. The greatness of the album and the musicians is clear in the concluding 26- minute megasuite, "Anonymus Two", a worthy if not improved follow-up to the song "Anonymus" that appeared on the first album. It is nothing more than an extended and faster version of "Anonymus", with great virtuosity, a kind of colossal Jam. This is the only track on the record where we hear the flute played "a la Jethro Tull", right after the very quick intro. Thijs Van Leer doesn't have time to put down the flute we already find him behind the Hammond playing a solo. Then a moment of main riff, the usual damned and brilliant 3 chords and a stop: Bert Ruiter starts with his bass solo that I consider one of the most beautiful in the history of rock. It starts slowly, to go higher and higher and involve the whole band. From the guitar solo of Jan Akkerman we then move on to the drum solo of the great virtuoso Pierre Van Der Linden, whose sound was absolutely superlative recorded. Then the grand finale with the main riff. The flagship and commercially successful piece of "Focus III" is entitled "Sylvia": it is a delightful instrumental articulated in the Baroque manner , with a theme performed by the organ (and the bass), crossed by a counterpoint of a solo guitar of very clear inspiration. "Round Goes The Gossip" is among the most successful tunes, a breezy theme between progressive and fusion is presented here. "Carnival Fugue" opens with Van Leer at the grand piano, then there is a progressive and curious evolution driven by Akkerman's guitar, to which the piccolo is added.

Focus have delivered an album with light and shadow. That may also have been a reason why they never made it into the top league. With van Leer and Akkerman you had two great musicians and composers. But they never really managed to create a cohesive album. Maybe it was really because they were more suitable for the stage than the studio.

 Focus II [Aka: Moving Waves] by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.09 | 736 ratings

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Focus II [Aka: Moving Waves]
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nº 419

Focus is a Dutch progressive rock band founded in 1969, in Amsterdam, by the organist and flautist Thijs van Leer. It's now considered as one of the biggest and most important bands of the progressive rock music. His extensive and almost exclusive instrumental compositions and improvisations contained several references to the erudite music.

"Moving Waves" aka "Focus II", is the second studio album of Focus and was released in 1972. After the release of their debut studio album "Focus Plays Focus" aka "In And Out Of Focus", Jan Akkerman, dissatisfied with the lack of success of that album, left the band to form a band with the bassist Cyril Havermans and the drummer Pierre van der Linden. After Hans Cleuver and Martin Dresden left Focus, and after Thijs van Leer has heard about that new band, he contacted them. They invited him to join to the band that remained with the same name, Focus. They recorded their second album, "Moving Waves", the first album to have some impact and that received positive international reviews.

So, the line up on the album is Thijs van Leer (vocals, Hammond organ, piano, Mellotron, harmonium and flute), Jan Akkerman (guitars and bass guitar), Cyril Havermans (vocals and bass guitar) and Pierre van der Linden (drums and percussion).

"Moving Waves" has six tracks. The first track "Hocus Pocus" written by Thijs van Leer and Jan Akkerman is an extraordinary track. This is a legendary track from the band with intensity perfectly astonishing and, at the same time, we may also say that it has some beautiful insanity on it. It's a track that soon we heard it, soon we sing it, and that, in the end, we remain completely free from all tensions and stress after a day's work. This always was one of my favourite progressive tracks ever. The second track "Le Clochard" written by Jan Akkerman is a classical oriented song in the most pure tradition of the classical guitar playing, very well accompanied by the Mellotron on the back. This is a beautiful bucolic song that shows perfectly well one of the many facets of the band. In this case we can see the more melodic side of Focus. This song represents a terrific contrast with the frantic "Hocus Pocus". The third track "Janis" written by Jan Akkerman is also a soft track as the previous one. Curiously, despite is a Jan Akkerman' s song, in this case, the lead is taken by the magic flute of Thijs van Leer, perfectly supported by the other band's members. This is a very simple song but the melody and harmonies are so perfect and catchy that makes of it, somehow, a memorable song. Like some other reviewers, this is also a song that reminds me my good old and beloved band, Camel. The fourth track is the title track "Moving Waves". It was written by Thijs van Leer and Inayat Khan. This is my less favourite song on the album. It's a sweet and gentle piano song, but not very inspired, especially on its vocal performance. This is another melancholic song dominated by piano and the voice of Thijs van Leer, but the final musical atmosphere is in really a bit boring. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, this is a song that failed completely to be part of this album. The fifth track "Focus II" written by Thijs van Leer is a very interesting and melodic piece of music that curiously, and in contrast with "Janis" written by Jan Akkerman but where Thijs van Leer lead the song, on here, we have another ironic twist, the song was written by Thijs van Leer but is dominated by the guitar of Jan Akkerman. This is a song that continues the Focus series, with good song writing and great musical performance by all band's members, as is usual. The sixth and last track "Eruption" is divided into fifteen parts. Mostly of them were written by Thijs van Leer, but others had also the collaboration of Tom Barlage, Jan Akkerman, Eelke Nobel and Pierre van der Linden. "Eruption" is the magnus opus of the album and represents the best piece of music on the album, despite "Hocus Pocus". This is a magnificent piece of music with great musical moments that reminds me strongly the classical baroque music, in some parts. This is entirely an instrumental long suite with about 12 minutes and where the music flows continuously. It has several themes that come and goes and where some of them develop through some musical improvisations. "Eruption" is a track full of virtuosity and a perfect example how to make progressive symphonic music with a high quality level.

Conclusion: "Moving Waves" is, without any doubt, a great progressive rock album and represents clearly a big step forward, relatively to their previous debut studio album "In And Out Of Focus". However, it hasn't the same quality level of their greatest masterpiece "Hamburger Concerto". In my opinion, "Moving Waves" is a better album than "In And Out Of Focus", it's at the same level of "Focus 3" but it's less good and less balanced than "Hamburger Concerto". "Moving Waves" has two excellent musical moments, "Hocus Pocus" and "Eruption". Although "Le Clochard", "Janis" and "Focus II" be very good songs, it lack something to them, in order to can be considered three great songs. By the other hand, and as I said before, "Moving Waves" is its Achilles' heel, which seems to be on the album, as a fish out of water.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Focus Con Proby by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1978
2.59 | 122 ratings

BUY
Focus Con Proby
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars I always like the highpoints of Focus Con Proby--especially "Wingless." New guitarist Eef Albers never gets enough credit; everyone always assumes the great guitar solos and playing is known & respected Belgian maestro Phillip Catherine, but if one is to believe the credits, Phillip only plays lead on three songs (Side 1, song 5; Side 2, songs 3 & 4), while Eef has all the rest--including the great "Wingless" and the nice instrumental "Orion" (which he is credited as having composed) and the bluesy duo of "Eddy" and "Brother"--which he also composed. The fast chargin' "Night Flight" is another Eef composition which, interestingly, sounds like it could have come straight from one of Jan Akkerman's solo albums of the 1970s. (Think "Can't Fake a Good Time" from Eli). So, please, give Eef Albers some of the credit, people! He's due! He's a seasoned and gifted guitarist composer with a long career in the Dutch music scene--Toots Thielmans, Medusa, Kraan, Steve Smith, Rob Franken, Peter Herbolzheimer Orchestra, etc.

Phillip's jazzy lead & rhythm guitar work (on multiple tracks, apparently) on "Sneezing Bull"--the only song that he is listed as composer--is impressive, though some might not listen to him due to Thijs Van Leer's flute play, it is, as I said, impressive.

"Maximum" (8:43) as some people point out, falls into the realm of funk/disco that bands like Jean-Luc Ponty, Jan Akkerman, and George Duke were exploring, but there is still some serious classical Weather Report-like chops in there, too. It's actually a pretty decent song (an instrumental) with some nice bass and keyboard play from Focus old guard, Bert Ruiter and Thijs van Leer, respectively. This is also my favorite song in which Steve Smith shines--lots of sytlistic and rhythmic shifts over the course of the almost nine minutes.

Speaking of classical orientation, the gorgeous little piano and flute duet that starts out "Tokyo Rose" is nice--before PJ Proby steps in to try his best Frank Zappa vocal impersonation. Luckily, it then turns out to be more of an instrumental with intermittent narrative passages.

This is by no means a bad album, just not as cohesive or consistent as some of the previous Focus albums. I do have one further comment: the album's liner notes and credits always confused me more for the fact that if it is indeed an album of two guitarists trading off the lead and rhythm duties, it is quite remarkable how often the songs credited to Philip Catherine on the lead sound like the lead of Eef Albers. My theory is that, in fact, Eef and Philip more often shared the lead and rhythm duties even within single songs, but that the creditor was just being kind of lazy (or forgetful--or wasn't even part of the recording sessions).

Anyway, this is a a far more listenable and even enjoyable album than people want to give credit--probably due to the lack of interconnection from song to song as well as the disco and blues ruts the band had allowed their music to fall into.

 Hamburger Concerto by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.25 | 1070 ratings

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Hamburger Concerto
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by sgtpepper

5 stars The peak album by Focus delivers a delicate mixture of classically influence progressive rock with updated sound, especially for keyboards (moog, ARP synthesizer). Playing is very tasty, advanced and refined. Singing is fine and joddling is well repeated on the long title track but in a more dramatic scenario.

Light aperitif is served with flute and acoustic guitar, balsam for the ear. More typical Focus territory with rocking rhythm, not so good singing but delicious accordion and jamming guitar/keyboard follows in the second track. "La Cathedrale De Strasbourg" is more elegant, laid-back, rhythm sounding like bells. The introduction has great symphonic chords and church organ - a powerful and strong symphonic moment with poetism in the air. Sweet and melting music.

"Birth" is a very good example how guitar player and keyboard player can complement themselves with various colours, instruments and motives. Flute is an added dessert.

The magnificient "Hamburger Concerto" can, despite being based on Haydn's piece, one of the best pieces of classical music in progressive rock based on the these criteria: arrangements, taste in playing, expressiveness and composition. Classicism can sound as light as flute with harpsichord but also have guitar riff and organ to demonstrate power. Music is flowing effortlessly, motives keep changing and the nuances like quiet guitar decorations or decent Hammond soloing make you wonder. Flute playing and high- pitched vocal improve the impression even higher. Sweet guitar soloing is light but suits the 20-minute epics. After the mass-like singing by Leers in Dutch follows the emotional peak with mellotron, organ, piano - absolutely stunning moment with a memorable guitar solo first and then equally monumental ARP solo, a bit untypical of Focus. These 2-3 minutes almost always bring tears in my eyes for the sheer beauty and feeling of darkness. If you want to see the complexity of various layers of instruments, look for the video of international collaboration that re-recorded the epic song with slightly changed sound.

This is a must-have album and together with Finch first two albums and Supersister first two albums, a unique Dutch contribution to the upper echelon of progressive rock.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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