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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 Videos (YouTube and more)


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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)

3.47 | 301 ratings
Focus Plays Focus [Aka: In And Out Of Focus]
1970
4.09 | 701 ratings
Focus II [Aka: Moving Waves]
1971
3.79 | 494 ratings
3
1973
4.24 | 1030 ratings
Hamburger Concerto
1974
2.71 | 203 ratings
Mother Focus
1975
3.16 | 164 ratings
Ship Of Memories
1976
2.53 | 108 ratings
Focus Con Proby
1978
3.48 | 79 ratings
Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer: Focus
1985
3.67 | 143 ratings
Focus 8
2002
3.23 | 102 ratings
Focus 9 / New Skin
2006
3.44 | 133 ratings
X
2012
3.46 | 52 ratings
Golden Oldies
2014
3.67 | 43 ratings
Focus And Friends: Focus 8.5 / Beyond The Horizon
2016
3.52 | 47 ratings
11
2018

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

3.47 | 133 ratings
Live At The Rainbow
1973
3.34 | 25 ratings
Live at the BBC
1996
3.89 | 18 ratings
Live in America
2003
3.07 | 6 ratings
Live Legends - The Greatest Hits of Focus
2004
2.71 | 15 ratings
Focus The Greatest Hits
2004
0.00 | 0 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

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

4.06 | 25 ratings
Masters From The Vault
2002
3.92 | 30 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
3.51 | 65 ratings
Hocus Pocus: The Best Of Focus
1994
0.00 | 0 ratings
Masters from the Vaults
2003
3.12 | 6 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
2.82 | 8 ratings
Sylvia
1972
3.17 | 5 ratings
Tommy / Focus II
1972
2.26 | 4 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
 Hocus Pocus: The Best Of Focus by FOCUS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1994
3.51 | 65 ratings

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Hocus Pocus: The Best Of Focus
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by OLD PROG

3 stars This compilation is a really good base to get to know the Dutch Focus, a really good band and author of an excellent Rock with symphonic and progressive elements. I have to say that Focus are a classic Dutch band of the period: very Rock and very technically prepared more unbalanced in the song form. But no less interesting than bands that develop their music in more dilated compositions. In many points their music becomes almost Jazz, always, however, with a Rock shape that makes it really powerful. In general, it deals with a symphonic and jazz instrumental Rock where Jan Akermann (guitar) and Thijs Van Leer (various keyboards and flute) prove to be real masters in their respective instruments (and Jan Akermann was one of the best guitarists of the decade). "Hocus Pocus: The BestOf Focus" is only a compilation to introduce new listeners to the band. However, it looks like a Focus album. And this is the winning element that makes it truly beautiful and convincing.
 11 by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.52 | 47 ratings

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11
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars Here we are in 2019 with a new Focus album, with a Roger Dean cover, and although they were formed some fifty years ago the band is still showing no signs at all of slowing down. Led of course by the incomparable Thijs Van Leer on keyboards/flute/vocals (just one song has vocals, the rest are instrumental), the line-up also includes drummer Pierre van der Linden who made his first appearance with the band on 'Moving Waves' back in 1971, while guitarist Menno Gootjes has long been proving that he is perfectly capable of standing in Akkerman's shoes and making them his own, with just Udo Pannekeet making his debut appearance on bass.

I am sure every proghead has at least some Focus in their collection, but the last album I heard prior to this one was '8', which was released back in 2002. That album definitely had some high points, but also some lows, but from the first song to the last this one really captured my attention. There are moment when all four musicians appear to be taking the lead, and there is some sumptuous fretless bass to be found, and ven der Linden sounds as if he should be in a jazz band as he pointedly refuses to follow any normal convention as he provides full and nuances at every opportunity without overcrowding the music. Although van Leer is often at the front, he can also be found providing support to Gootjes who has a wonderfully clean and clear sound as he noodles away in perfect harmony with everyone else. This album is a delight throughout, is the most consistent and downright enjoyable of theirs I have ever come across. Simply superb.

 11 by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.52 | 47 ratings

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11
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by steelyhead

4 stars

I am in no way a specialist on this band. I only have a couple of its all albums ones I like a play once in a while and I find them very satisfying.

This kind of music keeps me in a good mood all day, The Cathedral of Strasbourg anyone?

So, when Google Play Music ( I use this service, please don't hate me) announced me that a new album by Focus was on the market I took the bait and here I am.

First of all: this is an excellent addittion to your Focus colllection and your Prog collection in general, time has stand still on this case and They are producing music like We were on the seventies still. The spirit is still there, I know that Jan Akkerman is no more but Mr. Gootjes is no slouch and plays exactly the type of guitar that Mr. Akkerman would do if He were on board and let me tell You: on drums They have a good one, I enjoyed every single beat of that jazz drums.

The music in general is "jazzier", sometimes I feel I have a Steely Dan album on the turntable. But the "humming", the flute and the organ reminds me again where I am.

All music, and almost no words (only on one song), makes this one a perfect 2019 year album for me, and You too.

 Hamburger Concerto by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.24 | 1030 ratings

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Hamburger Concerto
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I don't envy whomever has to decide how to classify artists into subgenres on this site! Focus is symphonic prog - - OK, works for me. Hamburger Concerto opens with "Delitæ Musicæ," a prog-folk number written by guitarist Jan Akkerman, which is followed by "Harem Scarem," a symphonic piece by keyboardist Thijs van Leer with a distinct jazzy (though not necessarily fusiony) interlude. After van Leer's "La Cathedrale de Strasbourg," which seems largely symphonic, side one ends with Akkerman's "Birth," whose clear folk, jazz, and classic-rock elements are at least as prominent as its symphonic elements. Based on this LP side, one might guess this was a symphonic prog artist, but guesses of prog-related or possibly "eclectic prog" might also be reasonable.

Anyway, side two is given to Hamburger Concerto's title track, written jointly by Akkerman and van Leer. On the digital download I have, this is followed by "Early Birth," a variation of "Birth" which, as noted by prior reviewers, acts as a reprise of that song, and is a nice way to end the album, even if the original LP ended with "One for the Road," the final section of "Hamburger Concerto." Surprisingly, although it's divided into six sections with distinct writing credits, the 20-minute "Concerto" does not come across as a medley of distinct songs; its sections flow together nicely. At the same time, its variety of themes and styles compliments the first side and its stylistic contrasts.

This album appeared a year or so after Focus hit the US top ten with the single "Hocus Pocus." Maybe I'm the only one who views "Hocus Pocus" as a novelty song, but at least technically, yodeling in a pop song was a novelty in in 1973 - - and I'm pretty sure it still is. While "Hocus Pocus" has the potential for being annoying, I enjoy it. Hamburger Concerto is not a "Hocus Pocus" soundalike, but there's no doubt that it's a product of the same band. And by the time van Leer is using his voice as an instrument for the fourth or fifth time on side two, it does approach obnoxiousness.

Nonetheless, Hamburger Concerto is a good listen. Other than my minor complaints about the (wordless) vocals, I'd say this album maintains a consistent level of quality in performance and composition. Maybe the most prominent exception is the album's high point, "Harem Scarem." I agree with those who say that "Harem Scarem" is the song on this album which is most like "Hocus Pocus;" although parts of "Concerto" sound more like parts of "Hocus Pocus," "Harem Scarem" more resembles "Hocus Pocus" from the standpoint of composition.

A good, though nonessential, product from Focus.

 The Focus Family Album by FOCUS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2017
3.12 | 6 ratings

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The Focus Family Album
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I rank this classic Dutch band among the finest prog bands of the 70's, perhaps as No. 1 of non-British artists. In their halcyon days both Thijs Van Leer (organ, flute, vocals) and Jan Akkerman (guitars) composed excellent, often classically influenced music, but within a few years most of that excellence was gradually lost and Van Leer disbanded the group in 1978. Later, as we know, he recruited new musicians and reformed Focus without Jan Akkerman, and on the new Millennium the band has produced several albums that have gained good reception among prog listeners.

Sad to say but the later discography of Focus isn't yet very familiar to me. Let's see how this 2-disc compilation manages to convince me of its strength -- although it's not all Focus but contains also solo material from Van Leer, drummer Pierre Van der der Linden, guitarist Menno Gootjes and bassist Udo Pannekeet, as well as two tracks from SWUNG, an improvisational project project of Gootjes, van der Linden and bassist Bobby Jacobs. Something like "Yes, Friends and Relatives" (1998), even with the same cover artist Roger Dean. The varied material is put in a mixed running order, ten tracks per disc (by the way, both discs are only c. 44 minutes long). The 12-page booklet introduces tracks shortly.

Both discs start with Thijs Van Leer's flute solo piece (seemingly recorded in nature, birdsinging included) from 2017. They are meditatively relaxating but as close to art music as New Age. // Pierre Van der Linden's drum & percussion solo numbers, from from an album initially made for friends only, are frankly not very interesting in their dryness. // Menno Gootjes' solo pieces for acoustic guitar are very enjoyable, proving he's a virtuoso player familiar with old music such as Bach. // A few years ago I listened to the two SWUNG albums: to me they were rather boring, jam-based doodling, despite great musicianship, but the samples work nicely in this compilation. // Udo Pannekeet's ambientish solo pieces for bass guitar sound surprisingly bright and airy.

And now onto FOCUS material that form the majority of the compilation. Advanced fans owning the albums will be delighted that there are no album tracks per se, instead either unincluded songs from the sessions or remixes of album tracks. 'Song for Eva' was recorded during the Focus X sessions but not included due to its 9½-min length. Very good, and if the album is on this this high level, it's undoubtedly worth hearing. 'Victoria', originally from that same album, is here in a vocal remix. Without the vocoder this would be a better piece, in the classic, melodic Focus style. 'Mosh Blues' is a blues instrumental recorded in Brazil 2012. Having never been very keen on blues, this is just a filler to me; the sung version featuring Jo de Roeck (on 2nd disc) is better.

'Birds Come Fly Over (Le Tango)' is here sung by Thijs, whereas on Focus X it was sung by Ivan Lins, who in turn sings 'Santa Teresa' from the X sessions. This is perhaps the least interesting of the vocal tracks here. 'Five Fourth' is a nice instrumental in the classic Focus style, dating from 2014, and 'Winnie' a melancholic instrumental from Focus 11 sessions.

The inclusions of solo stuff from various musicians (or trio improvisation, in the case of Swung) make this compilation very varied, and occasionally slightly uneven too. As an introduction to Focus in this Millennium it makes me wish to hear the albums. 3½ stars.

 11 by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.52 | 47 ratings

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11
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars La Cathedrale de van Leer

Focus is back with a new album! Being a fan of the band, I pre-ordered their 11th studio album and have been playing it a lot since it arrived about a month ago. I thoroughly enjoy Focus 11, as will anyone who enjoyed Focus 8, 9, and 10. If you heard those previous few albums, you pretty much know what to expect here. The musicianship is impeccable and the sound is 100% Focus. Thijs van Leer is the leader of the band and responsible for composing all of the album's material with the sole exception of Mare Nostrum which is credited to bassist Udo Pannekeet. Drums are again handled by Pierre van der Linden, and guitars by Menno Gootjes.

Fittingly enough given its chronology, Focus 11 features 11 tracks. How Many Miles? is the only cut that features lyrics, the rest being instrumental with occasional vocal acrobatics from van Leer (though, no yodelling this time!). A few of the numbers are recycled, including opener Who's Calling? which originally appeared on the 1985 Jan Akkerman and Thijs van Leer collaboration album Focus. The original CD version of Who's Calling? is 16 plus minutes (while the vinyl LP has a shorter version), but this new version is only 5:28. Winnie and Clair-Obscur were previously included on The Focus Family Album, which came out a couple of years ago.

The cover art is by the great Roger Dean which is instantly recognizable. This time he has drawn a church. Looking closely, one can see the crosses on the spires and the mosaic glass windows typical of churches. There's even a minister standing in the door, welcoming a visitor. However, there seems not to be any religious theme to the music itself.

Another good Focus record, and a recommended addition to any comprehensive Focus collection.

 X by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.44 | 133 ratings

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X
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Six years later, Focus released the follow up to their album 9!

And with the simple and direct name of Focus X, the bassist Bobby Jacobs achieved again a pristine sound in his labor of producer making the new guitarist Menno Gootjes and the rest of the band sound fantastic. For the artwork of the album the band used a beautiful painting of Roger Dean and the style of the music is so eclectic and variated as ever.

In Focus X we can find jazz tracks which are boring even for elevator background music (Focus 10, Amok in Kindergarten) mixed with some fierce rock bombs (Father Bacchus, All Hens on Deck), their typical glimpse to medieval age (Talk of the Clown), progressive songs (Victoria) and lots of experimentation and a bit of craziness.

Best Tracks: Father Bacchus, Victoria, All Hens on Deck.

Conclusion: Focus X is a bit of an acquired taste. The first plays of the album were a bit dissappointing and I was tired of the most boring and experimental parts. But after a while this music grew on me and although I find this album irregular, it has some impressive moments and a great playing from all the members of the band, specially by the talented guitarist Menno Gootjes.

Not essential by any means, but it's always pleasant to hear that a band with more than 40 years of history is still able to release worthy albums like this Focus X.

My rating: ***

 Focus Plays Focus [Aka: In And Out Of Focus] by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.47 | 301 ratings

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Focus Plays Focus [Aka: In And Out Of Focus]
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Debut album from one of the most important Dutch prog-rock bands!

Which sadly shows a band in search of true personality, mixing a great variety of elements, which move between Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin.

There is a pair of sweet tracks included like Black Beauty and Sugar Island, very pop oriented. The prog and symphonic elements come with songs like the medieval sounding House of the King, the very jazzy and Jethro Tull influenced Anonymus, the instrumental Focus and the psychedelic Happy Nightmare - Mescaline.

However, at the end of the day this album can be considered just good and way under the best records of the band.

Best Tracks: Anonymus (great bass solo!), Focus (Instrumental)

Conclusion: despite not being essential, this album will surely please the 70's prog-rock junkies!

My rating: ***

 Focus II [Aka: Moving Waves] by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.09 | 701 ratings

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Focus II [Aka: Moving Waves]
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by WFV

3 stars I'm just not feeling it with Focus. I can hear why so many people hold this album in high esteem - Hocus Pocus is a terrific opener, and there are many technically pure symphonic parts, but I'm just not moved. I think Eruption is a rather weak extended track and the rest of the album is ok, some good parts, no great parts in terms of individuality or instrumentation. In my collection this gets two stars but this album produced a sizeable hit in America and really has influenced many listeners and musicians so I'll bump it up to three. More rock songs should use yodeling to spice up their generic vocals.
 Focus Con Proby by FOCUS album cover Studio Album, 1978
2.53 | 108 ratings

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Focus Con Proby
Focus Symphonic Prog

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Have you ever played around with the idea to take a partly imploded progressive rock band with it's prime behind them, add an ageing rock'n'roll crooner and then record a new album? The very idea is interesting and tantalizing. That very thing happened in 1978 when Focus regrouped around Thijs van Leer, added a couple of new members and took on PJ Proby, the rock'n'roll singer, who also brought with him a severe alcohol problem. Anyway, it sounds strange and almost like a forced marriage but it works in parts.

Focus with Proby by the microphone released one album before it all went pear shaped and Focus went into hibernation for the next eight years (counting the Akkerman & van Leer album as a Focus one). The album is much-maligned and treated very poorly. The reviews aren't great and I suppose it is nowadays regarded as a strange footnote in music history and something one really doesn't want to mention when speaking of Focus. I think it is a shame. The album isn't that bad or lacklustre as it seems by many reviews. Is this as good an album as any of those Focus made during the first half of the 70's? No, it isn't but it's just as good as "Mother Focus" or "Ship of memories" (though consisted of studio leftovers) or even better. It is all highly competent, energized and powerful jazz-rock or fusion. It's smoothed off, as most fusion albums of the latter part of the 70's tend to be. The hardrock elements so evident on the first Focus albums are gone but "Focus con Proby" still packs a massive punch at times. Proby adds vocals to five of the nine tracks and his crooner style actually blends nicely with the polished fusion of the album.

The album starts off with the dreamy and atmospheric "Wingless" where Proby does his best to fit in to a musical landscape he is not familiar with. A great opener with a soaring guitar and wonderful melody. "Orion" is instrumental and fine in every respect. I like the drums on this one, a really heavy beat that propells the music. The distorted guitar part over the drums adds a lot of weight. The next song is also an instrumental, "Night flight". A powerful piece that really grooves. One of the highlights.

Proby's up next on the ballad "Eddy", which really is nothing to write home about. A sort of standardized fusion ballad. Not bad, but I'd rather skip it and go into one of the great centrepieces of the album, "Sneezing Bull". As far as I'm concerned this is easily just as good as anything Focus ever made or make, since they do exist still. Really intense with all instruments really pushing themselves to the extreme. It is so tightly performed and perfectly executed it is nigh on being a masterpiece. A great example of late 70's fusion that kicks ass like a mule. Top stuff.

"Brother" is yet again a vocal track and a ballad. There are sometimes vocal similarities to Arthur Browns "Chisholm in my bosom" but I guess it's just a coincidence. It is good track and by far better than "Eddy", which is sort of pointless. "Tokyo rose" starts off with gentle flute and melody before going into a more rocking mode where Proby tells a cock and bull story about someone called Tokyo Rose. A slight classical element adds a certain extra to this one.

"Maximum" is one of the other true highlights of this album. Instrumental jazz-rock of the highest pedigree. This is great fusion. Sometimes fusion can be, in my opinion, a bit too noodling and slick, focusing on something else than to rock out but that is not the case here. There are many shifts and turns here worthy of a listen. The longest track and maybe the best. If one track from this album was to be included on a "Best of..." I'd vote for this one.

And then the album comes to the end and the Proby-era Focus bids farewell with a track that sounds like the theme tune for "Love boat". It starts off promising and keeps on being promising for 30 seconds before going cheezy. It's not all bad but it is certainly not a great track.

Overall I think that this album has alot to offer for those into Focus or enjoy well played fusion. I'll admit that I approached this album with an entused lack of anticipation (if that makes sense). I really did not expect much from it but I was wrong. A great album in it's own right and proves that the notion that one member of a group doesn't make up the whole band. Akkerman leaving was a shame but the music on "Focus con Proby" shows that van Leer & Co. managed to put forth a slice of (sometimes) great and inspired jazz-rock. Not an essential buy but an interesting piece of work that really could do with a little appreciation. The sung tracks are the least good, with only "Wingless" being a great one, but the instrumentals are all very enjoyable and exciting pieces. So, to summon up I'd give this album three stars but emphasize that the instrumental tracks are all worthy of four stars.

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

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