Jazz Related Rock / Fusion • Netherlands
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FOCUS will be remembered as a band that, uniquely, brought instrumental music back into the charts in the early seventies (epitomised by the yodelling epic 'Hocus Pocus' and the glorious 'Sylvia') and - at the time of Britain's entry to the "Common Market" - blazing a trail for European music both in the UK and the States where they enjoyed hit singles and albums. In Thijs van Leer and Jan Akkerman they also had two of rock's finest instrumentalists.

On the eve of their sell-out UK tour, in February 1976, Focus' guitarist Jan Akkerman quit the band. This somewhat shocking news came after incessant touring and internal disagreements caused a creative hiatus. This manifest itself in the 1975 album 'Mother Focus' which received mixed reviews. Hugh Fielder writing in 'Melody Maker' thought the band had lost the thrusting side of their nature.

Thijs van Leer, the band's founder and longest-surviving member, managed
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FOCUS Discography

FOCUS albums / top albums

FOCUS Focus Plays Focus (aka In And Out Of Focus) album cover 3.50 | 2 ratings
Focus Plays Focus (aka In And Out Of Focus)
Jazz Related Rock 1970
FOCUS Focus II (aka Moving Waves) album cover 3.92 | 4 ratings
Focus II (aka Moving Waves)
Jazz Related Rock 1971
FOCUS Focus III album cover 3.50 | 2 ratings
Focus III
Jazz Related Rock 1972
FOCUS Hamburger Concerto album cover 2.59 | 3 ratings
Hamburger Concerto
Jazz Related Rock 1974
FOCUS Mother Focus album cover 2.75 | 2 ratings
Mother Focus
Jazz Related Rock 1975
FOCUS Ship Of Memory album cover 2.75 | 2 ratings
Ship Of Memory
Jazz Related Rock 1976
FOCUS Focus Con Proby album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Focus Con Proby
Jazz Related Rock 1977
FOCUS Focus 8.5 : Beyond The Horizon album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Focus 8.5 : Beyond The Horizon
Fusion 2016
FOCUS 11 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Jazz Related Rock 2018

FOCUS EPs & splits

FOCUS live albums

FOCUS At The Rainbow album cover 3.50 | 2 ratings
At The Rainbow
Jazz Related Rock 1973
FOCUS Live At The BBC album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Live At The BBC
Jazz Related Rock 2004
FOCUS Live In England album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Live In England
Jazz Related Rock 2016

FOCUS demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

FOCUS re-issues & compilations

FOCUS Hocus Pocus Box album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Hocus Pocus Box
Jazz Related Rock 2017
FOCUS 50 Years Anthology 1970-1976 album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
50 Years Anthology 1970-1976
Jazz Related Rock 2020

FOCUS singles (0)

FOCUS movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

FOCUS Reviews

FOCUS Focus II (aka Moving Waves)

Album · 1971 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
Originally released as FOCUS II and re-released under the title MOVING WAVES, this was FOCUS' greatest moment in their entire career. The world went absolutely wild over the lead single “Hocus Pocus” which even hit the top 10 on the Billboard singles chart. An oddity it was in every way especially in the prog world. This song was a riff-driven proto-metal track that actually predicted the use of 80s metal techniques like using the Hungarian minor scale. The mix of this early hard rock with yodeling sessions is still an eclectic oddity even today. Unfortunately this song is an anomaly in the FOCUS canon as well since the rest of the album sounds absolutely nothing like it.

The next three tracks are average classically inspired tracks that really don't offer much and feel a little hokey since they insinuate grander things to come and kind of fizzle out. The title track is the worst on here with horrible vocals and it kind of reminds me of ELP. I wish they would have skipped this one and added another rocker to usher in the grand finale “Eruption.”

“Eruption” seems to be equally loved and disliked. I'm on the love-it side. This 23 minute long piece is a hard rock version of the tale of “Orpheus” and Jacopo Peri's opera “Euridice”. There are many meanderings and variations of a basic melody that repeats subtly throughout the entire piece. I can understand why some may think this is boring as it is repetitive at times. For me I find the subtle spiraling of variations to be interesting and really love the odd breaks and also the more rocking parts. The transitions are unpredictable and I find the melody very infectious which sustains my interest.

Because this album is so strange with two really strong tracks that take up most of the album time and the fact that the rest of the instrumentals are average with only one track that I truly dislike I think this just squeaks by for me as a 4 star album.

FOCUS Hamburger Concerto

Album · 1974 · Jazz Related Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
I'm not very knowledgeable about this band. You might say I'm somewhat out of focus. (Sorry, couldn't help myself.) But a lot of folks whose opinions I respect think rather highly of them and I figured it was long past time for me to get more familiar with their music. To be brutally honest, other than harboring fond memories of the mind-bending, yodelistic stylings of their radio staple "Hocus Pocus" that sat prettily in FM's heavy rotation in the mid 70s and a dubious wild night I had in Denver that involved one of the sides of their album "Moving Waves" playing on eternal repeat (a popular feature in those days) on a lithe and willing sirens' turntable (a sobering tale of youthful debauchery that I elect to forgo telling for now), I'm but a neophyte guppy when it comes to these Dutch masters. Therefore when I spotted "Hamburger Concerto" taking up space in some used record bins recently I remembered that this platter is considered by many of their fans to be their best and decided to start my focused education at the top.

Just to throw you off balance a tad they open with 1:12 of an air entitled "Delitiae Musicae," an arrangement of a traditional song from days gone by (a fancy way of saying it's a tune so old that no one has a clue as to which caveman came up with it and, thusly, no royalties need be paid). Using classic acoustic instrumentation, it's nicely done but not at all representative of what's to follow. "Harem Scarem" is more like what I expected in that it's an upbeat rocker from front to back in which the piano and Hammond organ of Thijs Van Leer and the guitar of Jan Akkerman combine to create a light-hearted ditty that's fun to listen to. (I'm wondering why it didn't receive a lot more airplay since it seems to be borne of the same cloth that made "Hocus Pocus" such a monster hit but perhaps it was due to a lack of grease-the-program-director's-palm-with-payola-and/or-nose-candy being supplied by the PR pukes at the label.) It's a happy-go-lucky boogie-woogie song that flies in the same stratosphere as Traffic's smile-inducing "Glad" does but it distinguishes itself with a more involved and complex structure. The funky breakdown just past the halfway point gives bassist Bert Ruiter a chance to stand in the spotlight and he doesn't shy away from making the most of his opportunity.

The album's apex comes in the form of "La Cathedrale De Strasbourg." The number begins with a flurry of dramatic piano stylings ala Chopin that lead to a delicate melody performed in a duet with Jan's guitar. In the 2nd part of the piece the group adopts a slow, bluesy groove whilst Thijs breaks into a brilliant whistling foray that would make a Texas mockingbird jealous. It's a cool surprise and Akkerman's jazzy guitar solo that follows is impressive. Overall it's a well-composed, moody instrumental that takes the listener through several different musical textures and emotions with ease. I can't say the same for the labored "Birth," however. It starts out with promising harpsichord trills but when drummer Colin Allen rambles in with his floor toms a 'rolling the unremarkable main theme emerges and the track enters the dreaded realm of the mediocre. There's a nifty flute ride (and later on a spirited recorder spasm) that pleases the Tull fan in me but Jan's sloppy guitar phrases leave me cold. I realize that this tune might have been the bee's knees in '74 but the decades haven't been kind to this cut and now it's as dated as a paisley Nehru jacket.

The LP's six-movement namesake and claim to fame is, obviously, the side-long "Hamburger Concerto." While unfortunate moments of inconsistency and hum-drum plague this opus there are enough spots of genuine euphoria erupting to rescue it from the dregs. "Starter" possesses the kind of grandiose and stately attitude that I like to hear and Bert's intricate bass lines distinguish themselves in particular. It's big and prog rock as all get out. Perfect. Don't change a thing. "Rare" is a continuation of that processional aura but it does belie a tuft of gray hair poking out from under the tiara (Careful with that ARP, Eugene!) in that the synthesizer is as thin and buzzy as a gnat's aria. Yet a large- scale intervention from the mighty Mellotron saves the day. "Medium I" (get the bun pun yet?) features some clever vocal hijinks from Van Leer that keep things from getting too heavy-handed/serious (always a good thing, their sense of humor being one of their more endearing traits) and when he mounts the Hammond organ and drives it like a dirt bike for a spell he demonstrates that Wakeman and Emerson ain't got nothin' on him. Thijs also ends this segment with some swirling, tasty flute roll-ups that will tickle your eardrums.

On "Medium II" it's the guitar's turn to shine from center stage but it seems there's a short in the floodlights. Jan's jazzy noodling at first is intriguing but when he dials up the volume/distortion his tone becomes brittle and it sounds like he's searching desperately for places to take his solo. To add insult to injury he's not helped in the least by the tired descending chord progression that's droning underneath him. It's intolerably unimaginative and entirely too been-there-a-zillion-times patronizing. I understand that it's intended to be a simple platform for Akkerman to shock and awe atop of on the fretboard but he fails to do so and it becomes no better than a flabby Lynyrd Skynyrd-like jam that can't end too soon. What I'm saying is that if a guitarist is going to fill up 5 minutes of vinyl he'd better tear the roof off the sucker or it's just filler. Enough already! He finally plugs his cord into the Leslie speaker cabinet and switches to a friendlier riff to pull this bus out of the ditch. "Well Done" takes us into a stained-glass sanctuary for a large dose of Catholic mass-ish chantings before a heavy rock motif ensues and things get back to being both entertaining and challenging. "One For the Road" is the finale and it doesn't back away from being delightfully over-the-top. Glad to hear it. They construct a fittingly colossal wall of sound accentuated by a fatter ARP synthesizer setting and the mountainous climax is stupendous and gratifying. You know, the kind of stuff that drove punk rockers to stick safety pins through their cheeks.

It's important to point out that there's very little jazz going on here but I never thought of them that way in the first place. While Focus may not occupy the penthouse suites in the prog rock condominiums that house the likes of Pink Floyd, Yes and Genesis they do reside comfortably in the same high-rise and there's a lot to be said for that. They were extremely talented, to be sure, but they weren't necessarily innovative and that's the essential characteristic that separates them from the giants. "Hamburger Concerto" is a pleasant listening experience that affords a clear look into precisely what was going on in the mid 70s in commercial prog rock and on a jazz site it deserves only a barely-above average rating. Enjoy it for what it is but don't expect too much.

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