Looking at the music of Dutch rock band Focus, started in the late sixties by Thijs Van Leer (b /31/03/48) with Jan Akkerman (b 24/12/46). Van Leer still performs and records under the name today (official site here). Akkerman's site here.

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20071224

Track by track 17

Archive number: 17
Title: Round goes the gossip
Main Album: Focus 3
Track number: 1
Genre: Jazz Rock Instrumental/Vocal
Studio: Olympic Studios 'B', 117 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 9HL
Length: 5' 12"
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Electric guitars (Gibson Les Paul Customs?); Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Vocals, Speaking voice; Bert Ruiter - Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden – Drums; Mike Vernon - Vocals Producer: Mike Vernon Engineer: George Chkiantz Label: LP – Imperial, Polydor, Sire CD – Capitol, EMI-Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet , JVC Victor
Date of recording/release: July 1972/November 1972, 1975 CD - 1988, 1993, 2001, 2002, 2004
Notes: This pretty unique offering begins with drums (00:00-00:08). The band then come in (00:17-00:35) followed by a multi-tracked and reverbed chant of the lyric 'Round goes the gossip' (00:36-00:51). Band and vocal alternate (00:52-01:02; 01:03-01:19; 01:20-01:29) until a quieter section, beginning at 01:30, where (01:40-02:31) appropriate words from Virgil's Aeneid (Book 4 lines 173-177), as below, are intoned in Latin by Van Leer. The words are again multi-tracked and have strong reverb. The drums then bring in the chanted vocal again (02:32-02:54) to be followed by another instrumental break on guitar and organ with the rhythm section (02:55-03:14). The lyric is then given out just once (03:15-03:18) and a change of pace follows with a stop, start section (03:19-04:22) that includes some furious jazz guitar bringing us to a final section (04:23-05:12) where the vocal reasserts itself in an increasingly disjointed and manic way until a fade beginning around 4:42.
The Latin words are
Extemplo libyae magnas it fama per urbes,
Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius ullum.
Mobilitate viget virisque adquirit eundo;
Parva metu primo, mox sese attollit in auras.
Ingrediturque solo et caput inter nubila condit.
[Forthwith rumour runs through Libya's great cities -
Rumour of all evils the most swift.
Speed lends her strength, and she wins vigour as she goes;
Small at first through fear, soon she mounts up to heaven,
And walks the ground with head hidden in the clouds.]
Note on the Aeneid (from Wikipedia)
The Aeneid is a Latin epic written by Virgil in the 1st Century BC (29-19 BC). It tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy and became ancestor to the Romans. It is written in dactylic hexameter. The poem's first 6 books (of 12) tell of Aeneas' wanderings from Troy to Italy. The second half treats the Trojans' ultimately victorious war against the Latins, under whose name Aeneas and his Trojan followers are destined to be subsumed. The hero Aeneas was already known to Graeco-Roman legend and myth, having been a character in the Iliad. Virgil took the disconnected tales of his wanderings, his vague association with Rome's foundation and a personage of no fixed characteristics other than a scrupulous piety, and fashioned this into a compelling founding myth or nationalist epic that at once tied Rome to the legends of Troy, glorified traditional Roman virtues and legitimised the Julio-Claudian dynasty as descendants of the founders, heroes and gods of Rome and Troy.

Track by track 16

Archive number: 16
Title: Sylvia
Main Album: Focus 3 (also a single in 1972 and 1973) Track number: 3 Genre: Jazz Rock Instrumental Studio: Olympic Studios 'B', 117 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 9HL
Length: 03' 24"
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Electric guitars (Gibson Les Paul Customs?); Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Voice; Bert Ruiter - Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden – Drums
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: George Chkiantz
Label: LP – Imperial, Polydor, Sire CD – Capitol, EMI-Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet , JVC Victor
Date of recording/release: July 1972/November 1972, 1975 CD - 1988, 1993, 2001, 2002, 2004
Alternative version: A live version appears on the Rainbow album. Van Leer has done an acoustic version (Hommage aan Rogier van Otterloo). Akkerman likes to do what he calls Sylvia's grandmother emphasising his own contribution to the original hit. There have been some covers.
Notes: Apparently this was always intended as a single and so was probably recorded before the other material for Focus 3. One of Focus's most famous tracks, still played on the radio today, it was originally written by Van Leer in the late sixties for Sylvia Alberts, when both were working as backing singers for Ramses Shaffy and Liesbeth List. The original piece used a lyric by Linda Van Dijk, beginning "I thought I could do everything on my own, I was always stripping the town alone" (!). Alberts did not like the track and so it was shelved until being dusted down and used by Focus in its instrumental form. The Focus track begins with that famous jazz riff on guitars, reminiscent of the work of David T Walker, Louis Shelton and Don Peake on the 1969 Jackson 5 hit I want you back. The ambience is enhanced by heavy reverb from the one channel acting as a sort of drone against the chopped chords. (This is not found on live versions, of course). The organ and bass join in (00:09) then drums (00:15). The whole opening section lasts until 00:24, when the guitar leads the band into the main theme (00:25-00:42). The chopped chords then return (00:43-00:50) to be followed once again by the guitar-led theme (00:51-01:47). At 01:09-01:12 there is a brief bridge that features again at 01:48-02:00 where it is repeated three times accompanied by Van Leer's vibrato voice. In 02:01-02:45 we visit the main theme once again (note the distinctive variation around 02:18). This leads to a false ritartando ending when the chopped chords break in for the last time (02:46-02:54) once again joined first by organ and bass (02:55-03:01) then drums (03:02-03:24) before the fade.

Thijs Van Leer: the vocal element

When it comes to the vocal element in the music of Thijs Van Leer then there is a lot more to say, particularly in the life of Focus. Not that there is a vast amount of vocal work but what is there is mostly the work of Van Leer himself.
We begin with straightforward vocal work – songs with lyrics, usually a few verses and a chorus. Such songs are not uncommon on the first Focus album (In and out of). Black Beauty, Sugar Island, Happy Nightmare, Why Dream and the opening of Focus (vocal) all feature a very Dutch and youthful Van Leer and Dresden singing a variety of lyrics. The only other Focus album with so much lyric content is Focus con Proby (also four such songs). This time P J Proby is drafted in for the role (one track, Eddy is also on Focus 9 using yet another singer; the lyricist Roselie Van Leer sings it on the solo album O my love!).
On other albums the lyric content is sparing – the hymns on Moving Waves and Hamburger Concerto (Moving Waves and O kerstnacht, schoner dan de dagen), the repeated line of Round goes the gossip on Focus 3 (which also includes spoken words in Latin), the few French words of La Cathedrale de Strasbourg (Hamburger Concerto) and I need the bathroom (Mother Focus) - again not by Van Leer. There is also Flower Shower (bonus track on Focus 8). It's anyone's guess as to what is going on there. On Focus 8 (Tamara's move) the spoken part of Round goes the gossip is parallelled (by Jan Dumee not Van Leer) and on Focus 9 we have a litany of Focus tracks spoken as a sort of poem in European (Rap)sody – as well as other uses of the voice. Focus X features vocals on two tracks and spoken Latin on Hoeratio.
This brings us to the sizable number of tracks where, though there is no lyric, Van Leer's voice is still heard. Most famous is the yodelling on Hocus Pocus. Also check out these tracks - Harem Scarem; Love remembered, Sylvia (Focus 3); Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! (Live at the Rainbow); Mother Focus; Rock and Rio, Hurkey Turkey, Aya Yuppie Hippie Yee, Neurotika, Sto Ces Raditi Ostatac Zivota? (all on Focus 8); Remember Mozart, Brazil Love (Focus 9); Father Bacchus, All hens on Deck (Focus X) and the relevant parts of Eruption and Hamburger Concerto. Even Focus 2 has a very brief vocal at the end.
When we turn to Van Leer's other output there is not so much to report. The Beauty of Bojoura which Van Leer produed for Hans Cleuver's wife has a lot of lyric content from Bojoura. Van Leer himself can also be heard in the background. Perhaps the album with most lyric content (from Van Leer and others) is the Pedal Point album Dona Nobis Pacem with many vocal tracks in Greek and mostly Latin. Four tracks on the 1975 album O my love!have lyrics. Van Leer sings Fisthearted, his then wife Roselie, Eddy and O my love! She also contributes a minimal lyric to The gleeman tonite. On the Introspection albums we occasionally hear the voice of Letty de Jong. Nice to have met you (1977) features backing female vocals on some tracks. On Reflections (1981) the Mike Sammes Singers provide the vocal for La Cathedrale.
The hymn albums purposely drop the vocals as do the Christmas albums in the main, although Ely Von Ameling sings on certain tracks on the 1982 album as does a choir on some tracks on the Kerstconcert album of 2000. On the 1987 album I hate myself for loving you some Van Leer yodelling is heard but the actual vocals are done by the lyricist, Michael Gillespie.
Van Leer uses some sort of voice distorter on I'm not in love (Reflections) and the Hocus Pocus version on Nice to have met you. Van Leer scat work can be found on St Thomas (Hommage aan Rogier van Otterloo) and the live album with Thomas Blug Live in Raalte. We get various exercises in the use of the larynx also on the fascinating experimental DVD Etude sans gene.One thing to recall in any discussion of Van Leer and vocals is that one of Focus's greatest hits Sylvia was originally written with words and intended to be sung. Various factors led to making it an instrumental as Focus pursued the production of what Van Leer once called (taking a phrase from Mendelssohn) 'songs without words'.
As a sort of postscript we note that Van Leer can be heard whistling on the following tracks – Hocus Pocus; La Cathedrale de Strasbourg; Black Beauty (instrumental), Pim; Hommage A` La Femme (Renaissance); Flute Blues (Hommage aan Rogier van Otterloo); Tango (Kerstconcert); Prologue on the DVD Etudes sans gene.

20071221

Jan Akkerman: the vocal element

At first blush the subject looks thin. The man’s a guitarist not a singer and his output has been very much in the area of the instrumental. Unlike Clapton and others whose voices are as famous as their guitars, Jan is strictly an axeman. Or should we say almost.
I was slightly taken aback at the opening title track on his live Ten Thousand Clowns. Could that be Jan? While not exactly singing, it was certainly a vocal. Then we recalled the same uncredited style on the haunting Wallenberg (From the Basement). Apparently it is Jan on other tracks too (PCB Chicken and Dark Rose). Jan also confesses to singing on the cold war pop song The Russian spy and I, a Dutch number one for the Hunters at the end of the sixties (The Russian spy and I, we both wonder why, the world is split in two). As he put it, this was before the hormones really kicked in! (See Youtube for evidence). Persistent rumours suggest that he sings on I need a bathroom (Mother Focus) and (with van Leer) on O Avondrood prepared for patriotic Dutch 1976 compilation, Zing je Moorstaal. (O Avondrood is a setting of a Dutch poem. Its staccato lines read, O evening glow, glow of flames, O massacre in the west, O late rose, Empty box, O mortal remains, etc).
That leads us to another category where a vocal element comes in, or rather, goes out. O Avondrood is best known without the vocal as Red sky at night (Ship of Memories). A few other titles in the repertoire have lyrics but have been recorded as instrumentals. On the first solo album, Guitar for Sale, we find versions of Bobby Gentry’s Ode to Billy Joe (And then she said I got some news this morning, From Choctaw Ridge, Today Billy Joe MacAllister, Jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge), Ray Charles’ What’d I say (Make me feel so good, make me feel so good right now … Mmm, see the girl with the red dress on, She can do the dog all night long, All right, hmm what’d I say, tell me what’d I say, Tell me what’d I say, tell me what’d I say right now) plus Comin’ home baby and Mercy, mercy, mercy. Hineimatov is usually sung with Psalm 133 (Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell peacefully together). A similar feature is found on later albums - Focus in Time’s Coco Montaya piece Am I losing you (I wanna know where I stand, Am I in, am I out of your plans? I wanna know what to do. Am I losing you?) and the Jacques Brel song Mon Amour (Passion). Autumn Leaves (Live at the Priory) was given lyrics at some point (The falling leaves drift by my window, The autumn leaves of red and gold, I see your lips, the summer kisses, The sun-burned hands I used to hold, Since you went away the days grow long, And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song, But I miss you most of all my darling, When autumn leaves start to fall).
There are plenty of straightforward vocal numbers, chiefly where Jan is working as part of a group. With the Hunters (and just before that on Lennon McCartney numbers, etc) there were plenty of vocal tracks (Bob Dylan, etc). The 1969 Brainbox LP featured vocals on more than half the album - tracks such as Tim Hardin’s Reason to believe, Scarborough Fair (a traditonal revived by Simon and Garfunkel), Gershwin’s Summertime, Lowell Fulson’s Sinners’ Prayer (a Harry Belafonte hit) and group compositions. With Focus, the first album (In and Out of) features four vocals. After this, though the band was chiefly instrumental, at least one vocal featured on practically every album. Voices and minimalist vocal efforts also feature.
The Brainbox vocalist was Kaz Lux. Jan went on to record Eli (1976) and Transparental (1984) with him. Both feature large doses of vocal (Eli, Guardian Angel, Can’t fake a good time, There he still goes, Strindberg, Naked actress and nearly all the tracks on Transparental). The lyrics are generally of a philosophical sort, featuring (on Eli) snatches from the life of the eponymous hero (The spoken line from Strindberg stands out: Hey, August, I never could see the connection between the hammer and the nail, but now I know they both get hurt). The Eli album originally came with a sheet containing more lyrics than songs.
In the 1980s Jan was with heavy rock band Forcefield for a couple of albums. Several tracks have vocals including versions of Cliff Richard’s Carrie and a segued Black Night/Strange Kind Of Woman.As for the solo albums, we have mentioned From the Basement which also features Dino Walcott on a reggae version of All along the Watchtower (made famous by Hendrix but written by Dylan). The album was re-released a few years ago with bonus tracks featuring impromptu vocals from Freddy Cavalli. It is not unknown for Jan to use a vocalist for a number in live concerts from time to time. His session work has also often involved him in backing vocalists. One other album with a vocal element is the unique transatlantic album Jan Akkerman 3, including Willie Dee’s She’s so divine (got me reeling like a fish on the end of the line) and Yvette Cason’s Funk me.An intriguing question is whether words pass through the man’s head as he writes and plays. Certainly with a track like Wake up (Blues Hearts) it is difficult not to hear those very words echoing the guitar. Can we detect it too on, say, Just because (Heartware; Can’t stand noise) – something on the lines of ‘It’s not your eyes, it’s not your hair, it’s not the way you smile … I love you, babe, just because (that’s why I love you) I love you, babe, just because …’. Or Quiet Storm ‘Quiet storm – middl’ of the night. Quiet storm – is it wrong, is it right? Quiet storm – it’s just outta sight. A quiet storm, a quiet storm, quiet storm. I love you, you know its true, I need you, I need you so ….’ Am I the only one with words running through his head? According to Jan it is images that go through the mind rather than words but perhaps someone has penned some wonderful lyrics to Love Remembered or May be just a dream. Can someone adequately supply the first half to the line ending ‘… the House of the King’?
PS On certain versions of the album Heartware you can find a track called Luxemburger where Jan sings a version of Got my Mojo working

20071220

Thijs Van Leer: the classical element

Van Leer grew up ina  family where classical music was prominent. He himself studied first under piano soloist Maria Stroo and then learned Bach and Mozart under Karel Hilversum. His two brothers have forged careers in music, chiefly of the c,lassical variety.
As with the religious element, the classical element in Thijs Van Leer's music is quite prominent. In a previous article on Jan Akkerman we outlined the elements of Bach, Bartok adn Rodrigo in the live act and on vinyl in Anonymus (In and Out of); Eruption (Moving Waves); Hamburger Concerto (especially Starter), Birth and Delitae Musicae (Hamburger Concerto); Father Bach (Mother Focus); P’s March and Spake the Lord Creator (Ship of Memories). It is difficult to know how far to go looking for such things. Van Leer admits in one place that the middle line of Focus 1 is lifted from a Schubert theme. The distinctive opening notes of Focus 3 are the opening notes of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1 in reverse. Coincidence or not?
On post-Akkerman albums by Focus the classical element comes out most obviously on the Live at the BBC album, which includes a solo flute arrangement of a Bach Sonata and on the Focus 9 track Remember Mozart, which utilises the Alla turca from Piano Sonata No 11. (Mozart also features on a track by that name on the album Hommage aan Rogier van Otterloo). Again, however, there could be more. One fan detects strains of the first movement of Brahms' String Sextet (Op 18) at the beginning of Tokyo Rose and Brother (both on Focus con Proby).
Here we want to focus chiefly on the solo output and the most obvious place to begin is with the Introspection series, which began in 1972 while Van Leer was very much still part of Focus. I remember getting the initial album as a 15 year old and, though not the sort of teenager who bought classical music, being quite impressed with it. I liked the line in the sleeve notes that said of Van Leer 'meanwhile he studied the History of Art, took lessons in harmony and counterpoint at the Amsterdam Conservatory and painted many pictures'. Could this be the same man as the one who played on Hocus Pocus? Clearly a genius.
On reflection this is very light classical music for the most part and Van Leer never got any deeper. The first album includes orchestral rearrangements of Focus 1 and Focus 2, the delightful Introspection and Rondo by composer and arranger Rogier Van Otterloo (1941-1988), the delightful Pavane (op 50) by Gabriel Faure and two pieces from Bach (from the Mass in B minor, BWV 232 and the St Matthew Passion, BWV 244). Letty de Jong's voice and the whole set is quite charming. This is perhaps the best of the Introspection albums.
In this same period another track was recorded that appears on an obscure 1973 compilation album Metamorphose. It is entitled Siciliana and is again by Bach. Subsequent Introspection albums (2, 3, 4 and '92) continued in the same vein with Focus 3-5 plundered, the Introspection series extended to four and the Rondo one to three. Other non-classical tracks given the treatment include Mild Wild Rose, Carmen Elysium (P's March), Le Tango, Brother and Song for Eva, which was used as a TV Theme and Rondeau des Enfants (for UNICEF). More straightforwardly, classical raids were made on Baroque composers Albinoni, Bach (at least 7 tracks), Giazotto, Gluck, Handel, Purcell, Scarlatti, Stölzel and Teleman as well as Mozart, Schubert, Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801), Gabriel Urbain Fauré (1845-1924) and Enrique Granados (1867-1916) and Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880).
Other albums have included classical work. For example the 1981 album Reflections had several classical style pieces and included contributions from Bach, Telemann, Brahms and Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1858-1919). Later versions on CD added the popular Bolero by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). The 1986 album Renaissance though not orchestrated has a classical feel an includes yet more Bach. Bach gets a similarly more updated treatment on the 1999 anniversary album Bach for a new age which revisits some of the tracks already attempted.
As for orchestral arrangements these are also employed on two albums of hymns (Instrumental hymns [also issued as 12 Mooiste Liederen] and The glorious album) and one of show tunes (Musical Melody). The first track on the second of these albums is Rule Britannia by Thomas Arne (1710-1788) a great favourite at the last night of the proms in London. Classical arrangements can also be found on the four Christmas albums (where Bach again features) and the very Dutch Geluckig is het land. On the second Christmas album opera star Elly von Ameling features.
Clearly then the classical influence is quite strong but is only part of the mix.

Jan Akkerman: the classical element 2

Tabernakel (1973), Akkerman's third solo album, is again diverse but has several classical elements. On Javeh and Lammy, especially the Amen, the classical input is strong and never far away. However, it is again on the lute tracks that it is most obvious. There are three tracks by John Dowland (1663-1626), ‘the greatest lutenist of his age’. The album opens with Britannia (the track played at the Rainbow) and features an orchestra and rhythm section. We also have two galliards (quick and lively Elizabethan dances), The earl of Derby, his galliard and another, simply here called A galliard. Dowland is revisited on track three of the later Live at the Priory for Heavy Sleep (better known as Come, heavy sleep). The second Tabernakel track is Coranto for Mrs. Murcott by Francis Pilkington (c1565-1638), on solo lute. We also have a galliard from Anthony Holborne (c1584-1602). His Last Will and Testament later features towards the end of the Lammy suite. An Elizabethan courtier, Holborne was possibly a lawyer and cultured well beyond the confines of music. He was also involved in diplomatic missions on behalf of Elizabeth’s secretary of state, Sir Robert Cecil. His best known publication was his Pavans, Galliards, Almains and other short Aeires published 1599, just three years before his premature death. The other two solo lute tracks on Tabernakel are A pavan (a more stately Elizabethan dance form) by Elizabethan composer, businessman and spy Thomas Morley (1557-1602), no doubt from his book of lute pieces The first book of ayres and A fantasy by the Italian Laurencini of Rome (c1550-1608).
The self-titled 1977 Jan Akkerman album features more jazz than classical music. The title Pavane, however, shows where Jan had been musically and Gate to Europe, featuring acoustic guitar and strings, is in classical vein. Something similar could be said of the album Eli made with Kaz Lux in 1976.
In 1978 Jan made an album with the German classical arranger and composer Claus Ogerman (b 1930). Later bearing various titles, the album was originally called Aranjuez. That title drew attention to the opening track – the adagio from the Concierto de Aranjuez by blind Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999), an inevitable choice perhaps. Other classical composers featured are Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959). Author of over 2000 works, this experimental Brazilian composer drew on folk music and many diverse sources. Here Jan plays The Prelude from Modinha and The seed of God from Magdalena. Track four on the album is by 17th Century guitarist and composer Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710). He published one of the earliest books on guitar playing in 1694, Espanoleta. That track is followed by Pavane pour une infante defunte, an early work (1899) originally for piano, by French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937).
In the seventies Akkerman also performed with the classical guitarist Pacio de Lucia but after 1978 there was perhaps something of a retreat from classical themes, although one does find it, for example, in Valdez on Pleasure Point (1981) and on the 1987 album Heartware in Winterborn Lyric and Firenze. It comes out, less obviously in Prima Donna from Art of Noise (1990), which is apparently about the opera singer Maria Callas (1923-1977).
With the release of the excellent Focus in Time in 1997 we return to classical themes big time. The opening track, Home voyage and the closing track I’ll find my own way home (the sleeve notes describe it as 'Acid Bach') are based on parts of Bach’s Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) and Well Tempered Clavier 1 (BWV 846-869). Three other classical composers are also plundered. Aprés un Rêve (Op 7 No 1) written in 1877 is adapted from French composer and organist Gabriel-Urbain Fauré (1845-1924) as is Elegy (from Op 20). The song for Akkerman’s daughter Laurie Anne is adapted from Norwegian Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) and Leading me there from W A Mozart (1756-1791). (Jan himself told me how he inadvertently sent the late Rick Van Der Linden who features on the track, on a wild goose chase looking for the air in the works of Bach instead of Mozart!). Wildflower, Akkerman’s own composition, also has something of a classical air.
The unplugged guitar album Live at the Priory, issued the following year, has many classical pieces. Wildflower is conjoined with the charming Altogether … Oh that! from Mother Focus. We have mentioned the Dowland piece. Le Clochard is prefaced by the appropriate Classical gas, a hit for Mason Williams back in 1968. Firenze is partnered by the jazz standard Autumn Leaves.
Some of these tracks feature on the 1999 unplugged studio album Passion. In addition there is the Bach derived title track best known through the hymn O sacred head sore wounded; two tracks from Anthony Holborne (Countess of Pembrook’s Paradise and Muy Linda) and the anonymous piece labelled Knight of the Lute. The distinctive final track includes part of the Liebestraum (No 3) by Franz Liszt (1811-1886). Written around 1847 it is his most famous piece.
We are not talking about straight classical music, of course. Far from it. I'm thankful for that.

Jan Akkerman: the classical element 1

The word ‘classical’ has many meanings. Here we use it to refer to older and more traditional musical styles as opposed to more contemporary and popular ones. I am not a very great fan of classical music, though I have many classical CDs. Much of my classical education has been via men like Jan Akkerman.
Akkerman’s most famous period was with Focus in the 1970s. He remarkably finished the At the Rainbow concert by coming on stage and performing a John Dowland piece on solo lute (check it out on youtube). He had become interested in the instrument through seeing Julian Bream in concert back in the seventies. It seems that the live act often included a Menuett from J S Bach (1685-1750) some Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999) and the fourth movement of the Concerto for Orchestra by Hungarian composer Bela Bartok (1881-1945), among other things classical, that were never released. Akkerman expressed particular appreciation for Bach and for Bartok's Concerto and Third Piano Concerto. In an interview from the period he neatly sums up the difference between the two. Bach, he says, sought to make earthly music and made heavenly, while Bartok sought to make heavenly music and made beautiful earthly music. (In a 1973 interview in Dutch he expanded on this saying - "Talking about Bach, this composer tried to create the earthly aspect in his music, but got very heavenly music instead. Maybe his subconscious desire for death has to do with that. He is constantly happy in his music, you’ll never hear any dissonance. His Fugues, for instance, are very well built, very major. And when he does something in minor, it still sounds happy, but it has a depth, which is almost frightening. A composer like Bartók, is the opposite. He tried to create heavenly music, but it became very earthly. In his music I hear waterfalls, I see beautiful trees and butterflies, alternated with weirdness, strange dissonants, and so on." In the same interview he says "A pop musician is being influenced all the time. I started to play rock ‘n’ roll but if one is confronted with classical music and it moves you, then you’ll be influenced by that. That will be recognisable in the music and that is very much an element in the music of Focus. We don’t go back to, let’s say, to Bach and stuff like that, no, we go back even a little further … and I like that.").
Even without such comments journalists at the time were not slow to spot the classical influence on the music. Relistening to the recorded corpus this is not immediately obvious. The careful listener, however, soon spots the influence as far back as the coda to Anonymus (In and out of) through to the Hamburger Concerto album and beyond. It is sometimes in the background as with Anonymus, Eruption (Moving Waves) or P’s March and Spake the Lord Creator (Ship of Memories) or there are parodies such as with the opera singing on Hamburger Concerto or the harpsichord intro to Birth (Hamburger Concerto). Then there are tracks in a classical style such as Le Clochard (Moving Waves) on guitar or Elspeth of Nottingham (Focus 3) on lute.
It was apparently intended that Eruption should include adaptations from Bartok but his family refused permission. At least one listener has spotted a lift from the opera Orpheus and Euridice by Monteverdi (1567-1643) and believes there is also a quotation from the opera of the same name by Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787).
As for direct lifts from classical composers, however, there appear only to be some three tracks of this sort. They are Delitae Musicae and the Starter from the title track of Hamburger Concerto and Father Bach (Mother Focus). The first is credited to good old Anonymous. The story goes that Akkerman found a manuscript by an old Belgian composer from Antwerp in a London music shop. It was then arranged for lute and recorder with Van Leer. It has been suggested that the piece is the work of a J Hove whose lute arrangement of a motet appeared in 1612 as Delitiae Musicae Cantiones. Starter uses the theme best known as The St Anthony Chorale. It was written by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) as a trumpet serenade and later taken up by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) in his Variations on a theme by Haydn (Op 56a), completed in 1873. The third piece is based on part of Bach’s St Matthew Passion of 1729.
Turning to Akkerman’s solo output we remind ourselves that his very first release, aged 15, was a rocked up version of Melody in F (but played in 'A') by American classical pianist Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982). We can make similar divisions to those above. The albums vary in classical content from some (eg Tabernakel) that are full of it to others (eg CU) that appear to have none at all.
Guitar for Sale, the debut album, gives only a slight hint of classicism with the Jewish traditional Hineimatov. The next two albums have several classical themes. Profile (1972) is very diverse and shows plenty of evidence of Akkerman’s classical training on the second side where four of seven tracks are in a classical style for solo guitar or lute. First, the anonymous Kemp’s jig, on lute. William Kemp was apparently a Shakespearian actor who came to fame with his nine days wonder - a morris dance performed from London to Norwich in the days of Elizabeth I. Then comes an etude by Matteo Carcassi (1792-1853), a leading 19th Century guitarist-composer. Born in Florence he began as a pianist but changed to guitar, beginning a concert career in Germany in 1810. He moved from place to place but was eventually based in Paris where he died. His fame there rivalled that of Carulli, though the two differed greatly in technique and style. Carcassi left almost a hundred works for guitar, all of romantic taste, brilliant and technically demanding. His Method (Op 59) is still considered among the best didactic works of 19th Century guitar masters and his etudes (Op 60) are popular. Track four is by Austrian composer Antonio Diabelli (1781-1858). Andante Sostenuto, as its title suggests, is slow and sustained. It is from a Guitar Sonata (Op 29 No 3) and is described by one aficionado as ‘almost too beautiful to be true’. The sixth track is a short lute composition of Akkerman’s own - Minstrel/Farmers dance.
To be continued

20071218

Thijs Van Leer: the religious element


I remember once hearing that Simon and Garfunkel split over a religious difference. There is apparently no truth in the rumour. A conspiracy theorist might stand a better chance of trying to explain the Thijs Van Leer, Jan Akkerman split in such terms.
I've highlighted the religious element in Akkerman’s music elsewhere. When it comes to Van Leer the task is pretty straightforward.
In 1981 the Van Leer penned album Donna Nobis Pacem (Give us peace - a phrase from the Agnus Dei in the Mass) was released with three other artists under the name Pedalpoint. With Latin and Greek lyrics, it is basically a traditional mass with one or two other bits thrown in using modern tunes (some recycled from elsewhere). The three main parts are the Kyrie, Credo and Sanctus. In the sleeve notes, Van Leer gives thanks to the Lord for it all. He has said "I was always very interested in the Mass of Johannes Sebastian Bach, the High Mass. The whole form and concept I have been fanatical about and I always wanted to write a Mass." Straddling the classical and rock genres as it does it is one of his best solo albums.
Two albums chiefly of hymn tunes have also appeared (The glorious album and Instrumental hymns, also released in Holland as De Mooiste Liedere – The best songs). Van Leer is not over proud of these as they can tend toward a Claydermanesque muzakishness in places but at times they are worthy to be ranked alongside some of the fine Introspection tracks.
Then there are the four Christmas albums. The first was Music per la notte de natale (1976) featuring 11 Christmas hymns in a classical style, with Louis Van Dijk, Rogier Van Otterloo and others. Then came the similarly conceived Kerst met Thijs van Leer en Elly Ameling in de Grote Kerk te Monnickendam (1982) with several Christmas carols. There was also Joy to the world, which like the more down home Kerstconcert was produced with diverse contributions from family members and others and includes several carols.
Of course, when we speak of the religious element in Van Leer’s music the name of J S Bach can never be far away. Van Leer is on record, back in 1976, as saying that he and Akkerman ‘always agreed that our ideal composers were Bach and Bartok.’ He goes on to say that ‘Bach always has that radiance, knowing it was the music of the truth of Jesus Christ ... Rock could still be the language of our day in that way.’ Years later in 1999 he was one of several musicians to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death in 2000. He released Bach for a new age which featured well known pieces, including reworkings of Erbarme dich from the St Matthew Passion; Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring; Sheep may safely graze; Ave Maria from the well-tempered clavier and Agnus Dei from the Mass in B minor. Most of the tracks had previously featured, differently arranged, on the delightful Introspection albums that appeared mainly in the seventies and were so successful. They include several religious pieces chiefly from Bach and Handel.
It would be wrong to think that the religious element of the music is confined to the solo output. Even in Focus days it was a feature. Several early albums include what amounts to a hymn from Van Leer. On Moving Waves it is the title track, a setting of the words of the Sufi Muslim Inayat Khan. On Focus 3 Latin verse from Virgil breaks up the raucous Round goes the gossip. On Hamburger Concerto it is simply an old Dutch Christmas hymn inserted into the title track. Perhaps where the first and last original Focus albums went wrong (if they did) was in not including a hymn!
(On the subject of Sufism I should also add that Van Leer's mother had an interest in the subject and in at least one place he credits the name Focus to what she had learned reading about it.)
The more one looks for this religious element the more one sees it. It is there in a title like Carmen Elysium (Introspection 2) for example (later reworked as P’s March on Ship of Memories) and in a track like La Cathedrale de Strasbourg which is ostensibly about camping holidays but has bells, church organ and an 'Amen'. What about his penchant for speaking and singing in tongues, evidenced on some more recent recordings? In an interview not so long ago Van Leer made a rare reference to being Jewish. Such a revelation may come as a surprise when one considers the amount of Christian harmony in his output, however a closer listen might perhaps reveal a strand of Jewishness making up yet another element in the Van Leer repertoire and proving a further factor to note when considering what makes it so attractive. In an interview in 2003 he ended with a message to fans saying "Dearest fans, please pray for us FOCUS so that we have the power to continue our beautiful work of sharing our music ..."
As mentioned elsewhere, since writing the above I have discovered that one of the very first records featuring Akkerman and Van Leer was Woord voor Woord where the actor Aart Staartjes tells the story of Moses and our two maestros provide the music. The sleeve notes are by a Rev Wim Koole and reveal that the contents were successfully broadcast on Dutch TV in 1969. I knew I was on to something!

Jan Akkerman: the religious element


In 1974 Jan Akkerman’s third solo album Tabernakel appeared. I was 15 and, at first, unsure what to make of it. I'd been converted and baptised a little before. At the time we were studying Exodus in Sunday afternoon Bible Class and a large model of the Tabernacle dominated the room where we met. Now here was an album by my favourite guitarist with the very same word in its title. Not only that, but the cover artwork had him in a distinctly messianic pose (Akkerman himself later told me it wasn't his idea).
The thing that first drew me to the music of Focus, then individual band members, was the predominance of instrumental numbers in the repertoire. It seemed to me to solve the problem of lyrics that would today require parental advisory stickers or that promoted unbiblical ideas. Instinct kept me from Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath (though friends kept trying to show me the Christian content in Sabbath lyrics). Later albums were not without problems (a dodgy cover, a swear word) but the difficulty was very much minimised.
It would take too long to explain the conflicting feelings of an evangelical teenager with leanings to fundamentalism confronted by a rock album with a definite religious feel from start to finish. Suffice to say the listening experience was something incredible and put to rest my fears. A superb album of solo lute, through acapella choir and rocked up sitar, to straight rock, Tabernakel is in my opinion Akkerman’s best. This is due in no small degree to its strong religious dimension.
The title and closing Amen are overtly religious but there are other elements. One track is called Javeh, a form of the Hebrew word for God as is I am which features in the Lammy suite. (On the title Javeh Akkerman said in a 1973 interview in Dutch “Well, that is the biblical name for our Lord. When I wrote it, and that happens to me very often, I had the feeling I wasn’t actually writing it myself. It was on my farm in Friesland, among the animals and flowers, in full Spring. The song starts in a very frustrated way, because when you look around you, you realise you are in trouble after all, that’s why it’s called Javeh.”). There's also Anthony Holborne’s Last Will and Testament and not forgetting House of the King! This album confirms that the religious input evident on Focus albums, eg Hamburger Concerto (with a Dutch Christmas carol and its own ‘Amen’ on La Cathedrale de Strasbourg), was not all coming from Thijs van Leer (who went on to record albums of hymn tunes and a modern mass).
The truth is that one sees evidence of this religious element throughout Akkerman’s catalogue. From Exodus (his first single) and the gospel song Mercy, mercy, mercy on the debut solo album (Guitar for sale) through to the album Passion, with its religious double entendre (punning is an Akkerman penchant). The Bach tune that is the title track is often sung to the words O sacred head sore wounded. The album is about the Passion not just earthly passions. Bach’s influence, of course, has been openly acknowledged with Where would I be? (Focus in Time) and the earlier Father Bach (Mother Focus). Bach almost inevitably brings a religious dimension to any composer’s work.
Other titles where religious themes surface are the incomplete Spoke the Lord Creator (Ship of Memories); Nightprayer (Jan Akkerman 3); Fire from heaven (Heartware); Waterfalls of Eden, Communion and procession (Pleasure Point bonus tracks); Cherubim and Sepharim (Seraphim?! From the Basement bonus track); Virgin Mary (Blues Hearts); Hineimatov [Ps 133] (Guitar For Sale); The fight and Happy Gabriël? (Profile); Everything must change (Can’t stand noise); David’s harp (Passion).
Spoke the Lord Creator was later given pseudo-religious words reminiscent of the Raamses Shaffy hit on which Focus played, called The shrine of God.
I'm confining myself to Judaeo-Christian references. Perhaps other traditions are there (eg on the collaboration with Buddhist Tony Scott which includes Under the bo tree). For me it's the way the more religious element is either blended with or juxtaposed to solid rock and other genres that is attractive. A classic example is Leading me there (Focus in Time). Akkerman comments ‘I have always taken great pride in metaphorically racing a motorbike through a church’ which often means blues over Bach but is here blues over Mozart. The same philosophy is evident on Love is uneven (Puccini's Cafe) ‘a sort of sacro popsong where you can actually see crusaders on horseback change into wild motor-biking herds.’ Another example is a title like Apocalypso (Transparental). A DVD containing footage from the eighties begins with Jan in a church playing lute then cuts to him doing a straight rock concert with his band.
The approach offends some. Focus received complaints from the Bach Society for what they did. However, religion is two-sided. It can do great good or great harm. The Lord Jesus spoke against religious people in his day. Akkerman says he probably inherited a dislike for churchianity from his father and it is reflected in the music. Such dislike, though not saving, can be healthy.
Akkerman is unusual in combining a strong religious element with rock music but not unique. Think of obvious examples such as Madonna or Prince. Someone with such broad musical tastes inevitably uses religious music and I am aware that there are many other sides to his output. However, this element is an important but easily overlooked part of what makes his body of work the phenomenon it is.
Since writing the above I have discovered that one of the very first records featuring Akkerman and Van Leer was Woord voor Woord where the actor Aart Staartjes tells the story of Moses and our two maestros provide the music. The sleeve notes are by a Rev Wim Koole and reveal that the contents were successfully broadcast on Dutch TV in 1969. I knew I was on to something!

20071217

Track by track 15d

Archive number: 15d
Title: Eruption (Part 4 - Answer, Orfeus, Euridice)
Main Album: Moving Waves (Focus 2 in Holland)
Track number: 6d
Genre: Progressive Rock (Symphonic)
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 2' 57" (22' 57" the whole)
Composer: Thijs Van Leer, (Tom Barlage, Jan Akkerman), Eelke Nobel, (Pierre Van der Linden)
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Electric guitars (Gibson Les Paul Customs), Bass; Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Piano, Voice; Cyriel Havermans - Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden - Drums
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Blue Horizon CD – EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: April, May 1971/October 1971. CD - 1988, 1993, 2001
Alternative version: The original Eelke Nobel contribution can be heard briefly in the background on the Ramses Shaffy album Sunset Sunkiss.
Notes: Eruption is a brilliant composite piece that pulls together various musical elements. Album notes refer to as many as 15 different parts though the nature of the music means that there are overlaps and the debatable nature of deciding just where one part ends and another begins is reflected in the varied timings given. We present here our own attempt to convey what is included.
20:01-22:57
The final section appears to be edited down with overdubs possibly from the previous Answer, Orfeus and Euridice.
20:01-20:33 Answer
First we have the slow and fast parts of Answer
20:34-21:25 Orfeus
Then the 'violined' guitar and organ with heavy drums of Orfeus.
21:26-22:57 Euridice
Finally we have the piano and guitar then flute and piano with organ and bass of Euridice. At 22:34 heavy drums come in and their fading erupting sound ends the piece.
Note on Orpheus and Eurydice (from Wikipedia)
Orpheus, a figure from Greek mythology, was king of the Thracian tribe Cicones. Pindar calls him "father of songs". His name is not in Homer or Hesiod, but he was known by the time of Ibycus (c 530 BC). He was believed to be one of the chief poets and musicians of antiquity and the inventor or perfector of the lyre. With his music and singing, he could charm wild beasts, coax trees and rocks to dance and even divert the course of rivers. As one of the pioneers of civilization, he is said to have taught humanity the arts of medicine, writing and agriculture. He was also an augur and seer; practiced magical arts, especially astrology; founded or rendered accessible many important cults, such as those of Apollo and the Thracian god Dionysus; instituted mystic rites public and private; prescribed initiatory and purificatory rituals. In addition, Pindar describes him as harpist and companion to Jason and the Argonauts.
The most famous story in which he figures involves his wife Eurydice (Agriope). While fleeing from Aristaeus, Eurydice ran into a nest of snakes which bit her fatally on her legs. Distraught, Orpheus played such sad songs and sang so mournfully that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus travelled to the underworld and by his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone (the only one who ever did), so that they agreed to let Eurydice return with him to earth on condition he walk in front of her and not look back until they had reached the upper world. In his anxiety he forgot and turned to look. She vanished a second time, now forever. The story in this form belongs to Virgil's time. He first introduces the name Aristaeus. Other ancient writers speak of the visit to the underworld but the story may actually be a late addition to the Orpheus myths.
Classical compositons featuring the story include those by Monteverdi, Telemann, Gluck, Haydn, Liszt, Offenbach, Stravinsky, etc.

Track by track 15c

Archive number: 15c
Title: Eruption (Part 3 - Euridice, Dayglow, Endless Road)
Main Album: Moving Waves (Focus 2 in Holland)
Track number: 6c
Genre: Progressive Rock (Symphonic)
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 5' 25" (22' 57" the whole)
Composer: Thijs Van Leer, (Tom Barlage, Jan Akkerman), Eelko Nobel, Pierre Van der Linden
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Electric guitars (Gibson Les Paul Customs), Bass; Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Piano, Voice, Flute, Mellotron; Cyriel Havermans - Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden - Drums
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Blue Horizon CD – EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: April, May 1971/October 1971. CD - 1988, 1993, 2001
Alternative version: The original Eelke Nobel contribution can be heard briefly in the background on the Ramses Shaffy album Sunset Sunkiss.
Notes: Eruption is a brilliant composite piece that pulls together various musical elements. Album notes refer to as many as 15 different parts though the nature of the music means that there are overlaps and the debatable nature of deciding just where one part ends and another begins is reflected in the varied timings given. We present here our own attempt to convey what is included.
14:35-20:00
There is a definite caesura or pause at 14:35 and then we enter on the third and penultimate section.
14:36-16:16 Euridice
First we have Euridice by Eelke Nobel (Van Leer's fellow singer when he was working with Ramses Shaffy). This begins with beautiful piano and guitar, then the organ comes in. The flute takes up the lead at 15:14 with bass. From 15:53 to 16:16 it is the heavily reverbed solo flute that rounds off the piece.
16:17-17:53 Dayglow
The next part begins with a monk-like voice and organ to be succeeded (16:47-17:19) by organ and 'violined' guitar. At 17:18 a mellotron comes in featuring voices and a horn-like sound. At 17:52 a transition is signalled with bass, cymbals and the horn-like mellotron.
18:24-20:00 Endless Road
This transitional part leads into Van der Linden's drumbreak.

Track by track 15b

Archive number: 15b
Title: Eruption (Part 2 - End of Orfeus, Answer, Pupilla, Answer, Tommy, Pupilla, Answer, The Bridge)
Main Album: Moving Waves (Focus 2 in Holland). Tommy was also a single in 1972.
Track number: 6
Genre: Progressive Rock (Symphonic)
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: This part 10' 44" (22' 57" the whole)
Composer: Thijs Van Leer, Tom Barlage, Jan Akkerman, (Eelke Nobel, Pierre Van der Linden)
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Electric guitars (Gibson Les Paul Customs), Bass; Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Piano, Voice; Cyriel Havermans - Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden - Drums
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Blue Horizon CD – EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: April, May 1971/October 1971. CD - 1988, 1993, 2001
Notes: Eruption is a brilliant composite piece that pulls together various musical elements. Album notes refer to as many as 15 different parts though the nature of the music means that there are overlaps and the debatable nature of deciding just where one part ends and another begins is reflected in the varied timings given. We have divided it into four parts in our own attempt to convey what is included.
03:50-14:34
03:50-04:15
At 03:50 slow solo organ comes in followed by 'violined' guitar as the opening theme is repeated to close the Orfeus element.
04:16-05:07 Answer
And so back to the fast guitar-led answer, which this time features drums and is brought to a conclusion by a short drum break, 04:38-05:07.
05:08-06:10 Pupilla
The next section is Pupilla. This is a band effort. It is quite slow and features ethereal background voices. From 5:42 the guitar comes in and dominates.
06:11-07:58 Tommy
From here Akkerman features more, beginning with the wonderful Tommy – a soaring guitar with the band backing - still played by Akkerman today. The Who's rock opera Tommy made the name fashionable but Tommy himself is the flautist and saxophonist Tom Barlage, who often played with Akkerman's previous band Brainbox. Barlage's own band Solution recorded a track called Divergence where one of the themes, played on saxophone, is this same tune.
07:59-08:30 Pupilla
After Tommy we return to the ethereal voices backed by the band for a short reprise of Pupilla.
08:31-09:17 Answer
We are then back into Answer with an ascending guitar-led band then strong chords. From 08:52 we have the Answer riff then a rising and falling scale (09:05-09:17) when we enter into the next section. The section 09:05-09:17 is discussed by a musicologist here in relation to a similar riff by the band Camel.
09:18-14:34 The Bridge
This begins with a heavy rock guitar-led section (09:18-11:35) concluded (11:36-12:01) with the Answer riff and rising scales. This Akkerman section is matched by a Van Leer one, a heavy rock organ-led part (12:02-13:44) concluding again (13:45-14:10) with the Answer riff and rising scales. The final part of this section is the Break (14:11-14:34) where it is scorching solo guitar after the three introductory double beats from the rhythm section.

Track by track 15a

Archive number: 15a
Title: Eruption (Part 1 - Orfeus, Answer, Orfeus)
Main Album: Moving Waves (Focus 2 in Holland)
Track number: 6a
Genre: Progressive Rock (Symphonic)
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: This part 3' 50" (22' 57" the whole)
Composer: Thijs Van Leer (Tom Barlage, Jan Akkerman, Eelke Nobel, Pierre Van der Linden)
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Electric guitars (Gibson Les Paul Customs), Bass; Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Piano, Voice; Cyriel Havermans - Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden - Drums
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Blue Horizon CD – EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: April, May 1971/October 1971. CD - 1988, 1993, 2001
Notes: Eruption is a brilliant composite piece that pulls together various musical elements. Album notes refer to as many as 15 different parts though the nature of the music means that there are overlaps and the debatable nature of deciding just where one part ends and another begins is reflected in the varied timings given. We have divided it into four parts in our own attempt to convey what is included.
00:00-03:50
First we have the Van Leer composed parts (Orfeus, Answer, Orfeus part 1) drawn originally from works by Bartok and perhaps others.
00:00-01:20 Orfeus
We begin slowly with bass, organ and 'violined' guitar.
01:21-02:55 Answer
Organ and guitar take us to a suspended chord, immediately followed by a deliberate solo organ phrase repeated by the guitar (01:21-01:42). Then at 01:43 a fast part is played by the whole band leading into rising scales.
02:56-03:50 (goes on to 04:15) Orfeus
We then go back to the slower part repeated on 'violined' guitar with heavy 'erupting' drums in the background.
This is a convenient place to make the first break (although Orfeus appears to go until 04:15).

Track by track 14 Focus 2

Archive number: 14
Title: Focus 2
Main Album: Moving Waves (Focus 2 in Holland). Also a single in 1972.
Track number: 5
Genre: Progressive Rock/Jazz Instrumental
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3 (and Morgan Studios, London)
Length: 4' 00”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Electric guitars (Gibson Les Paul Customs), Bass; Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Piano, Mellotron, Voice; Cyriel Havermans - Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden - Drums
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Blue Horizon CD – EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: April, May 1971/October 1971. CD - 1988, 1993, 2001
Alternative version: There is a live version on the Rainbow album. Van Leer has a classical version on Introspection.
Notes: Very much a studio effort, with subtle use of the mellotron to build atmosphere, this piece has two main parts. The first (00:00-02:28) has two repeated sections. The first of these (00:00-00:51) opens with slow organ, piano and guitar (00:00-00:12). The guitar is 'violined' (00:13-00:24) and around 00:25 bass and drums join in and the guitar soon begins to soar (from 00:39 where the mellotron also probably begins). A jazz break follows (00:52-01:22 - only drums are heard at 01:02-01:06). The guitar leads the band on until the original theme, briefly slow then soaring, returns (01:23-01:47) after which the jazz break is repeated (01:48-02:29 [with the brief drum break at 01:58-02:02]). A second movement follows. This slowly builds, using mellotron, piano, 'James Bond' guitar and some harmonics to heighten atmosphere. The whole builds to a satisfying crescendo that is finally rounded off by what sounds like Van Leer's voice mixed with the effect from the tremolo arm of Akkerman's guitar.

20071203

Track by track 13 Moving Waves

Archive number: 13
Title: Moving WavesMain Album: Moving Waves (Focus 2 in Holland)
Track number: 4
Genre: Classical (Piano and voice)
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 2' 36"
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Grand Piano, Vocal
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Blue Horizon CD – EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: April 13 - May 14 1971/October 1971. CD - 1988, 1993, 2001
Notes: A very unusual track for a rock album, this piece is a setting of the words of the Muslim Sufi mystic, Inayat Khan, a big influence on his mother Mary. Van Leer wrote the piece when he was 16 (probably as a compositon exercise) and only he features, singing to his own accompaniment on piano. Following a piano introduction (00:00-00:35) the vocal begins. The swirling sounds of the piano perfectly reflect the words at every point, climaxing with the caesura or pause (02:21) just before the crucial final line and a subsiding like the waves themselves. The words are
 
Moving waves, the wind has left you
And you are still in commotion?
Moving waves, the wind has left you
And you are still in commotion?

We are still repeating the word it has taught us.
It moves our whole being to ecstasy.

Waves, why do you all become excited
And then all calm together?
Because behind our individual action
There is one impulse working.
Because behind our individual action
There is one impulse working.

Rising waves ... what motive is behind your impulse?
What motive is behind your impulse?

The desire to reach upwards!

Note on Inayat Khan (from Wikipedia)
Hazrat Inayat Khan (July 5 1882 – February 5 1927) was the founder of Universal Sufism and the Sufi Order International. He initially came to the West as a representative of several traditions of classical Indian music, having received the title Tansen from the Nizam of Hyderabad. However, Khan felt his life mission was to be to introduce and transmit Sufi thought and practise to the West. His universal message of Divine Unity – Tawhid – focused on the themes of "Love, Harmony and Beauty" and evinced a distinctive and often effective ability to transmit Sufism to Western audiences in his day.

20071201

Track by track 12 Janis

Archive number: 12
Title: JanisMain Album: Moving Waves (Focus 2 in Holland)
Track number: 3
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental (Eastern)
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3 (and Morgan Studios, London)
Length: 3' 02”
Composer: Jan Akkerman
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Electric guitars (Gibson Les Paul Customs), Bass; Thijs Van Leer – Flutes; Cyriel Havermans - Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden - Drums
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Blue Horizon CD – EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: April 13 - May 14 1971/October 1971. CD- 1988, 1993, 2001
Notes: This studio arranged number appears to look east for its inspiration. The first note is a bass guitar note but it is the flutes (multi-layered soprano and alto flutes weaving around one another) and rhythm section (the drums begin with a cymbal stroke at 00:10) that are very much to the fore, the jazz style electric guitars playing a more subtle role in the background. The very last notes are played by the two flutes - a long note on the soprano and a vibrato from the alto. The title refers to short lived American singer Janis Joplin who had tragically died just five or six months before the recording of this song. Akkerman had been on the same bill with her as part of Brainbox in 1968. There is nothing in the song itself that obviously connects it to Joplin. It is a reminder, however, of Focus's continuous interaction with the mainstream. Possibly a Van Leer composed middle section was missed out of the final edit.
Note on Janis Joplin (from Wikipedia)
Janis Lyn Joplin (19 January 1943 – 4 October 1970) was an American singer, songwriter and music arranger, from Port Arthur, Texas. She rose to prominence in the late 1960s as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company, and eventually as a solo artist. She is widely considered one of the greatest artists of the period and one of the greatest female rockers of all time. Her career continued until her death in Los Angeles, California of a drug overdose at the age of 27.

20071130

Track by track 11 Le Clochard

Archive number: 11
Title: Le Clochard (Bread)
Main Album: Moving Waves (Focus 2 in Holland)
Track number: 2
Genre: Classical Instrumental (Guitar)
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 1' 56”
Composer: Jan Akkerman
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Classical guitar (Vicente Tatay Tomas); Thijs Van Leer – Mellotron (Orchestra strings)
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Blue Horizon CD – EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: April 13 - May 14 1971/October 1971. CD - 1988, 1993, 2001
Notes: At the time Rodrigo's Concerto de Aranjuez was popular and Focus would play a 15 minute live version. (Akkerman later recorded part of it). This much shorter track is in similar style featuring only Akkerman's guitar and orchestral strings provided by Van Leer's keyboard. The mellotron is there throughout except for one short section  where only the guitar is heard (01:33-01:41). Le Clochard means hobo or tramp and bread can refer to food or money. The piece conjures up a romanticised Parisienne tramp quite well. Its juxtaposition with the previous Hocus Pocus is striking and is meant to be. Akkerman still sometimes plays the piece today.

Track by track 10 Hocus Pocus

Archive number: 10
Title: Hocus Pocus
Main Album: Moving Waves (Focus 2 in Holland) (Also a single in edited form in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1977)
Track number: 1
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3 (also Morgan Studios, London)
Length: 6' 40”
Composer: Jan Akkerman, Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Electric guitars (Gibson Les Paul Customs), Bass; Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Yodelling, Whistles, Shouts, Claps, Flute, Harmonium; Cyriel Havermans - Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden - Drums
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Blue Horizon CD – EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: April 13 - May 14 1971/October 1971. CD - 1988, 1993, 2001
Alternative versions: Among the many other versions of this piece are the single edit mentioned above, the US single version, a version by Van Leer (on Nice to have met you) and several live versions by Focus and Akkerman. There are also a number of covers by various bands. In 2010 a new mix (the Darius Syrossian & Nyra Mix) appeared in connection with a Nike advert for the 2010 football world cup.
Notes: When edited this track was the single that later propelled Focus to fame. It was first seen on mainstream television in the UK on The Old Grey Whistle Test in November 1972. For the next 10 days Polydor had to devote it's entire vinyl pressing plant to servicing the unexpected demand for Moving Waves.
Analysis of the track reveals that it can be split into 15 constituent parts, beginning and ending with the full band but alternating with Van Leer all the way. We begin with electric guitars (first a single strummed guitar [00:00-00:09] with a single note from elsewhere at 00:05 before more guitars join in with the riff after first the drums then the whole band have come in for the first run through of the riff (00:00-00:47). At 00:48 we have break 1 - the drums come in alone, followed by Van Leer's yodel and a sort of scream. The band then come back in with the main theme (01:14-01:39) to be followed by break 2 - a repeat of the drums, yodel, scream sequence (1:40-02:04). The band come in again (02:05-02:32) but at the third break Van Leer uses a strange unintelligible gnome-like gibberish (02:33-02:53). The order established, the band alternate with Van Leer to the end. The yodel and scream come another twice. Between these breaks two other alternatives are used – break 4, a breathy flute (04:10-04:30) then break 5 - whistles, claps and a harmonium (04:56-05:12). Each time the band comes in, Akkerman's guitar grows wilder and more frenetic. The final yodel break (break 7) is at 05:43-06:03 and the band finale, introduced by screams or shouts, is at 06:04-06:40. The band end in unison. There is also a 1930s jazz number with the same title.
A note on Hocus Pocus (from Wikipedia)
Van Leer has said that the track has everythuing to do with rhyming with Focus and nothing to do with magic, however
Hocus Pocus is a generic term used by magicians, usually the magic words spoken when bringing about some sort of change. It was once a common term for a magician, juggler or other similar entertainer. In British English its most prevalent modern meaning is contrived nonsense, as in, "It was all a load of hocus pocus". The origins of the term remain obscure. Some believe it originates from a parody of the Roman Catholic liturgy of the eucharist, which contains the phrase Hoc est enim corpus meus (This is my body). This explanation goes back to speculations by Anglican Prelate John Tillotson who wrote (1694) "In all probability those common juggling words of hocus pocus are nothing else but a corruption of hoc est corpus, by way of ridiculous imitation of the priests of the Church of Rome in their trick of Transubstantiation." Others believe that it is an appeal to the Norse folklore magician Ochus Bochus. The Welsh hwca pwca (a "goblin's trick" or hoax) could also be the source. It may simply be imitation Latin with no meaning, made up to impress people: "I will speak of one man ... that went about in King James his time ... who called himself, The Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was he called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus talontus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currently without discovery, because when the eye and the ear of the beholder are both earnestly busied, the Trick is not so easily discovered, nor the Imposture discerned." Thomas Ady, A Candle in the Dark, 1656.

Track by track 9 House of the King

Archive number: 9
Title: House of the King
Main Album: In and Out of Focus (Left off the American album, it is on the album Focus 3. It was a single in 1970, 1971 [2], 1972, 1976, 1977, 1981 [12”] and 2001)
Track number: 5 (not on the Sire release)
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental (mainly acoustic)
Studio: EMI-Bovema Studios, Heemstede, Netherlands
Length: 2' 20"
Composer: Jan Akkerman
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Acoustic guitars, Electric guitars (Fender telecasters), Handclaps; Thijs Van Leer - Flutes, Handclaps, Piano; Martijn Dresden – Bass, Handclaps; Hans Cleuver - Drums
Producer: Tim Griek
Engineer: Andre Hooning
Label: LP - Imperial, Sire, Polydor; CD - EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: Late Summer 1970/Autumn 1970 (1973 in the US. In 1974 the album appeared in Brazil as Pop Giants). CD – 1988, 1993, 2001.
Alternative version: Akkerman has produced more than one alternative version beginning with that on his solo album Tabernakel. Van Leer (who claims a disputed co-writing credit) has also tackled it more than once without Akkerman (eg on Hommage aan Rogier Van Otterloo).
Notes: This is one of the band's best known songs. A very early original, it has often been re-recorded by the band and individual members in various forms. It has been covered by some minor bands and more than once used as introductory music on TV in the UK (Don't ask me – a popular science programme in the 70s; Saxondale – a more recent comedy). It predates the comparable work of Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson.
The piece begins with 12 seconds of double tracked acoustic guitars before going into the main theme, played on acoustic guitars, (reverbed) flute and bass with the percussion provided by drums on one channel and percussive hand claps on the other (00:00-01:25). At 00:34-00:44 and 01:06-01:16 the electric guitar can be heard with the flute (there are also an extra few flute trills between). Then comes the soaring 'middle eight' led by the electric guitar with acoustic guitars, bass and drums providing the rhythm (01:26-01:50). Piano chords are also heard in the mix. The piece closes with a brief half minute reprise of the main theme (01:51-2:20). The whole ends in unison on a final sustained note that suggests the gong eventually used by Akkerman for his Tabernakel version.

20071128

Track by track 8 Spoke the Lord Creator

Archive number: 8
Title: Spoke the Lord Creator
Main Album: Ship of Memories
Track number: 7
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 2' 28”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer, Hans Cleuver
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitars (Fender telecasters); Thijs Van Leer - Hammond organ; Martijn Dresden – Bass; Hans Cleuver – Drums
Producer: Hubert Terheggen (RTM)
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP – EMI, Harvest, Sire CD – EMI-Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet, JVC
Date of recording/release: Sunday, January 26, 1970. Abandoned and not released until 1977 (LP). CD – 1988, 1993, 2001, 2006.
Alternative version: 1971 single with vocals by Teach-in
Notes: This incomplete (?) track from the In and out of Focus sessions eventually appeared on the “cutting room floor” collection Ship of Memories in 1976. It is perhaps the earliest attempt by Focus at what later became the beginning of Hamburger Concerto, using Haydn's variations on Brahms. The opening 11 seconds of Van Leer organ has a classical feel but this gives way to the main theme (00:12-01:33) which involves the whole group, Akkerman leading on a countrified electric guitar (as heard at the end of Focus 1) and leading into screaming guitar (as heard on Why Dream). From 01:34 there is a change and chopped guitar chords predominate in a section with a long fade as the piece fails to gain real momentum.
The track was eventually recorded by Teach-in in 1971 with these lyrics by Eric Cleuver:

Spoke the Lord Creator
"Hear me, I'm the Lord your Maker,
you're my creatures hear me, hear me,
stay for ever near me."
But satanic laughter sounded
and a voice said "No no no!
God is dead, the earth is yours,
live now, there's nothing later.
Go my joy behaviour,
listen, there's no judgement, Saviour"

"There is no solution,
pilgrim, take the road of evolution
but in his creation
find him in man's inspiration"
Then a child its laughter broke,
the press of human vanity,
giving hope wherever voices
cry in desperation.
Hear his voice above, pilgrim,
on your search for love."

Note on Teach-in (from Wikipedia)
Teach-In was a Dutch band, best known for winning Eurovision Song Contest 1975 with "Ding-A-Dong". The band was founded in 1969 and broke up in 1980. There were several line up changes. Formed in Enschede, the first line up was Hilda Felix (vocals), Henk Westendorp (vocals), John Snuverink (vocals, guitar), Frans Schaddelee (bass), leader Koos Versteeg (vocals & keys) and Rudi Nijhuis (drums). One of the first songs the group ever recorded (on CBS) was "Spoke the Lord Creator". In 1972, only Koos and Rudi remained, the rest of the band comprised Getty Kaspers (vocals, left 1976), John Gaasbeek (bass, left 1976 also), Chris de Wolde (guitar) and Ard Weeink (also left 1976). New members in 1976 were Hans Nijland (bass, replaced by Nick de Vos 1977), Betty Vermeulen (vocals), Marianne Wolsink (vocals). In 1971 they got their first recording contract with producer and composer Eddy Ouwens (CNR records). In 1974 they had three top 15 hits, after which their Eurovision entry was recorded. They toured Europe for the next two years, but success took its toll and they split up in 1978. In 1979 Ruud Nijhuis and Koos Versteeg reformed the band with two new female singers. After three more hits they split up again. In 1997, news came that the original line up (with Getty Kaspers) had re-recorded some of their old hits and had plans to tour. Kaspers vocals can be heard on Rick van der Linden's Cum Laude album. The band reunited to sing "Ding-a-Dong" at a show in Maastricht in 2007.

Track by track 7 Focus (instrumental)

Archive number: 7
Title: Focus (Instrumental) [Also known as Focus 1]
Main Album: In and Out of Focus (Also on a single 1970)
Track number: 8 (first on the Sire release)
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 9' 44”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitars (Fender telecasters); Thijs Van Leer - Hammond organ, Mellotron, Piano, Flute; Martijn Dresden – Bass; Hans Cleuver – Drums
Producer: Hubert Terheggen (RTM)
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Sire, Polydor; CD - EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: Late January 1970/Autumn 1970 (1973 in the US. In 1974 the album appeared in Brazil as Pop Giants). CD – 1988, 1993, 2001.
Alternative version: A quite different version appears on Van Leer's Introspection album. This has been covered on a new age mood record by The Lavender Hill Orchestra
Notes: This is the much longer instrumental version of the opening track. It appears to be chiefly a live group session performed in the studio but the flute at the end perhaps and some of the guitar work has been overdubbed (the guitar is often double-tracked). There is plenty of reverb. Careful listening also reveals a mellotron (eg 02:07-02:25) and a piano (03:05-03:50) in the mix in the first section at certain points, as well as the organ. The track can be divided into two main sections. The first concludes (around 04:19-06:45) with a wild and bluesy guitar-led storm that has been brewing from the start as soaring and calmer passages have alternated all the way from the calm beginning (compare 00:00-01:06 with 01:07-01:18; 01:19-02:06 with 02:07-02:25 and 02:26-02:53 with 02:54-03:04). The final calm passage (03:05-03:50) leads into 03:51-04:18, which begins the rise. The second section is an increasingly wild flute-led romp (starting at 06:46) in which the guitar has a rather country-like sound but with some funky jazz playing too before breaking into heavy rock rhythms. The whole closes with a relatively abrupt ritardando, slowing down to a dying stop. It has been suggested that lines from Schubert's impromptu can be found somewhere in the mix here.
Note on the mellotron (from Wikipedia)
An electro-mechanical, polyphonic keyboard originally developed and built in Birmingham in the early sixties, it superseded the Chamberlin, the world's first sample playback keyboard. The heart of the mellotron is a bank of magnetic audio tapes. Each has approximately 8 seconds playing time. Playback heads (under each key) enable the playing of pre-recorded sounds.
The earlier MkI and MkII models [Focus probably used a MkII] contained two side-by-side keyboards: on the right 18 selectable "lead/instrument" sounds (eg strings, flutes, brass); on the left pre-recorded musical rhythm tracks (in various styles).
The tape banks for the later, lighter-weight M400 models contain only 3 selectable sounds eg strings, cello, the famous eight-voice choir. The sound on each individual tape piece was recorded at the pitch of the key to which it was assigned. The M400 tapes came in a removable frame, which allowed for relatively quick changes to new racks of sounds.
First heard on records from the late sixties, through the 1970s the Mellotron had a major impact on rock music, particularly the 35 note (G-F) model M400 released 1970. It sold over 1800 units and became a trademark sound of the era's progressive bands. The MkI and MkII were not portable. All were expensive and temperamental and Focus probably used a studio instrument.
The unique sound of the Mellotron is produced by a combination of characteristics including the wow and flutter factor, the result being that each time a note is played it is slightly different from the previous time (a bit like a conventional instrument). The notes also interact with each other so that chords or even just pairs of notes have an extremely powerful sound.
Another factor in its strangely haunting quality of its most frequently-heard sounds is that the individual notes were recorded in isolation. For a musician accustomed to playing in an orchestral setting, this was unusual, and meant that he had nothing against which to intonate.

20071127

Track by track 6 Why Dream

Archive number: 7
Title: Why dream
Main Album: In and Out of Focus (Also a single in 1970)
Track number: 7 (second on the Sire release)
Genre: Jazz Pop Vocal
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 3' 54"
Composer: Thijs Van Leer (music) Eric Cleuver (words)
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitars (Fender telecasters), Acoustic guitars; Thijs Van Leer - Vocals, Hammond organ, Piano; Martijn Dresden – Backing vocals, Bass; Hans Cleuver – Drums
Producer: Hubert Terheggen (RTM)
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Sire, Polydor; CD - EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: Late January 1970/Autumn 1970 (1973 in the US. In 1974 the album appeared in Brazil as Pop Giants). CD – 1988, 1993, 2001.
Notes: The track begins with solemn strummed acoustic guitars, 'violined' electric guitar and organ (00:00-00:14). The reverbed vocal then comes in backed by acoustic and electric guitars, organ, bass, drums and some piano. Van Leer's vocal uses the same alternating and double tracking style found on Happy Nightmare. This vocal section takes up the bulk of the track (00:15-02:23). At 02:24 an instrumental section is dominated by Akkerman's echoing and horn-like electric guitars against acoustic guitars, organ and the rhythm section. For the only time on the album, the song ends with a fade.
The lyrics by Hans Cleuver's father are

“Why dream about the future?
Now is the present, as bad as the present can be.

Why dream about the future?
The light is dark, and darkness is all you can see.
 
Planes go flight by flight (Planes go flight by flight)
Ready for a fight (Ready for a fight)
Ships pass in the night (Ships pass) through the Bosphorus

Marching columns sound (Marching columns)
Reasons scattered, found
For me, for you
For all of us.

Why dream about the future?
The sun is shining upon a world full of fear.
Why dream about the future?
When the clash and the bang of that future is coming too near.

This is our time (This is our time)
We will drink this wine (We will drink this wine)
Reaches our cup (Reaches) And we like it fine.

Please don't hesitate
Before it is too late,
You had your chance and lived your fate.
 
We dream about the future!
Where we can change things as they ought to be.
 
We dream about the future!
Where we'll be moulding and choosing our own destiny.”

Peet Johnson suggest that the lyrics reflect the times. The reference to the Bosporus relates to the Soviet shipment of military supplies from Nikolayev in Ukraine to Hai Phong, North Vietnam via those Turkish straits.
Note on Fade (from Wikipedia)
This is the first of a limited number of Focus tracks that fade out rather than coming to a definite conclusion. A recorded song can easily be gradually reduced to silence at its end (fade-out). A gradual increase from silence at the beginning (fade-in) can also be used. The length of fade can vary. Fading-out can serve as a recording solution for pieces of music that contain no obvious ending.
"Neptune", from orchestral suite The Planets by Gustav Holst is said to be the first piece of music to end with a fade-out. Though commonplace today, the effect bewitched audiences in the era before widespread recorded sound (1918).
The technique of ending a spoken or musical recording by fading out the sound goes back to the earliest days of recording. In the era of pre-electrical recording, this could only be achieved by either moving the sound source away from the recording horn or by gradually reducing the volume at which performers sang, played or spoke. With the advent of electrical recording, smooth and controllable fadeout effects could be easily achieved by simply reducing the input volume from the microphones using the fader on the mixing desk. No single recording can be reliably identified as "the first" to use the technique.

20071126

Track by track 5 Happy Nightmare

Archive number: 5
Title: Happy Nightmare (Mescaline)Main Album: In and Out of Focus (Also a single in 1970)
Track number: 6 (third on the Sire release)
Genre: Jazz Pop Vocal
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 3' 59"
Composer: Thijs Van Leer, Martijn Dresden (music) Mike Hayes (words)
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitars (Fender telecasters), acoustic guitars; Thijs Van Leer - Backing vocals (?), Piano, Hammond organ, Mellotron (Cello, Strings); Martijn Dresden – Vocals, Bass; Hans Cleuver – Drums
Producer: Hubert Terheggen (RTM)
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Sire, Polydor; CD - EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: Late January 1970/Autumn 1970 (1973 in the US. In 1974 the album appeared in Brazil as Pop Giants). CD – 1988, 1993, 2001.
Notes: The track, which is an anti-drug song, begins with an introduction using the words given below in italics. These are sung against a cello-like mellotron and a steel strung acoustic guitar (Vicente Tatay Tomas, apparently) from opposite stereo channels. After a concluding guitar harmonic (00:00-01:24) the electric guitars (chopped and smooth), piano, mellotron, bass and drums begin and Dresden (perhaps with Van Leer backing) comes in, double tracked in several places. This is broken by a brief (01:36-01:50) instrumental break where the mellotron (set to orchestral mode) replaces the voice. The whole section ends at 02:21 when the instrumental breaks in again led by Akkerman's jazzy increasingly chopped-style electric guitar (anticipating the style of Sylvia in part) and backed chiefly by Hammond organ through to 03:27. The opening lyrics are then repeated in a similar style to the introduction as a sort of coda or bookend (03:28-03:58) that closes with acoustic guitar and the cello sound.
The lyrics are the only ones of three possible sets by Mike Hayes used on the album
On a once in a life mescaline.
Floating over a mountain, like the sea.
Step off into the sun, feel the blood through you run,
On a once in a life mescaline.
Have a nightmare lifelong, live it through,
(Taste the beauty of a sweet red wine),
Grab for air, see your skin turning blue,
(Smell the freshness of the grass beneath the pines).
There's a man with three heads,
There's a girl with three beds,
See they're both running fast after me,
(Gonna catch you, gonna fill you full of love).
 
Have your head filled to the top with big pearls,
(Feel the softness of a mountain silk),
Then you hear someone's dead in the world,
(Sink your body in a cold bath of milk)
You can bet your sweet life
That they fought with a knife,
See they're all running fast after me,
(Wanna kiss you, run their fingers through your hair).
[Shorter break]
Get a feeling deep inside that you're dead,
(Can't you hear the clock of life ticking loud?),
Try to run from the snake pit in your bed,
(Then you find what you thought could not be found).
Smell the nearness of the grave,
Wonder if you can be saved,
Oh the world's still running fast after me,
(When they get you, gonna give you everything).
[Longer break]
On a once in a life mescaline.
Floating over a mountain, make the scene.
Step off into the sun, feel the blood through you run,
On a once in a life mescaline.

A note on Mescaline (from Wikipedia)
Mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine) is a psychedelic alkaloid of the phenethylamine class mainly used as a recreational drug, an entheogen and a tool in use to supplement various types of practises for transcendence, including in meditation, psychonautics and illegal psychedelic psychotherapy, whether self administered or not.
It occurs naturally in the peyote cactus
(Lophophora williamsii), the San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi) and the Peruvian Torch cactus (Echinopsis peruviana), and in a number of other members of the Cactaceae. It is also found in small amounts in certain members of the Fabaceae (bean family), including Acacia berlandieri.
Mescaline was first isolated and identified in 1897 by the German Arthur Heffter and first synthesised in 1919 by Ernst Späth.
In the US it was made illegal in 1970 by the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. It was prohibited internationally by the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and is categorised as a Schedule I hallucinogen by the CSA. Mescaline is only legal for certain natives (such as those involved in the Native American Church). Penalties for manufacture or sale can be as high as five years in jail and a fine of $15,000, with a penalty of up to one year and fine of $5000 for possession.

20071122

Track by track 4 Anonymus

Archive number: 4
Title: Anonymus
Main Album: In and Out of Focus
Track number: 4
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 7' 00"
Composer: Thijs Van Leer, Jan Akkerman, Martijn Dresden, Hans Cleuver
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitars (Fender telecaster), Handclaps; Thijs Van Leer - Hammond organ, Flutes, Piano, Handclaps; Martijn Dresden: Bass, Trumpet, Handclaps; Hans Cleuver - Drums, Handclaps
Producer: Hubert Terheggen (RTM)
Engineer: Jerry Boys
Label: LP - Imperial, Sire, Polydor; CD - EMI Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: Late January 1970/Autumn 1970 (1973 in the US. In 1974 the album appeared in Brazil as Pop Giants). CD – 1988, 1993, 2001.
Alternative version: The piece appears first in the background on the Ramses Shaffy album Sunset Sunkiss. It was later expanded as Anonymous 2 (on Focus 3).
Notes: This longer ensemble track is the first real hint of things to come. The title is a classical music joke and the piece begins with a mediaeval feel as trumpet, bass and 'marching' snare drums play the opening theme (00:00-00:18) which is from an anonymous 15th century French piece called Le dit Bourgignon. The band then come in and jam for a while (00:19-02:32) using a distinctive 10-note riff repeated on guitar four times. Van Leer's flute in the opposite channel to the guitar (until 01:27) is prominent firstly, then his piano takes over (they overlap, pointing to overdubbing). Next is a bass and drums break (02:34-03:22) based on the riff (a stray guitar is heard at 02:48 and a definite shout at 03:04), followed by a section where the whole band plays and electric guitars take the lead (03:23-04:30). There is again evidence of overdubbing with this as electric guitars are heard from both channels. Next comes a section where drums alternate with electric guitars and bass playing the main riff (04:31-05:01). Eventually the drummer is left to a simple solo (05:02-05:31), which includes an effective caesura or pause (05:23). The band comes back with the riff for the closing section (05:32-06:31), which employs ritardando (slowing down) from 05:48, lots of reverb on the electric guitar. This is all concluded by a longer caesura and Le dit Bourgignon as an Elizabethan or Mediaeval style coda (06:33-07:00) played on flutes and featuring percussive handclaps. (In some recordings the coda finds itself attached to the House of the King track as a prelude, which works fine and is an understandable mistake in dividing things up).
A note on anonymus (from Wikipedia)
Anonymus is the Latin word for anonymous, the correct English spelling. Both words are from a Greek one meaning not named. The Latin spelling is traditionally used by scholars in the humanities to refer to an ancient writer whose name is not known, or to a manuscript of their work. Many such writers have left valuable historical or literary records through the ages. Sometimes Anonymus refers not to an author but to a manuscript copyist. Anonymous IV refers to a 13th Century English student of medieval music theory whose works are a major source for modern scholars of that era.