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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20071120

Track by track 1 Focus (vocal)

Archive number: 1*
Title: Focus (vocal)
Main Album: In and Out of Focus (previously known as Focus Plays Focus)
Track number: 1 (sixth and final track on Sire release)
Genre: Jazz Pop Vocal
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 2' 43"
Composer(s): Thijs van Leer (music) Erik Cleuver (words)
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitar (Fender telecaster); Thijs van Leer - Vocals, Hammond organ; 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). Also 1971. CD – 1988, 1993, 2001.
Alternative version: A longer instrumental version appears elsewhere on the album and in rearranged form on van Leer's first Introspection album.
Notes: This track, which still features in the act today, is the first of a series bearing the eponymous title Focus and the only one of those to boast a vocal (although only 10 words at that). The same tune features as an instrumental elsewhere on the album. One of the earliest originals the band played, it is notable for Akkerman's pioneering use of volume swell or 'violining' without a pedal. The sound itself is very much a sixties rather than a seventies one. The number is basically recorded live with echo or reverb, especially on the vocal.
The band (bass, organ, drums) begin together setting up a slow jazz style rhythm (00:00-00:11) over which first van Leer tentatively sings (00:12-00:36) then Akkerman does his stuff, the track ending with just the guitar and eight hits of the cymbal, four slow and four quick.
Although Focus became primarily an instrumental band, the first album is about half and half vocals and instrumentals and every album has vocals on it somewhere.
The words act as a sort of manifesto for the band. They are

"Focus yourself on the love
You own mankind.
Communication again."

We are still only three years on from the "summer of love" and such sentiments were in the air. The track can drag a little perhaps and was probably not the best choice for an opener, as is reflected in its postponement to the end of the American release. On the other hand, as originally conceived, the second track comes with some impact after this laid back opener.

*It is true that the original Focus line-up appeared on record together before this track was released (for the Dutch version of Hair, on Ramses Shaffy's album Sunset Sunkiss and on certain tracks for the album The Beauty of Bojoura but this is the first time they appeared on record together and alone as Focus).
It has been suggested that there was a previous recording of the first album in Amsterdam before the London version we have today. Apparently this is not so.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I put the LP Pedalpoint to CD.
Anyone interrested?
mail; mwveerbeek@solcon.nl