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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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 Sp├Ąth.
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.

20071121

Track by track 3 Sugar Island

Archive number: 3
Title: Sugar Island
Main Album: In and Out of Focus
Track number: 3 (not on the Sire release - too politically sensitive)
Genre: Jazz Pop Vocal (protest song)
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 3' 05"
Composer: Thijs Van Leer Martijn Dresden (music) Jan Staal (words)
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitar (Fender telecaster), acoustic guitar; Thijs Van Leer - Vocals, Backing vocals, Flute, 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). CD – 1988, 1993, 2001.
Notes: For this egregiously political song the band turn west for musical inspiration and appropriately to the Caribbean. The number has quite a jazz feel, including some scat from Van Leer (the first example). The band (bass, electric guitar, drums) begin together and are soon supplemented by acoustic rhythm guitars that go on throughout, before going straight into the lyric, sung by Van Leer. His voice is multi-tracked, with backing vocals, as indicated in part below. The vocal is interspersed with an instrumental break, led first by Akkerman's pizzicato jazzy electric guitar (01:15-01:39) then a mildly rasping jazz-style flute (01:40-02:05). After more vocal work the band play out, led by flute and guitar from 02:47. The whole is brought to a conclusion by a final definite but repeated ensemble chord.
The lyrics (by Dutch writer Jan Staal, born 1920 in Ginneken, N Brabant) are:

Sugar island Cuba (Aaah)
You lay there just for fun (Aaah)
With all your colours and your palms,
A treasure in the sun (2 x)

Dabadabadabada Dabadabadabada

Castro makes the poor man rich (Aaah)
And rings the rich man's knell. (Aaah)
He makes the island grey and pale
I wish he were in hell. (2 x)

Dabadabadabada Dabadabadabada
(Break)

Dabadabadabada Dabadabadabada

Sugar island Cuba (Aaah)
You are no more for sale (Aaah)
This Castro makes the poor man rich
He makes the flowers pale. (2 x)
Dabadabadabada Dabadabadabada.

A note on Castro (based on Wikipedia)
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (born 1926) is a Cuban revolutionary leader who led his country from January 1959 until the announcement of his retirement in February 2008. He took power in an armed revolution that overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and was shortly thereafter sworn in as Prime Minister. In 1965 he became First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and led its transformation into a one-party socialist republic. In 1976 he became President of the Council of State and of Ministers. In 2006 he passed on duties to his son Raul and in 2008 announced he would neither seek nor accept a new term as President or Commander-in-chief.
Castro first attracted attention in Cuban political life through nationalist critiques of Batista and the US political and corporate influence in Cuba. He gained an ardent, but limited, following and also drew the attention of the authorities. He eventually led the failed 1953 attack on Moncada Barracks, after which he was captured, tried, incarcerated and later released. He then travelled to Mexico to organise and train for the guerrilla invasion of Cuba that took place in December 1956. Since his assumption of power in 1959 Castro has evoked both praise and condemnation (at home and internationally). Opponents characterise him as a dictator, claiming that he has not risen to power through open, public elections, while some contend that his rule is illegitimate because the socialist system itself was not established through what they considered to be legal means. Supporters, on the other hand, see him as a charismatic leader whose presidential authority has been acquired through legitimate elections. Outside Cuba, he has been defined by his relationship with the USA and the former Soviet Union, both of whom courted Cuban attentions as part of their own global political agenda. While Cuba's relations with countries of the Soviet bloc were generally cordial during the Cold War, the Castro-led government has had an antagonistic relationship with the USA since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (1961) by US-backed forces. Following the collapse of the USSR and Cuba's one major Latin American ally, Sandinista Nicaragua, in the early 1990s, the Cuban government found itself in a precarious spot. However, in recent years, Castro has found new regional allies in Latin America. At home, Castro has overseen the implementation of various economic policies, leading to the rapid centralisation of Cuba's economy, land reform, collectivisation, etc. Opponents claim that these changes have at best maintained Cuba's pre-'59 level of development, but at an "extraordinary" cost to the overall welfare of Cubans. Conversely, supporters blame the US embargo for some or all of Cuba's shortcomings but maintain that Cuba's economy has expanded and grown at a more than acceptable rate since the revolution. The expansion of publicly funded health care and education has been a cornerstone of Castro's domestic political program. Cuba ranks better than many countries with regard to infant mortality, which is claimed by Castro supporters as a success of his government. Opponents claim that Cuba's health care and infant mortality were the same if not better before the revolution and question the truthfulness of official statistics.

Track by track 2 Black Beauty

Archive number: 2
Title: Black Beauty
Main Album: In and Out of Focus (was Focus Plays Focus) Also a single in 1970 and 1971
Track number: 2 (fifth on Sire release)
Genre: Jazz Pop Vocal
Studio: Sound Techniques Studio, 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Length: 3' 08"
Composer(s): Thijs Van Leer (music) Eric Cleuver (words)
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitar (Fender telecaster), acoustic guitars; Thijs Van Leer - Vocals, Piano; Martijn Dresden – Bass, Trumpet; 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: An instrumental version was recorded much later and is on Focus 9.
Notes: The track begins with five successive screaming notes from the electric guitar spaced out over the opening 20 seconds with heavy drums, heavy but rhythmic bass then heavy drums again. The rhythm section are joined by an acoustic guitar and the vocal comes in at 00:21. Accompanied by guitars and piano, it goes on to 01:58 when there is an instrumental break featuring the electric guitar screams again and a partly muted trumpet (1:59-02:20). The band backed vocal then proceeds to the end (02:21-03:08). The number is again basically recorded live with perhaps some of the piano (used with the lyrics marked below in italics) and the electric guitar that appears at various points overdubbed as well as reverbed vocals and the trumpet. The lyrics have a rather eastern feel, which is reflected a little in the music. They contain a reference to the legend of King Solomon's affair with the Queen of Sheba. (Their meeting is recorded in Scripture but the love affair is pure legend). It has been suggested that the topic is an inter-racial liaison, a controversial matter in many places at that time. The lyrics are
 
“Night was stark, your skin was dark,
Your eyes were shining bright,
Oh black beauty, close in my heart.
I was King Solomon who held his Queen of Sheba tight,
Oh black beauty, held in my arms.

How we were told
Love was not meant for us,
Two diff'rent worlds kept apart,
Heart against heart.

 
But we knew where to find an opportunity,
Far away where no one was near.
We could meet there at night and with impunity,
Oh black beauty, love without fear.

Our love was wonderment,
So young and so pure.
I held your trembling hands,
I was so sure.

 
Then when our lips met
There was no returning,
The fire was burning
In our hearts.

(Break)

So we were told
Love was not meant for us,
Two different worlds kept apart,
Heart against heart.

But we knew where to find an opportunity,
Far away where no one was near.
I was King Solomon who held his Queen of Sheba tight,
Oh black beauty, love without fear.”
 
Peet Johnson tells us that an alternative set of lyrics called Questions were prepared by Mike Hayes but not used. They are re-produced in his book.
A note on the Queen of Sheba (from Wikipedia)
The Queen of Sheba (Malkat Shva) refers in Ethiopian history, the Old and New Testaments and the Qur'an to the woman who was the ruler of the ancient kingdom of Sheba. The location of the historical kingdom may have included both Ethiopia and Yemen. Known to the Ethiopians as Makeda this queen has been called a variety of names by different peoples in different times. To King Solomon of Israel she was the Queen of Sheba. In Islamic tradition she was Bilqis. Roman historian Josephus calls her, Nicaula. She is thought to have lived in the 10th Century BC. Taking into account Genesis 10 many scholars see the Queen of Sheba as a descendant of the Semitic Sheba people located in southern Arabia, but with origins in Ethiopia.
According to the Hebrew Bible, the unnamed queen of the land of Sheba heard of the great wisdom of Solomon and journeyed there with gifts of spices, gold, precious stones and beautiful wood and to test him with questions (1 Kings 10:1-13, 2 Chronicles 9:1-12). It is related further that the queen was awed by Solomon's great wisdom and wealth and pronounced a blessing on his deity the LORD. Solomon reciprocated with gifts and "everything she desired," whereupon the queen returned to her country. The queen was apparently quite rich, however, as she brought 4.5 tons of gold with her to give to Solomon (1 Kings 10:10). In the biblical passages which refer explicitly to the Queen of Sheba there is no hint of love or sexual attraction between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The two are depicted merely as fellow monarchs engaged in the affairs of state. The biblical text Song of Songs contains references, which at various times have been interpreted as referring to love between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (but with no real warrant - there is little to identify the speaker in the text with the rich and powerful foreign queen depicted in Kings). It is the later Ethiopian tradition that Cleuver's lyrics reflect. This firmly asserts that King Solomon seduced and impregnated his guest and provides a detailed story of how he went about it. The matter is of considerable importance to Ethiopians - as their emperors traced their lineage to that union.

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) Eric 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 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 drags 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.