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.




Track by track 74

Archive number: 74
Title: Brother
Main Album: Focus Con Proby
Track number: 6
Genre: Jazz Rock Vocal
Studio: EMI Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands
Length: 05' 16”
Composer: Roselie Van Leer, Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: P J Proby – Vocals; Eef Albers- Electric Guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Piano, Mellotron, Hammond organ; Bert Ruiter – Bass; Steve Smith - Drums
Producer: Yde de Jong
Engineer: Jan Van Vrijaldenhoven/Mike Stavron
Label: LP – EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded/released 1978 LP – 1978 CD – 1998
Alternative versions: An instrumental version can be found on Van Leer's solo album Introspection 3. Also see the later Focus 8.
Notes: The piece begins with a beautiful, classically informed, piano introduction with some slight mellotron backing (00:00-00:48) possibly stolen from Brahms. After five seconds silence (00:49-00:54) heavy drum beats are heard and the band comes in with a slow march led by Proby's rock ballad vocal (0051-03:35). The angst ridden verses and 1920s American depression influenced chorus are as follows:
I've never been unhappy or alone
Each day daylight came back
I always watched the stars
Not thinking space big and dark
Rains always were my friend
The wind knew all my secrets
Brother do you know that the times are hard
Do you wanna see my eyes
Better Make a start
Cause brother do you see that the times are hard
I need love
Hey yeah (Repeat chorus)
I did not fear the shadows of trees
But city shadows don't move
I saw a child of God. He was
Someday to grow into the world.
Brother do you know that the times are hard
Do you wanna see my eyes
You'd better make a start
Cause brother ...
do you see that the times are hard
I need love (Repeat chorus)
A horn-like guitar leads the band as the music rises (03:36-04:12) until the vocal comes back in very high (04:13-05:01) with the opening six lines. A triumphant classical style piano, organ and cymbals close the piece (05:02-05:16).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi! Great site: very informative and well written but something keeps bugging me... I'm really, really sorry to seem like a complete anorak, but there is no Mellotron AT ALL on this album (Focus Con Proby)! What is often erroneously labelled as such is actually a string synthesizer, most probably a Solina. (Being a Dutch band, it's highly likely that a Dutch made instrument was used, Solina being part of the respected Dutch organ manufacturers Eminent.)
Focus actually used the Mellotron very sparingly throughout their initial career: you can hear it turning up briefly on 'In & Out Of Focus' (as it was called here in the UK). There are a few ghostly string chords on 'Happy Nightmare (Mescaline)' and on 'Focus (Instrumental)'. It crops up again on 'Moving Waves', most noticeably on 'Le Clochard'. Indeed, this is a fine example of just how beautiful the mighty 'Tron can sound when used with thought and taste. It's a tribute to Van Leer's musicianship that he used the instrument so sparingly that its' qualities really shine through when it IS employed.
The 'Tron appears very briefly on the majestic 'Hamburger Concerto' providing the lush choir behind the synthesizer solos (an ARP?) at the end of (I think) 'Starter' and 'One For The Road'. The only other occasions I've heard the Mellotron used on a Focus album is on a couple of tracks on 'Ship Of Memories', most noticeably on 'Can't Believe My Eyes'.
I believe Thyjs Van Leer ditched using the 'Tron around about mid '75 for the much more portable and, it has to be said, reliable Solina as it's clearly a string synthesizer on 'Mother Focus'. Plus on various clips from the Philip Catherine era, a string synthesizer can clearly be seen balancing on top of one of Thyjs' other keyboards.
Sorry to labour a point, but it seemed worth highlighting this error as Thyjs really knew how to use a Mellotron in such a unique way in comparison to his '70's counterparts - ie. sparingly for maximum effect!
Keep up the good work on bringing the music of Focus to the attention of the world at large!
Kind Regards,