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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20080626

Track by track 65

Archive number: 65
Title: House of the King (Live)
Main Album: Live at the BBC
Track number: 6
Genre: Live Progressive Rock Instrumental
Venue: New Victoria Theatre, 17 Wilton Road, London SW1V 1LL (now Apollo Victoria)
Length: 03' 10”
Composer: Jan Akkerman
Musicians: Philip Catherine - Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Flute, Hammond organ; Bert Ruiter – Bass; David Kemper – Drums
Producer: BBC
Engineer: BBC
Label: Hux Records
Date of recording/release: Recorded March 21 1976 but only released (on CD) June 1 2004
Alternative versions: Several other versions of this early Focus favourite exist
Date of recording/release: Recorded 19, released 1978 LP – 1978 CD - 19
Notes: This is a fairly brisk run through beginning with Catherine's strummed electric guitar (00:00-00:07) and continuing with the band in unison. The slow movement (01:18-01:56) features a pretty jazz oriented effort from Catherine. The band end on a triumphant note (02:47). This is followed by applause, sounds of tuning up for the next track and the obligatory 'thank you' (02:49-03:10).

Track by track 64

Archive number: 64
Title: Sonata for Flute (Live)
Main Album: Live at the BBC
Track number: 5
Genre: Live Classical Instrumental
Venue: New Victoria Theatre, 17 Wilton Road, London SW1V 1LL (now Apollo Victoria)
Length: 02' 45”
Composer: J S Bach (Arranged Van Leer)
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Flute
Producer: BBC
Engineer: BBC
Label: Hux Records
Date of recording/release: Recorded March 21 1976 but only released (on CD) June 1 2004
Alternative versions: A quite different fully orchestrated version can be found on Introspection 2 and a new age setting opens Bach for a New Age
Date of recording/release: Recorded March 21 1976 but only released (on CD) June 1 2004
Notes: This is a then rare solo effort from Van Leer on flute that now often features in the live act. Bach wrote a number of three movement sonatas for flute and keyboard. This appears to be the siciliano from J S Bach's Sonata for Flute or Recorder and Harpsichord in E flat Major (BWV 1030). Brief applause can be heard at the end.
A note on the Sonata form (from Wikipedia)
Sonata (from Latin/Italian sonare, to sound), in music, literally means a piece played not sung as a cantata (Latin/Italian cantare, to sing). The term, being vague, naturally evolved over time, designating a variety of forms prior to the Classical era. The term took on increasing importance in the Classical period, and by the early 19th Century came to represent a principle of composing large scale works. It was applied to most instrumental genres and regarded alongside fugue as one of two fundamental methods of organising, interpreting and analysing concert music. Though the sound of sonatas have changed since the Classical Era, 20th Century sonatas still maintain the same structure and build.
The Baroque period (when Bach flourished) applied the term to a variety of works, though most works then were fugues and toccatas, including works for solo instrument or groups of instruments. In the transition from Baroque to Classical, the term underwent a change in usage, from being applied to many different kinds of small instrumental work to being more specifically applied to chamber music genres with either a solo instrument, or a solo instrument with piano. Increasingly after 1800, the term applies to a form of large-scale musical argument, and it is generally used in this sense in musicology and musical analysis. Most of the time if some more specific usage is meant, then the particular body of work will be noted: eg Beethoven's sonatas refers to works specifically labelled sonata, whereas Beethoven and sonata form applies to all of his large-scale instrumental works, concert or chamber. In the 20th Century, sonatas in this sense would continue to be composed by influential and famous composers, though many works which do not meet the strict criterion of "sonata" in the formal sense would also be created and performed.
In the Baroque period, a sonata was for one or more instruments almost always with continuo. Later, most works designated as sonatas specifically are performed by a solo instrument, most often a keyboard, or by a solo instrument with a keyboard. In the late Baroque/early Classical period, a work with instrument and keyboard was referred to as having an obbligato part, in order to distinguish this from use of an instrument as a continuo, though this fell out of usage by the early 1800s. Beginning in the early 19th Century, works were termed sonata if, according to the understanding of that time, they were part of the genre, even if they were not designated sonata when originally published, or by the composer.
By the time of Corelli, two polyphonic types of sonata were established: sonata da chiesa(church sonata) and sonata de camera ("ordinary" sonata, literally chamber sonata). The sonata da chiesa, generally for one or more violins and bass, consisted normally of a slow introduction, a loosely fugued allegro and a cantabile slow movement, and a lively finale in somebinary form suggesting affinity with the dance-tunes of the suite. This scheme, however, was not very clearly defined, until Bach and Handel, when it became the essential sonata and persisted as a tradition of Italian violin music – even into the early 19th Century, in the works of Boccherini.
The sonata da camera had consisted almost entirely of idealised dance-tunes, but by the time of Bach and Handel such a composition drew apart from the sonata, and came to be called a suite, a partita
, an ordre, or, when it had a prelude in the form of a French opera-overture, an overture. On the other hand, the features of sonata da chiesa and sonata da camera then tended to be freely intermixed. Bach, however, while not using the titles themselves, nevertheless keeps the two types so distinct that they can be recognized by style and form. Thus, in his 6 violin sonatas, Nos 1, 3, and 5 are recognisably sonate de chiesa; and Nos 2, 4, and 6 are explicitly called partitas, but are admissible among the sonatas as being sonate da camera. Bach is also cited as being among the first composers to have the keyboard and solo instrument share a melodic line, whereas previously most sonatas for keyboard and instrument had kept the melody exclusively in the solo instrument.
The genre – particularly for solo instruments with just the continuo or ripieno – eventually influenced the solo movements of suites or concerti that occurred between movements with the full orchestra playing, eg Bach's Brandenburg concertos. The trio sonatas of Vivaldi, too, show parallels with the concertos he was writing at the same time.

20080621

Track by track 63

Archive number: 63
Title: Sneezing Bull
Main Album: Live at the BBC
Track number: 4
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Venue: New Victoria Theatre, 17 Wilton Road, London SW1V 1LL (now Apollo Victoria)
Length: 07' 45”
Composer: Philip Catherine
Musicians: Philip Catherine - Electric guitars (Taped acoustic guitars accompanied by soprano saxophone); Thijs Van Leer – Flute; Bert Ruiter – Bass, cabasa; David Kemper – Cabasa, Cymbals, Gong
Producer: BBC
Engineer: BBC
Label: Hux Records
Date of recording/release: Recorded March 21 1976 but only released (on CD) June 1 2004
Alternative versions: Catherine's version on Guitars and the later studio recording found on Focus Con Proby. Another short live recording appears on some collections.
Date of recording/release: Recorded 19, released 1978 LP – 1978 CD - 19
Notes: Though a previously recorded Philip Catherine number this track fits well into the Focus style and obviously recalls House of the King. This version retains the building up of an atmosphere present on the original Catherine track (on Guitars) but later abandoned. Ostensibly live, Catherine make use of a backing tape featuring acoustic guitars and soprano sax which he and Ruiter play over in the first part (00:00-02:07) where the atmosphere is built up. We then swing into a jazzy main section (02:08-05:33) where Catherine strums (still accompanied by his taped acoustic guitar), Kemper and Ruiter accompanying on cabasas and Van Leer plays his distinctive flute in varying styles. Besides the main riff there are various bridges in and out, some quite jazzy and others quite plaintive or wild, in what is a quite joyous piece. Kemper crashes his cymbals from time to time. Then for a longish stretch it is just the guitars and percussion (05:34-06:15) but the flute comes back in as the riff continues to come in and lead out (06:16-07:15). At last a final gong is struck accompanied by wild flute sounds (07:16-07:20). Finally (07:21-07:45) we have the audience appreciation and yet another grateful 'thank you' from Van Leer.

20080617

Track by track 62

Archive number: 62
Title: Maximum (Live)
Main Album: Live at the BBC
Track number: 3
Genre: Live Funk Instrumental
Venue: New Victoria Theatre, 17 Wilton Road, London SW1V 1LL (now Apollo Victoria)
Length: 13' 58”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Philip Catherine - Electric guitar; Thijs Van Leer – Electric Piano, Mellotron, Hammond organ; Voice; Bert Ruiter – Bass; David Kemper - Drums
Producer: BBC
Engineer: BBC
Label: Hux Records
Date of recording/release: Recorded March 21 1976 but only released (on CD) June 1 2004
Alternative version: A shorter version can be found on Focus Con Proby
Notes: This is a number said to date back to Akkerman days. (Some claim to be able to hear its strains on a much later Akkerman solo album). The band begin together (00:00-00:24) with an introductory groove that is followed by a drum-announced electric piano-led burst (00:25-00:29) and a slower groove (00:30-00:52). Another funkier riff (00:53-01:08) then precedes a similarly slow keyboard-led section (01:09-01:37) ended by the guitar. The guitar then leads us into more funky stuff (01:38-02:10) before the main funky riff breaks in again (02:11-02:17) and another slower meandering section follows (02:18-03:26). Here the mellotron is more prominent. The guitar and keyboard lead off on familiar lines (03:27-03:36) but is then more distinctive and percussive (03:37-03:57). At 03:58 a brand new Bach-influenced keyboard section enters. This is punctuated first by a screaming guitar (at 04:09ff) then Van Leer's screaming voice (04:31ff). At 04:45 we break down with first the more staccato-style guitar then (04:56) the Bach-influenced keyboards. At 05:07 the screaming guitar is backed by distinctive drumming and we move on via screams from the guitar (05:10-05:18) and Van Leer (05:30-05:40) to yet another breakdown (at 05:44). The rises, falls and breaks continue until 07:40-08:27 where there is a decided slowing of pace that eventually picks up in a different vein, led by the guitar (08:28-12:09). Catherine uses pedal effects here and plays some beautiful lines now backed by Van Leer's organ as well as other keyboards. We finally break back into the funky groove again at the end, which alternates with the established tune to the end (12:10-13:49). Applause follows and Van Leer can again be heard – this time saying 'thank you very much' (13:50-13:58)

20080613

Track by track 61

Archive number: 61
Title: Blues in D (Live)
Main Album: Live at the BBC
Track number: 2
Genre: Live Jazz Rock Instrumental
Venue: New Victoria Theatre, 17 Wilton Road, London SW1V 1LL (now Apollo Victoria)
Length: 3' 46”
Composer: Bert Ruiter
Musicians: Philip Catherine - Electric guitar; Thijs Van Leer – Mellotron, Electric Piano; Bert Ruiter – Bass; David Kemper - Drums
Producer: BBC
Engineer: BBC
Label: Hux Records
Date of recording/release: Recorded March 21 1976 but only released (on CD) June 1 2004
Notes: We begin with the drums and straight away the band is into a keyboard led (electric piano over mellotron) groove as strummed guitar, bass and drums accompany (00:00-00:51). A guitar chord then breaks in and proceedings hang a little as the riff is repeated until the original groove is re-established (00:52-01:30). A crisp guitar next takes up the lead role in a similar jazzy exploratory style (01:31-03:00) the rhythm never failing all the while. At the three minute mark the electric piano briefly comes back in (03:01-03:11) but the guitar is soon back and leads the descent into the close of the piece (03:12-03:35). Applause follows and Van Leer can be heard saying 'thank you' (00:36-03:46).
A note on the Blues (from Wikipedia)
Blues is a vocal and instrumental form of music based on the use of the blue notes. It emerged in African-American communities of the USA from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The use of blue notes and the prominence ofcall and repsonse patterns in the music and lyrics are indicative of African influence. The blues influenced later American and Westernpopular music, as it became the roots of jazz, R& B, rock, etc, etc.
The phrase "the blues" is a reference to the the blue devils, meaning 'down' spirits, depression and sadness. An early reference to "the blues" can be found in George Colman's farce Blue devils, a farce in one act (1798). Later during the 19th Century, the phrase was used as a euphemism delirium tremens and the police and was not uncommon in letters from homesick Civil War soldiers.
Though the use of the phrase in African-American music may be older, it has been attested to since 1912, when Hart Wand's
Dallas Blues became the first copyrighted Blues composition. In lyrics the phrase is often used to describe a depressed mood.
There are few characteristics common to all blues, because the genre takes its shape from the idiosyncrasies of individual performances. However, there are some characteristics that were present long before the creation of the modern blues.
An early form of blues-like music were call-and-response shouts, which were a "functional expression ... style without accompaniment or harmony and unbounded by the formality of any particular musical structure."
A form of this pre-blues was heard in slave field shouts and hollers, expanded into "simple solo songs laden with emotional content". The blues, as it is now known, can be seen as a musical style based on both European harmonic structure and the African call-and-response tradition, transformed into an interplay of voice and guitar.
Many blues elements, such as the call-and-response format and the use of blue notes, can be traced back to the music of Africa. The Diddley bow, a homemade one-stringed instrument found in parts of the American South in the early 20th Century and the banjo are African-derived instruments that may have helped in the transfer of African performance techniques into the early blues instrumental vocabulary.
During the first decades of the 20th Century blues music was not clearly defined in terms of a chord progression. There were many blues in 8-bar form, such as "How Long Blues", "Trouble in Mind", and Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway." Idiosyncratic numbers of bars are also encountered occasionally, as with the 9 bar progression inHowlin Wolf's's "Sitting on top of the world". The basic 12-bar lyric framework of a blues composition is reflected by a standard harmoic progression of 12 bars, in 4/4 or (rarely) 2/4 time. Slow blues are often played in 12/8 (4 beats per measure with 3 subdivisions per beat). By the 1930s, 12-bar blues became the standard. There would also be 16 bar blues, as in Ray Charles's instrumental "Sweet 16 Bars", and in Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man".

20080610

Track by track 60

Archive number: 60
Title: Virtuous Woman (Live)
Main Album: Live at the BBC
Track number: 1
Genre: Live Progressive Rock Instrumental
Venue: New Victoria Theatre, 17 Wilton Road, London SW1V 1LL (now Apollo Victoria)
Length: 10' 57”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Philip Catherine - Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Electric Piano, Synthesiser, Voice; Bert Ruiter – Bass; David Kemper - Drums
Producer: BBC
Engineer: BBC
Label: Hux Records
Date of recording/release: Recorded March 21 1976 but only released (on CD) June 1 2004
Notes: The applause dies down (00:00-00:13) and we hear Van Leer intoning something like an ancient monk, backed chiefly by organ and some percussive sounds (from the guitarists?). He then becomes more operatic (00:09-02:02). After a further brief section dominated by bass (02:03-02:08) Catherine's guitar takes up the lead in jazz style, the organ and bass playing but still nothing from Kemper (02;09-03:15). His cymbals come in near the start of another atmospheric section that follows, featuring also the voice, electric piano and bass (03:16-03:30) then guitar too (03:31-04:06). This becomes more melodic in time (04:07-04:42), the guitar eventually sounding more clearly in a fairly long exploratory and meandering passage (04:43-07:05). An abrupt change announced by drums comes next with the electric piano and guitar leading at first (07:06-07:29) but being superseded by a jazzy scat section from Van Leer (07:30-08:12). The previous groove then reasserts itself (08:13-08:40) before another abrupt increase of pace and a further more aggressive passage on guitar (08:41-09:56). Yet another final change of pace sees a reversion to something more sedate (09:57-10:44) and it is in this mood that the piece is played out except for three final fast and loud jazz chords in unison (10:45-10:47). The crowd show their appreciation (10:48-10:57).

Albums Graph

The Best Focus Track

This is debatable. Surely Sylvia, Hocus Pocus and House of the King must be in the top three. Anonymous 2, Eruption and Hamburger Concerto must be discounted as they are suites rather than individual tracks. How about

1. Sylvia
2. Hocus Pocus
3. House of the King
4. Focus 2
5. Tommy
6. Birth
7. Focus 1
8. Focus 3
9. All together ... Oh that!
10. No hang ups
11. Anonymus
12. Focus 4

20080607

The Best Focus Album

There are around 13 Focus albums all told (if we include the three live albums - there is a fourth [Live in South America] not widely available).
In chronological order:
1. In and out
2. Moving Waves
3. Three
4. At the Rainbow (Live)
5. Hamburger Concerto
6. Mother Focus
7. Ship of Memories
8. Live at the BBC (Live)
9. Con Proby
10. Focus (1985)
11. Live in America (Live)
12. Eight
13. New skin
Putting these in order of merit is not easy in some respects. Undoubtedly 2, 3 and 5 should be in the top three - but in what order. We all agree that Con Proby must come last. Here are two personal lists, the first only including studio albums, the second the live ones too.
1. Three
2. Hamburger
3. Waves
4. Ship
5. In & out
6. 1985
7. Mother
8. New Skin
9. Eight
10. Proby
1. Three
2. Hamburger
3. Waves
4. Rainbow
5. Ship
6. In & out
7. 1985
8. Mother
9. New Skin
10. BBC
11. Eight
12. America
13. Proby

Track by track 59

Archive number: 59
Title: Father Bach
Main Album: Mother Focus
Track number: 12
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Decca Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California (later Studio 55)
Length: 1' 32”
Composer: J S Bach arranged Van Leer
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ; Bert Ruiter – Bass
Producer: Hubert Terheggen/Focus
Engineer: Eric Prestidge
Label: LP – Polydor, Atco, Philips, EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1975, released October 1975. LP – 1975, 1977, CD – 1988
Notes: The title is a nice joke here as it not only balances Mother Focus but also acknowledges the debt to the master. Van Leer's organ, Akkerman's mostly 'violined' guitar and Ruiter's bass run through a short piece from the opening chorale of J S Bach's St Matthew Passion of 1729 (BWV 244). VAn Leer turns to the piece more than once on his Introspection albums.
A note on the St Matthew passion by J S Bach (from Wikipedia)
J S Bach (185-1750) was a German composer and organist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity. Although he introduced no new forms, he enriched the prevailing German style with a robust contrapuntal technique, an unrivalled control of harmonic and motivic organisation in composition for diverse musical forces, and the adaptation of rhythms and textures from abroad, particularly Italy and France. Revered for their intellectual depth and technical and artistic beauty, Bach's works are many. While his fame as an organist was great during his lifetime, he was not particularly well-known as a composer. His adherence to Baroque forms and contrapuntal style was considered "old-fashioned" by his contemporaries, especially late in his career when the musical fashion tended towards Rococco and later Classical styles. A revival of interest and performances of his music began early in the 19th Century, and he is now widely considered to be one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition.
The St. Matthew Passion (Matthäuspassion) (also, Matthæus Passion), BWV 244, is a musical composition written by Bach for solo voices, double choir and double orchestra, with a libretto by Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici). It sets chapters 26 and 27 of Matthew's Gospel to music, with interspersedchorales and arias.
Written in 1727. Only two of the four (or five) settings which Bach wrote have survived; the other is the St John. The St Matthew was probably first performed on Good Friday (April 11) 1727 in the Thomas Kirche in Leipzig, where Bach was Kapellmeister. He later revised it, performing it again on March 30, 1736, this time including two organs in the instrumentation. The St Matthew was not heard outside of Leipzig until 1829, when Felix Mendelssohn performed an abbreviated and modified version in Berlin to great acclaim. Mendelssohn's revival of the St Matthew brought Bach's music, particularly the large-scale works, to a public and scholarly attention that has persisted into the present era.

Track by track 58

Archive number: 58
Title: My Sweetheart
Main Album: Mother Focus
Track number: 11
Genre: Funky Pop Instrumental
Studio: Decca Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California (later Studio 55)
Length: 3' 28”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer, Jan Akkerman
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric sitars; Thijs Van Leer – Piano, Mellotron, Flute; Bert Ruiter – Bass; David Kemper – Drums, Congas
Producer: Hubert Terheggen/Focus
Engineer: Eric Prestidge
Label: LP – Polydor, Atco, Philips, EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1975, released October 1975. LP – 1975, 1977, CD - 1988
Alternative version: Van Leer repeated this track on his solo album Nice to have met you.
Notes: This bass driven piece of disco-influenced pop music begins with the whole band grooving (00:00-00:15) before the electric sitar strikes out a melody (00:16-02:04). It is the sitar that carries the load for most of the time though the flute (possibly synthesised at first) can also be heard in the background (01:17-01:33). A flute-led bridge then takes us on (02:05-02:16) until the sitar leads again (02:17-02:30). The flute is heard again (02:31-02:43) and things break down (02:44-02:49) until a bass-led break (02:50-03:07) some more flute (03:08-03:20) and a fade (03:21-03:28).

Track by track 57

Archive number: 57
Title: All Together ... Oh That!Main Album: Mother Focus
Track number: 9
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Decca Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California (later Studio 55)
Length: 3' 36”
Composer: Jan Akkerman
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Acoustic guitars, Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Piano; Bert Ruiter – Bass; David Kemper - Drums
Producer: Hubert Terheggen/Focus
Engineer: Eric Prestidge
Label: LP – Polydor, Atco, Philips, EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1975, released October 1975. LP – 1975, 1977, CD - 1988
Notes: As with Ruiter's pair of 'Vanilla' tracks so with these Akkerman tracks we again have a matching title and a livelier second piece. This one is possibly the most commercially accessible track in the whole Focus catalogue. Rather countrified, it begins with double-tracked acoustic guitars (00:00-00:18) supplemented by drums, bass and wandering piano (00:19-01:02) before a very bright and playful electric guitar takes things up at 01:03. The piece then plays out with electric guitar beautifully leading the other guitars and the rest of the band breaking down a little from time to time but then rising again (01:03-03:10) until the piano becomes more insistent and we reach a final fade (03:11-03:36).

Track by track 56

Archive number: 56
Title: Someone's Crying ... What!
Main Album: Mother Focus
Track number: 8
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Decca Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California (later Studio 55)
Length: 3' 16”
Composer: Jan Akkerman
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Acoustic Guitars, Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Mellotron, Flute; Bert Ruiter – Bass
Producer: Hubert Terheggen/Focus
Engineer: Eric Prestidge
Label: LP – Polydor, Atco, Philips, EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1975, released October 1975. LP – 1975, 1977, CD - 1988
Notes: This slow and highly atmospheric piece has a simple structure with alternating main sections. First two highly reverbed guitars (one plucked, one mostly 'violined') play over the bass (00:00-00:27). A string mellotron then backs the guitars (00:28-00:52) until an alto flute-led section succeeds (00:53-01:33). After the breakdown and a caesura at 01:32-34 the pattern from 00:28 is more or less repeated (01:34-02:00 and 02:01-02:41) including the caesura (02:39-02:41). A final guitar-led section (02:42-03:06) concludes with extended notes on flute and 'violined' guitar (03:07-03:16).

20080605

Track by track 55

Archive number: 55
Title: Focus IV
Main Album: Mother Focus
Track number: 7
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Decca Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California (later Studio 55)
Length: 3' 54”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Piano, Mellotron, Synthesiser; Bert Ruiter – Bass; David Kemper - Drums
Producer: Hubert Terheggen/Focus
Engineer: Eric Prestidge
Label: LP – Polydor, Atco, Philips, EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1975, released October 1975. LP – 1975, 1977, CD - 1988
Alternative version: A variation on the track was later recorded by Akkerman as Soft Focus (on Blues Hearts).
Notes: Perhaps the most quintessentially Focus track on the Mother Focus album this fifth use of the Focus title (the previous attempt was not issued until 1977 and so is called Focus V) showcases both Akkerman and Van Leer. Van Leer begins with a somewhat lengthy introduction first on classically oriented piano and flute (00:00-00:21) then on piano accompanied by bass (00:22-00:46). Akkerman comes in next with a rich lead guitar backed by drums, bass and piano, which comes to something of a climax (00:47-01:37) before the guitar leads again (01:38-01:55). A bird-like piano and flute section breaks in next then flies with a mellotron backing but reverting to piano at the break down (01:56-02:28). Next it is the turn of Akkerman's guitar to lead again but with plenty of piano backing (02:29-02:52). A rather egregious and harsh synthesiser break twice cuts in then (02:53-02:57/03:06-03:21) separated by the aspiring piano-backed flute (02:58-03:05) – conflict and resolution is a big theme in Van Leer's writing. The final guitar-led section brings us nearly to the end (03:22-00:3:31). The final notes feature an again classically styled piano, this time alone (03:32-03:54).

Track by track 54

Archive number: 54
Title: Tropic Bird
Main Album: Mother Focus
Track number: 6
Genre: Laid back Jazz Instrumental
Studio: Decca Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California (later Studio 55)
Length: 2' 38”
Composer: Bert Ruiter
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Electric piano, Flute, Mellotron; Bert Ruiter – Bass; David Kemper - Drums
Producer: Hubert Terheggen/Focus
Engineer: Eric Prestidge
Label: LP – Polydor, Atco, Philips, EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1975, released October 1975. LP – 1975, 1977, CD - 1988
Notes: This extremely laid back mood piece features Van Leer's keyboards and flute backed by brushed drums and bass. Akkerman appears to be absent.

Track by track 53

Archive number: 53
Title: Hard Vanilla
Main Album: Mother Focus
Track number: 5
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Decca Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California (later Studio 55)
Length: 2' 36”
Composer: Bert Ruiter
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Acoustic guitars, Electric guitars with talkbox; Thijs Van Leer – Electric piano?; Bert Ruiter – Bass; David Kemper - Drums
Producer: Hubert Terheggen/Focus
Engineer: Eric Prestidge
Label: LP – Polydor, Atco, Philips, EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1975, released October 1975. LP – 1975, 1977, CD - 1988
Notes: This harder edged counterpart to the previous track has the band dominated by guitars – acoustic guitars and especially the talkbox. The main theme is repeated several times until we reach a coda that winds down before going a little wild then fading (02:10-02:31).

20080604

Track by track 52

Archive number: 52
Title: Soft Vanilla
Main Album: Mother Focus
Track number: 4
Genre: Light Jazz Instrumental
Studio: Decca Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California (later Studio 55)
Length: 3' 01”
Composer: Bert Ruiter
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Electric piano, Synthesiser, Mellotron; Bert Ruiter – Bass; David Kemper - Drums
Producer: Hubert Terheggen/Focus
Engineer: Eric Prestidge
Label: LP – Polydor, Atco, Philips, EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1975, released October 1975. LP – 1975, 1977, CD - 1988
Notes: This gentle song begins with Van Leer's synthesiser (00:00-00:25) but is succeeded by his flute (00:26-01:30). Gentle chopped guitar joins the rhythm section as backing. A harder edged keyboard section comes in (01:31-01:55) to be succeeded by the flute again and then coming to a halt (01:56-03:01). Like the name it is all very light and sweet.

20080603

Track by track 51

Archive number: 51
Title: Bennie Helder
Main Album: Mother Focus
Track number: 3
Genre: Jazz Fusion Instrumental
Studio: Decca Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California (later Studio 55)
Length: 3' 27”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitars, Acoustic guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Electric Piano, Mellotron, Piano, Synthesiser, Voice, Flute; Bert Ruiter – Bass; Dave Kemper - Drums
Producer: Hubert Terheggen/Focus
Engineer: Eric Prestidge
Label: LP – Polydor, Atco, Philips, EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1975, released October 1975. LP – 1975, 1977, CD - 1988
Notes: Van Leer opens this slightly directionless piece with keyboards and voice (00:00-00:07). The band then come in with some pleasant stuff (00:08-00:58) well mixed keyboards and guitar with an effect leading. Things slow then something similar follows (00:58-01:44) until another break down (01:45-01:43) where we hear a five note interjection featuring voice and keyboards (01:44-01:47) before the flute comes in to lead supported too by acoustic guitar (01:48-02:09). Then comes a series of seven definite unison chords (02:10-02:17) and a return to the main theme (02:18-02:50). Finally we have a few more chords (02:51-02:59) a ritartando (03:00-03:10) and a final bass dominated coda that includes flute and begins to set off in another (perhaps more interesting) direction as it fades (03:11-03:27).

Track by track 50

Archive number: 50
Title: Mother Focus
Main Album: Mother Focus
Track number: 1
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Decca Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California (later Studio 55)
Length: 3' 03”
Composer: Jan Akkerman, Thijs Van Leer, Bert Ruiter
Musicians: Jan Akkerman – Acoustic guitars, Electric guitars with talkbox; Thijs Van Leer – Piano, Hammond organ, Electric piano; Bert Ruiter – Bass; David Kemper – Drums, Congas
Producer: Hubert Terheggen/Focus
Engineer: Eric Prestidge
Label: LP – Polydor, Atco, Philips, EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1975, released October 1975. LP – 1975, 1977, CD - 1988
Alternative version: This is a remake of the track originally recorded as Glider, then abandoned but finally preserved on Ship of Memories
Notes: The track begins with acoustic guitar (00:00-00:04) then piano (00:00-00:07) and a high hat (00:08) then bass (00:11) and soon the whole band is playing together with Akkerman working the talk box upfront. At 00:33 Van Leer adds classical piano chords and an operatic scat vocal. This all comes to a climax at 01:03. It is followed by a riff from Akkerman while Van leer switches to the organ (01:04-01:36). This eventually winds down before getting back to the original rhythm (01:37-02:09) when it is time for the operatic vocal to come in again (02:10-02:39). This again until drums and voice predominate backed by the band and building to a final climax (03:40-03:57) and the briefest talk box coda (03:58-03:03).
A note on the talk box (from Wikipedia)
A talk box is an effects device allowing a musician to modify the sound of his instrument by changing the shape of his mouth. The effect can be used to shape the frequency content of the sound and apply speech sounds (in the same way as singing) onto a musical instrument, typically a guitar or keyboard. An effects pedal is usually used. This contains a speaker attached with an air tight connection to a plastic tube, however, it can come in other forms. The speaker is generally in the form of a horn driver, the sound generating part of a horn speaker with the horn replaced by the tube connection. The box has connectors for the connection to the speaker output of an amplifier and a connection to a normal instrument speaker. A foot-operated on/off switch on the box directs the sound either to the talkbox speaker or the normal speaker. The other end of the tube is taped to the side of a microphone, extending enough to direct the reproduced sound in or near the performer's mouth.
When activated, the sound from the amplifier is reproduced by the speaker in the talkbox and directed through the tube into the performer's mouth. The shape of the mouth filters the sound, with the modified sound being picked up by the microphone. The shape of the mouth changes the harmonic content of the sound in the same way it affects the harmonic content generated by the vocal folds when speaking.
The performer can vary the shape of the mouth and tongue position, changing the sound of the instrument being reproduced by the talkbox speaker. The performer can mouth words, with the resulting effect sounding as though the instrument is speaking. This "shaped" sound exits the performer's mouth, and when it enters a microphone, an instrument/voice hybrid is heard. The sound can be that of any musical instrument, but the effect is mostly commonly associated with the guitar. The rich harmonics of an electric guitar are shaped by the mouth producing a sound very similar to voice, effectively allowing the guitar to appear to "speak".
Pete Drake, a Nashville mainstay on the pedal steel guitar, first used a talk box in 1964. There is controversy over who invented the commercial device. Bob Heil has claimed he invented it but there is clearly a prior example in the form of the Kustom Electronics device, "The Bag", which is the same concept housed in a decorative bag slung over the shoulder like a wine bottle. This appeared in 1969, two years before Heil's Talk Box. The Bag is said to have been designed by Doug Forbes, who states that the exact same concept (horn driver attached to a plastic tube and inserted into the mouth) had previously been patented as an artificial larynx. In 1973, Heil gave his talk box to Peter Frampton as a Christmas present. Frampton first heard it when Stevie Wonder used it. Then when he was playing guitar for George Harrison, he saw Pete Drake use it with a pedal steel guitar. He used it extensively on his album Frampton Comes Alive! Due to the success of the album, Frampton became somewhat synonymous with the device. Other early adopters of the talk box were Jeff Beck and Joe Walsh of the Eagles (in 1973). Akkerman was probably first aware of Joe Walsh though he played with Bogart and Appice who played with Beck.