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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20081128

Track by track 77

Archive number: 77
Title: How Long
Main Album: Focus Con Proby
Track number: 9
Genre: Jazz Rock Vocal
Studio: EMI Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands
Length: 05' 16”
Composer: Roselie Van Leer, Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Philip Catherine - Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Synthesisers, 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
Notes: We begin with a fast paced synthesiser-led introduction (00:00-00:55). Proby then comes in with the lyric (00:56-02:49). The lyrics are

How long
Lasts a love
When does a smile begin?

How far
Is a dream
From remembering?

And how fast is a train of thought?
And I know how long a moment can last.

How high
Can you see in the sky?
And does it never end?

And I think that the world was meant to be
Much better than we've ever seen or hoped for
And I say that each time you can be
Kind or mild you'll know the joy to make it better
And I think we must, and why don't we start now?

How white
How clear and how bright
Is an angel's light?

And how fast is a train of thought
And I know how long a moment can last.

The backing is quite uniformly fast but occasionally begins to break down. There is then an instrumental break at 02:50-03:21 then Proby resumes (03:22-03:58) with the following:

And I think that the world was meant to be
Much better than we've ever seen or hoped for
And I say that each time you can be
Kind or mild you'll know the joy to make it better
And I think we must, and why don't we start now?

Hear, hear
The best of all
I think love never dies

The final upbeat section (03:59-05:16) is shared by the synthesiser and guitar.

Track by track 76

Archive number: 76
Title: Maximum
Main Album: Focus Con Proby
Track number: 8
Genre: Jazz Rock Instrumental
Studio: EMI Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands
Length: 08' 38”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer, Bert Ruiter
Musicians: Philip Catherine - Electric guitar; Thijs Van Leer – Electric Piano, Hammond organ, Synthesisers; Voice; 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 version: A longer slightly slower live version is found on Live at the BBC
Notes: The band begin together (00:00-00:17) with a laid back introduction soon supplemented by something more upbeat led by electric piano then guitar (00:18-00:29). The bass then takes us on with the band led sometimes by guitar, sometimes by electric piano (00:30-01:09). Two guitar-led crescendos that tail off (01:10-01:25) are followed by two successive choppy piano riffs (01:26-01:32 and 01:33-01:41). The second is then supplemented by a soaring guitar before reasserting itself (01:42-01:58). We then return to the beginning and a slower pace occasionally lifted by the guitar (01:59-02:43) and getting a little more jaunty at times with some guitar runs (02:44-03:25). A dreamy and meandering middle section (03:26-04:09) comes to an end with the drums announcing a very long and earnest guitar break (03:26-07:12). This eventually comes to an end and we settle back into the original groove to close (07:13-08:38). There is some wonderful playing throughout but it gets lost in the mix and somehow never really gels making it inferior to the live version.

20081124

Track by track 75

Archive number: 75
Title: Tokyo Rose
Main Album: Focus Con Proby
Track number: 7
Genre: Jazz Rock Vocal
Studio: EMI Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands
Length: 5' 05"
Composer: Roselie Van Leer, Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: P J Proby – Vocals; Eef Albers- Electric Guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Flute, Piano, 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: None
Notes: As with the previous track we begin with a classical introduction possibly stolen from Brahms. This time the flute joins the piano. (00:00-00:44). The band then kicks in at marching pace and Proby (sounding very like Presley at times) begins to half sing half speak the lyric. The vocal is then punctuated by the guitar-led instrumental as indicated.

Hahaha, hey you know something? World War II wasn't all that much fun,
'Specially if you didn't even have a gun. Well, you know you gotta go through
it if you wanna get to it, and I can tell you I did, but no thanks to a little
lady. She was, uh, she, she kept us up all hours of the night. Hell, half the
time we didn't have time to fight. But I don't think I would have to expound
much further 'cause everyone knows 'bout Tokyo Rose.
(Instrumental break at 01:32-02:31)

Hehaha, lemme tell you a little more. Scared? Christ, I was so damned scared I
could crawl under a snake's belly, with a top hat on, without even touching it.
That's how scared I was. Shit, who wants your ass blown off when you don't even
know if it's kosher. You know, kind of like when you went to school. Always
breakin' the rules, thinkin' nobody knows. Haha, but don't kid yourself, baby,
the lady in the classroom knows, and her name? You got it - Tokyo Rose.
Instrumental break at 03:20-04:18

Lord, have mercy. Ha, I feel like I'm teaching class. I gotta go through it all
over again, 'cause you haven't learned your lessons now. I don't want to give
you a bad report card, so I say, do you know that World War II wasn't fun. Have
you got that down, Jim? Right on, especially if you didn't have a gun. Well,
you know you gotta go through it if you wanna get to it. And I can tell you I
did, but no thanks to a little lady, yeah, she kept us up all hours of the
night. Hell, half the time, we never had time to fight. And, uh, yeah, there's
no sense of me expounding any further.
The end is again quite sudden.
Note on Tokyo Rose (from Wikipedia)
Tokyo Rose (or Tokio Rose) was a generic name given by Allied forces in the South Pacific during World War II to any of approximately a dozen English-speaking female broadcasters of Japanese propaganda. Their intent was to disrupt the morale of Allied forces listening to the broadcast near the Japanese mainland. The name is most strongly associated withIva Toguri D'Aquino, who broadcast under the pseudonym "Orphan Ann" during the 15-20 minute DJ segment of the 75-minute The Zero Hour programme on Radio Tokyo (NHK). Other women who, separately or together, may have warranted the title include American Ruth Hayakawa (who substituted for Iva on weekends) and Canadian June Suyama ("The Nightingale of Nanking"), who also broadcast on Radio Tokyo, and Myrtle Lipton ("Little Margie"), who broadcast from Japan-controlled Radio Manila.
Tokyo Rose has been the subject of two movies and four documentaries. Both in 1969 and 1976 CBS broadcast documentaires on the subject. 1969: The Story of "Tokyo Rose", CBS-TV and WGN radio documentary written and produced by Bill Kurtis. 1976: Tokyo Rose, CBS-TV documentary segment on 60 Minutes by Morley Safer, produced by Imrel Harvath.

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).

Track by track 73

Archive number: 73
Title: Sneezing Bull
Main Album: Focus Con Proby. Also a single in 1977 b/w Eddy.
Track number: 5
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: EMI Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands
Length: 04' 23”
Composer: Philip Catherine
Musicians: Philip Catherine - Acoustic guitars, Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – 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 - 1988
Alternative version: As found on Live at the BBC (also on Philip Catherine's solo album Guitars)
Notes: A previously recorded Philip Catherine number this track fits very well into the Focus style recalling House of the King. The building up of an atmosphere present on the original track (on the album Guitars) is not attempted on any Focus version. The acoustic guitars, drums and bass begin together (00:00-00:07) then the flute comes in (00:08-00:33, 00:39-01:05, 01:12-01:40 and 01:44-02:09). A shout from Van Leer is heard at 01:59 adding to the excitement and the live feel. After another brief bridge (02:10-02:14) reverbed electric guitars take up the lead for a more jazzy section (02:15-03:17). The flute then comes back to play first a bridge then the original theme but now against an electric guitar accompaniment (03:18-04:24). Another Van Leer shout is heard at 04:05. The piece ends quite suddenly.

Track by track 72

Archive number: 72
Title: Eddy
Main Album: Focus Con Proby. Also a single in 1977 b/w Sneezing Bull.
Track number: 4
Genre: Rock Vocal
Studio: EMI Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands
Length: 5' 49"
Composer: Eef Albers
Musicians: P J Proby - Vocals; Eef Albers - Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Hammond, Bass Synthesiser; Bert Ruiter – Bass; Steve Smith - Drums
Producer: Yde de Jong
Engineer: Jan Van Vrijaldenhoven/Mike Stavron
Label: EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1977 Released 1978 LP – 1978 CD – 1998
Alternative versions: Roselie Van Leer (Peters) sings an earlier version on Van Leer's solo O my love and Jo De Roeck sings on a later version on Focus 9
Notes: The band open with bass and drums and 'violined' guitar and organ (00:00-00:09) then Proby comes in pleasantly crooning the lyric as follows
Just like Eddy in the morning
He never said, although he could
I know someone who would, but
He never woke to have an ear

Yes I think of things unnoticed
Like what happens in the egg
As it lies without motion
Just like Eddie's sleeping head

When I come home in the morning
Softly as I tread the dawn
I know things that are important
That have only just begun

I'm gonna fly away
Here I go here I go here I go
I'm gonna fly away
Here I go here I go here I go

Seeing you across the table
Smiles are dying on your face
Being here with my heart open
Seems a little out of place

I'm gonna fly away
Here I go here I go here I go
I'm gonna fly away
Here I go here I go here I go (repeated twice)
All the way, the guitar plays some fine licks against the vocal, which finally becomes breathless, insistent then indistinct, dying with a scream at 4:33, when the band takes over. The vocal is lost a little in the mix.
Note on Eddy
Eddy Van Leer is Thijs Van Leer's father. He plays with Thijs on the track Hommage (Song for pa) on the Thijs Van Leer solo album Reflections. Van Leer senior, a competent classical flautist himself, bought his son a flute and gave him his first lessons when Thijs was around 11 or 12.

Track by track 71

Archive number: 71
Title: Nightflight
Main Album: Focus Con Proby
Track number: 3
Genre: Progressive Jazz Instrumental
Studio: EMI Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands
Length: 3' 35”
Composer: Eef Albers
Musicians: Eef Albers - Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Mellotron, Electric piano, Synthesisers; Bert Ruiter – Bass; Steve Smith - Drums
Producer: Yde de Jong
Engineer: Jan Van Vrijaldenhoven/Mike Stavron
Label: EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1977 Released 1978 LP – 1978 CD – 1998
Alternative versions: None
Notes: This lively but unremarkable and rather jazz track zips straight in led by guitar. The pace quickens and gets jazzier at 00:41. A distinctive hornlike synthesiser sound comes in at 02:44-02:55 followed by a brief guitar solo then a break down and fade.
Note on Nighflight (from Wikipedia)
Nightflight is also the name of a 1975 song with vocals by Led Zeppelin, a 1933 film starring Clark Gable and a 1931 novel by the aviator Antoine Saint-Exupéry.

20081115

Track by track 70

Archive number: 70
Title: Orion
Main Album: Focus Con Proby
Track number: 2
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: EMI Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands
Length: 3' 58”
Composer: Eef Albers
Musicians: Eef Albers - Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Electric piano; Bert Ruiter – Bass; Steve Smith - Drums
Producer: Yde de Jong
Engineer: Jan Van Vrijaldenhoven/Mike Stavron
Label: EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1977 Released 1978 LP – 1978 CD – 1998
Alternative versions: None
Notes: This atmospheric track fades in with a hypnotic treble guitar and drums. A heavy, distorted power chord is hit at around 00:17 then takes up the lead with the starting theme continuing in the background. A chord change at 01:19 moves things along without the original background music. Things slow and come to something of a halt at 02:03 before the hypnotic guitar and drums return and the sequence is more or less repeated a second time to the dreamy melting end.
Note on Orion (from Wikipedia)
Orion was a giant huntsman in Greek mythology who Zeus placed among the stars as the constellation of Orion. Ancient sources tell several different stories about him. There are two major versions of his birth and several of his death. The most important recorded episodes are his birth somewhere in Boetia, his visit to Chios where he met Merope and was blinded by her father, Oenopion, the recovery of his sight at Lemnos, his hunting with Artemis on Crete, his death by the blow of Artemis or of the giant scorpion which became Scorpio and his elevation to the heavens. Most ancient sources omit some episodes, several tell only one. These various incidents may originally have been independent, unrelated stories. It is impossible to tell whether omissions are simply for brevity or represent real disagreement.
In Greek literature he first appears as a great hunter in Homer's
Odyssey, where Odysseus sees his shade in the underworld. The bare bones of his story are told by Hellenistic and Roman collectors of myths but there is no extant mythological record of his adventures comparable to that of others.
Orion served several roles in ancient Greek culture. The story of his adventures as the hunter is the one we have most evidence on (though not very much). He was venerated as a hero, in the Greek sense, in the Boetia region. One aetiological passage suggests he was responsible for the present shape of the Straits of Sicily.

20081111

Track by track 69

Archive number: 69
Title: Wingless
Main Album: Focus Con Proby
Track number: 1
Genre: Rock Vocal
Studio: EMI Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands
Length: 5' 32”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer, Roselie Van Leer
Musicians: P J Proby – Vocals; Eef Albers - Electric guitars; Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Electric piano; Bert Ruiter – Bass; Steve Smith - Drums
Producer: Yde de Jong
Engineer: Jan Van Vrijaldenhoven/Mike Stavron
Label: EMI
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1977 Released 1978 LP – 1978 CD – 1998
Alternative versions: None
Notes: This vocal track is bookended by a short reverbed instrumental introduction (00:00-00:37) quite dreamy and a heavier, wilder and longer reverbed instrumental conclusion (03:08-05:32) that eventually fades. There is also a reverbed guitar-led instrumental break at 01:33-02:08 between the second and third verses. The words are as follows
I'm a bird but I am wingless
On a treetop way up high
Springtime's coming green and reckless
How I long and long to fly

But my love I get so restless
Thinking of you all the time
While my heart moves free I'm solid
Wish that I could move around

While my heart was fixed forever
Fixed in love without the fear
That one day I'll be without you
Is it true, and is it near?

Sunlight starlight love your laughter
And the love of gentle hearts
And beyond the face of the loved one
There you'll find the face of God
The words are sung well in a yearning rock ballad style but are slightly overwhelmed by the band until the final line, where everything slows and dies down before taking off again for the final section.
A note on P J Proby (from Wikipedia)
Born James Marcus Smith, November 6, 1938, Houston, Texas, this singer, songwriter and actor is noted for theatrical portrayals of Presley and Orbison and interpretations of old standards in the vein of Nat king Cole or Tony Bennett. His stage name was suggested by friend and songwriter Sharon Sheeley who remembered an old boyfriend with the name.
His father was VP of a big bank. He was educated at various military academies and later moved to California to be a movie actor. As Jett Powers he had minor roles and 2 singles on an independent label went unnoticed. In 1962 he began writing and recording demos for artists such as Elvis and Johnny Cash.
Sheeley took him to audition at Liberty Records. He soon created his fashion image of a pony-tail tied back with a ribbon, swashbuckling pirate shirts and buckled shoes. In addition, he wore skin-tight suits of velvet in different colours. London based from 1964 he began to have hits but a royalty dispute broke his run of UK successes.
His career was also affected by controversy. His trousers split during a concert. Women in the audience went wild. Somehow, they split again at the next venue. Critics, and the audience, were divided on whether it was a gimmick or eccentricism. During a 1967 concert they split again and he was dropped from the rest of the tour.
Back in the US he had a hit but poor managerial advice led to him briefly declaring himself bankrupt. He took some rest then but in September '68 recorded Three Week Hero. Released in '69 The Yardbirds (later Led Zeppelin) were his backing band.
In 1971 he had a successful West End run as Casio in a rock musical version of Othello (Catch My Soul). He continued to perform mostly in cabarets and nightclubs, singing 1960s ballads and rhythm 'n' blues material. In 1977, he portrayed Elvis in Elvis - The Musical, which received rave reviews and awards. It was following this that he recorded with Focus, the result chiefly of manager Yde de Jong being a fan.
He then returned to singing in clubs. By 1990 he was suffering from alcoholism, living in Bolton but did produce an album Thanks. He enjoyed minor success with covers of Anarchy in the UK and other unexpected material but was neglected by the media. Following his return to the public eye, in 1991, he suffered a heart attack, curtailing activities until 1993, when he appeared in a Jack Good biomusical Good Rockin' Tonite as himself. In 1995 he was in a Roy Orbison tribute show Only the Lonely. By 1996 he was again doing the Elvis musical. In 1997, he toured with The Who, performing as "The Godfather" in the road production of Quadrophenia. Now into his seventies, he continues to tour. In 2007 he was accused of benefit fraud, something he strongly denies.