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.




On first listening to Moving Waves

The first Focus album I ever heard was their second. Moving Waves, as it was called in the UK, appeared towards the end of 1971. It was initially on the Blue Horizon label (the label my first copy bore). I must have first listened to it in 1973, the year I turned 14. I had heard the single version of Hocus Pocus on TV but the rest of the album was unknown to me. Before buying it I borrowed a copy from my friend Gwilym Evans, already a fan. The cover looked good for the time with a nice purple colour and a small picture of the group on the front and a mainly red, black and yellow set up on the back. There were quite a few words on the back but not much information.
I guess I started with Hocus Pocus knowing I liked that already. At 6' 42" the album version is quite a bit longer than the single version and it was amazing to have it there pumping into the room, this really wild rock music and yet with these weird, sometimes quite primitive, bits and that crazy yodelling. Then after the blistering opening track it goes quiet and you get a Rodrigo style classical guitar and what sounds like an orchestra and I know we have gone really classical. Nice though. The third track is Janis and we're off somewhere else this time - somewhere very eastern. I like it but it's difficult to compare it with anything. The track after that is Moving Waves and now I really don't know which way is which. This weird piano and vocal piece sounds like something in a Dutch eisteddfod or something. The last track on the first side of the vinyl album is Focus 2. It is at this point that I am hooked. This is jazz - the sort of thing Michael Parkinson would come on stage to - and yet it's a rock band playing. What have I got here?
So I flip the thing over and now I'm anxious. Here is a piece that takes up the whole of one side. It is broken up into sections according to the cover but you can see by looking that there are no gaps between tracks. This is 23 solid minutes of music! So we listen and it is mostly jazz again, although at one point the guitarist does go quite wild (the Bridge, etc) and I like the ethereal voices that remind you of something from Holst. Eruption really did take several listens to get into and I would often get lost in one passage or another. I knew instinctively that this was good stuff though and worth persevering with. As soon as I had the money I trundled off to the shops (can't remember if it was the local independent retailer Sounds or the chain store Boots) and bought my own copy.

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