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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20090224

Akkerman: the humorous element

Most British audiences sat listening to Focus very soberly and the humour was perhaps overlooked. My tendency was certainly to be a little over earnest in my devotion. For example, I always listened to Focus 2 (Moving Waves) with a certain awe, oblivious to any echo of the 007 theme. On hearing the version on Akkerman's live album 10,000 Clowns (1997), where he slips in a brief quotation of the Bond theme I burst out laughing. A similar musical joke appears on Live at Alexander’s (1999) on Pietons. This time we briefly hear the Flintstones theme (to the momentary alarm of the other musicians, as I recall).
Hocus Pocus was not Akkerman's first foray into novelty. In 1969 The Hunters were number one in Holland with a cold war inspired vocal number The Russian spy and I, featuring hot guitar work, in balalaika style, from Akkerman, then an up and coming 18 year old. Some may say ‘Niet’ but I would argue that it bears hearing today both as artifact of social and political history and attractive guitar virtuoso pop.
We have written of Van Leer's humour but with Akkerman the humorous element is, if anything, more pronounced. In 1981 he made a solo album that is pure fun throughout. Apparently Oil in the Family was produced, perhaps uniquely, in just 48 hours in response to a Dutch radio producer’s challenge. Jan came up with what can best be described as a Middle Eastern disco record (one track is Disc-o-asis!) that is pure jest throughout. You may feel the joke is wearing thin by now but it still stands up as a good fun album.
There are plenty of other fun tracks too. It is difficult to listen without smiling to Green Onions (Guitar for Sale), Kemp’s jig and Minstrel/farmer’s dance (Profile), Crackers (available in several versions) or Quiet Storm (Art of Noise). There is even a track simply called Having Fun (also on Art of Noise). Until Flower Shower the Mother Focus track, I need the bathroom, (featuring a rare vocal from Akkerman himself?), was the wackiest item ever released by Focus.
Clearly in the making of most of Akkerman’s albums there has been plenty of laughter. Can’t stand noise originally had a closing track (Who knows) that ended rather abruptly. The story goes that the beautiful summer weather of 1983 prompted an attempt at outdoor recording. No sooner was everything set up for Akkerman to perform than a thunderclap announced a pending storm and everyone rushed back inside. The track Status Quo (From the Basement) ends with Dino Walcott breaking into fits of uncontrollable laughter. Jan explain in part"We were all standing together in the control room, while Dino was standing in the studio with his mouth organ. We were laughing our heads off, while the drum machine kept on going, and then Dino also started to laugh."
Akkerman loves punning (as in his trade mark ‘Thank you very Dutch’) and humour of a more unusual sort. His sense of fun comes out in several ways on albums. Even on a pretty serious album like Live at the Priory there are amusing remarks between songs (eg in response to the plea for more, ‘People. I’m dying for a fag!’). Occasionally there has been jocund art work. The album cover where Jan shares his bed with an amorous guitar comes to mind as does the carefully conceived Noise of art jacket. I also like the two perspiring plastic pieces on the Transparental album with Kaz Luz and the In and out of Focus gatefold sleeve where the word Focus literally goes in and out of focus.
Word play often features. On Puccini’s CafĂ©, produced after a serious road accident, we find for the first time song writing credits to M Muleta. Who is Mr Muleta? Ask Jan and he will tell you it is his old lady or that it is the Spanish for a bull fighter’s cloak. Try saying ‘em-mue-later’ however and you might see the joke. It is a little like A. Rab credited on some Oil in the Family tracks. It’s Jan again this time acknowledging an unknown Middle Eastern writer from whom he borrowed.
Some track and album titles are puns or jokes. The come back album Art of noise is a neat inversion. It includes the whimsical track title, You can’t keep a bad man up. Among bonus tracks released on three albums in 1998 we note, When I was a cocktail in a waitress bar, 39 seconds (that’s enough for that pilgrim), Akkermani and A town near Odessa (inspired by a town called Akkerman!). Think too of Ab-so-rocking-lutely, D.Jan.go and Knight of the lute on Passion.
Akkerman loves to rework tracks. This gives opportunity for droll punning. Heavy pleasure, Heavy treasure; Primadonna, Pre Madonna; Streetwalker, Weedstalker; Milestones, Akkerstones; not to mention Sylvia’s grandmother and Soft Focus or Birth and Early birth.
Again like elements pinpointed in other articles, humour is an important element in Akkerman’s music and a further part of what makes his body of work the phenomenon it is.

Van Leer: the humorous element

One thing that attracted me to Focus’s music as a teenager in the 1970s was its seriousness. Raised on pop music I was tiring of its superficial predictability. Then along came Focus with something quite different. The irony is that if the novelty piece Hocus Pocus had not become an international hit, I may never have discovered Van Leer (and Akkerman's) music. Somewhat unique in being the only yodelling track to consistently feature on albums that showcase the world’s greatest guitarists, it manages somehow, with its claps, shouts, whistles, yodels and blistering guitar riffs both to amuse and amaze. Perhaps the live version on Focus at the Rainbow is the most fun. (On the 1973 American tour, one night poor old Van Leer sang ‘And on the drums Pierre van der Linden’ only to find Colin Allen there – a reminder that not all humour is intentional!)
On Focus Con Proby the question is asked When does a smile begin? There is certainly a vein of humour, especially in Akkerman's work but also in Van Leer's that surfaces at various points. It is certainly in the Focus output and perhaps the search for novelty did dog them. Singles Harem Scarem and Mother Focus tried to capitalise on Van Leer’s distinctive vocals but nothing is quite as much fun or as satisfying as yodelling! An earlier version of Mother Focus is preserved on Ship of Memories, of course, in the weirder, possibly more satisfying, guise of Glider.
Round goes the gossip (the opener on Focus 3) is a track of subtle humour, weirdly enunciated Latin amid a jazz set overlaid with eventually manic voices repeating the title. Both Carnival Fugue and Elspeth of Nottingham (with its cow mooing at the end) are not without humour either. At the end of the second side of what was originally a double album one can appropriately hear weird and manic laughing in the distance. Eruption (Moving Waves) with its call and answer, piano forte style and monastic choir is another track with witty moments. However, in the musical gag department perhaps Hamburger Concerto (Rare, Medium and Well done!), whose very title is a rather old joke, is the most eccentric. It features Van Leer alternately singing male and female opera parts along with an old Dutch hymn sung in a perfectly composed manner amid classical piano and timpani, electric jazz and rock.
Van Leer's solo output and later Focus work is not marked to any great extent by this same sort of humorous approach though it does surface on rare occasions. For example – Super Fishel and Bahama Mama on Nice to have met you with its rather humorous cover (compare the more risque joke on the best of collection Collage) and perhaps I hate myself (for loving you) on the album of that name and Shock treatment on the same album plus Hurkey Turkey Parts 1 and 2 and the rather weird Flower shower (Focus 8 bonus track) - what on earth is going on there? - and possibly European (Rap)sody. Other fun tracks include Finale (Glorious album), the Rondo pieces and several others. Often when doing scat (as on Etudes sans Genes) Van Leer can be very humorous. The name 147 bars (Etudes sans Genes) is a rare example of a humorous enough title. Van Leer, unlike Akkerman, tends not to go in for such things. An example from Focus days would be using the title Anonymus on the first album or the later Mother Focus (no comment) which also includes the closing track Father Bach.
Writing about humour is seldom funny, but like other elements pinpointed in previous articles, humour is an important element in Van Leer's music to some extent and a further part of what makes his body of work the phenomenon it is.

20090223

Thijs Van Leer: the Latin element

Having observed the eastern element in the music of Jan Akkerman one looks for something similar in Thijs Van Leer's music. It is not really there to the same degree. Obviously he performed Moving Waves and collaborated on Black Beauty, Janis, Dayglow, Hocus Pocus, Love Remembered, Harem Scarem, Indian Summer, etc but a careful examination of the matter reveals that whereas both have been open to all sorts of influences (in 1997, for example, Van Leer was working with Senegalese musicians) whereas it is the eastern element that stands out with Akkerman, with Van Leer, it is the Latin one.
By Latin we do not mean the language used on Round goes the gossip but the various musical styles emanating from Latin peoples, chiefly from Latin America (including the Caribbean) but not forgetting Latin Europe. It is not that Akkerman ignores the Latin element (he has studied flamenco guitar, played with Paco de Lucia and recorded music by Villa Lobos and Rodrigo) or that Van Leer entirely ignores the eastern element (check out China or Miss Saigon for rare examples) we are simply remarking on a tendency in musical choices. Obviously the bulk of Van Leer's work is undergirded by German and other Central European traditions but the Latin element is quite strong.
If we look at the earlier Focus period we note that on several albums the Latin element comes through. On the first album it is Sugar Island, on Focus 3 the equally Caribbean Carnival Fugue. Do not forget either the Philip Catherine number Sneezing Bull. When we listed Focus tracks with an eastern influence above, we mentioned Harem Scarem. Interestingly the counterpoint to any eastern feel there is the introduction of a rather Latin French accordion element, clearly coming from Van Leer. The French Latin feel can be heard in several places on the unique solo album Renaissance (1986).
On later Focus albums we have the overtly Latin-influenced Le Tango (a Roselie Peters track that originally appeared on the 1975 solo album O my love! and is also on Introspection 4 from 1980) and the more obliquely Latin Ole Judy from 1985 and then, more recently, Rock 'n' Rio, Hurkey Turkey and De ti o de mi (Focus 8) and It takes 2 2 Tango and Brazil Love (Focus 9).The presence of South American aficionado Jan Dumee at one stage undoubtedly encouraged this South American impetus as well as the enthusiastic fan base that Focus have there. (Dumee had spent time in Brazil studying Brazilian music and has worked with many Latin American musicians). In 2002 Focus performed in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. A limited edition Live in South America album was produced that year and other live recordings from that continent and time exist.
A trawl through the Van Leer archive will reveal other items that perhaps fit this pattern. On Introspection 2 (1976) we find Goyescas No IV by Granados and on Reflections (1986) the Arioso from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, not forgetting Bahama Mama from Nice to have met you (1978), various issues of Ravel's Bolero, the Ennio Morricone suite (Introspection 92) and Bernstein's America (Musical Melody, 1994).
If the above connections appear a little tentative the same cannot be said of Van Leer's involvement with Spanish singer Miguel Rios on three Spanish albums in 1981-1983, the use of Luis Luz as percussionist on the Van Leer Band album (1987), his appearance on the album Nuevo Tango (1997) with Argentinians Astor Piazolla and Luis Borda and his tours of South America with Dutchman Mike Del Ferro. Several of these contacts seem to have arisen from the early eighties period when Van Leer worked with Paul Shigihara and two Chilean musicians – Tato Gomez (bass) and Mario Andragona (drums). As well as working on other projects together these four produced the modern mass Dona Nobis Pacem (1981) as Pedal Point. The lyrics are all in Latin but with a Spanish lilt. On the sleeve notes they thank Carlos Narea for help, singing on one or two tracks and Juan Edo Fernandez “for his spiritual guidance”.
Latin music is a broad category but it is a useful one to have in mind when considering the very varied influences that have shaped the musical output of Thijs Van Leer.
PS Since this article was penned three further Focus albums have appeared and each adds to what is found above. Focus X includes Latin influences such as on Crossroads and Birds come fly over, yet another version of Le Tango, this time featuring Brazilian singer Ivan Lins. He also sings on the Spanish or Portuguese track Santa Teresa which appeared as a bonus track on the Japanese version of Focus X and later on The Focus Family Album. Birds come fly over is sung by Thijs himself on this latter album.
In 2016 Focus released an album of material (8.5 Beyond the Horizon) with friends that was recorded with Brazilian musicians in Brazil. Including, as it does, tracks such as Hola, Como Estas and Inalta this album confirms all that has been said of Thijs van Leer being open to Latin influences.  The guest musicians, such as Arthur Maia and Mario Seve, are big players in the worlds of Brazilian jazz and samba, even if their names are not familiar beyond South America.

20090219

Jan Akkerman: the eastern element

In an interview in Odessa, Ukraine, in 2005 Jan Akkerman said “I think I have Russian roots. My aunt told me that one of my great-grandmothers was from the Akkerman region (a nearby fortress does have the name Akkerman) where were then living the Dutch merchantmen who traded between South Russia and Holland. My last name seems to be very eloquent in this respect, though sometimes I think I can't be completely certain in that. All in all, I don't have a wish to delve into my genealogy, but I believe my ancestors were from here.” No doubt he was not wholly serious but if you listen to Akkerman's music you will see that there is something in what he says.
Eastern music is notoriously difficult to define but something definitely happens to harmony and rhythm east of a point somewhere in line with Vienna that is quite distinct. This eastern element can be found in several places throughout Akkerman's work.
In recent years Akkerman and his band have played live in Mumbai, in Japan, in the middle east and other places east of Vienna and he has sometimes deliberately brought out this eastern element in these places. The current very eastern version of House of the King (Palace of the King) typifies it. If truth be told, however, House of the King always did have something eastern about it, something first declared unequivocally in the electric sitar version found on the solo album Tabernakel.
Like many others in the UK my first introduction to Akkerman's music was the album Moving Waves with Focus. One feature of that album was its unique sound. It was quite different to much of the rock music around at the time. Its European sound was often referred to. However, not only did it sound pretty European but in certain places there was an undoubtedly eastern feel to it. Think of a track like Janis for example, with its distinctly eastern flutes or certain parts of the long track Eruption, especially Dayglow. Hocus Pocus and the title track also share this eastern feel. (Vanessa Mae's version of Hocus Pocus brings out the eastern element very well). This was the early seventies, of course. The Beatles and others had already blazed a trail to India and back so this element was a very contemporary one. Jan appears on the original cover, if you remember, wearing a state of the art khaftan.
A similar phenomenon is faintly recognisable on the first and third Focus albums (although to be fair, both albums contain tracks firmly in the Caribbean tradition and so no corner of the globe is entirely neglected). Check out Black Beauty or Love Remembered for example. Harem Scarem and parts of Hamburger Concerto (especially Medium 1) also contain quite eastern elements.
Akkerman's eastern credentials go back a long way. His art was cradled in the very beginnings of Dutch rock in the fifties, when the Tielman brothers from Indonesia and their Indo-rock style dominated the Dutch scene. In a recent interview Akkerman has said that there were “a lot of Indonesian kids in the area where I grew up, and we played blues and rock & roll”. That surf rock sound always did have an eastern leaning and the influence can be detected in the early music of Akkerman and others. (The eastern influence on Dick Dale for example is widely acknowledged). Akkerman also admits freely to other early eastern influences from gypsies and from Balkan music.
Before his Focus days the eastern element can also be detected in the Jewish traditional, Hineimatov, on the first solo album, on the Russian styled hits with The Hunters The Russian spy and I and Janosh (revisited on Russian Roulette with Van Leer in 1985) and quite obviously on the Brainbox track Dark Rose.
By the time we come to the solo album Tabernakel Akkerman is featuring, at certain points, both the electric and the acoustic sitar. For some reason the sitars are not credited on the original album but it is an open secret that in the seventies and eighties Jan often used a Coral electronic sitar. This sitar also apparently features on the later Focus track Glider (on Ship of Memories). Jan also played it in public at the end of 1974 at a Brainbox reunion concert, later shown on Dutch television. With regard to the early solo albums Profile and Tabernakel, it is interesting that Akkerman plays the oudh-like lute rather than, say, a banjo!
In the seventies Akkerman played and recorded a lot with Neppie Noya the Indonesian born percussionist and son of Japanese Taiko drummer Fusao Nakato San. Later on, the legendary 1981 album Oil in the family features a very eastern style cover, reflecting the strong presence of eastern style melodies on most tracks. Jan actually credits A. Rab (!) as composer on certain tracks in an effort to acknowledge his borrowings from unknown middle-eastern musicians. Some live performances of this material actually featured the use of a belly dancer. The album apparently went down very well in Turkey.
With subsequent albums the eastern element is perhaps excluded, though in 1985 on the track Indian Summer with Thijs Van Leer an Indian tabla player based in Holland (Ustad Zamir Ahmad Khan) is brought in and some have detected it, for example, on some of the percussion for The noise of art (1990), the track Saudade on Focus in time (1996) and the opening track See you! on CU (2003). How much direct Akkerman influence there may be in the Forcefield tracks Year of the Dragon and Tokyo (on their second and third albums of 1988 and 1989) we do not know. The more one is aware of this eastern element, however, the more one can hear it perhaps.

Akkerman Solo


Before joining Focus Jan Akkerman had produced a solo album - the 1969 instrumental album Guitar for sale. While still with Focus he produced Profile and Tabernakel and the collaboration with Peter Banks (Two sides of Peter Banks 1973). Between the break up of Focus and the 1985 reunion with Van Leer in 1985 he produced several diverse albums, including a self-titled album (1977) and a live album with similar content the following year (Live in Montreux). The very classically oriented Aranjuez with Claus Ogerman also appeared in 1978. In 1980 the funky Jan Akkerman 3 appeared and in 1981 the Arab disco influenced Oil in the family. The 1982 album Pleasure Point covered diverse but more familiar territory as did It could happen to you (1985). Between these came the ZZ Top inspired From the basement. Alongside these albums came collaborations with jazz clarinettist Tony Scott (1977) singer Kaz Lux and drummer Pierre Van der Linden (1977 and 1980) and German keyboard maestro Joachim Kuhn (1978 and 1979) as well as others.

Since 1985 the albums have continued to come from time to time - Can't stand noise (1986) Heartware (1987) The noise of art (1990) Puccini's Cafe (1993) Blues Hearts (1994) Focus in time (1996) Blues Roots with Curtis Knight (1999) the acoustic Passion (1999) plus a number of live albums of various sorts. In 1989 Akkerman was on two albums from the heavy rock band Forcefield. He has been involved in several other collaborations and made many, many guest appearances. In 2003 the last studio album CU was produced, making use of then current techno or house production technique. Since 2003 several "unreleased albums" have appeared on the internet and in April 2011 the studio album Minor Details was released.

Van Leer Solo

While still with the original Focus, Thijs Van Leer produced one solo album - the very successful light classical orchestral album Introspection of 1972. At the time of the break up in 1975 he also produced the album O my love! with his then wife Roselie Peters. By 1985 he had done three further Introspection albums and in America the slightly different Reflections (1981) and the more jazz rock style Nice to have met you (1977). Van Leer also collaborated in this period on two Christmas albums and Geluckig is het land featuring Dutch national songs. In 1981 using the name Pedal Point he was involved with others in a modern mass called Dona Nobis Pacem. In 1984 he guested on one or two tracks for Akkerman's solo project From the basement.
After 1985 Van Leer went on to do several solo albums mostly of an orchestral type exploring the classics (Introspection 92, Bolero 1996) musicals (Musical Melody 1994) and hymns (two collections in the 1990s). Renaissance (1986) and Bach for a new age (1999) were solo efforts in a classical style. In 1987 a straight rock album appeared with a band I hate myself for loving you. There have also been two more Christmas albums, guest appearances on various albums and less commercial projects such as the DVD Etudes sans genes and the recent At home CD.

Focus fades

The fade is used by Focus quite sparingly, except on Mother Focus, where nearly half the tracks fade. It is usually adopted where a live piece has no obvious ending. Tracks using a fade include these

1. Why dream (In and out)
2. Carnival fugue and Sylvia (Focus 3)
3. The US or fast version of Hocus Pocus
4. Early Birth
5. Red sky at night
6. Bennie Helder, My Sweetheart, All together ... Oh that!, Hard Vanilla and No Hang Ups (Mother Focus)
7. Nightflight and Wingless (Focus Con Proby)
8. Le Tango, Who's calling and Beethoven's Revenge (Focus 1985)
9. Fretless love, Hurkey Turkey, De ti O de mi (Focus 8)

Answers? Questions!

???
Besides the Answer element in the long track Eruption (Moving Waves) and Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! (Focus 3) Focus have at least five tracks that ask questions.
They are

1. Why dream?
2. Someone's crying ... what?
3. How long?
4. Who's calling?
5. Sto Ces Raditi Ostatac Zivota?

Track by track 84

Archive number: 84
Title: Who's calling?
Main Album: Focus (1985). Also a single b/w Beethoven's Revenge.
Track number: 7
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Studio Spitsbergen, Zuidbroek, Groningen, The Netherlands (mixed at Dureco Studios, Weesp, The Netherlands)
Length: 16' 14” (7:30)
Composer: Jan Akkerman, Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Synthesiser Guitar, drum machine; Thijs Van Leer – Keyboards inc synthesisers, Flute, Vocals; Tato Gomez - Bass
Producer: Ruud Jacobs with Jan Akkerman, Thijs Van Leer and Theo Balijon
Engineer: Emile Elsen, Jan Akkerman and Theo Balijon
Label: Mercury (Phonogram)/Vertigo
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1985 Released LP/CD -1985 CD – 1989.
Alternative version: None
Notes: There are longer and shorter versions of this piece. The edited version (more than 8 minutes shorter) appeared on the original vinyl version. In typically prog rock fashion the closer is a slow march. This is briefly introduced by a dreamy flute and guitar with a synthesised background (00:00-00:29). The march is led first (00:30-01:44) by a synthesised guitar. The flute then takes up the lead (1:45-03:01) backed by guitar and the synthesised beat. At 03:02 there is break down to a slower, pleasant guitar-led section (until 04:10 on the longer version). The longer version has a transitional section (04:11-04:16) before coming back to the main guitar led theme (04:17-05:31). This too breaks down again at 05:32 and goes on to 06:30 with guitar and a little flute. In 06:31-06:49 the guitar becomes more raucous and the flute more eastern in style. It's then back to the main flute theme again (06:50-08:03) followed by the main guitar theme (08:04-08:46). At 08:47 the flute joins in again and takes things up to another climax at 09:19. At 09:20-10:33 the longer version has a unique section exploring the theme further on more acoustic then more rock like guitars before eventually coming back to the main theme. In 10:33-11:17 the flute leads (in the longer version) in a different key. There is also a section (11:18-11:36) led by the high guitar sound. From 11:37-11:50 the flute takes up the lead again. From 11:51-13:06 (on the longer version; 05:34-06:50 on the shorter one) a choir like chant comes in (Van Leer's synthesised and choired voice). The flute brings this section to its climax. The shorter version ends with the keyboards playing out until the fade. The longer version allows the keyboard section to become rather tedious (13:07-14:23) until it is finally rescued by the pleasant addition (14:24-16:08) of the flute (Akkerman has presumably left early). The piece then fades.

20090218

Track by track 83

Archive number: 83
Title: Ole Judy
Main Album: Focus (1985)
Track number: 6
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Studio Spitsbergen, Zuidbroek, Groningen, The Netherlands (mixed at Dureco Studios, Weesp, The Netherlands)
Length: 03' 44”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Synthesiser Guitar, drum machine; Thijs Van Leer – Keyboards inc synthesisers, Flute; Tato Gomez - Bass; Fairlight programmed by Ed Staring.
Producer: Ruud Jacobs with Jan Akkerman, Thijs Van Leer and Theo Balijon
Engineer: Emile Elsen, Jan Akkerman and Theo Balijon
Label: Mercury (Phonogram)/Vertigo
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1985 Released LP/CD -1985 CD – 1989
Alternative version: None
Notes: Perhaps the most accessible track on the album this piece is has a slightly Latin feel but is reminiscent of Birth (Hamburger Concerto) in the juxtaposing of Van Leer and Akkerman throughout the song. Van Leer kicks things off with his keyboards, sounding first more reedy (00:00-00:21) then more trumpet like (0:22-0:41) with a trace of flute at the end of the section. Akkerman then steps up to lead with a tough guitar riff (00:42-00:51). We then go back to the trumpet like keyboard briefly (00:52-01:02) before Akkerman has a second stab (01:03-01:23). At this point the flute comes in with gusto (01:24-01:44) before giving way to the trumpet-like keyboards (01:45-02:04) which are inevitably succeeded by the guitar (02:05-02:14). Van Leer's keyboard (02:15-02:35) then flute (02:36-02:45) lead once more before Akkerman closes with a final guitar solo in two parts (02:46-02:51 and 02:52-03:44) that finally fades away.

Track by track 82

Archive number: 82
Title: Beethoven's Revenge (Bach-One-Turbo-Overdrive)
Main Album: Focus (1985). Also a single b/w Who's Calling?
Track number: 5
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Studio Spitsbergen, Zuidbroek, Groningen, The Netherlands (mixed at Dureco Studios, Weesp, The Netherlands)
Length: 18' 40" (10' 43")
Composer: Jan Akkerman
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Synthesiser Guitar, drum machine, Acoustic Guitar; Thijs Van Leer – Keyboards inc synthesisers, Flute; Ruud Jacobs – Acoustic Bass; Fairlight programmed by Ed Staring.
Producer: Ruud Jacobs with Jan Akkerman, Thijs Van Leer and Theo Balijon
Engineer: Emile Elsen, Jan Akkerman and Theo Balijon
Label: Mercury (Phonogram)/Vertigo
Date of recording/release: Recorded 1985 Released LP/CD -1985 CD – 1989.
Alternative version: My Pleasure on Akkerman's solo album Heartware provides the core of this piece
Notes: This track appears in its fullest form on the CD. The orginal vinyl had an edited version that lacked around 8 minutes of the original. The title references both the 19th Century Romantic composer Beethoven and the 1970s Canadian rock band Bachman Turner Overdrive. Focus had produced long tracks previously but they were composite tracks. This track has several elements but is really more akin to a long jam session based around Akkerman's My Pleasure than anything symphonic.
The introduction (00:00-00:32) uses a strong beat and a scattered keyboard effect before a choppy guitar takes up the lead (00:33-01:02). A whistful, synthesised flute sound comes in next (01:03-01:37) before a new rhythm is introduced led by harp like sounds (probably from the keyboard but possibly the guitar) in 01:38-02:13. The flute like melody then recurs (02:14-02:45) before we break into the very catchy guitar riff that carries the piece (02:44-03:29). Another catchy section follows – probably on the keyboard this time (03:27-03:41). It is then the turn of the guitar again (03:42-04:10) before the original catchy guitar riff and succeeding section are repeated (04:10-04:25; 04:25-04:39). We then move in to a more minor key for the next section (4:40-05:09) before the flute-like, romantic style returns (05:10-05:39). A percussive guitar with bell-like sounds breaks across this for another fresh section (05:40-06:13). A section from 06:14-07:33 first harp-like then flute-like comes next on the extended version, edited out on the shorter one. In 07:34-08:10 the percussive guitar with bells returns and is followed by the catchy guitar, etc (08:11-08:23) then a quieter section with an organ sound (08:23-09:51) and the catchy guitar again (09:52-10:06). In 10:07-10:19 the catchy piece is repeated with a flute sound before another fresher section (10:20-11:26) with a struck harp sound (at 10:40, 41 and 10:49) plus a Spanish guitar. In 11:27-11:54 the synthesiser's pitch fluctuates rather. At 11:55 the double bass comes in as the main theme is attacked at length with an oddly pitched guitar. A large chunk of this final section is (helpfully) cut from the final guitar-led jam (from about 13:22). The band are still going as the music fades.