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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20090407

Track by track 96

Archive number: 96
Title: Hocus Pocus (Live)
Main Album: Focus Live In America
Track number: 9
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Venue: Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Length: 12' 57”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Flute, Voice, Whistling; Jan Dumee – Guitar; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Bert Smaak - Drums
Producer: Gavin Bott/Bob Carruthers
Engineer: Mike Potter (Orion Sound) Mix (Total audio)
Label: Classical Rock Legends Limited
Date of recording/release: October 2002 (part of a two day Uriah Heep led classic rock legend festival that also featured Nektar, Mostly Autumn and Asia). Released on DVD and CD (edited) in 2003.
Alternative version: One of the most famous and oft repeated Focus tracks, it appeared first on the Moving Waves album.
Notes: On the DVD the flute improvisation that precedes it is separately credited. Beginning with organ too, the flute is mostly solo. This takes us to 02:35 when the organ comes in and Van Leer begins on a sort of priestly singing in tongues. This then transmutes (to a loud cheer from the audience) into the famous yodel. Unable to get the high notes these days Van Leer switches to a harsh whistling sound, supplemented by Dumee's voice. We are then into the main riff, complete with high volume (sometimes squealing) guitar. This is broken up twice by the yodel and scream, then the strange voice and scream. Third time round we have the low (Van Leer) and high (Dumee) voices. Next time it's the flute then the extended yodel (not quite as long as it used to be). The guitar is frenetic by this point but things cool down for the intros – Bobby Jacobs, Bertie Smaak, Jan Dumee and the man himself on organ and flute. We come out of that with a great driving bass and one more blast from the band ending in unison at 09:13. The crowd then cheer (one man's "Oh yeah" is very distinct), Van Leer says thank you very much for the final time and that is the end – though on the CD we have edited in the intro for what is there the final track (Focus 3).

Track by track 95

Archive number: 95
Title: Focus 7 (Live)
Main Album: Focus Live In America
Track number: 8
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Venue: Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Length: 09' 55”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ; Jan Dumee – Gibson Marauder Guitar; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Bert Smaak - Drums
Producer: Gavin Bott/Bob Carruthers
Engineer: Mike Potter (Orion Sound) Mix (Total audio)
Label: Classical Rock Legends Limited
Date of recording/release: October 2002 (part of a two day Uriah Heep led classic rock legend festival that also featured Nektar, Mostly Autumn and Asia). Released on DVD and CD (edited) in 2003.
Alternative version: This track eventually appeared on the Focus 9 album.
Notes: The introductory words from the previous track on the CD are “We go to a number which we actually wanted to record on our latest album, Focus 8, which is hopefully still available here - I don't know - but we didn't. Finally, we didn't make mix of it and so it's still in the air. It's called Focus number 7.” The track, which ends in electric guitar meltdown pretty much anticipates what was eventually to appear on the Focus 9 album with a different guitarist. We hope to give more analysis there.

Track by track 94 [DVD]

Archive number: 94 [DVD only]
Title: Harem Scarem (Live)
Main Album: Focus Live In America
Track number: 10 (DVD). Not on CD.
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Venue: Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Length: 12' 02”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Voice, Whistling; Jan Dumee – Guitars (Gibson Marauder and Fender Stratocaster), Voice; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Bert Smaak - Drums
Producer: Gavin Bott/Bob Carruthers
Engineer: Mike Potter (Orion Sound) Mix (Total audio)
Label: Classical Rock Legends Limited
Date of recording/release: October 2002 (part of a two day Uriah Heep led classic rock legend festival that also featured Nektar, Mostly Autumn and Asia). Released on DVD and CD (edited) in 2003.
Alternative version: This track originally appeared on the Hamburger Concerto album
Notes: The song is not included on the CD. It is introduced with the words “Here's a song I wrote in the pub in Belgium. It's called Harem Scarem.” Bert Smaak counts the band in with his sticks. Both Dumee and Van Leer are involved in the “yeah, yeahs”. Van Leer again does his French whistling. Bobby Jacobs uses some sort of foot pedal with his bass to produce a fine bass solo from 08:20 to around 10:40. For some reason Dumee takes opportunity to change guitar during this solo – changing from the marauder to a black Fender stratocaster. Van Leer then leads them into the end at 11:47. He announces Bobby Jacobs name and says thanks before introducing the next track (see there).

Track by track 93

Archive number: 93
Title: Cathedrale de Strasbourg (Live)
Main Album: Focus Live In America
Track number: 7
Genre: Progressive Rock Vocal
Venue: Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Length: 12' 57”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Vocals, Whistling; Jan Dumee – Gibson Marauder Guitar; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Bert Smaak - Drums
Producer: Gavin Bott/Bob Carruthers
Engineer: Mike Potter (Orion Sound) Mix (Total audio)
Label: Classical Rock Legends Limited
Date of recording/release: October 2002 (part of a two day Uriah Heep led classic rock legend festival that also featured Nektar, Mostly Autumn and Asia). Released on DVD and CD (edited) in 2003.
Alternative version: This track originally appeared on the Hamburger Concerto album
Notes: The data about this track is found on the previous track - “We've got another slow song for you. It's like a nostalgic feel I had thinking of the bells of the Cathedral of Stratzburg, which is a town in France on the frontiers with Germany and those bells had a very, very beautiful sound and I was a very little boy and I was more than impressed. So here's the impression. It's a little lyric sung in French.” The track itself begins with bell like organ tones. The band then join in. It was once unusual for this track to be played live and so again makes it easier for Dumee who plays well. Van Leer does slightly better with the vocals this time, the style suiting him better and whistles well (both in French!) as on the original (02:25-04:00). His voice is also heard near the end (05:38-06:10). The track closes (06:22) with the sound of the audience and Van Leer's thanks. The CD then has the words “we go to a number which we call Focus number 7” Harem Scarem being edited out of the CD version. On the DVD he says “Here's a song I wrote in the pub in Belgium. It's called Harem Scarem."

Track by track 92

Archive number: 92
Title: Focus 5 (Live)
Main Album: Focus Live In America
Track number: 6
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Venue: Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Length: 04' 37”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ; Jan Dumee – Gibson Marauder Guitar; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Bert Smaak - Drums
Producer: Gavin Bott/Bob Carruthers
Engineer: Mike Potter (Orion Sound) Mix (Total audio)
Label: Classical Rock Legends Limited
Date of recording/release: October 2002 (part of a two day Uriah Heep led classic rock legend festival that also featured Nektar, Mostly Autumn and Asia). Released on DVD and CD (edited) in 2003.
Alternative version: This track appears originally on the Ship of Memories album
Notes: On the previous track we have the introduction from Van Leer “We'd like to continue with a piece that Focus actually never performed so it's one of the first times we do this now. It's called Focus 5.” The performance is similar to that found on Ship of Memories (from the abortive Chipping Norton sessions) but live. Being much less familiar than other tracks, it gives Dumee opportunity to shine almost in his own right. The rest of the band do well too. At 03:43 it slows it right down to halt at 03:58. We then have a thank you and the data for the next track – for which see the next track.

20090406

Track by track 91

Notes: Archive number: 91
Title: Sylvia (Live)
Main Album: Focus Live In America
Track number: 5
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Venue: Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Length: 04' 33”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Voice; Jan Dumee – Gibson Marauder Guitar; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Bert Smaak - Drums
Producer: Gavin Bott/Bob Carruthers
Engineer: Mike Potter (Orion Sound) Mix (Total audio)
Label: Classical Rock Legends Limited
Date of recording/release: October 2002 (part of a two day Uriah Heep led classic rock legend festival that also featured Nektar, Mostly Autumn and Asia). Released on DVD and CD (edited) in 2003.
Alternative version: Written way back for Sylvia Alberts, the track was first on the album Focus 3.
Notes: On the DVD Van Leer says before this track, “We'd like to play for you a short version of number Focus 3 and then specially for you it's a song called Brother.” Not a bad stab, this effort reprises what is essentially the Rainbow version. Dumee provides the high voice parts alongside Van Leer's lower ones. The piece actually closes at 03:38 and band introductions from Van Leer follow. These reveal this to be an afternoon performance. He calls himself "your organ player" with no reference to his flute here. He then introduces the next track for which see that track.

Track by track 90 [DVD]

Archive number: 90 [DVD only]
Title: Brother (Live)
Main Album: Focus Live In America DVD
Track number: 6 (DVD) not on CD
Genre: Jazz Rock Vocal
Venue: Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Length: 12' 57”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Vocal; Jan Dumee – Gibson Marauder Guitar; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Bert Smaak - Drums
Producer: Gavin Bott/Bob Carruthers
Engineer: Mike Potter (Orion Sound) Mix (Total audio)
Label: Classical Rock Legends Limited
Date of recording/release: October 2002 (part of a two day Uriah Heep led classic rock legend festival that also featured Nektar, Mostly Autumn and Asia). Released on DVD and CD (edited) in 2003.
Alternative version: Instrumental versions can be found on Van Leer's solo album Introspection 3 and later on Focus 8. P J Proby sings it on Focus Con Proby.
Notes: Perhaps Van Leer was keen to include this when performing in America as it is essentially an American song. It includes a nice introduction on organ (as written for the Con Proby album), rather poor vocal work from Van Leer and, most interestingly, a guitar coda quoting Eruption. It was rightly left off the CD.

Track by track 89

Notes: Archive number: 89
Title: Focus 3 (Live)
Main Album: Focus Live In America
Track number: 10 of 10 (CD) 5 (DVD)
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Venue: Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Length: 04' 43”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ; Jan Dumee – Gibson Marauder Guitar; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Bert Smaak - Drums
Producer: Gavin Bott/Bob Carruthers
Engineer: Mike Potter (Orion Sound) Mix (Total audio)
Label: Classical Rock Legends Limited
Date of recording/release: October 2002 (part of a two day Uriah Heep led classic rock legend festival that also featured Nektar, Mostly Autumn and Asia). Released on DVD and CD (edited) in 2003.
Alternative version: The original is on the Focus 3 album
Notes: Performed after Eruption on the night, the CD moves it to the end. This is a fairly competent rendition of the number but, despite Dumee's best efforts, loses some of the subtlety of the best Akkerman versions. The music ends at 4:22 and is followed by applause and cheers.

Track by track 88

Notes: Archive number: 88
Title: Eruption (Live)
Main Album: Focus Live In America
Track number: 4
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Venue: Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Length: 16' 27”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Flute, Whistling, Voice; Jan Dumee – Gibson Marauder Guitar; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Bert Smaak - Drums
Producer: Gavin Bott/Bob Carruthers
Engineer: Mike Potter (Orion Sound) Mix (Total audio)
Label: Classical Rock Legends Limited
Date of recording/release: October 2002 (part of a two day Uriah Heep led classic rock legend festival that also featured Nektar, Mostly Autumn and Asia). Released on DVD and CD (edited) in 2003.
Alternative version: The full original is found on the album Moving Waves
Notes: The announcment for this track is on the previous track. Van Leer says there “Now we'd like to take you to the second side, B side, of our album - actually the first album to break here in the States - that was Moving Waves. And it was a title called Eruption.” Here we start with 'violined' guitar the fare is quite standard until around 04:45 when Van Leer comes in first with the flute then some lovely whistling. This leads into a creditable Tommy (from 05:50). Then, after a little more whistling, we have more of the familiar live stuff, allowing Dumee to shine. There is some brief scat from Van Leer, mainly at 12:40-13:17, but recurring over the next minute or so after that and including something of a variation on the theme. There is also a jazzy flute-led break at 13:55-14:31 and an organ-led one at 14:32-15:34 which again features Van Leer's scat voice at certain points. There is then an abrupt return to the slow original theme (15:35-15:55) to round off. Applause and speech follow from 15:56-16:27. Van Leer says “Thank you so much ... Thanks ... We'd like to do a song that was once dedicated to a girl named Sylvia.” This is an edit, however, as it is clear from the DVD that before Sylvia another two tracks intervened (Focus 3 – at the end of the CD) and Brother (omitted from the CD).

Track by track 87

Archive number: 87
Title: Focus 2 (Live)
Main Album: Focus Live In America
Track number: 3
Genre: Jazz Rock Instrumental
Venue: Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Length: 05' 18”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ; Jan Dumee – Gibson Marauder Guitar; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Bert Smaak - Drums
Producer: Gavin Bott/Bob Carruthers
Engineer: Mike Potter (Orion Sound) Mix (Total audio)
Label: Classical Rock Legends Limited
Date of recording/release: October 2002 (part of a two day Uriah Heep led classic rock legend festival that also featured Nektar, Mostly Autumn and Asia). Released on DVD and CD (edited) in 2003.
Alternative version: This is again a well covered early Focus track
Notes: We begin with the well known organ intro as featured on the Rainbow album. Dumee and the band then join in to execute the piece in fine but unremarkable style, ending at 4' 45” with applause and a thank you from Van Leer and his next announcement - for which see the next track.

Track by track 86

Archive number: 86
Title: House of the King (Live)
Main Album: Focus Live In America
Track number: 2
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Venue: Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Length: 02' 53”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Flute; Jan Dumee – Gibson Marauder Guitar; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Bert Smaak - Drums
Producer: Gavin Bott/Bob Carruthers
Engineer: Mike Potter (Orion Sound) Mix (Total audio)
Label: Classical Rock Legends Limited
Date of recording/release: October 2002 (part of a two day Uriah Heep led classic rock legend festival that also featured Nektar, Mostly Autumn and Asia). Released on DVD and CD (edited) in 2003.
Alternative version: The oldest and most performed Focus song, this has many versions
Notes: Another competent live version. We go straight into the track (the announcmenet being on the previous track). It is played in the usual live style, although the Hammond is more prominent than the guitar in the middle eight. We end at 02:35 and amid applause Van Leer says thank you and announces “Next piece is called Focus number two”.

Track by track 85

Archive number: 85
Title: Focus 1 (Live)
Main Album: Focus Live In America
Track number: 1
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Venue: Patriots Theater, 1 Memorial Drive, Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Length: 12' 57”
Composer: Thijs Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, Flute; Jan Dumee – Gibson Marauder Guitar; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Bert Smaak - Drums
Producer: Gavin Bott/Bob Carruthers
Engineer: Mike Potter (Orion Sound) Mix (Total audio)
Label: Classical Rock Legends Limited
Date of recording/release: October 2002 (part of a two day Uriah Heep led classic rock legend festival that also featured Nektar, Mostly Autumn and Asia). Released on DVD and CD (edited) in 2003.
Alternative version: The original version was on the first album.
Notes: This is a competent version of the very first Focus number with plenty of reverb from Dumee (who, the DVD shows, is not using a tremelo arm). The music lasts for slightly over 12 minutes (00:20-12:34) topped and tailed with applause and Van Leer's Thank you and announcement (“That was Focus 1. Now we do a thing called House of the King”). (On the DVD we have the opening announcement at the start "Welcome please Focus"). We begin quietly with just the distinctive Hammond. It also ends quietly with guitar and drums. In between we have a fairly raucous section (around 05:00-08:40) that people cheer on conclusion. Then there is a slightly reggae-styled (08:41-08:59) section that leads into a beautiful flute section (09:00-11:24) which on conclusion is whistled appreciatively by the audience. As they are about to build up to another crescendo, this is abruptly cut short (11:48) and we return to the earlier earnest strains to close (12:34).