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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20111124

Chipping Norton and Decca Studios

Focus have used a limited number of recording studios over the years.

The first two studio albums were recorded mostly at Sound Techniques (Moving Waves partly at Morgan Studios) and the third and fourth at Olympic B, both in London.

The core tracks that appear on the album Ship of Memories were recorded at Mike Vernon's studio in Chipping Norton. For Mother Focus the band recorded in Los Angeles. Since that time studio recordings have been made in Holland and Belgium at EMI Hilversum, Studio Spitsbergen in Zuidbroek, Peptide Studio in Vuren and for the last two albums at Fieldwork Studios at Schoten in Belgium.
Chipping Norton Between 1972 and 1999, Chipping Norton Recording Studios existed in the old British School on New Street in the Oxfordshire market town. The studios were set up by Mike Vernon with his brother Richard and Dave Grinsted. Focus were one of the earliest bands to record there.
Los Angeles What became known as Studio 55 was originally Decca Studios (White Xmas was recorded there) and was known in the sixties as Nashville West. It had two studios and was on the Paramount Studios lot. Owned by Howard Steele it was taken over in 1975 by Richard Perry. The building is apparently long gone.

Olympic B Sound Studios

Focus have used a limited number of recording studios over the years.
The first two studio albums were recorded mostly at Sound Techniques (Moving Waves partly at Morgan Studios) and the third and fourth at Olympic B, both in London.
The core tracks that appear on the album Ship of Memories were recorded at Mike Vernon's studio in Chipping Norton. For Mother Focus the band recorded in Los Angeles. Since that time studio recordings have been made in Holland and Belgium at EMI Hilversum, Studio Spitsbergen in Zuidbroek, Peptide Studio in Vuren and for the last two albums at Fieldwork Studios at Schoten in Belgium.
Olympic Studios was a renowned independent commercial recording studio located at 117 Church Road, Barnes, South West London. The studio is best known for the huge number of famous rock and pop recordings made there from the late 1960s onward.
The building which housed the studio was constructed in 1906 as a theatre for the Barnes Repertory Company, and later became a cinema. Guild TV purchased the building in the late 1950s and converted it into a film studio. In 1965 it was purchased by Olympic Sound Studios. The conversion from film to recording studio was undertaken by architect Robertson Grant and the acoustics were completed by Keith Grant and Russel Pettinger.
Olympic's sound mixing desks were a creation of the maintenance staff and built specially for the studios. They became famous as Olympic desks and were developed by Dick Swettenham, Keith Grant and later, Jim McBride in conjunction with Jim Dowler. Swettenham later started to manufacture the consoles commercially as Helios desks.
Amongst other accolades, the studios won Music Week Magazine Best Recording Studio, five times. However, after 40 years of renowned recording history and a succession of owners, the studio facilities were closed down by the merged EMI and Virign group in 2009.
The original Olympic Sound Studios was established in central London in the late 1950s and was owned by Angus McKenzie who had bought Larry Lyons Olympia Studio in Fulham. McKenzie then took a lease on a derelict synagogue in London's West End.
In conjunction with Swettenham, McKenzie opened Olympic's Studio One with the tube desk from Olympia. Grant joined the company in 1958 as music engineer. Swettenham designed the first professional transsistorised desk in the world, which was installed into Studio One during 1960, along with the first four track recorder in England.
When the lease expired in 1965, the studio was bought from McKenzie by Cliff Adams and Keith Grant and they moved it to Barnes, a year later. Among artists who worked at the studio were the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Traffic and Led Zeppelin. Procul Harum recorded Whiter Shade of Pale there.
Over the 1970s, Grant commissioned his father Robertson Grant to re-design Studio Two, as the now working and successful studio was causing problems with sound transmission to Studio One. Robertson Grant successfully innovated a completely floating space weighing seventeen tonnes, which was supported by rubber pads.
At this time Mick Jagger became involved with the charge of decor and furnishing and produced a contemporary design. Later, Grant added probably the first Instant acoustic change using rough sawn wooden slats, to cover or reveal absorptive panel behind, thus changing the acoustics. This made the room suitable for the recording of both rock and orchestral music, at the pull of a cord.
In 1987, Virgin Music bought the studios. Barbara Jefferies, then Studio manager for virgin at Olympic Studios, instructed that the master tapes of the studio's vast, historic library of recording sessions be discarded. The disposal of these tapes was unsecured as they were put into skips outside the building, and left for days; they were subsequently pillaged by hordes of freeloaders, and some are thought to have been sold for large sums of money as bootlegs.

20111123

Sound Techniques

Focus have used a limited number of recording studios over the years.
The first two studio albums were recorded mostly at Sound Techniques (Moving Waves partly at Morgan Studios) and the third and fourth at Olympic B, both in London.
The core tracks that appear on the album Ship of Memories were recorded at Mike Vernon's studio in Chipping Norton. For Mother Focus the band recorded in Los Angeles. Since that time studio recordings have been made in Holland and Belgium at EMI Hilversum, Studio Spitsbergen in Zuidbroek, Peptide Studio in Vuren and for the last two albums at Fieldwork Studios at Schoten in Belgium.
Sound Techniques began its life as a recording studio at 46a Old Church Street, Chelsea, London, SW3 in December 1964, when it was set-up by Geoff Frost and John Wood as one of the early independent sound recording studios in the UK.
Previously a milking parlour, the Studio was on three floors. Entry was by a small door within a rusty steel roller shutter. At ground level was something resembling a garage with a cobbled floor. At the far end was a manually operated lift. To the right of this lift was a narrow entrance leading to a set of quite wide white concrete stairs. These led to a small, again, concrete landing, with an entrance to the studio on the first floor. The floor had a gentle slope towards the lift access at the far end. The slope was there so that when the cows were hosed down, the slope would drain off the water. There were two stairways up to the second floor.
One led to the control room, the other to the office. This, second staircase was handmade from Dexion angle iron.
Over the next decade some of the best UK folk and folk rock artists recorded at Sound Techniques, and undoubtedly produced some of the best records of the era. Artists that recorded there included: Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull, Steeleye Span, Incredible String Band, The Pentangle, Judy Collins, John Cale, The Yardbirds and The Who.
During the '60's and '70's, the Sound Techniques studio enjoyed unqualified success at the top-end of the music business as did STL's manufacturing division. The company produced a pioneering range of audio recording desks including the System 12 mixer which was one of the first ever compact desks in production, and was exported all over the world.
The studios closed their doors in 1976 and over the past 39 years, Sound Techniques has diversified into both Television Production and Information Technology.

20111122

Track by track 117

Archive number: 117
Title: Niels' skin
Main Album: Focus 9 (New Skin)
Track number: 5
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium
Length: 06:02
Composer: Niels Van Der Steenhoven
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, piano; Niels Van Der Steenhoven – Guitars; Bobby Jacobs – Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden - Drums
Producer: Bobby Jacobs and Thijs Van Leer
Engineer: Han Nuijten
Label: Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: Summer 2006
Alternative version: None
Notes: The introduction is played on drums (00:00-00:18) and is followed by a series of alternating sections. The first is a choppy guitar riff led section backed by the organ and speeding up at the end (00:18-00:46 and 00:51-01:19). The second is a pleasant guitar led theme (00:46-00:51 and 01:20-01:44) that begins to yearn second time around. When the choppy riff comes in the third time it leads into an organ solo with the band still backing (01:45-02:58). This third time the guitar has a dreamy quality when the theme is played, 02:59-03:43. At 03:44 we return pronouncedly to the choppy section again beginning a little slower with lots of bass and leading into a heavy and fairly wild guitar-led segment. This goes on until 05:15 where the choppy section comes in seamlessly for the final time and the piece comes to a united close at 06:02.

20111117

Track by track 116

Archive number: 116
Title: Sylvia's stepson Ubatuba
Main Album: Focus 9 (New Skin)
Track number: 4
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium
Length: 04:46
Composer: Bobby Jacobs
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, voice; Niels Van Der Steenhoven – Guitars; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden - Drums
Producer: Bobby Jacobs and Thijs Van Leer
Engineer: Han Nuijten
Label: Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: Summer 2006
Alternative version: None
Notes: Organ and guitar begin together, backed by bass and cymbals, as this beautiful piece is introduced (00:00-00:31). The drums announce the main theme, a typical piece of Focus guitar - slow, yearning and thoughtful - with occasional volume swells or violining (00:32-02:00) before quiet (02:01-02:10) then louder (02:11-02:24) guitar-led sections. At 02:25-02:56 we have the “ubatuba” section featuring guitar and “ubatubing” from Van Leer's voice. A caesura at 02:57 announces the return of the yearning guitar lead with some exquisite finger work from Van Der Steenhoven, especially towards the end (02:58-04:14). Finally, we have a quieter section (04:15-04:35) that is rounded off with a coda of 10 violined harmonics (04:36-04:46).

Track by track 115

Archive number: 115
Title: Remember Mozart/Hurkey Turkey
Main Album: Focus 9 (New Skin)
Track number: 3
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium
Length: 04:02
Composer: Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, piano, keyboard, flute, voice; Niels Van Der Steenhoven – Guitars; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden - Drums
Producer: Bobby Jacobs and Thijs Van Leer
Engineer: Han Nuijten
Label: Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: Summer 2006
Alternative version: None
Notes: Following a drum beat there is a slow, deliberate introduction led by a five note guitar, bass and piano riff, more or less repeated eight or nine times (01:00-0024). Next comes a more tuneful section, hailed by a Mozartian trill and featuring the flute along with the band and harpsichord-like keyboards (from 00:25). This goes on until 01:12 when first the guitar then the keyboard (01:13-01:17) re-introduce the opening theme backed this time by Van Leer's improvised flute (01:18-01:40). This leads to the central motif, Van Leer's piano and band backed voice, based on the famous Mozart piece Alla Turca (hence the titles). That sections ends at 02:16 (slowing down before speeding up again from 02:02). At 02:17 the opening intro is played in slightly lengthened form for the third and last time, backed this time by squealing and wild electric guitars. At 02:52 we come out again with the tuneful and flute dominated second section broken up only by two brief sections on what sounds like acoustic guitar and keyboard (03:12 03:23) and keyboard with flute (03:41-03:46). The piece ends with a note from the flute.
The third movement of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K 331 (300i) (from WIkipedia) is a sonata in three movements:
1. Andante grazioso — a theme with six variations 2. Menuetto — a minuet and trio 3. Alla Turca: Allegretto in A minor and major.
All the movements are in the key of A major or A minor; therefore, the work is homotonal. A typical performance of the entire sonata takes about 20 minutes.
It is uncertain where and when Mozart composed it; however, Vienna or Salzburg around 1783 is currently thought to be most likely.
The last movement, Alla Turca, popularly known as the Turkish Rondo or Turkish March, is often heard on its own and is one of Mozart's best-known piano pieces. It imitates the sound of Turkish Janissary bands, the music of which was much in vogue at that time. Various other works of the time imitate this music, including Mozart's own opera The Abduction from the Seraglio.
Repeated notes, repeated ornaments, and loud/soft passages are characteristic of the Alla turca style. The imitation probably came closer with the piano of Mozart's day, whose bass strings made something of a rattle when played loudly, than is possible on modern pianos.

In Mozart's time, the last movement was sometimes performed on pianos built with a "Turkish stop", allowing it to be embellished with extra percussion effects.
Moreover, this third movement is implicitly related to the first one, because the beginning of the "Rondo" can be seen as an additional variation of the "Tema" of the first movement, varied in the Janissary style.

20111116

Track by track 114

Archive number: 114
Title: Focus 7
Main Album: Focus 9 (New Skin)
Track number: 2
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium
Length: 05:18
Composer: Van Leer
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, piano; Niels Van Der Steenhoven – Guitars; Bobby Jacobs - Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden - Drums
Producer: Bobby Jacobs and Thijs Van Leer
Engineer: Han Nuijten
Label: Red Bullet
Date of recording/release: Summer 2006
Alternative version: None
Notes: We begin with an introduction just on the Hammond organ until at 00:37 a bass note brings in the guitar led band with an exquisite statement of the main theme (00:38-01:10). The theme is restated slightly more stridently (01:11-01:47) before the typically more yearning and heavier version of it comes in (01:48-02:25). It then reverts to something more like the first statement, but helped in due time by the flute (02:26-03:11), which also features in the following stormy version of the more strident element (03:12-03:48). From 03:49 it is quiet again, rising a little before more or less repeating from about 04:27. The piano is quite prominent in these final sections alongside the organ. A live sounding end comes around 05:18, the Hammond going on for at least 10 seconds after the close.