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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20171010

Live at The Stables Milton Keynes October 2017


 

It was fun to be at a Focus Concert once again. I have seen them in The Stables. Milton Keynes before. It is a little sterile but it was good to see nearly 400 present. I ended up with a front side row seat just a few feet from Thijs van Leer himself. It was not a great spot in some ways but it gave certain advantages. We had the usual run - Focus 1, Anonymous, House of the King to begin; Eruption, Sylvia and La Cathedrale with Harem Scarem elsewhere; Hocus Pocus to close and Focus 3 with Answers Questions, Questions Answers as an encore. We also had All Hands on Deck, which I have heard before and, for the first time for me, P's March.
Being as close to van Leer as I was I observed how he mostly only used one hand to play the battered old Hammond organ he sat at most of the night. He also played the flute with one hand at times (sometimes combining flute and organ). He also played the haunting alto flute at the beginning, the simple melodica on Le Tango and did various things voice wise - scat, singing, whistling, yodelling, throat singing and oohs and aahs, usually with the vocoder. The high note on Hocus Pocuss are no longer possible but Thijs still has a very good singing voice.
I enjoyed all the solos from the band in the main, including new man Udo's six string bass. Still not sure about all of Menno's.
The evening began with an elderly heavy metal outfit called Burnt Out Wreck who were alright for what they were. After the main event the band happily signed autographs and chatted. I bought the latest offering (already purchased on itunes) and had it autographed. I also persuaded Pierre van der Linden to give me a signed drumstick.

20170918

Track by Track 126

Archive number: 126
Title: Father Bacchus
Main Album: Focus X 
Track number: 1
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium  
(Mixed at B-Spot Studio; mastered at Tube Mastering)
Length: 4:03
Composer: Menno Gootjes
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, piano, flute, spoken word; Menno Gootjes – Guitars, Vocals; Bobby Jacobs – Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden – Drums
Producer: Bobby Jacobs
Mastered: Andy Jackson
Mixed: Bram Bol
Label: Eastworld Recordings
Date of release: November 2012
Alternative version: None
Notes: The track begins with drums, then the whole band give a Hocus Pocus style riff at frenetic pace before (at 00:12) a flute led section slows things slightly until things kick off again with the band at 00:23. At this point Van Leer gives a voice over as follows
"And ladies and gentlemen we proudly we present Focus
Fo- cus F O C U S
Hahaa! Beautiful!"
At 00:33 the band riff comes in for another 11 seconds and then the flute section follows, this time extended as far as 01:23, where the guitar takes up the lead. At 01:42 the flute returns to interweave with the guitar until 01:55 where there is a brief drum break backed up by the repeated flute riff. At 02:12 a new bassy band Hocus Pocus riff begins. The guitar leads for a while over this until the flute returns at 02:42, becoming playful ten seconds in as a flute-led acoustic ensemble plays out to a slow fade.
NB This title reflects the earlier instrumental Father Bach by way of reference to the Roman god Bacchus, the equivalent of the Greek god Dionysius, who Wikipedia says is the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious ecstasy in ancient Greek religion and myth.

20170901

New Focus Album Out Today September 1

Rather out of the blue a new Focus album appears today. What they have done is to interleave Focus tracks with tracks from members of the band to create an attractive double album adorned with one of Roger Dean's iconic artwork covers. I understand that the CD version is quite lavish in presentation. This is well worth a listen and full of good things. They could have simply produced a 10 track Focus album but by this menas one gets soemthing a bit more meaty and this is probably the right move, although why the old method of calling solo tracks a group effort (pioneered by the Beatles [Yesterday] and continued by Focus [Moving Waves, le Clochard]) could not have been followed I am not sure. Some few tracks have appeared before but the bulk is very fresh to most of us. It is called Focus Family Album and is available through the usual outlets.

20170713

Box Set Listing

Disc: 1 – Focus Plays Focus/In and Out Of Focus  (1970)
1. Focus…(Vocal)
2. Black Beauty
3. Sugar Island
4. Anonymus
5. House Of The King
6. Happy Nightmare (Mescaluine)
7. Why Dream
8. Focus…(Instrumental)

Disc: 2 – Focus 2/Moving Waves (1971)
1. Hocus Pocus
2. Le Clochard
3. Janis
4. Moving Waves
5. Focus II
6. Eruption

Disc: 3 – Focus 3 (1972)
1. Round Goes The Gossip
2. Love Remembered
3. Sylvia
4. Carnival Fugue
5. Focus III
6. Answers? Questions! Qustions? Answers!
7. Elspeth Of Nottingham
8. Anonymus II

Disc: 4 – At the Rainbow (1973)
1. Focus III (Live)
2. Answers? Questions! Qustions? Answers! (Live)
3. Focus II (Live)
4. Eruption (Live)
5. Hocus Focus (Live)
6. Sylvia (Live)
7. Hocus Focus – Reprise (Live)

Disc: 5 – Hamburger Concerto (1974)
1. Delitae Musicae
2. Harem Scarem
3. La Cathedrale De Strasbourg
4. Birth
5. Hamburger Concerto
6. Early Birth

Disc: 6 – Mother Focus (1975)
1. Mother Focus
2. I Need A Bothroom
3. Bennie Helder
4. Soft Vanilla
5. Hard Vanilla
6. Tropic Bird
7. Focus IV
8. Someone’s Crying…What?
9. All Together….Oh That!
10. No Hang Ups
11. My Sweetheart
12. Father Bach

Disc: 7 – Focus con Proby (1978)
1. Wingless
2. Orion
3. Night Flight
4. Eddy
5. Sneezing Bull
6. Brother
7. Tokyo Rose
8. Maximum

Disc: 8 – Ship Of Memories (1976)
1. P’s March
2. Can’t Believe My Eyes
3. Focus V
4. Out Of Vesuvius
5. Glider
6. Red Sky At Night
7. Spoke The Lord Creator
8. Crackers
9. Ship Of Memories
10. Hocus Pocus (U.S. Single Version)

Disc: 9 – Focus (by Jan Akkerman and Thijs van Leer) (1985)
1. Russian Roulette
2. King Kong
3. Le Tango
4. Indian Summer
5. Beethoven’s Revenge (Bach-One-Turbo-Overdrive)
6. Ole Judy
7. Who’s Calling

Disc: 10 – Focus 8 (2002)
1. Rock & Rio
2. Tamara’s Move (Allegroadagio-Allegro)
3. Fretless Love
4. Hurkey Turkey
5. De Ti O De Mi
6. Focus 8
7. Sto Ces Raditi Ostatac Zivota?
8. Neurotika – Rehearsal Take
9. Brother
10. Blizu Tebe
11. Flower Shower

Disc: 11 – Focus 9/New Skin (2006)
1. Black Beauty
2. Focus 7
3. Hurkey Turkey 2
4. Sylvia’s Stepson – Ubatuba
5. Niel’s Skin
6. Just Like Eddy
7. Aya-Yuppie-Hippie-Yee
8. Focus 9
9. Curtain Call
10. Ode To Venus
11. European Rap(sody)
12. Pim
13. It Takes 2 2 Tango
14. Brazil Love

Disc: 12 – Focus X (2012)
1. Father Bacchus
2. Focus 10
3. Victoria
4. Amok In Kindergarten
5. All Hens On Deck
6. Birds Come Fly Over (Le Tango)
7. Hoeratio
8. Talk Of The Crown
9. Message Magic
10. Crossroads

Disc: 13 – The Best Of Focus (1993)
1. Hocus Pocus
2. Anonymus
3. House Of The King
4. Focus – Instrumental
5. Janis
6. Focus II
7. Tommy
8. Sylvia
9. Focus III
10. Harem Scarem
11. Mother Focus
12. Focus IV
13. Bennie Helder
14. Glider
15. Red Sky At Night
16. Hocus Pocus (U.S. Single Version)

New Focus Box Set


A full set of Focus albums has been collected in a new and comprehensive 13 CD box set called Hocus Pocus Box.
With the very recent Focus 8.5 (issued on their own label in 2016) the new box set collects all 10 studio albums, starting with 1970’s Focus Plays Focus/In And Out Of Focus moving all the way through to 2012’s Focus X. 1973’s live album At The Rainbow is also present, as is 1976’s compilation Ship Of Memories and the 1985 studio album from original members Jan Akkerman and Thijs van Leer, called simply Focus.
The final disc is the 1993 compilation The Best Of Focus. This features 16-tracks and includes the US single version of Hocus Pocus.
The albums come in card sleeves with original artwork and are housed in what looks like a clamshell style box. The set also comes with a booklet. Hocus Pocus Box is released on 14 July 2017.
There is very little misisng from this set. O Avondrood the lyrics verion of Red Sky at Night is the only obvious one, although one could mention others.

20170705

Hocus Pocus used in new film


The Focus track Hocus Pocus features alongside a host of other tracks in the new film Baby Driver. Most of the track is played and becomees integral to the shoot out taking place among police adn rival gang members. This is not the first time the track has been used in this sort of way. It also features in a shoot out scene in the 2014 version of Robocop. (It wa also used for  aNike advert remixed some years back).
This time round one especially notes the way at one point gunshots and guiter chords are synchronised. Hopefully it will be a means of introducing younger people to the work of one of the greatest bands ever.
In an interview for Variety director Edgar Wright is asked
Is there an evangelistic element for you, that you might be introducing millennials or even younger people to some classic rock and soul and jazz they wouldn’t otherwise hear? Who wouldn’t want to be introduced to Focus and “Hocus Pocus”?
He answers
I keep saying to people, “If you love the song, watch them performing it on YouTube. It’s astonishing.” I mean, that’s how I know that song, is because there used to be a British music show called “The Old Grey Whistle Test,” which is slightly before my time, but there’s a great DVD of that, and the clip of Focus is amazing.
They go on
“Hocus Pocus” was famous in the ‘70s but hasn’t been kept alive much since then, so it’s hard to explain to people that it’s one of the most exciting rock songs ever recorded… and it has both yodeling and flute.
He adds
Yes. And accordion!
I speak no Dutch but I also liked this comment on one Dutch website.
De 46 jaar oude hit Hocus Pocus van de Nederlandse rockgroep Focus is prominent aanwezig in de actiefilm Baby Driver.
Wright says that the Hocus Pocuus part was his favvourite part - mine too. He also claims the studio was not going to use the track but he was so keen to use it that he paid himself for two extra days of filming. Good call.
Check out this video from 8 minutes to get a tiny taste of the scene.

20170202

In and out of Focus played by alternative artists

New Bassist for Focus

We understand that after many years faithful service Bobby Jacobs has stepped down as bassist. The new bassist is jazz musician Udo Pannekeet.