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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20191122

Track by track 134

Archive number: 134
Title: Message Magique
Main Album: Focus X 
Track number: 0
Genre: Progressive Rock with vocal 
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium 
Length: 3:53
Composer: Ben van der Linden
Musicians: Thijs van Leer – Piano, organ, flute; Menno Gootjes – Guitars; Bobby Jacobs – Bass; Pierre van der Linden – Drums 
Producer: Bobby Jacobs 
Label: Eastworld Recordings
Date of recording/release: November, 2012
Alternative version: An earlier flute version of this track can be found on Thijs's solo album Renaissance

Notes: The track is introduced by nine seconds of drums then a piano and bass come in for another nine seconds before the lead guitar takes up the main theme in that rising Focus style that is so familiar. This continues until 1:46 when it is the turn of the flute to lead for several bars. From 2:27, it is flute and guitar that synchronise to lead the band. Around 3:15 the descent to the close begins, chiefly led by the flute but concluding with a satisfying sigh from the lead guitar.

Note on Ben van der Linden. Van der Linden (no relation) is a pianist and composer. He learned to play the organ as a child in church. He also studied piano with Jaap Callenbach at the Rotterdam Conservatory. He became pianist with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra for two and a half years then studied electronic music with CEM and jazz with Chick Corea.
He also led the Ben van der Linden Trio and was a student of jazz pianist Louis van Dijk.
Over the years he has worked with van Leer and many others including the singer Della Bosiers, the Peter Blanker Consort, Liselore Gerritsen, Fons Jansen, violinist Christiaan Bor, Conny Vandenbos, filmmaker Bob Rooijens, Henk van Ulsen, Ramses Shaffy, Willem Wilmink, Jan Boer Chair, Audrey Hepburn and Huub Oosterhuis. He was musical leader with Paul van Vliet for nine years and has composed hundreds of songs for different people. His work can be heard on around 80 commercial recordings.

20191121

Track by track 133

Archive number: 133
Title: Talk of the Clown
Main Album: Focus X 
Track number: 8
Genre: Progressive Rock with vocal 
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium 
Length: 2:59
Composer: Thijs van Leer (based on James Hook)
Musicians: Thijs van Leer – Flute; Menno Gootjes – Acoustic guitar; Bobby Jacobs – Bass; Pierre Van der Linden – Drums 
Producer: Bobby Jacobs 
Label: Eastworld Recordings
Date of recording/release: November, 2012

Alternative version: A briefer version of the same track is on Thijs's solo album Renaissance entitled Pierrot
Notes: This playful little acoustic instrumental piece has a renaissance feel about it with Thijs's flute and Menno's guitar leading things with a bass and marching drum backing. A joyful little gem.

Note on James Hook (1746-1827). Born in Norwich, England, Hook was the son of a razor-grinder and cutler and a musical child prodigy. Some time around 1764 he moved to London to become organist at White Conduit House, Pentonville, a tea garden, a popular venue in 18th-century London. He worked as an organist, teacher and composer and gained a reputation for composing vocal music. He married artist and writer Elizabeth Jane Madden in 1766. They had two son. In 1768 he became organist and composer to Marylebone Gardens. In addition to performances on organ, and occasionally on harpsichord, he was now invited to perform concertos between the main works in theatres, and his short musical entertainments and comic operas were being produced for pleasure gardens and in London theatres. In 1776 he became organist at St Johns Horselydown, Bermondsey, and frequently played concerts on newly built organs, in London and beyond, often playing his own compositions. He was highly successful as a keyboard teacher. He later worked at Vauxhall Gardens. His pupil Margaret Thornton (after marriage Martyr) often sang his songs there. Over the years Hook composed operas and other works, most of which were produced at Drury Lane and Covent Garden Theatres. He frequently collaborated with family members. His wife wrote the libretto for opera The Double Disguise (1784); his son James librettos for Jack of Newbury (1795) and Diamond Cut Diamond (1797) and his other son Thomas Edward librettos for at least eight operas. In 1805 his first wife died and the next year he married Harriet Horncastle James. It was at this time that he produced his best work, Tekeli, or the Siege of Montgatz, the life and adventure of Imre Thököly. In 1820 he unexpectedly left his position at Vauxhall, after almost a half century of service. He died seven years later in Boulogne.

20191028

Focus Under the Bridge London




I have been to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's ground, more than once but I had not really noticed that under the East stadium near the Shed end there is a venue called Under the Bridge, Last Friday night I and a ministerial friend (who I convinced about Focus last time they were in town) were among a couple of hundred squeezed into this state of the art setting. (A light show is a rare treat at a Focus gig but appreciated - I think the visuals man must have a sense of humour as we had a picture of crocuses as we started on Hocus Pocus or as Jan Akkerman would surely have rechristiened it Focus crocus!). We caught most of Chantel McGregor's set which was of a high standard. She plays guitar and sings with a bass and drums rhythm section. Of course, once Focus stepped on stage were into a whole new zone with each member of the band making a solid contribution that was rewarded with a solo slot for for each - more in some cases. Van Leer was on form with the complete array of two kinds of flute, organ, melodica, scat, whistling, throat singing, lots of vocoder and a brief vocal on the opening song.
The set list began as usual with some very early stuff - Focus 1, a little Anonymus and House of the King. We then had a version of Eruption, good but not outstanding on this occasion I thought. We then moved on to some more recent stuff - Winnie and the simple but effective All hands on deck with the essential Sylvia in the middle.
We then had some songs rarely heard, if ever - Focus 4 (!) from Mother Focus and Focus 6 which has never appeared on a Focus album (I can only find it on a van Leer solo album. You can hear a recent live version here.). Between these we had Who's calling? originally on the Akkerman van Leer Focus collaboration of 1985 but recently revived on the Focus 11 album. Staying with 1985 material we then had a very fine version of Le Tango with melodics, whistling, etc. Before tackling that Thijs remarked on the presence in the audience of former wife Rosalie Peters who wrote lyrics for  this and other songs. We then had two numbers from Hamburger Concerto regularly played back to back La Cathedrale and Harem Scarem. In the second, van Leer takes opportunity to make himself scarce. So we had solos from Menno Gootjes and Udo Pannekeet on six string bass. Van der Linden had had one in Eruption and was to get another very full one on the penultimate track.
The set of over two amazing hours (no-one in the band showing any signs of tiring) closed with the usual Hocus Pocus and then slightly over they plumped for Focus 2 (rather than Focus 3) as the closer. Stupendous stuff.
There was an opportunity to meet the band but there was a rather long queue and so we decided to head off.

20191025

Track by track 132

Archive number: 132
Title: Hoeratio
Main Album: Focus X
Track number: 7
Genre: Progressive Rock with vocal
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium
Length: 5:38
Composer: Bobby Jacobs
Musicians: Thijs van Leer – Hammond organ, piano, flute, vocal; Menno Gootjes – Guitars; Bobby Jacobs – Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden – Drums
Producer: Bobby Jacobs
Label: Eastworld Recordings
Date of recording/release: November, 2012

Alternative version: None
Notes: The band play an atmospheric but languid tune throughout. From 01:12 through to 02:24 van Leer does a voice over reciting from Horace's Ars Poetica the lines below. After this section the guitar leads with a thorough exploration of the fretboard for the next little while before getting back to the march at 04:01 and then van Leer's now more dramatic an unidentified vocal from 04:14. This takes us right to the end where there is a fade.
The words are

Tibia non ut nunc orichalco uincta tubaeque 
aemula, sed tenuis simplexque foramine pauco 
adspirare et adesse choris erat utilis atque 
nondum spissa nimis complere sedilia flatu: 
quo sane populus numerabilis, utpote paruus, 
et frugi castusque uerecundusque coibat. 
Postquam coepit agros extendere uictor et urbem 
latior amplecti murus uinoque diuino 
placari Genius festis impune diebus, 
accessit numerisque modisque licentia maior. 
Indoctus quid enim saperet liberque laborum 
rusticus urbano confusus, turpis honesto?

The meaning

The Flute – not, as now, bound in brass and a rival of the trumpet,
but slight and simple with few stops – was once of use to lead
and aid the chorus and fill with its breath benches not too
crowded, where, to be sure, folk gathered, easy to count because
few sober folk, too, and chaste and modest.
But when a conquering race began to widen its domain and an
ampler wall embraced its cities and when, on festive days,
appeasing the Genius by daylight drinking brought no penalty,
but then both time and tune won greater licence.
For what taste would you expect of an unlettered throng just freed
from toil rustic mixed up with city folk, vulgar with nobly born?

Note on Horace or Horatio (Hoe ratio is a word play - how rational) Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65–8 BC), known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus (Octavian). The rhetorician Quintilian regarded his Odes as just about the only Latin lyrics worth reading: "He can be lofty sometimes, yet he is also full of charm and grace, versatile in his figures, and felicitously daring in his choice of words."
Horace also crafted elegant hexameter verses (Satires and Epistles) and caustic iambic poetry (Epodes). The hexameters are amusing yet serious works, friendly in tone, leading the ancient satirist Persius to comment: "as his friend laughs, Horace slyly puts his finger on his every fault; once let in, he plays about the heartstrings".
His career coincided with Rome's momentous change from a republic to an empire. An officer in the republican army defeated at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC, he was befriended by Octavian's right-hand man in civil affairs, Maecenas, and became a spokesman for the new regime. For some commentators, his association with the regime was a delicate balance in which he maintained a strong measure of independence (he was "a master of the graceful sidestep") but for others he was, in John Dryden's phrase, "a well-mannered court slave.
The Ars poetica  or "The Art of Poetry" is a poem written by him about 19 BC. In it he advises poets on the art of writing poetry and drama. It has "exercised a great influence in later ages on European literature, notably on French drama" and has inspired poets and authors since it was written. Although it had been familiar since the Middle Ages, it was used in literary criticism only since the Renaissance.
It includes several famous phrases including quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus (l. 359) or "sometimes even good Homer nods off". Today this expression is used to indicate that even the most skilled poet can make continuity errors and that long works, usually epics may have their faults without that detracting significantly from their general quality. In context, however, Horace censures Homer for such lapses. I mention it as perhaps Homer nodded here too.

New Jan Akkerman Album out today

It is called Close BeautyCheck out the details here The track Retrospection explores the Focus link.

20191011

Hocus Pocus in the movies again

You'll enjoy this trailer especially from 1'09" on

20191010

Track by track 131

Archive number: 131
Title: Birds Come Fly Over (Le Tango)
Main Album: Focus X
Track number: 6
Genre: Jazz Pop Vocal
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium
Length: 5:21
Composer: Thijs Van Leer, Roselie Peters
Musicians: Thijs Van Leer – Hammond organ, piano, flute, melodica; Menno Gootjes – Guitars; Bobby Jacobs – Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden – Drums; Ivan Lins - vocals. 
Producer: Bobby Jacobs, Geert Scheijgrond
Label: Eastworld Recordings
Date of recording/release: November, 2012
Alternative version: The same track is on The Focus Family album. Versions of Le Tango appear on the Focus album with Jan Akkerman, on Introspection 4 and in other places.
Notes: We begin with drums then acoustic guitar, organ, flute and eventually a chugging electric guitar in tango time. At 0:54 the vocal begins. The words are

I'm always watching sunrise,
I have at least a life
And for my heart's desire, I can die.

And you my love, my good love,
I see you live your life,
But in my heart I've often seen you cry.

I'm only waiting for the time to pass,
How can I raise my voice or my hand?
Birds come fly over to the sun.

Out of a million lovers,
One only could be mine,
Oh there's a million others passing by

From sun up until sundown
This life is such a strife
And if you lose your love you lose your life.

I'm only waiting for the time to pass,
How can I raise my voice or my hand?
Birds come fly over to the sun.

There is a brief instrumental section announced by a beat from 2:02-02:21 after verse 3. In the subsequent part van Leer's melodica is heard. From 3:28-04:01 the band comes in more strongly again before the final vocal section which features the second three verses repeated. A piano is heard in the mix this time.

20191003

Track by Track 130

Archive number: 130 
Title: All Hens On Deck 
Main Album: Focus X 
Track number: 5 
Genre: Progressive Rock Instrumental 
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium 
Length: 5:44 
Composer: Thijs van Leer 
Musicians: Thijs van Leer – Hammond organ, piano, flute; Menno Gootjes – Guitars; Bobby Jacobs – Bass; Pierre Van Der Linden – Drums 
Producer: Bobby Jacobs, Geert Scheijgrond
Label: Eastworld Recordings 
Date of recording/release: November 2012
Alternative version: 
Notes: The track begins full pelt with drums then the band led by percussive guitar, the flute coming in from 00:06. This goes on until at 00:23 we have the breakdown with a series of three strokes, lasting until 00:44 when the Hammond led band takes up the theme. The flute then leads until 01:01 and the second break down. At 01:16 it is van Leer's scat vocal that comes in echoing the guitar with the band until 01:43. Menno's bluesy guitar then goes on until 02:28 when the scat section is repeated until 02:56. Next comes a radical slow down and a majestic, classical section led by the vocal and guitar. At 04:13 the earliest section is repeated, leading into the scat section (from 04:40). A final six strokes brings us almost to the end (05:25) before a long drawn out cat moan vocal contribution by a finally breathless van Leer.

20190926

Songs played only once in concert

Angel Wings
Anonymous/House of the King
Bésame mucho (Consuelo Velázquez cover)
Blues
Bobby's Bass Solo
Concerto de Aranjuez
Croatian title
De Ti O De Mi
Father Bacchus
Flute introduction
Focus 9 & 10
Focus V & VI
For You, or for Me
Guitar/Bass Solo
Hard Vanilla
Harem Scarem (featuring Menno guitar solo and Udo bass solo)
Harem Scarem (inc guitar and bass solos)
Hoeratio
Jan Akkerman Solo
Jippijippieayo
Just Like Eddy
Le Tango
Little Sister/What You See
Little Sister/What You See/Little Sister
Maximum
My Sweetheart
Profile
Questions answers answers questions
Sneezing Bull
Sonata for Flute
Sylvia (prelude)
Sylvia's Stepson - Ubatuba
The Girl From Bangu
Tommy/Focus III /Hocus Pocus
Tropical bird
Virtuous Woman
Walk on     

Rarely played live songs

Four times
Bass Solo, Blizu Tebé, Bobby bass solo/ arem reprise, Focus 8, Focus X, Hurkey Turkey, Mare Nostrum, Menno's Guitar Solo, No Hang Ups, Rock & Rio, Thijs' flute & vocal solos, Tommy
Five times
Flute & Keyboard solo, Flute Solo (Thijs), Focus VII, Keyboards and Flute Improvisation, 
Twice
Blues in D, Flute Improvisation, Focus IV, Guitar Solo, Hamburger Concerto Jam, Harem Scarem (reprise), Love Remembered, Medley: Focus (Instrumental)/Focus (Vocal)/Anonymous, Pierre's Drum Solo, Sto Ces Raditi Ostatac Zivota

Less commonly played live songs 21-40

21/22 Anonymous II and Focus V 11
23-25 Focus and Hocus Pocus (Reprise) and Sylvia's Stepson 10
26/27 Flute Solo and P's March 9
28 Ode to Venus 8
29-32 Birth and Drum Solo / Hocus Pocus reprise and Hamburger Concerto and Who's Calling?  7
33-37 Drum Solo and Focus 11 and Focus III / Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! and Hurkey Turkey 2 and Thijs van Leer Solo 6
38-40 Anonymous and Mazzel and Victoria 5

Less commonly played live songs 10-20

After the top 10 the statistics go
11 Aya-Yuppie-Hippie-Yee 37
12 Focus 7 32
13 Birds Come Fly Over (Le Tango) 31
14 Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! 30
15 Brother 19
16 Tamara's Move 17
17 Round Goes the Gossip 15
18 De ti o de mí and Neurotika 13
20 Focus I /Anonymus 12

Top 10 songs played on tour


Harem Scarem at Setlist fm

Harem Scarem
Facts
Total Plays - 97 times by 1 Artist
From the release - Hamburger Concerto (Album)
First Played in Concert - April 30, 1974 by Focus at Stadsgehoorzaal, Leiden, Netherlands
Most Recently Played - September 23, 2019 by Focus at CLUB CITTA', Kawasaki, Japan

Detailed Statistics by Artist
Harem Scarem stats
Focus

Eruption at Setlist fm

Eruption by Focus
Facts

Total Plays - 117 times by 1 Artist
From the release - Focus II (Album)
First Played in Concert - October 29, 1971 by Focus at De Doelen, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Most Recently Played - September 23, 2019 by Focus at CLUB CITTA', Kawasaki, Japan

Detailed Statistics by Artist
Eruption stats
Focus

See here

House of the King at Setlist fm

House of the King by Focus
Facts

Total Plays - 125 times by 4 Artists
From the release - In and Out of Focus (Album)
First Played in Concert - May 31, 1971 by Focus at Pinkpop Festival 1971
Most Recently Played - September 23, 2019 by Focus at CLUB CITTA', Kawasaki, Japan

Detailed Statistics by Artist
House of the King stats
Focus Drugi način John Wesley Harding La nuova Raccomandata con Ricevuta di Ritorno

Sylvia at Setlist fm

Sylvia by Focus
Facts

Total Plays - 156 times by 10 Artists
From the release - Focus 3 (Album)
First Played in Concert - November 12, 1971 by Focus at Club Zodiac, Amstelveen, Netherlands
Most Recently Played - September 23, 2019 by Focus at CLUB CITTA', Kawasaki, Japan

Detailed Statistics by Artist
Sylvia stats Focus The Breakfast Jan Akkerman De Boertjes van Buuten The Progs Don Airey Ryo Okumoto Progtributes Transatlantic Ginger Wildheart

See here

Hocus Pocus at Setlist fm

Hocus Pocus by Focus
Facts

Total Plays - 324 times by 37 Artists
From the release - Focus II (Album)
First Played in Concert - May 31, 1971 by Focus at Pinkpop Festival 1971
Most Recently Played - September 23, 2019 by Focus at CLUB CITTA', Kawasaki, Japan

Detailed Statistics by Artist
Hocus Pocus stats
Focus Gary Hoey Jan Akkerman Ginger Wildheart TR3 Steve Vai They Might Be Giants Nuno Bettencourt Zakk Wylde Yngwie J. Malmsteen Marillion Pacific Panic Don Airey Future Sight The Vandals Tosin Abasi A Couple Anancies Foo Fighters Generation Axe moe. Zon Anthrax Cult Hero D'AccorD Eläkeläiset First Generation of Number Nine Michael Girard Manowar Max Webster Ningen Isu Raging Slab Brendon Small Stallion Twister Thelonious Monster Transatlantic Ugly Kid Joe WildSide

See here

20190511

Focus Family Album Pie Chart


Track by track 129


Archive number: 129
Title: Amok in Kindergarten
Main Album: Focus X
Track number: 4
Genre: Jazz Instrumental
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium (Mixed at B-Spot Studio; mastered at Tube Mastering)
Length: 5' 00"
Composer: Thijs van Leer
Musicians: Thijs van Leer – Hammond organ, piano; Menno Gootjes – Guitars; Bobby Jacobs – Bass; Pierre van der Linden – Drums
Producer: Bobby Jacobs, Geert Scheijgrond
Mastered: Andy Jackson
Mixed: Bram Bol
Label: Eastworld Recordings 
Date of recording/release: November 2012
Alternative version: Two early versions appear on a rare van Leer solo album called Home Concert. The first is a short piano piece and the second long piece features flute and piano.
Notes: First a sombre mood is set by the cymbals and drums with piano, organ and bass (00:00-00:52) before the guitar comes in too with the jazz melody that meanders along until 02:02 when the guitar takes more of a lead. This continues until 03:49 when something more like the earlier theme is taken up. This is a demanding piece on a demanding theme.
A note on the Dunblane School Massacre (from Wikipedia)
The Dunblane school massacre took place at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland, on 13 March 1996, when Thomas Hamilton, who lived five miles from the school, shot 16 children and one teacher dead before killing himself. The massacre occurred in the school gym where 28 children had been gathered for a PE lesson. Several staff were present. He also fired shots into a nearby classroom where the pupils had been instructed tolie on the floor. A total of 32 people sustained gunshot wounds inflicted by Hamilton over a 3 or 4 minute period, 16 of whom were fatally wounded in the gymnasium, which included Gwen Mayor and 15 of her pupils. One other child died later en route to hospital. It remains the deadliest mass shooting in British history.
Following the massacre two new Firearms Acts were passed, outlawing private ownership of most handguns in Great Britain. The gymnasium at the school was demolished on 11 April 1996 and replaced by a memorial garden. Two years after the massacre on 14 March 1998, a memorial garden was opened at Dunblane Cemetery, where Gwen Mayor and twelve of the slain children are buried.
Van Leer's piece is one of several musical reponses to the event.

Track by track 128

Archive number: 128
Title: Victoria
Main Album: Focus X
Track number: 3
Genre: Prog Rock Instrumental
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium (Mixed at B-Spot Studio; mastered at Tube Mastering)
Length: 5' 28"
Composer: Thijs van Leer
Musicians: Thijs van Leer – Hammond organ, piano, flute; Menno Gootjes – Guitars, Vocals; Bobby Jacobs – Bass; Pierre van der Linden – Drums
Producer: Bobby Jacobs, Geert Scheijgrond
Mastered: Andy Jackson
Mixed: Bram Bol
Label: Eastworld Recordings 
Date of recording/release: November 2012
Alternative version: This track was originally recorded in 1970 with a vocal in Dutch penned by Lennaert Herman Nijgh. The lyric tells the story of a man accused of rape who is knifed by the girl's father! An edited version of the instrumental appears on The Focus Family Album
Notes: The track begins with a solo piano intro. At 00:10 the drums break in and then the guitar led band when the chorus comes (00:52-01:16). The chorus features a background vocal repeating the name Victoria. The verse (to 01:55) and chorus (to 02:18) are then repeated. The break down then comes, featuring organ, flute and a little muted flute before returning to the theme just before the three minute mark. A verse and some chorus work follow until 03:56 when a jam comes in with real jazz flute and some guitar. This plays out to the end of the track.

20190510

Track by track 127

Archive number: 127
Title: Focus 10
Main Album: Focus X
Track number: 2
Genre: Jazz Rock Instrumental
Studio: Fieldwork Studios, Schoten, Belgium (Mixed at B-Spot Studio; mastered at Tube Mastering)
Length: 5' 28"
Composer: Thijs van Leer
Musicians: Thijs van Leer – Hammond organ, piano, flute; 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 recording/release: November 2012
Alternative version: None
Notes: This is the title track and the tenth in the eponymous series. The drums again briefly introduce the guitar led band. The tune is a playful jazzy, even at times a quirky and teasing, one. The tune has something of a French feel to it. Beginning at 00:02 it goes on to 02:28 before the flute joins in. This flute section then goes on until around 03:40 before being chiefly supersededed by the guitar although it does make some brief comebacks. At 05:02 the piece breaks down and first only piano and organ play and then for the final 33 seconds just solo jazz piano to close the track.