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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20080305

Track by track 34 Can't believe my eyes

Archive number: 34
Title: Can't believe my eyes
Main Album: Ship of Memories
Track number: 2
Genre: Rock Instrumental
Studio: Chipping Norton Recording Studio, 26-32 New Street, Chipping Norton, Oxon, OX7 5LJ
Length: 5' 19”
Composer: Jan Akkerman
Musicians: Jan Akkerman - Electric guitars; Thijs van Leer – Clavinet, Mellotrons; Bert Ruiter – Bass; Pierre van der Linden – Drums
Producer: Mike Vernon
Engineer: Barry Hammond and Dave Grinsted
Label: LP – EMI, Harvest, Sire CD – EMI-Bovema, IRS, Red Bullet, JVC Date of recording/release: Final weeks of May 1973. Not released until 1977 (LP). CD – 1988, 1993, 2001, 2006.
Notes: The first of five tracks rescued from 40 minutes of recording laid down during an abortive fortnight following the recording of Live at the Rainbow. This atmospheric, slightly disquieting piece was originally called "Can't Believe My Ears" but changed (one presumes) for obvious reasons. It was originally subtitled "Dance Macabre" the title of a Mediaeval allegory about the dance of death and a popular theme in art and classical music. The piece begins slowly with Akkerman double-tracked on guitars, one being distorted. Van Leer provides interesting 'howls' and other sounds on the Mellotron. Around the minute mark we settle into a rhythm that breaks down then recovers several times. The pace of the band remains fairly slow throughout while the lead guitar is quite jaunty and animated at certain points. This goes on until a final break down at around 04:50. A coda features a clavinet, mellotron, 'violined' guitar and some final drum beats.
A note on Dance Macabre (From Wikipedia)
Dance of Death (Danse Macabre, Danza Macabra, Totentanz) is a late-mediaeval allegory on the universality of death. No matter one's station in life, the dance of death unites all. It consists of death personified leading a row of dancing figures from all walks of life to the grave - typically an emperor, king, pope, monk, youngster, beautiful girl, all skeletal. It served to remind people of the fragility of life and how vain its glories. Its origins are postulated from illustrated sermon texts. The earliest artistic examples are in a cemetery in Paris from 1424. Paintings usually show a round dance headed by Death. From the highest ranks of the medieval hierarchy (the pope and the emperor) descending to its lowest (beggar, peasant, child) each mortal’s hand is taken by a skeleton or an extremely decayed body. The earliest known printed depiction is from 1499 Lyon by Mattias Huss. It depicts a compositor at his station, which is raised to facilitate his work; and a person running the press. To the right of the print shop an early book store is shown. Early print shops were gathering places for the literati. Pre-1973 musical versions include the following:
Normiger 1598; Liszt 1849; Saint-Saens 1874; Mussorgsky 1875-77; Woyrsch 1905; Schoenberg 1914; A ballet by Jooss 1932; Britten 1939; Shostokovitch, Ullmann 1944; 'Zombie Jamboree' by the Kingston Trio, which they say is based on Goethe, 1958; John Fahey (a finger style guitar solo in G minor tuning used in the film Zabriskie Point) 1964; Andrew Hill 1968; George Crumb 1971; 'Dancing with Mr D' by the Rolling Stones 1973. Also note, the use of the idea in two films - at the end of Ingmar Bergman's Seventh Seal (1957)the surviving members of the cast watch Death lead all of the others over a hill in a slow Danse Macabre. A particularly sarcastic danse macabre fashion show appears in Frederico Fellini's film Roma (1972)

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