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.




Focus Live 01

Focus must have played many hundreds of concerts as Focus over the years. In most cases, certainly in the early years, recordings of these performances are quite rare. Where there are recordings these sometimes leave a lot to be desired technically and can be difficult to get hold of in some cases. Some of these concerts have been released on CD and DVD, many remain as bootleg items only.
There are three main official live recordings of Focus available - one from the early period (Rainbow) one from the Philp Catherine period (BBC) and one from this more recent period (America). There are also one or two other official live albums such as Live in South America (2002) and early material such as that found on Masters from the vaults and Gold/Greatest Hits or Living Legends. More recently, other official items have appeared.
Perhaps the very earliest extant recording is a good quality one from Saturday April 4, 1970, featuring Van Leer, Akkerman, Dresden and Cleuver. This would be well after the Amsterdam and London recordings of the first album. Two tracks were recorded at 'Studio 7' Club in Amsterdam on that occasion.
One lasts for 10:31. This is a version of Steamin/So What as made famous by Miles Davis. Van Leer is on an upright piano and the feel is very much a jazz one. Focus rarely sound quite as jazzy again but this element does resurface at various points in their later career.
The second track lasts for 17:18. This is Scarborough Fair, a traditional song arranged and made famous by Simon and Garfunkel in 1966 (Paul Simon got the song from Martin Carthy). Versions by The Ventures, Wes Montgomery and Charlie Byrd may have influenced this one. It was featured on the self-titled Brainbox Album of 1969 (with Akkerman on acoustic guitar and Van Der Linden on drums). While still quite jazzy in feel we are much more in Prog Rock territory here. Van Leer plays flute as well as piano.
The lack of audience reaction may suggest this was a run through prior to performing.
We know that focus also played in Breda on April 30 1970 (with Golden Earring and the George Baker Selection), at Terborg on August 6 and on October 31 in Wageningen as part of the Cantil Festival but we are unaware of recordings.

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