Focus


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1969-70)

- Hans Cleuver -- drums, percussion

- Martin Dresden -- bass
- Thijs Van Leer -- keyboards, flute, percussion

 

  line up 2 (1970-71)

NEW - Jan Akkerman -- guitar

- Hans Cleuver -- drums, percussion

- Martin Dresden -- bass 

- Thijs Van Leer -- keyboards, flute, percussion

 

  line up 3 (1971-72)

- Jan Akkerman -- guitar

NEW - Cyril Havermans -- bass (replaced Martin Dresden)
- Thijs Van Leer -- keyboards, flute, percussion

NEW - Pierre Van der Linden -- drums (replaced 

  Hans Cleuver) 

 

   line up 4 (1971-73)

- Jan Akkerman -- guitar

NEW - Bert Ruiter -- bass, percussion (replaced Cyril Havermans)
- Thijs Van Leer -- keyboards, flute, percussion

- Pierre Van der Linden -- drums (replaced 

  Hans Cleuver) 

 

   line up 5 (1973-74)

- Jan Akkerman -- guitar

NEW - Collin Allan -- drums, percussion (replaced 

  Pierre Van der Linden)

- Bert Ruiter -- bass, percussion (replaced Cyril Havermans)
- Thijs Van Leer -- keyboards, flute, percussion

 

   line up 5 (1974-75)

- Jan Akkerman -- guitar

NEW - David Kemper -- drums, percussion (replaced 

  Collin Allan)

- Bert Ruiter -- bass, percussion (replaced Cyril Havermans)
- Thijs Van Leer -- keyboards, flute, percussion

 

  line up 6 (1976-78)

NEW - Eef Albers -- lead guitar (replaced  Jan Akkerman)

NEW - Philip Catherine -- rhythm and lead guitar (replaced 

  Jan Akkerman)

- Thijs van Leer -- keyboards, flute
NEW - P.J. Proby --  vocals
- Bert Ruiter -- bass
- Steve Smith -- drums, percussion (replaced David Kemper)

 

  line up 7 (1978)

- Eef Albers -- lead guitar (replaced  Jan Akkerman)

- Philip Catherine -- rhythm and lead guitar (replaced 

  Jan Akkerman)

NEW - Richard James -- drums, percussion (replaced 

  Steve Smith)

- Thijs van Leer -- keyboards, flute
- P.J. Proby --  vocals
- Bert Ruiter -- bass

 

 

 

- Jan Akkerman (solo efforts)
- Jan Akkerman and Kaz Lux

- Eef Albers (solo efforts)
- Brainbox (Jan Akkerman, Pierre van der Linden)

- Earth & Fire (Bert Reuiter)

- Ekception (Pierre van der Linden)

- Forcefield II (Jan Akkerman)
- Cyril Havermans (solo efforts)

- Hunters (Jan Akkerman, Pierre van der Linden)
- Thijs Van Leer (solo efforts)

- Journey (Steve Smith)

- Pedal Point (Thijs van Leer)

- Jean Luc Ponty (Philip Catherine and Steve Smith)
- P.J. Proby (solo efforts)
- Stone the Crows (David Allen)

- Trace (Pierre van der Linden)

- Vital Information. (Steve Smith)


 

Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  In & Out of Focus

Company: Sire

Catalog: SASD-7027

Year: 1971

Country/State: Amsterdam, Holland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: not yet listed

Price: $10.00

Still music students at the Amsterdam Conservatory, classically trained woodwind player Thijs van Leer, drummer Hans Cleuver and bass player Martin Dresden found themselves supplementing their incomes working as sessions players. Supporting the likes of Dutch stars Cyril Havermans and Robin Lent, by 1969 they'd added former Brainbox guitarist Jan Akkerman to the lineup (see separate entry), paying their bills by backing the Dutch version of Hair. On their own, the lineup's intricate hybrid of classic, jazz and art rock attracted the attention of Polydor Records which subsequently signed them to a recording contract.

Released in 1970, the group's debut "In and Out of Focus" was originally deemed too uncommercial for American release. Accordingly, the set didn't see a domestic release until the following year. Distributed by Sire, the album showcased the band's considerable talents on an interesting collection of extended, largely instrumental jazz and classically influenced pieces (van Leer occasionally adding heavily accented vocals ("Why Dream")). In spite of favorable reviews, material such as the lilting "Focus (Instrumental)" and the cocktail jazzy "Happy Nightmare (Mescaline)" simply proved too eclectic for most American radio stations. Best of the lot was Akkerman's amazing Jethro Tull impersonation on "House of the King." Sire reissued the album on the heels of the band's subsequent commercial breakthrough.

"In and Out of Focus" track listing:
1.) Focus (Thijs van Leer)
2.) Why Dream (Thijs van Leer - E. Cleuver)
3.) Happy Nightmare (Mescaline) (Thijs van Leer - Martin Dresden - M. Hayes)
4.) Anonymous (Thijs van Leer - Jan Akkerman - Martin Dresden)
5.) Black Beauty (Thijs van Leer - E. Cleuver)

 

 


6.) Focus (vocal) (Thijs van Leer - E. Cleuver)


Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Moving Waves

Company: Sire

Catalog: SASD-7401

Year: 1972

Country/State: Amsterdam, Holland

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5913

Price: $12.00

 

Largely on the strength of the fluke top-40 hit 'Hocus Pocus', 1971's "Moving Waves" proved the group's biggest American seller. It also stood as their most artistically fulfilling release. Exemplified by the 24 minute, side long 'Eruption' the collection offered up a seamless combination of classical, jazz and rock influences. While the entire group was given an opportunity to display technical virtuosity, Akkerman's contributions were particularly noteworthy. Less impressive were the group's stabs at vocal numbers. Exemplified by the title track vocalist van Leer sounded as if he'd overdosed on helium snappets. The group's biggest American hit, the album went gold, hitting # 8. Unfortunately, shortly after the collection's release the group underwent the first of a stream of personnel changes with drummer Cleuver and bassist Dresden leaving. They were quickly replaced by former Akkerman associates Cyril Havermans and Pierre Van der Linden.

"Moving Waves" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Hocus Pocus
2.) Le Clochard
3.) Janis
4.) Moving Waves
5.) Focus II

(side 2)

1.) Eruption
   i.) Orfeus, Answer, Orfeus (Thijs van Leer)
   ii.) Answer, Pupilla (Thijs van Leer)
       Tommy (T. Barlache) 
       Pupilla (Thijs van Leer)
   iii.) Answer (Thijs van Leer)
        The Bridge (Jan Akkerman)
   iv.) Euridice (Thijs van Leer - E. Nobel) 
        Dayglow (Thijs van Leer) 
        Endless Road (Pierre van der Linden)
   v.) Answer Orfeus (Thijs van Leer) 

 

 


Euridice (Thijs van Leer - E. Nobel)


Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  At the Rainbow

Company: Polydor

Catalog: 2383 229

Year: 1973

Country/State: Amsterdam, Holland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gimmick, fold out sleeve; German pressing

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 6390

Price: SOLD $10.00

 

Recorded before an enthusiastic crowd at a May 1973 performances London's Rainbow Theater, "At the Rainbow" was released as a stopgap set when plans for a studio follow-up to 1972's "Moving Waves" fell apart amidst a bout of personnel infighting.  Produced by Mike Vernon (interesting choice given his blues-rock roots), the album showcased what many folks think is the classic Focus line up - guitarist Jan Akkerman, keyboardist/flute player Thijs Van Leer, bassist Bert Ruiter and drummer Pierre Van Der Linden.  Musically the collection offered up a decent mixture of ''hits' ('Sylvia' and of course 'Hocus Pocus' was on the album, though most folks would be hard pressed to recognize it given the hyper speed rendition), and lesser known album tracks.  With the exception of 'Hocus Pocus' none of the live arrangements were drastically different from the studio versions, but that wasn't meant as a criticism given how good these performances were.     

 

- No matter what you think about Focus, the opening instrumental 'Focus III'  leaves no doubt that Akkerman deserved all the credit and acclaim that was being directed his way during the mid-1970s.  One of the band's prettier and more mainstream compositions, it made for a nice way to start the album.   rating; *** stars

- 'Answers? Questions! Questions? Answer!' was more of a jam number with each member getting a shot at he spotlight.  Way too long (you can easily skip the seemingly endless flute solo), it would have been better without van Lee's irritating shrieks in the background.  Once again the spotlight was on Akkerman who displayed some amazing speed of light fretwork, and while his performance was dazzling (especially in the second half of the song), the secret ingredients this time around was the Ruiter and Van Der Linden rhythm section.  Gawd only knows how they did it, but the pair somehow managed to keep this eleven minute plus piece on track.   rating; *** stars 

- 'Focus II'  was another relatively straightforward composition, though the mid-section sounded like an outtake from a television game show theme song and Akkerman's guitar sounded like the microphone had been strapped to one of his fingers.   rating; ** stars 

- Side two found the band shifting into their progressive stance with an abbreviated take on 'Eruption' (off of 1972's started with "Moving Waves" LP).  With the original 22 minute studio version slimmed down to a mere eight minutes, the performance wasn't bad (once again Akkerman's contributions were stellar), but to get the full effect, this is one where I'd stick with the studio rendition.  rating: ** stars

- As mentioned above, the live version of 'Hocus Pocus' opened up with an amazing feedback drenched solo from Akkerman and then blasted into a hyper speed take.  You were left with the impression they were fed up with the song and just wanted to get it over with.  Even with van Leer's extended yodeling and whistling, it made for one of the album highlights.  By the way van Leer's 'singing' band introductions were kind of cute.  rating: **** stars

- True it wasn't as big a hit as 'Hocus Pocus;, but to my ears 'Sylvia' was actually the better song.  One of van Leer's prettiest compositions, there was even a bit of yodeling for his fans.   rating: *** stars

- The 'Hocus Pocus' reprise was needless unless you felt the need for a couple of additional minutes of van Leer's yodeling.  I certainly didn't feel the need.  rating: ** stars

 

Yeah there were a couple of lulls ('Eruptions'), but for the most part this album sailed by very quickly.  Nice introduction to the band ...

"Rainbow" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Focus III (instrumental)   (Thjis van Leer) - 3:52

2.) Answers? Questions! Questions? Answer! (instrumental)   (Jan Akkerman - Bert Ruiter) - 11:29

3.) Focus II (instrumental)    (Thjis van Leer) - 4:36

(side 2)

1.) Eruptions (excerpt)  (instrumental)   (Tom Barlage - Thjis van Leer) -  8:28

    i.) Orfeus

    ii,) Answer

    iii.) Orfeus

    iv.) Answer

    v.) Pupilla

    vi.) Tommy

    vii.) Pupilla

2.) Hocus Pocus   (Jan Akkerman - Thjis van Leer) (instrumental) - 8:30

3.) Sylvia (instrumental)   (Thjis van Leer) - 2:47

4.) Hocus Pocus (reprise) (instrumental)    (Jan Akkerman - Thjis van Leer) - 2:46

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Hamburger Concerto

Company: ATCO

Catalog: SD 36-100

Year: 1974

Country/State: Amsterdam, Holland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD $12.00

 

 

1973's "Hamburger Concerto" found Focus teaming with producer Mike Vernon (best known for his work with English blues-rock bands like Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown and as owner of the Blue Horizon label).  In theory it should have made for an interesting collaboration with each partner influencing the other, but for what it was worth, Focus won this round with little of Vernon's trademarked production touches standing out in the resulting collection.  Guess what I'm trying to say is that anyone expecting to hear Focus-con-Savoy Brown was going to be disappointed by this one.  On the other hand, if you were looking for a continuation of the band's earlier eclectic approach to a myriad of musical styles, this was a nice addition to the catalog.  As on those earlier releases guitarist Jan Akkerman and multi-instrumentalist Thijs Van Leer dominated the material, splitting the writing chores and taking most of the spotlight moments.  This one had a little bit of everything, including stabs at classical, medieval, pop, progressive, and straight ahead rock.

 

- 'Delitiae Musicae' started the album off with one of Akkerman's medieval influenced Lute instrumentals.  The track sounded very much like something off of his "Tabernakel" solo album (in may well have been left over from those sessions).   At least to my ears it was quite striking, though was one of those genres enjoyed in small doses, rather than stretched over an entire album.  The only warning is that the track had absolutely nothing to do with the rock genre.  rating: *** stars

- While you wouldn't be entirely wrong labeling it a 'Hocus Pocus' knockoff, 'Harem Scarem' was a classic slice of Focus rock.  Kicked along by Akkerman's screeching lead guitar and van Thjis keyboards, this was one of their more conventional, straight-ahead efforts, making it easy to see why ATCO tapped it as the single.  Geez, there was even a little bit of van Leers yodeling in the background.    rating: **** stars

- van Leer's 'La Cathedrale de Strasbourg' found the band in pseudo-classical mode.  The first half of the song was featured a pretty, churchy melody that really didn't make much of a long term impression.  The song improved considerably when the French lyrics kicked in.  Bolstered by some nice whistling (not kidding) and a great bass pattern from Ruiter, it ushered in one of Akkerman's prettier, jazz-influenced performances.    rating: *** stars

- 'Birth' opened up with a harpsichord-powered medieval flourish before morphing into a blazing rocker that showcased Akkerman's lead guitar and van Leer's flute.  That probably didn't sound very promising, but the fact of the matter was that this was one of the album's standout performances.   rating: **** stars

- Side two showcased the multi-part title track suite.  Clocking in at about 20 minutes, interestingly the basic 'Hamburger Concerto' melody seemed to have been appropriated from Johannes Brahms 'Variations on the St. Anthony Chorale', though the liner notes variously credited the six segments to Akkerman and van Leer.  Kicking the track off, the 'Starter' segment was probably my favorite segment, effortless mixing Akkerman's power chords (which sound like they were borrowed from 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)' from "Abbey Road") and van Leer's classical inspired keyboards.  Other parts of the suite did less for me, including the 'Hocus Pocus' self parody found on 'Medium I'.  I will admit side two flew by quickly.

 

- Though little was done to promote it, the album was tapped for a single in the form of:

 

- 1973's 'Harum Scarum' b/w 'Early Birth' (ATCO catalog number 45-7002)

 

Executive summary - mid-1970s progressive for those of us who like our music varied with a bit of conventional structure.  One of my favorite Focus releases ...

 

"Hamburger Concerto" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Delitiae Musicae (instrumental)   (Jan Akkerman) - 1:13

2.) Harem Scarem (instrumental)   (Thijs van Leer) - 5:50

3.) La Cathedrale de Strasbourg (instrumental)   (Thijs van Leer) - 5:00

4.) Birth (instrumental)   (Jan Akkerman) - 7:45


(side 2)

1.) Hamburger Concerto - 20:18

     i.) Starter   (Thijs van Leer)

     ii.) Rare   (Jan Akkerman)

     iii.) Medium I   (Thijs van Leer)

     iv.) Medium II   (Jan Akkerman)

     v.) Well Done   (Thijs van Leer)

     vi.) One for the Road   (Jan Akkerman)

 

 


Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Mother Focus

Company: ATCO

Catalog: SD 36-117

Year: 1975

Country/State: Amsterdam, Holland

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5912

Price: $12.00

 

Having enjoyed a taste of commercial success with 1973's 'Hocus Pocus', 1975's self-produced "Mother Focus" found Focus still trying to figure out what to do next.  The resulting discussions apparently put the band into two camps; one favoring a return to a more progressive stance; the other group wanting to continue with a more commercial orientation.  Judging by the majority of these tracks, the commercial faction led by bassist Bert Ruiter apparently won out.  The result was a collection of shorter, more mainstream numbers that largely abandoned their earlier progressive moves in favor of shorter, more focused pop and lite jazz moves.  The change in direction also saw a shift in writing with Ruiter responsible for almost half of the songs; Akkerman and van Thjis splitting the rest.  Needless to say, longstanding fans were confused and appalled by the change in direction.  At the same time the since the album lacked anything as commercial as 'Hocus Pocus' pop fans proved uninterested. The end result was an album that failed to please either crowd and left their recording label less than thrilled.  To my ears the big disappoint was the lack of airtime for Akkerman.  With the exception of 'Hard Vanilla' he was all but absent on side one.  His growing frustrations with the band became apparently when he handed in his resignation shortly after the album was released.  Adding to the personnel problems during the recording sessions drummer Collin Allan bailed (the liner notes credited him with playing on 'I Need a Bathroom').  David Kemper was quickly brought in as a replacement.  

 

- Propelled by Thjis van Lerr's mini-moog and background yoodles (yeah they were there, just not as prominent as on 'Hocus Pocus'), 'Mother Focus' started the album off with one of their most commercial offerings.  I never would have expected to hear a funky Focus song, but this one certainly came close.  Great melody helped out by a nice voice box guitar solo from Akkerman ...  My favorite performance on the album.   rating: **** stars

- Written and sung by bassist Bert Ruiter, 'I Need a Bathroom' was a slinky blues-rocker.  Showcasing Akkerman's guitar, the tune itself was quite good - one of their best straightforward rockers, though the lyric was questionable.  One could only assume there was a translation issue on this one.   rating: **** stars  

- Showcasing van Thjis synthesizers 'Bennie Helde' was a pretty pop instrumental.  The melody actually would have made for a nice pop song which probably drove the band's progressive fans into spasms of dispair ...  rating: ** stars

- Another Ruiter composition, the instrumental 'Soft Vanilla' was a breezy instrumental that actually sounded like something off of a mid-1980s lite jazz station.  Quite relaxing in a dental office kind of fashion.   rating: ** stars

- 'Hard Vanilla' was basically a continuation of the earlier song, the major difference being this time out the focus shifted to Akkerman's voice box guitar.   While better than 'Soft Vanilla', the results were still awfully MOR.   rating: ** stars

- Another pretty, but instantly forgettable instrumental that spotlight van Thjis tasteful synthesizers, 'Tropical Bird' sounded like it had been written for a television soundtrack.   rating: ** stars  

- Opening side two, the van Thjis-penned instrumental 'Focus IV' was easily one of the band's prettiest songs.  Simply a gorgeous melody with Akkerman turning in an equally engaging slide guitar solo.   rating: **** stars  

- Akkerman's 'Someone's Crying . . . What?' came off as little more than noodling.  There were fragments of a song here, but the thing never came together in a coherent package.   Ironically Akkerman wasn't much of a presence on the track; van Thjis synthesizers and flute taking most of the spotlight.   rating: ** stars  

- Another Akkerman composition, 'All Together Now . . . Oh, That!' started out spotlighted his acoustic guitar on a folky number that recalled something from one of his earlier solo albums.  About a minute into the track the song morphed into a country-rock number.  Don't cringe since the focus (ha) remained on Akkerman's sterling guitar.   rating: *** stars  

- The lone cover, 'No Hang Ups' served as a showcase for Akkerman's instantly recognizable lead work.  His standout performance and one of the album highpoints ...   rating: **** stars  

- 'My Sweetheart' almost sounded like a disco number ...  Not sure what effect Akkerman was using on his strings, or perhaps it was a Coral electric sitar ...  regardless, the sound was pretty cool, though the song sucked.   rating: ** stars  

- van Thjis 'Father Bach' closed the album out with a brief classically inspired piece.  This one always make me think of Midnight mass ...   rating: ** stars  

 

Far from their creative zenith, but not bad for a band that was starting to fall apart at the seams.   Critics savaged the set and the buying public pretty much ignored the album.  ATCO didn't even bother trying to float a single.  (I can clearly recall seeing piles of the album sitting around my local music store with a 99 cent sales tag.)


"Mother Focus" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Mother Focus (instrumental)   (Jan Akkerman - Bert Ruiter - Thijs van Leer) - 3:04 

2.) I Need a Bathroom   (Bert Ruiter) - 3:05

3.) Bennie Helder (instrumental)   (Thjis van Leer) - 3:32

4.) Soft Vanilla (instrumental)   (Bert Ruiter) - 3:03

5.) Hard Vanilla (instrumental)    (Bert Ruiter) - 2:35

6.) Tropical Bird (instrumental)   (Bert Ruiter) - 2:43


(side 2)

1.) Focus IV (instrumental)   (Thjis van Leer) - 3:58

2.) Someone's Crying . . . What? (instrumental)   (Jan Akkerman) - 3:19

3.) All Together Now . . . Oh, That! (instrumental)   (Jan Akkerman) - 3:42

4.) No Hang Ups (instrumental)   (Paul Stoppelman) - 2:56

5.) My Sweetheart  (instrumental)  (Jan Akkerman - Thjis van Leer) - 3:36

6.) Father Bach (instrumental)   (Thjis van Leer) - 1:33

 



Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Dutch Masters

Company: Sire

Catalog: SASD-7505

Year: 1975

Country/State: Amsterdam, Holland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 10237

Price: $9.00

 

Like any spurned suitor, when Focus switched their recording allegiance to Atlantic's ATCO subsidiary, Sire management went back to the recording vaults to pull together a 'best of' package.  The result was 1976's "Dutch Masters".  Pulling together ten tracks from their first three (?) studio sets (and featuring three personnel line-ups), the album included their big hit 'Hocus Pocus' (in the original album format and a strange, hyper-speed accelerated bonus version (funny since the original sounded like it was recorded with the band on speed). along with an entertaining mixture of some of their better album tracks.  As a quicky retrospective it certainly did a nice job of highlighting the breadth of influences that powered the band during their creating prime - classical, jazz, hard rock and progressive moves (sometimes in one composition).  Hard to pick favorites, but sounding like a Jethro Tull number the Latin flavored 'House of the King' and the Jan Akkerman-powered instrumental 'Sylvia' were worth hearing.   A nice introduction for Focus newbies, or early career overview for casual fans.  (The artwork was also a hoot.)

 

"Dutch Masters" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Hocus Pocus (instrumental) - 3:18
2.) Focus (instrumental)   (Thijs van Leer) - 9:45
3.) House Of The King (instrumental) - 2:23
4.) Moving Waves - 2:30
5.) Sylvia (instrumental) - 3:32

 

(side 2)

1.) Focus II (instrumental) - 4:00
2.) Love Remembered (instrumental) - 2:49
3.) Carnival Fugue (instrumental) - 5:59
4.) Focus III (instrumental) - 5:59
5.) Hocus Pocus (Fast Version) (instrumental) - 3:25

 

 

 

 recorded in double time.


Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Focus Con Proby

Company: Harvest

Catalog: ST-11721

Year: 1978

Country/State: Amsterdam, Holland / US / Belgium

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 5905

Price: $10.00

 

 

Released in the midst of the full onslaught of punk aggression and new wave angst, 1978's "Focus Con Proby" never stood a chance in the commercial arena.  Adding to Focus' problems, the album was released in the wake of wholesale personnel changes that saw founding members Jan Akkerman and Pierre van der Linden strike out on their own.  That left surviving members Thijs van Leer, Bert Ruiter, and Steve Smith to recruit guitarists Eef Albers and Philip Catherine as replacements for Akkerman along with the addition of Texas-born singer P.J. Proby.  In their own ways Albers and Catherine were both quite impressive.  In addition to contributing two compositions to the album, Albers handled most of the lead chores, showing himself more than an able replacement for Akkerman with some tasty conventional rock and jazz-rock performances (check out 'Night Flight').  Belgian guitarist Catherine handled most of the rhythm guitar work, but on his composition 'Sneezin' Bill'' he showed himself to have some killer jazz-rock moves.  Albers had the speed, but Catherine had the finesse.   In contrast, Proby was simply an odd choice to front a progressive-oriented band like Focus.  His gruff voice wasn't bad, rather he just seemed uncomfortable with the band's progressive catalog.  That probably shouldn't have come as a major surprise given his background and earlier successes had come as sort of a pseudo-Elvis rocker.

 

- While Proby never had a great voice, 'Wingless' was probably his best performance on the album.  That said, to my ears he seemed pretty uncomfortable with his surroundings, let alone trying to figure out how to deal with the rest of this multi-national progressive outfit.  That was unfortunate since the song itself was quite good.  Kudos to lead guitarist Albers who turned in a blazing performance that would have made former lead guitarist Akkerman blush.  One of Focus' lost treasure.   rating: **** stars

- One of two tracks penned by Albers, the instrumental 'Orion' featured a pretty, slightly jazzy melody that served as a nice showcase for his tasteful playing.  Perhaps not as technically sophisticated as Akkerman's best work, but actually more commercial.  Bassist Ruiter turned in some nice moves on this one as well.   rating: *** stars

- Albers second contribution, 'Night Flight' was a jazz-rock instrumental.  Imagine something out of Jeff Beck's catalog and you'd have a pretty good feel for the track.  Like Beck's jazz-rock catalog, this one seemed to have been written as a place to exhibit Albers hyper-speed fret work.  Technically quite dazzling, but not really that enjoyable.   rating: ** stars

- A bluesy-ballad, 'Eddy' was clearly better suited for Proby's limited range, but even this one seemed to press him to the breaking point - check out the fractured falsetto screech when he tried to hit the high notes.  I will admit to liking van Leer's synthesizers on this one.   rating: ** stars  

- Written by newcomer Catherine, with its van Leer flute solo, the instrumental 'Sneezin' Bill' actually sounded like a throwback to 'Hocus Pocus' era Focus.  The song's highlight came in the form of Catherine's fantastic lead guitar which may have been the album's standout performance.  Shame there wasn't more Catherine and less van Leer on this one ...   rating: *** stars  

- Side two kicked off with one of the album's stranger performances - against a blues-rocker, Proby turning in his best lounge act crooner impersonation.  Catherine's lead guitar, including a voice box solo provided the song's highlights.   rating: *** stars

- Even weirder was 'Tokyo Rose'.  The song started out sounding like a classically-inspired piece an earlier Focus line-up might have churned out and then turned into one very weird Proby narrative that was apparently inspired by English speaking Japanese radio propagandists who broadcast to Allied troops during World War II.   Yeah, this is one that you have to hear to understand..   rating: ** stars

- 'Maximum' offered up another slice of jazz-rock fusion.  Technically it was actually pretty good, adding a slight funk edge to the proceedings, but other than Catherine's tasteful lead work, there wasn't much to keep you engaged.  It made for dandy background music.   rating: ** stars

- 'How Long' was a hysterically inept attempt to meld the band's progressive roots with a more commercial pop-sensibility.  Kicked along by Proby's earnest attempt to sound serious, the results were so bad they were actually good.  rating: *** stars

 

Definitely a strange late-inning release for these guys.  It clearly won't appeal to the band's progressive fans, but for the rest of you ...   well it was different.

 

The band undertook a brief tour to support the album which did nothing for sales and then called it quits with the members scattering all over the musical roadmap - Smith hit the big time as a member of Journey !

 

"Focus Con Proby" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Wingless   (Thijs van Leer - Roselie van Leer) - 5:32

2.) Orion (instrumental)   (Eef Albers) - 4:06

3.) Night Flight (instrumental)   (Eef Albers) - 3:38

4.) Eddy   (Thijs van Leer - Roselie van Leer) - 5:53

5.) Sneezin' Bill (instrumental)  (Phil Catherine) - 4:27

 

(side 2)

1.) Brother   (Thijs van Leer) - 5:17

2.) Tokyo Rose   (Roselie van Leer - Steve Smith) - 5:04

3.) Maximum (instrumental)   (Thijs van Leer - Bert Ruiter) - 8:39

4.) How Long   (Thijs van Leer - Roselie van Leer) - 5:20

 


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