donderdag 30 maart 2017

Kairos, March 2017 by .No on Concertzender

Each month Wo. tunes his ears to the sounds .No selected for his monthly show on Concertzender. A show with music that is not exactly on his daily musical menu. In fact it is a once a month menu at that is it. Except for those songs that Wo. may have inspired .No to listen to. Let's see what Wo. finds this month. Will he be delighted, horrorised or just plain aloof?

Ha, that is not a piano Kairos starts with, so that is something new compared to the past months. It sounds like a guitar, but may be an older version of the instrument and it is. Stathis Skandaldis plays a lute. I am a guitarist, but this is the sort of thing that just doesn't excite me in any way. It is a sort of classical composition I'm working my way through, but all it does is somehow remind me of the Tudor court in that tv series of a while back and all those more or less willing people dying because of the illogical whims of a despotic monarch.

Ha, there's the piano. Peter Broderick plays John Cage. There's quite some echo on the piano, with atmospherics in the background. Somehow I have the impression that I'm not listening to a composition but at a random working around the keys without losing harmonics from sight. Each note belongs to the next. Nearly only single played notes befitting one another are played. If it wasn't played so fluently, I'd suspect that someone was just practising here. It is the cadence that makes the song work. It is a piece for people who can only play with one hand at a time. With 10 minutes it takes something out of my patience I have to admit. I find myself waiting for something to happen. I know Veronica Falls does not belong here, but how I crave for that song after seven minutes of 'In A Landscape'. Now I can fantasize with that title, white clouds moving over a green landscape. I can see it, but more because of the title than the music. So I just lay myself down and watch the sky for the remaining minutes Peter Broderick plays.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Now that is a band that I've read about for years, but nothing I read enticed me to listen to the Canadian band's music. It sounded too far out there for me and now I get the opportunity to do so thanks to Kairos. The piano of Broderick is taken over by a sort of drone, but a very short, consecutive ones. I read that in 22 minutes Broderick returns with another composition from his album 'Partners', so I have a while to go. My introduction to Godspeed You! Black Emperor is going to be a thorough one, called 'Static'. Electronic sounds fill my ears. One like an old steamtrain gathering speed. They all move in and out of the mix. All experiment, but nothing of a structure emerges. Voices enter, telling something about God and for the first time a recognisable instrument joins the whole. A violin and a very treated guitar. 'Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven' is the album's title, I notice. Somehow it sounds familiar to me and I remember having watched a live something by this band on You Tube some time ago. So it's not 100% new after all, but there's no way for me of telling whether it was this composition. I notice that I am taken through different sequences that are not necessarily connected. This band even knows how to rock out with wild guitars and violins accompanied by banging drums. Underneath a bass and keyboard play a sequence of notes over and over. What I'm hearing is totally new for Kairos and may scare off a lot of listeners. So much for meditating, folks! This music reminds me of an album I reviewed recently by Bardo Pond called 'Under The Pines', more psychedelic but with the same sort of violent eruptions, assaulting mind, ears and live undoubtedly, bodies. Things even get wilder here. I'll leave you to experience this sonic onslaught yourself and there's still minutes to go in which the mood is taken down again towards drones and sounds, taking it all full circle. Weird, imposing, impressive and more all at once.

Somehow .No manages to let the drones move into the piano of Peter Broderick, through a sort of church singing, but only as a strange sort of accompaniment to the piano playing. The song is called 'Carried' and that is just what this music does. Music to rest on, especially after what came before. When I close my eyes I totally am at ease, just following the changes in the chords played, while the basis is the four notes played with his left hand. Not unlike 'Static' 'Carries' is a strange hybrid of a composition. There are all these strange things going on.

I leave that behind me when Kairos returns to the 'Rothko Chapel' cd, with a composition by Eric Satie, 'Gnossiene No. 4, played by Sarah Rothenberg. Beautiful, fully mixed, all present. All this takes just a few notes, that is all there is. Yet unlike Peter Broderick, Rothenberg reaches me on a deeper, emotional level. This music speaks to me in volumes and reaches out much more. Touching me, caressing me, where 'Carried' carried me. A huge difference.

The change is ever so lightly, yet the mood changes, the piano sound is more down to earth. I have entered a new composition by Frederico Mompou. The magic of 'Gnossiene No. 4' is gone though.

We return to 'Slow Healer', Lyenn's album of 2016. Not my favourite song though. The song moves forward like an invalid bereft of his appliance, dragging himself towards the end goal. The scene with the lepers from 'Jesus Christ Superstar' gets into my brain, something I can't shake before the song is over.  'Keep It Still' is more mood than song though. Sounds all around and a whispering voice over it. Forever halting and not starting. Pushing me away. Don't come nearer and I take heed.

Eternal light enters my ears. Voices and drones composed of voices make up the eternal light of György Ligetti and are over before I know it.

Another artist I wrote a review about that still needs to be published on the moment of writing this is presented. Kim Janssen plays a down to earth, folky song on an acoustic guitar. Presenting emotions and a subdued lust for life, despite singing about dying alone. All his new record 'Cousins' seem to lack. 'The Stiles' reminds me of several songs, including Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, mainly because of the horn. It keeps alluding me what it is. The next note solving the mystery won't come to me.

Next we return to Polish jazz. Wisniewsky plays his slow notes again. A composition that is full of holes and silences, resonating former notes. Last month I wrote enough on what this music made me think of, so there's no need to repeat it. Again I'm struck by how much effect a musician can have with minimal effort.

Because of the mood changing, it is clear that there's another artist playing. The number of notes accumulate fast, the bass is replaced by bass notes on the piano. Peter Broderick returns for a second time with a composition of his album 'Partners'. This one is called 'Conspiralling'. There's even a hint at singing. This is the busiest of the three Brodericks present, waking me up from my reverie of the last songs. Ready to move into the rest of the day.

Quite a ride this Kairos was. One of extremes with its highlight right in the middle. The piano was here a lot again, but a theme? It may have been the addition of sounds or voices in compositions that I would not really expect or need there. So confusion? Sounds good enough for me.

Wo.

You can listen to March '17s Kairos here:

http://www.concertzender.nl/programma/kairos_374365/


This months playlist:


00:13         Gilbert Isbin. Weaving. Stathis Skandaldis, luit. Album ‘Stathis Skandalidis plays Gilbert Isbin’. Tern Records, Tern 007.
03:23         John Cage. In a Landscape. Peter Broderick, piano. Album ‘Partners’. Erased Tapes Records ERATP88CD.
13:24         Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Static. Album ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven’. Kranky krank043.
35:02         Peter Broderick. Carried. Peter Brodderick, piano. Album ‘Partners’. Erased Tapes Records ERATP88CD.
40:59         Erik Satie. Gnossienne No. 4. Sarah Rothenberg, piano. Van album ‘Rothko Chapel’. ECM NEW SERIES 2378 4811796.
44:18         Frederico Mompou. XII Molto lento e tranquillo uit 4me cahier (1967). Marcel Worms, piani. Album ‘Música Callada. ZEF 9609.
45:49         Frederic Lyenn Jacques. Keep it still. Album ‘Slow Healer’ van Lyenn. V2 Records Benelux
48:29         György Ligeti. Lux Aeterna. Fragment. A Cappella Amsterdam, Daniel Reuss & Susanne Van Els. Album ‘Ligeti Lux Aeterna’ hm Gold edition HMC 501985 
50:38         Kim Janssen. The stiles. Album ‘The Lonely Mountains. Snowstar Records.
52:50         Ignacy Jan Wiśniewski. Poranek. Ignacy Wiśniewski trio. Album ’Jazz Shirim’. Wood and mood.
      55:03         Peter Broderick. Conspiralling. Peter Brodderick, piano. Album ‘Partners’. Erased
                       Tapes Records ERATP88CD

woensdag 29 maart 2017

Honest Life. Courtney Marie Andrews

Courtney Marie Andrews is een uit Phoenix, Arizona, afkomstige singer-songwriter, die sinds haar 13e songs schrijft en vanaf haar 15e op het podium staat. Ze is inmiddels 26, heeft al zes platen op haar naam staan en is, via België (!), in Seattle, Washington, terecht gekomen.

Heel veel aandacht heeft Courtney Marie Andrews nog niet getrokken met haar muziek, mede omdat ze haar platen tot vorig jaar niet beschikbaar maakte via streaming diensten als Spotify en Apple Music.
 
Dat is aan de ene kant begrijpelijk, maar aan de andere kant loop je als muzikant hopeloos achter de feiten aan en bereik je niet de doelgroep die je wilt bereiken, waarna de obscuriteit lonkt.
 
Dat heeft Courtney Marie Andrews kennelijk ook ingezien, want het vorig jaar al in de Verenigde Staten verschenen en hier nauwelijks opgemerkte Honest Life, krijgt nu niet alleen een Nederlandse release, maar is gelukkig ook via de streaming diensten te beluisteren.
 
Hopelijk levert het de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter de aandacht op die ze verdient, want Honest Life is echt een prachtplaat.
 
Op Honest Life maakt Courtney Marie Andrews vooral indruk met haar stem. Het is een krachtige stem vol emotie en doorleving en dus geknipt voor de genres waarin ze opereert; folk en country. Het is een stem die af en toe lijkt op die van Emmylou Harris, maar het doet me nog het meest denken aan Maria McKee, die helaas maar één geweldige countryplaat maakte en daarna uitweek naar andere genres, maar vooral onzichtbaar werd.
 
In muzikaal opzicht hoor ik ook wel wat raakvlakken met de muziek die Joni Mitchell in haar jonge jaren maakte in de Laurel Canyon, maar de songs van Courtney Marie Andrews zijn over het algemeen wel wat toegankelijker.
 
Het zijn songs die opvallen door een prachtig stemmige en voornamelijk ingetogen instrumentatie, waarin gitaren en piano rustig voortkabbelen, maar de gitaren ook wel eens voorzichtig uit mogen halen en strijkers en pedal steel bijzonder fraaie en doeltreffende accenten zetten.
 
Wat verder opvalt is dat de songs van Courtney Marie Andrews zeer persoonlijk zijn en mede hierdoor met hart en ziel worden vertolkt. Het geeft Honest Life een bijzondere lading en het is deze emotionele lading die platen in dit genre zo bijzonder maakt. De songs zelf zijn tenslotte ook nog eens van een bijzonder hoog niveau en volstrekt tijdloos.
 
De cover van de plaat herinnert aan de jaren 70 en ook in muzikaal opzicht neemt Courtney Marie Andrews je op deze mooie en indringende plaat mee terug naar het verleden. Ze doet dit wat mij betreft op zeer imponerende wijze en steekt met Honest Life een aantal grootheden naar de kroon. Dat we nog veel van haar gaan horen lijkt me zeker.

Erwin Zijleman

Je kunt hier luisteren naar 'Honest Life':

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU3YKF3WRYQ

dinsdag 28 maart 2017

Fade To Gold. Trip To Dover

Trip To Dover sounds like the memory of a childhood trip, although Dover for me sounds more like the beginning and the ending of a U.K. holiday. Driving that winding road through the town up from the harbour. Up to what effectively are the famous white cliffs before riding into the Kent countryside.

This Trip To Dover is a Dutch duo from Eindhoven. Olga (vocals, guitars) and Johannes Taal (keys, sounds and vocals) mix rock, dance, electro and things 80s. Since 2013 they release songs under the name Trip To Dover. Two EPs and two singles. With Fade To Gold Trip To Dover has released its first (mini) album.

The first thing I'm reminded of the the single of Glaswegian singer Dee (Miller) that her brother and label owner Thomas sent me a while back. 'Love Massacre' has a lot of the atmosphere I find on this album. From there Trip To Dover builds its music bigger and wider. Even when it's just the guitar, with a load of effects on it, opening 'I'll Be Juliet', the sound is loud and spacious. Yes, that is before the beats and synths enter the song. Already it seems to fill the whole mix and my room. This may be a duo only, soundwise it could be a battery of drums playing all at the same time.

Promo photo: Marcel Krijgsman
The music on Fade To Gold for me goes right back to a pioneer in electronic pop songs like Gary Newman. With his band Tubeway Army he scored a hit called 'Are Friends Electric?' in 1979. To me that was a starting point, from which all things electronic pop music departed. Depeche Mode, Visage, Duran Duran and things with beats from the U.S. later in the 80s that I do not like, which find their origins more in Giorgio Moroder's work with Donna Summer. 'I Feel Love' mixed with 'Personal Jesus' is found here in the form of the title song.

Here we hit on one of the strengths of Trip To Dover. To write an electronic ballad that totally explodes in a dance frenzy, before coming back to the strong vocal melody. Olga Taal could have sung in a rock band, in a punk band and in a pop band doing ballads, next to this rock dance beast. Her voice is so strong and so versatile. (I would work on the 'th' sound though, that would make it sound 100%!)

Photo: Frank Bouwkamp
Dance is not my kind music, really. Yet, I find myself caught by the energy streaming out of Fade To Gold. Like I wrote recently on this blog about the new album of My Baby, this music is exciting. Wild with an animal magnetism. The way Trip To Dover builds up its songs make it easy to succumb. Live this ought to be one big party of holding back and releasing the audience. I can imagine myself dancing a lot of the time with the music presented here.

That is only half of the story though. I find myself enjoying listening to Fade To Gold at home as well. The sound is so wide, it fills the whole room at the right loudness. There's a lot to discover in the songs. So many sounds, beats, effects to follow. On top of it all is that fantastic rock voice in all its guises ranging from sweet angel to fiery devil.

Photo: Sharik Derksen
What happens when all the electronics are discarded can be heard in the sort of bonus track of the 2016 single 'Boy'. Just an acoustic guitar, a piano and voices. It's no surprise to me that "a real" song comes forward. A song that could have been sung by Anouk and has the same quality as that singer's best songs.

Fade to Gold is an album that aims for the sky. It is as big as an independent band can pump itself up without losing credibility. It rocks hard, the beats are loud, the effects all in the right place. What is not lost in the storm is the song, the melody. Combined with the use of dynamics and a lot of atmospherics, Fade To Gold seems to push all the right buttons with me.

Wo.

You can listen to 'I'll Be Juliet' here:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7GQJfXQJF0

or buy the album here:

http://www.triptodover.com/store/

maandag 27 maart 2017

Dolemite. Tim Claridge

Tim Claridge is no stranger to these pages. You can find him under the name Death Goldbloom, Hymalayan and as guitarist for Natalie Ramsay. You can find the cover picture of Dolemite in the interview we published with him last year. This however is the first time you can find him on these pages under his own name as a solo artist.

Claridge released a solo metal album in 2012, 'In The Company Of Crows'. Dolemite is the second release under his own name, released more or less simultaneously with another EP called 'Every Place In Hell Is Special', that will be reviewed here soon. On Dolemite I find several familiar tunes that have been reviewed before as Death Goldbloom songs, together with a few unfamiliar ones.

Now for those following my reviews of things Tim Claridge it will not come as a surprise that I'm of the opinion that his songwriting skills, playing, arranging and singing all betray a great talent. A talent in need of discovery. Dolemite underscores this once again.

Listening to '66th And Crimson' with somewhat fresh ears I noticed something that I had missed before. Let me call it a Hot Tuna from its debut album sound. That album was pure acoustic blues which this album isn't. '66th And Crimson' has that same laidback, yet same surefire playing Jorma Kaukonen has. That aside, it is a great song. The mysterious atmosphere draws the listener ever closer. The passionate background vocals by Natalie Ramsay makes me listen some more and on top of all that the song takes many a unsuspected turn. Some violins even. It was one of the songs that made me really listen to Death Goldbloom as it now does to Tim Claridge.

The blues is the basis of a lot of the music on Dolemite. Just listen how 'Already Gone' has that light blues touch only to explode into a fiery beast. The devil is around, which is quite common in Claridge's work. Who says that that crossroad in the 10s still lies in the Mississippi delta? It may well be in Vancouver, BC (nice contrast that BC) on 66th and Crimson for all I know. The topic fascinates Tim Claridge that much is clear.

The second album released by Death Goldbloom was called 'A Dirty Dozen Bars'. From that two songs are lifted, 'Iron Tongue' and 'Ain't Got Nothing'. The first is a soft ballad. Acoustic guitars and a piano. Singing together with Natalie Ramsay again. 'Ain't Got Nothing' is a lot louder. Again with a lot of blues infected guitar playing. Most likely the last collaboration with drummer Tomek Kijkowsky, as the band split up before the release of the second album.

With the outro of 'Tokyo Rose' Tim Claridge deprives us of the rest of this beautiful song. Again his versatility comes forward. Slow, sort of romantic, with strings and a piano. Not the kind of song one associates with blues(rock) songs in which the devil plays a role.

The next song is a cover and here is another reason that I had the Hot Tuna association. 'Death Don't Have No Mercy' is one of the tracks on 'Hot Tuna'. This version is turned more into a murder ballad with ever so slow guitar playing. A lot of activity on the lighter strings. The song is turned into a co-self-penned song 'Lead Me On My Way'. Again there is this extremely light touch that moves the song forward ever so slow.

'Lightbringer' is more a sketch of a song that a fully worked out one. The same seems to go for the title track. 'Dolemite' has a dark cello and a hint at lyrics. I would not be surprised if it turns up at a later stage fully fledged and rocking hard. An exercise in mood? I do notice how fine Claridge and Ramsay sing together here again. They bring out the best in each other it seems. My advice is to listen to their recordings as Hymalayan.

Dolemite is an in between EP on route to more new work that is under way. In between means a bunch of very fine songs though.

Wo.

You can listen to and buy Dolemite here on Bandcamp:

https://timclaridge.bandcamp.com/album/dolemite

zondag 26 maart 2017

Let's Focus. Thoughts on the band Focus

This feature on the blog, an online discussion between two gentlemen from the U.K. and Wo., seems to be turning into a series. After a conversation on progrockers Emerson, Lake & Palmer followed an online discussion on Todd Rundgren and, I might add, who not? Both were published earlier in this year. At the very end of the Rundgren discussion Gary suggested to continue with another band. That invitation was picked up on, so let's focus on Dutch prog and classical rockers Focus.

Gary, 23-02:
We must have a discussion about another Dutch favourite band of mine… Focus!

Wout responded on 28-02:
As you know we have a minor generation gap. When you started to buy your first albums, I was still mainly dependent on the radio and bought a few singles that were on offer during sales. When you were into ELP, I was able to scratch together my very first self bought LP, 'Cuz I luv you' by Slade, with the two big hits of 1971 on it.

As Focus was famous mostly in the same years, the band sort of past me by. I must have known some of the singles, but I can't truly remember, 45 years later. My real initiation came in 1977 at the other end of the world.

In 1977 I quit school and packed my things and went to Australia for over five months to meet and stay with my family on my mother's side. She had left Australia in the mid 50s, met my dad on Canada's west coast and moved to The Netherlands to get married. Hence I travelled for over a day in late July 1977 and met people who I had never seen before.

I had saved a lot of money, in my eyes, for the trip and my parents doubled that. What did I do with a portion of that money? Buy albums of course. What I remember is Boston, Heart, The Rolling Stones, the 'Magical Mystery Tour' double EP book version, that great single by Mother Goose, 'Baked Beans', 'In The Flesh' by Blondie and a compilation album. Filled with songs from the late 60s and early 70s. 

Here I am, Down Under, and found a compilation album with e.g. John Mayall, Eric Burden's Animals, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and two Dutch bands. One is, of course I'd say, Golden Earring with 'Radar Love'. The other is Focus, 'Hocus Pocus'. One of those yodel songs with fantastic guitar work. Jan Akkerman was always what attracted me in Focus. I was a guitarist before I became one almost 10 years later. That Akkerman was voted best guitarist in the world did not pass me by. It was the music that did. Albums were too far away for me and my friends. The music most likely too far out for our 11, 12 year old ears. In 1972 I got my first record player, a GDR made one. Not before too long I was able to catch up with The Beatles, the red and the blue album in 1973 and 1974. Now that was a priority for me.

Now Jan Akkerman. I did know him a little better, but let me start here. There's a little more to come later on.

Gary, 1-3:
Yes I would imagine that Focus’ album material would not be easy listening for most people (then or now), beyond Hocus Pocus, Sylvia and House of the King (which was the theme music to a UK sit-com by Steve Coogan called Saxondale. See http://dai.ly/x37dgm9 . Saxondale was roadie during the 70s but is now a 'pest control consultant’. There are many names dropped including (in later episodes) Keith Emerson! I really recommend getting a box set!

I have always been a fan of Focus since the mid 70s, excellent musicianship and composition.

I look forward to your continuation…

Wout, 3-3:
Late in 1968 I discovered the Veronica Top 40 and that it was released every week on a leaflet that my local record store had laying on the counter. Although I listened to the radio already a lot, I now understood that songs were not just played. There were hits, tips, flops and golden classics. The Top 40 was broadcasted on this pirate station called Veronica on Saturday afternoons between 14 and 16.00: "The National Saturday Afternoon Happening", fanfare tune announcing it and all.

And so a song came by in 1969 by a band called Brainbox. 'Down Man' only became a moderate hit, yet drew my attention. It was different, harder, with a great guitar. Like I was attracted to that guitar sound in 'Hair' by Zen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cO8cMRbDkfE), my second self-bought single ('Hey Jude' being the first). I was also told that the song was a hit abroad.

That might have been it, were it not that I was surprised at our yearly Saint Nicolas feast with a present I did not see coming: an LP! A compilation LP of Dutch bands with their hits in 1968 and 1969 called 'Their Greatest Hits'. The members of the four or five bands all stood gathered on a beach or sand dune, with the names of each on the back. So I knew what Jan Akkerman looked like, better I also knew how Pierre van der Linden, later Focus' drummer looked liked. These guys also looked distinctly different from the other bands. Blue jeans, hipper, not so much longer but wilder hair. The singer of Brainbox was Kaz Lux, with whom Akkerman made a few duo records after he left Focus. The second Brainbox song on the LP was 'Sea Of Delight', the band's second single and an edit of a song that took a whole side of the band's first LP, which I bought over a decade later. 'Dark Rose' being the third and final single of this version of Brainbox.

Now I haven't played that compilation for decades, yet that one song, 'Down Man', is still a fantastic song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJWLVYK9zk4). Aggressive, yet warm and passionate. The lyrics are a bit of a shamble I'm afraid, the music is fantastic. The interplay between Lux' voice and Akkerman's guitar solo is fabulous. The drive the acoustic guitar brings to the song gives it a great, propulsing pace. One of the highlights of our Nederbeat years.

Now of course Jan Akkerman had built a name for himself before Brainbox. Ask my friend Willem, ten years my superior, and he'll speak to you about The Crazy Rockers from the early 60s in which Akkerman was the guitarist as an early teenager. After that he played that Russian music inspired solo in 'Russian Spy And I' by The Hunters, a song that had caught my ear somewhere in those years (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEH1qTiGY5w). It's a gimmick hit song, but the (speed of) playing is something else for 1966.

When we moved from the big city to the country late in 1969 I lost the reception of the pirate station, Veronica and there was no Top 40 in the town for over a year. A gap in my musical development. In that gap Focus started.

So what is your experience with this Dutch band?

Mark, 3-3: 
The interesting thing for me is how did a hitherto unknown Dutch band manage to break through the Anglo-American dominance of the 1970's rock scene? Focus were more successful than Golden Earring who we remember only for one impressive single: Radar Love. Three factors probably: the unique vocal histrionics of Thijs Van Leer on the instantly memorable Hocus Pocus single; Jan Akkerman's hard-edged guitar mastery that threatened to displace Eric Clapton in the best guitarist category in the annual Melody Maker poll - helped by Slowhand unaccountably drifting into softer, laidback Ocean Boulevard territory; and the power of the one and only British TV late night live rock show: The Old Grey Whistle Test which they performed on in December 1972 - watch it on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5owrU-axzXg.

Moving Waves was the lp that shot up the album charts as a result of that performance and posters of Jan Akkerman started to appear in the ads pages of the NME. Focus 3 which I also bought as a "must have" was an over-confident extension as a double album (you had made it if your label let you roam freely across 4 sides) but it showed their impressive versatility to the full. While I didn't put a poster up on the wall in my student digs, these two albums were a  part of the soundtrack to my university years - and when I worked In Rotterdam in late 1977.

Hamburger Concerto was heavier rock and the Mother Focus title seemed like a cheap shot at maintaining their profile. Inevitably, after their meteoric rise from university gig curiosities to UK tour concert headliners, they faded rapidly from view as the ground shifted and new wave swept all aside. The acrimony between Akkerman and Van Leer probably prevented them from adjusting to the changing times with a clear sense of musical direction: they failed to re-Focus. 

Their records alas then headed for the cheaper sections of the second hand racks: that's where I off-loaded my copies, along with Yessongs, ELP's Trilogy and Pictures at an Exhibition - sorry Gary but back in London in 1979 I was unemployed and severely strapped for cash to buy my Jam and Clash singles. However, my recent more affluent circumstances have allowed me to do some serious record collecting and I've sought out replacement copies during my tours of record shops worldwide; so these two albums are now rightfully restored to my collection - and not solely for nostalgic reasons: they do make it the turntable from time to time because they have hardly dated at all: testimony to their impressive musicianship. skilful embrace of classical and jazz influences and the sheer thrill of tracks like Silvia and House of the King. I have yet to replace my copy of Van Leer's "Introspection." I can't remember too much about that record other that it was serious and heavy in the "prog" sense: will continue to keep an eye out for a decent copy.

Wout, 7-3:
@Mark, Funny you mention 'Introspection'. It triggered a memory I had nearly forgotten about. I only have one experience with the album. One of my uncles, who we visited very regularly, had the album at the time. And now I remember that I must have known the hitsingles of Focus. My uncle announced that he had an album by Thijs van Leer of Focus and I remember that that fact impressed me. Until he played the album. The impression I got was that he had put on a classical album. That was the first and last time I have listened to it. I am still not one for things classical.

'Introspection' was, if I remember correctly, the best sold album of 1973 over here, followed by a few more Introspections in the 70s. In second hand stores there ought to be legions of copies, there were so many of them around. Several parents of friends of mine had the album.

Looking it up, thank you Wikipedia, the album charted in the spring and summer of 1972 for 15 weeks, to return just before Christmas of 1972 and remain charted for well over two years, including a #1 spot for a month in the winter of 1973, well into 1975.

By the time I started to earn enough money to buy albums regularly, 1978, Focus was a thing of the past. Still, I have looked into my collection and behold one album did pop up, 'Focus 3'. A double album. I had forgotten that. Also 'Sylvia' is in my 45 collection. Bought second hand only a few years ago. So I'll give 'Focus 3' a serious spin and come back at you on that.

Also I dug up the compilation from Australia. It is called 'Immortal Rock'. Even nearly 40 years down the road it gives a sense of pride that these two Dutch bands are among the 14 odd songs selected on these grounds:

"The late 60s and early 70s was an era when rock came of age. This album features a collection of all time rock classics emphasising the strong influence of British and European musicians. From Hendrix to Status Quo,...the Who's Who of Rock's golden era".

Well, to put things into perspective, the artists had to be on Polygram. Clapton is on it in three guises I notice, Cream, Derek and solo. Pete Townsend in two, The Who and Thunderclap Newman, which he produced and played bass on. As a whole it still looks like a strong compilation though. I was surprised to find a 1976 track by Status Quo was on there though. 'Rain' seems totally out of place, as does 'I Shot The Sheriff'.

As a fun fact. Inner sleeves in Australia at the time were made of plastic. So no liner notes and stuff on inner sleeves there.

Wo. has started to listen to Focus and reports on 14-03:
To update on my listening sessions. I turned to Spotify and started with Focus' first album that can either go by the title 'Focus I' or 'In And Out Of Focus' it seems.

That album truly surprised me. I have always associated Focus with instrumental, touching on classical music and nonsensical yodelling. Thijs van Leer is singing a lot on the album. Next to that there's a lot of psychedelia of the kind that had gone out of style for a while by then. The sort of music that is quite in vogue again since a few years. 'House Of The King' is the hitsingle, over here at least. It charted in the winter of 1971 for four weeks (#14). It seems like I remember Jan Akkerman's solo hit of the same song in 1974 (5 weeks, #17) better. More guitar driven and not flute. Overall conclusion: I rather like this album and may go out and buy it in the near future. As an extra. Akkerman's 'House Of The King' comes from his solo album 'Tabernakel', an album filled with classical compositions, played Jan Akkerman's way with Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice as rhythm section. It seems he followed Van Leer here, with a lot less commercial success.

'Moving Waves' was up next. It seems that this is a hybrid album with one foot in 'Focus 1' and one foot towards the big breakthrough. The tandem Van Leer - Akkerman is getting into its stride. Pierre van der Linden has joined the band. There's more power in the pace of the album.

What I heard brought Ekseption to mind. A Dutch band with an international career in the early 70s. It scored hits in 1969 in NL with rock adaptations of Beethoven's 5th, Bach's 'Air', e.g.  Something that really impressed me at the time. That same uncle I wrote about before had the album, so I got to know Ekseption's version of 'Sabre Dance' as well. Both key players, keyboardist Rick van der Linden and trumpet player Rein van der Broek, are not among us any more.

From 'Moving Ways' it is not even that far away in time that the two driving players were to fall out. Now Akkerman, from a giant distance, seems a grumpy sort of man. The only way he communicates about Van Leer in the past decades is by calling him "that yodeller". It stands in the way of a potentially successful tour of enacting whole albums like many artists do nowadays. There's still a Focus and Akkerman played his 70th birthday tour last year.

It seems you got me into Focus a little. I'll dig up 'Focus III' soon.

BTW I'm about to score some tickets for the "It was 50 years ago today" show. It was announced last week.

Gary, 14-03: 
I was not aware of Ekseption before, I may have to check them out... thanks!

I love all of the early Focus albums and Moving Waves is certainly high on my list! I can still 'listen' to the title track in my head and get the words right even today! I even have early Focus bass player Cyril Havermans' solo album Cyril! Pierre van der Linden is one of my favourite drummers who was heavily influenced by Buddy Rich... as was Carl Palmer.

I have seen Focus in the mid 70's at an 'all-nighter' and they blew me away (although it may have also been the clouds of heady 'incense' that permeated the venue? ;)  ) and also Jan Ackerman's Focus at my local Mick Jagger venue (Mick's old school in Dartford, Kent) about ten years ago. I would have liked to have seen Thijs Van Leer's Focus that was touring at the same time but sadly I couldn't go.

A great band that excelled in something that is lost to music today... instrumentals!

And here we left Focus and focused on ..... Stay tuned to find out.
 
Gary Hunt
Mark Carvell
Wo.

 P.S. from Wout:
While editing this conversation I clicked on the link to the 'Hocus Pocus' performance on 'The Old Grey Whistle Test'. It looks like this tells all of how Akkerman views Van Leer. As soon as Van Leer starts his yodel you can view Akkerman snickering towards Van der Linden. Has he ever really liked what he was playing here?

Focus is on Spotify.