Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Focus

 




















Moving Waves (1971)

Hocus Pocus/Le Clochard/Janis/Moving Waves/Focus II/Eruption


Despite my taste for glam and glam-influenced rock in 1972-73, my teenage self was aware of Dutch proggers Focus due to their two hit singles - the marvellous instrumental Sylvia (not on this album), which featured the guitar virtuosity of Jan Akkerman, and the first track on this album., which I thought was great. I really liked both of these although I didn't dip into the album at the time, I left that to the hard-core prog rock fans who seemed to be overrunning my school.


On to the album, which consisted of five tracks and one twenty-two minute opus. Wasn't that typical of the prog-rock era?


Hocus Pocus is a truly marvellous slice of seventies rock riffery, overflowing from the very start with strong, vibrant guitar workouts, pounding drums, brief drum soloes, madcap proggy organ, some crazy flute and, of course, nutty drummer Thijs Van Leer's ludicrous but catchy "bom-bom" yodelling and improvised "diddle diddle diddle" vocals. Yes, they are silly, but they are part of the track's quirky appeal. It was a hit single and was one of quite a few excellent seventies rock instrumentals/semi-instrumentals from the time. I'm thinking of Edgar Winter's Frankenstein from the same period. The extended version that we get here on the album is superb. I love it - and that's from a glam fan of the time.


The exultant ambience suddenly changes with the brief, chilled-out acoustic vibe of Le Clochard and then we get the equally relaxing feel of Janis, a flute, acoustic guitar and drums instrumental. It is slightly more powerful than its predecessor due to its drum sound but the overall effect is one of sleepy peace.


Moving Waves is a short track with vocals that doesn't really get anywhere, for me, while Focus II is an impressive instrumental featuring some fine upbeat drumming and equally fine lead guitar. I have to say, also, that the sound is superb - clear, warm, bassy and delivered in excellent seventies stereo.


Eruption is the afore-mentioned lengthy number and it is chock-full of prog musical stereotypes - classically-influenced hymnal organ, occasional tympanic drum soloes, gentle woodwind passages, innovative Santana-esque jazz rock guitar - a supposed concept (the story or Orpheus and Eurydice) and a general rambling feel of a never-ending jam session. I like it in places because the sound is so damn good - it is like a hi-fi demonstration - and it is undeniably musically brilliant, but, hold on, isn't this why punk came about? Maybe, but there is something in it that I quite like, so there you go. I've always been a bit contradictory. Do I play Eruption much, though? The answer to that remains no, unfortunately, but I've done pretty well to get this far.





34 comments:

  1. Hocus Pocus is one of the greatest instrumental hits of all time, even though it's not totally an instrumental because of the yodeling. ha ha. But it's close enough.

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  2. You are so right. Most of the great instrumental songs were from the 70s.And 60s too. Even the Disco instrumental hits were great. I wonder why instrumental hits stop being popular after the 70s. I don't think I've ever come across any from the 80s or 90s all the way up to today. Except for underground hits like Daft Punk from the 90s. But definitely not any Rock instrumentals. I think it's because today's music really isn't good enough for the music to stand on its own without any vocals. Not that the vocals today are any good either, but without them there's absolutely nothing else.

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  3. Some more fine instrumental hits were The Commodores' Machine Gun, Van McCoy's disco hit The Hustle, East Of Eden's Jig-A-Jig, Terry Dactyl & The Dinosaurs' Seaside Shuffle, Cozy Powell's Dance With The Devil, TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia, Average White Band's Pick Up The Pieces and Cut The Cake, Love Unlimited's Love's Theme, Popcorn by Hot Butter and Focus's Sylvia of course. Bowie dabbled with semi-instrumentals in Sound And Vision and V-2 Schneider and even Stiff Little Fingers had an excellent one in Go For It.

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  4. Yep. Check out my list.

    https://rateyourmusic.com/list/bobbyb5/greatest-instrumental-hits/

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  5. There are some great ones I'd forgotten on that list like Deodato's Also Sprach Zarathustra, Green Onions and Rock and Roll Part One.

    Some of them are semi-instrumentals like Fly Robin Fly and One Step Beyond which had occasional vocals. Did you include Night Boat To Cairo and Average White Band's Cut The Cake?

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  6. The Clash had one called Listen and The Jam did Music For The Last Couple and Circus.

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  7. Well, if it's just got one phrase or just the name of the song repeated occasionally then I consider it an Instrumental. I forgot about the other Madness ones. I have to check out The Clash and the Jam cuz I don't know those ones. I forgot Cut the Cake. I know there's probably a lot more too, I just didn't think of them yet.

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    1. The Clash and Jam ones are nothing special, to be honest.

      Springsteen did a sax-laden instrumental called Paradise by the 'C'. Also, there is Elton John's Funeral For A Friend. Both not hits. of course, just thinking of instrumentals. Song For Guy was a hit though.

      Delete
  8. Plus, that list is only Instrumental HITS. I listen to tons of instrumental music, but I was just making a list of instrumental hits. Most of the music I listen to nowadays is instrumental electronic music. But that would totally be a different list.

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    1. Listening to electronic instrumentals all the time - that sounds fun - not! lol

      Would you have lay on your back at a Tangerine Dream gig as they did in the seventies, in order to appreciate the music properly? Go on, admit it!

      Delete
  9. lol. I don't know. maybe. Although probably not because you know what? I'm not really into concerts that much. They never really meant that much to me. I'd rather listen to a record. I don't know why but seeing someone live just doesn't mean that much to me. I like being at a bar where someone is playing a little bit more than a concert,but not much more. I never did go to a whole lot of concerts.

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    1. You know I sort of know what you mean. The sound is always crap and there's always someone standing in front of you or getting up to get more drinks.

      I definitely prefer listening to a song, as you say.

      Delete
  10. Besides, live music is never as good as a record anyway. To me, it usually just sounds like a cover band doing inferior versions.

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    Replies
    1. By the way, I'm putting some quizzes on Sporcle under user name ThePunkPanther and I will also join your list making site too.

      Delete
  11. That was cool. I don't know how I got 4 wrong on the Bowie quiz because the only song where I don't know the lyrics is Amsterdam. But I got them wrong anyway. ha ha

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  12. I wanna make some quizzes too. I hope I can figure out how to do it. I probably won't be able to. lol

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    Replies
    1. Register with Sporcle then 'create quiz' and select 'clickable' via 'create quiz'. Title your quiz and select the time and type of quiz (music).

      Then select 'data' and add the number of rows (questions) you want, fill in the questions under 'hint' and the answers under 'answers'. then finish up.

      Mind you, I'm not sure you will be able to do this lying on your back on your phone at 3 am in the morning! I do it on my large desktop.

      Delete
  13. thnx for the instructions. It took me a while to get it right but I finally got one finished. Here:

    https://www.sporcle.com/games/kingclover555/at-the-zoo-2

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    Replies
    1. Good quiz. I got 21/32. The ones I simply didn't know were - Johnny Rivers*, Buffalo Springfield, Stone Temple Pilots*, Joni Mitchell, Flaming Lips*, Ministry*, Bob Lind, The Monkees, Underworld, Heart, Loudon Wainwright III.

      The asterisked ones are those who I didn't actually know who they were.

      I answered Paul McCartney for Bluebird and got it wrong. It should have been Wings, I guess. Then I saw Ram On and realised my mistake.

      I've put a few more up on my list of quizzes.

      I can't work out how to do the rate my music site at all! Seems like too much faffing around to me.

      Delete
  14. That was a pretty good score. I made two more quizzes. They're really good. What can't you figure out at rateyourmusic? I can't remember finding anything difficult there. Your Clash quiz was really hard

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    1. Pretty much everything! Especially how to add an image. I can't be bothered to search the net and save endless album covers for long lists.

      Delete
  15. You don't have to search for album covers or images. That's all automatic when you make a list. When you select an album all the information just goes right to your list.

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  16. yeah. Once you make a mistake on the quiz I get mixed up because I don't know if you can choose that one again or not. I'm so used to listening to The Rascals Mustang Sally that I completely forgot about the other one. You did pretty good on all those quizzes cuz I think they were kind of hard.

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  17. The double release one was tough but I did ok.

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  18. Great. I'm going to go look you up. Did you figure out how to make a list? You could always just rate albums instead.

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  19. Your punk quizzes are too hard for me. Hey, if you want to get a lot of views just make a quiz about 90s music. I made one last night and it's already got over 40 plays. That must be what they like around there. There must be a lot of people in that age group or something.

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    1. Only problem with that is that I know little to nothing about nineties music. I see you did a nineties quiz, I reckon I would have only got about 10% right.

      The quizzes are only hard if you don’t know the subject, I guess. As I set the quizzes, obviously I know all the answers. I did a 70s one today and got 60 out of 60. That is my era. So, to me, the punk ones are easy! Conversely, I couldn’t even attempt your 90s one.

      Delete
  20. Thanks for telling me about that quiz answer. I didn't notice it. I edited it out cuz it just would have screwed everybody up. I'm home with the flu today so I'm just going to make quizzes all day. Ha ha

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  21. This is my 74.

    https://rateyourmusic.com/list/bobbyb5/favorite-albums-of-1974/

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  22. In the US they had to call themselves Yaz for legal reasons. Another band already had the name or something like that.

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