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Thread: FEATURED ALBUM: Focus - Focus 3

  1. #1
    Moderator Poisoned Youth's Avatar
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    FEATURED ALBUM: Focus - Focus 3

    This classic from from Focus is nearly 50 years old. If you're a fan of Focus, how does "3" stand up against the rest of the catalog after all these years?




    Review from ProgArchives
    Focus III' is IMHO Focus' top achievement. Not only do these guys deliver some of their most inspired playing, but also manage to work as a unit with a level of compenetration that hides the ongoing rivality between van Leer and Akkerman (sometimes, a not so healthy one). Akkerman continues to explore new sources of introspective music ('Love Remembered') and mediaeval tradition ('Elspeth of Nottingham'), while keeping his ability to turn his guitar on fire with a polished skill beyond words, in the hardest passages: he really shines in 'Answers Questions' and 'Anonymus II', and his Hammond layers on 'Focus III' create an awesome background for Akkerman's guitar leads.

    Van Leer is also in a state of "business as usual", displaying his mastery on both on keyboards (mostly Hammond organ) and flute, and also some burlesque vocals. The interplays between van Leer and Akkerman in the opening track are breathtaking, executed with energy and a touch of sheer class. Drummer extraordinaire Van der Linden feels at home here: only one yar had passed since he entered the band, yet his drumming had become an essential feature of Focus' musical essence. When the excellent bassist Bert Ruiter made his entry into the ranks of Holland's masterband Focus, the rhythm section achieved its highest level of strength and sophistication; Ruiter proved to be the perfect complement to van der Linden's top-notch drumming style so far,... and may I add that this is a difficult task, since van der Linden enjoys stretching out his role to the point of becoming fundamental for the band's melodic aspect, with his constant tricky rolling. Ruiter's penchant for jazz and funky definitely allowed Focus to keep their own focus on their jazz leaning: the amazing 27-minute 'Anonymus II' only shows you how enthusiastic and frenzy the foursome were about it (a special mention goes to van der Linden's tribal oriented drum solo). The same thing could be noticed on 'Questions Answers'.

    The lighter side of the album is present in the latin-jazz/bossanova tinged 'Carnival Fugue' and the catchy 'Sylvia' (a top ten single in the UK, actually), two attractive numbers that serve as relaxing motifs, among a repertoire that tends to sound really aggressive (though not heavy, remember, the jazz factor is predominant here). This is the second of a series of three albums that are a testimony of both Focus' and the prog genre's finest hour. An essential masterpiece!

    P.D.: Well, I don't like the inclusion of 'House of the King' here. It belongs more properly in its original album 'In and Out of Focus'. The tour-de-force 'Anonymus II' would make the perfect closure to 'Focus III'. - Cesar Inca




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  2. #2
    Great album. Strong material. Lots of improv. Some nice shorter material as well. Time to revisit this classic Focus album.


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  3. #3
    Member StarThrower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rapidfirerob View Post
    Great album. Strong material. Lots of improv. Some nice shorter material as well. Time to revisit this classic Focus album.
    The first album of theirs I purchased. Preferred slightly over Waves, and Hamburger. But I don't listen to Focus very often.

  4. #4
    Parrots ripped my flesh Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    I bought it as a double vinyl cutout around 1977 or 1978.
    It's their album that I've listened to the most in its entirety, although I'm sure I've played other tracks like Hocus Pocus or House of the King more.


  5. #5
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    ^^^^

    single sleeve double album on Sire label, but had a cut-out front. All my Focus vinyl albums were on Sire or Atco - thankfully, as the Polydor were usually crap (with the exception of Rainbow's fold-out). I think I started with this one roughly in 75, but Hamburger was my fave.



    One of the best moment was when Ruiter and RVDL are dueting in Anonymous 2. If memory serves, the D-side is only 12-mins long.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

  6. #6
    What is there to say? Superb band, superb album, both this and Moving Waves are equally stellar. The looser structure with the lengthy solos in those long instrumental pieces gives the musicians a lot of room to shine.

    God, Jan is in flames on this one! One of my absolutely top guitar players.

  7. #7
    (not his real name) no.nine's Avatar
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    This is my favorite Focus album. You've got to be a fan of jamming to truly appreciate it, but I'm such a fan. The unaccompanied bass and drum solos in Anonymus II prove to be too much for some, but not me. The groove which grows out of the bass solo is musical nirvana for me. I also enjoy the structure of the album. The way it starts with composed material and slowly becomes more and more free and open to improvisation is very effective IMO. But although "House of the King" is a fine song, I agree that it feels out of place here. On the other hand, they needed something to help pad out what is still a very short album side.

    And the American cover art is so beautiful, far superior to the more commonly seen European cover.
    "I tah dah nur!" - Ike

  8. #8
    Member thedunno's Avatar
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    Maybe not the very best Focus album but it kicks ass. Big time.
    Last edited by thedunno; 05-23-2022 at 03:52 PM.

  9. #9
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    I think the shorter things here are some of their best work- particularly 'Love Remembered', 'Sylvia' and 'Focus III'. The longer, jammier stuff here is not my bag I'm afraid.

  10. #10
    Sylvia is my favorite Focus song. This is a good album but Moving Waves is so much better.

  11. #11
    If this were a single album it would be their best. Unfortunately, they get far too self-indulgent on the second disc, especially “Anonymus II,” which is just an overlong remake of a song off their first album anyway. Does anyone actually enjoy listening to six-minute drum solos? Bah!

    One of the few cases where the US alternate cover art is better than the original, especially the original pressing with the little lenticular window. (I was surprised to learn that yellow thing that looks for all the world like a budget reissue was the “original” cover!)
    Last edited by Progbear; 4 Weeks Ago at 12:19 PM.
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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Progbear View Post
    If this were a single album it would be their best. Unfortunately, they get far too self-indulgent on the second disc, especially “Anonymus II,” which is just an overlong remake of a song off their first album anyway. Does anyone actually enjoy listening to six-minute drum solos? Bah!
    Agree entirely. I gave this a fresh spin tonight, and I was digging it for a while, but eventually the noodling takes over, especially that bass drum thing, and *then* a drum solo - blah - and that really diminishes the experience for me. Cut out the fluff, and there is some fantastic stuff here, but it winds up being a bit "meh" for me, like much Focus does. They need to focus!

    Bill

  13. #13
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    I prefer the shorter and up-tempo versions on Live at the Rainbow.

    Rainbow and Hamburger are my favorites.

  14. #14
    Thanks to this, I decided to pick my Focus 50 years box, which contains the original albums, with the original song-order, augmented with bonus-tracks, 2 CDs with live recordings and 2 DVDs

  15. #15
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    I think this is probably my favorite Focus album. Great stuff from start to finish. The version I have also has some fantastic live bonus tracks.

  16. #16
    Moderator Duncan Glenday's Avatar
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    (Re)-listening to it now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post

    ...but Hamburger was my fave.
    ...
    Mine too
    Regards,

    Duncan

  17. #17
    Member Piskie's Avatar
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    Great album. I remember Sylvia on Top Of the Pops! (I think) They have a perfect instrumentation to my ears -and I'm a sucker for flute!
    'I would advise stilts for the quagmires"

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Duncan Glenday View Post
    Mine too
    Me three.
    Confirmed Bachelors: the dramedy hit of 1883...

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  20. #20
    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rarebird View Post
    Just played it. Have to say I love it.
    Listened last night. Sort of a perfect album. Very easy to listen to, but still so very Prog. Their albums are always easy to return to.
    Primary procreation is accomplished…

  21. #21
    A frustrating group for me as they can be fantastic and tedious, sometimes both in the same track ("Carnival Fugue" from 3 for instance has a great intro but a repetitive second half) but I enjoy some of it a lot.

  22. #22
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    I hadn't listened to Focus until a few years ago when I picked up the Hocus Pocus Box. It turned out that their whole catalog doesn't binge well, because a lot of the mid-to-later stuff is pretty dull and the earlier stuff is so jammy that it's hard to tell what's good and it ends up all seeming tedious. Plus the sound quality on that particular box was fairly lousy. I did eventually start to like it somewhat and picked up the Focus 50 Years Box when it came out. Huge improvement in sound, original sequencing as noted, and it really made me appreciate the classic stuff, especially this album (though I'm a smidge more partial to Hamburger Concerto).

    I'll admit that I tune out during a few parts (drum solo isn't my cup of tea) but these guys can take an excellent musical idea and play the hell out of it. And there's great replay factor because of all the little variations and musical details that come out of the jammy quality. This isn't an album I love but it's at the highest ranks of liking.

  23. #23
    Moderator Duncan Glenday's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EBES View Post
    ...This isn't an album I love but it's at the highest ranks of liking.


    Nicely put - I'll have to borrow that phrasing some time!
    Regards,

    Duncan

  24. #24
    I still love the jammy grooves on this one. Mostly taped live in the studio, IIRC. The "ordinary" tunes are good as well, but arguably not as consistently great as on the previous album. Stuff like the second half of "Carnival Fugue" should either go on for less duration or contain more meat to the bone. But some of the jam parts (and indeed Van Leer's Hammond workouts in "Anonymous") are really suggestive and energetic. Akkerman was an absolute master on effort, but he could also fall prone to traps of sloppy outplay when given full reign over proceedings, and some of his freer runs on this release bear a certain faint edge of unease or even restlessness to them, although his fills in rhythmic coherence is simply magnificent. I suppose he was still perfecting his particular technique and approach here, resulting in the finesse of Tabernakel eventually.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

  25. #25
    I listened to this album A LOT when it came out. Loved the composed tunes, and at the time, the tracks with a more basic feel of a band jamming in the studio (even if rather long) appealed to me as a young musician, and was part of my musical education though I'm not sure I'd be willing to listen through the whole of Anonymous Two again now! Except that bit towards the end after the drum solo, some wonderful melodic guitar there. I even learned the long bass solo note-for-note on my Electra bass (didn't get my Rick till '74) and used to make my basement bandmates play along with my renditions, tee hee.

    Probably what I liked most from them were the less rocky sections of "Eruption" from Moving Waves. To my 14-year old mind it conjured some mysterious and vivid scenery.

    Still love the crude edge and un-slickness of Akkerman's soloing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scrotum Scissor View Post
    Stuff like the second half of "Carnival Fugue" should either go on for less duration or contain more meat to the bone.
    The second half of that track is also where I would often stop the record and go on to the next.

    BD
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