Some notes on Focus album releases by John Huff

- In and Out of Focus

Seeing your "first album cover" version of In and Out of Focus reminded me of the story Iíd read that Focus had originally recorded this album for a Dutch label. When the deal was signed with Sire for release in the USA, the labelís president got the band to re-record the album as the sound quality of the first take wasnít up to standard. The article, which I canít find now, showed a picture of the "first album cover" as the cover of the original Dutch release. Polydor released this album in a red and blue psychedelic cover.

In fact, I canít confirm that this sleeve was originally used for that release. Since I wrote to you originally, I saw a (vastly overpriced) copy of a Sire release with the sleeve you show. The Akkernet discography lists one Dutch release on Imperial at the time called "Focus on Focus" - is that the original?

Polydor released this album in a red and blue psychedelic cover.

- Moving Waves / FOCUS II

Sound quality comments - not surprisingly, the original Blue Horizon/Polydor release has the best sound of the British/US/Dutch releases in my collection, although the differences are far less than on later albums., and certainly not worth looking for additional copies from that point of view. I have a late Imperial copy of Focus II with a poorly pressed side 2 ( I should add that my record collection was pillaged in a burglary in 1982, which is why Iíve heard and collected odd copies from different labels; I had a couple of cheap US imports before then. This was my first replacement).

- FOCUS III

The CD is worth having for the uncut "Anonymous 2"; the drum solo makes more sense when following without racing to turn the disc over! Incidentally, Iíd like to know more about the drums on here. They sound a bit woolly, as if they were trying to get the heavy drum sound popular at the time - at times Pierre van der Linden seems to hit things harder than he does on other recordings, as if heís trying to get more snap from a poor setup. The drumming is still among the best ever on a rock album and I can well understand his being annoyed with the emphasis placed so heavily on the van Leer-Akkerman partnership. Pierre was/is every bit as good, in my opinion.

- Hamburguer Concerto

I had an Atco copy of Hamburger Concerto, a late pressing, on which the solo at the end of "Birth", at least, is the same as the Polydor release. The Akkernet discography also notes that "some" US copies have variant tracks. I wonder if thereís a way to tell them apart, other than playing them?

Sound quality comments - my current copies are an early Polydor copy and an EMI Bovema (a double release from 1977 paired with Mother Focus). The Polydor copy has better bass, but some features (the harpsichord on "Birth" and vocals on "Hamburger Concerto" are better defined on the Bovema pressing. I remember the Atco copy as being dire with a poor acoustic and appalling treble emphasis. Are the earlier pressings as bad?

- Mother Focus

Sound quality comments - of my two copies, the EMI Bovema one is clearer, the Polydor copy is a bit bass-heavy and leaden sounding. The CD is mostly better than either (rare, in my opinion) but the guitar on "No Hang Ups" and flute on other tracks have less "presence" than on the LPs.

- Focus con Proby

Many people dismiss this album, but itís worth getting on CD if you can, as you can program out the "con Proby" and the shorter product is excellent - Sneezing Bull is a minor masterpiece. Having read about unreleased material from the 1985 sessions I was left wondering if thereís more from the van Leer/Ruiter/Catherine/Smith lineup on tape anywhere... can anyone fill in the story of Focus post-Akkerman in more detail?

- Compilations

These are mostly inferior in sound quality to the main releases, the exception on vinyl being the "Polydor Special" which was worth buying for the cut of Focus (Instrumental) - better stereo and definition than Polydorís "In and Out". Of course, there were the extra tracks for completionists but they are more easily found on the CDs now, apart from the different versions of "O Avondrood".

John Huff


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