Focus Masters From The Vaults (2003)
The DVD is a Classic Rock Production.
More information is found at : www.classicrockproductions.com
Focus fans will be ecstatic about this DVD release. For years they've been left to trade poor-quality third generation videos of their heroes and here, for the first time, is a superb compilation. Intelligently compiled, the main documentary film is linked by Thijs van Leer who sheds some light on the development of the band, against a backdrop of Dutch TV and BBC Whistle Test footage.
The latter is particularly welcome, and historic performances are included from May and December 1972 when the Polydor record plant worked overtime to press up the band's vinyl as a result of increased demand.
The Dutch footage comes from early 1971 and shows the band rehearsing some of the material that appeared on 'Moving Waves'. It is a marvellous period piece with rainbow jerseys and Edam cheese being the order of the day - but where on earth did Jan Akkerman get that blue tank top?
The DVD also includes rare footage from the 'Hamburger Concerto' period with Colin Allen on drums.
Fans will devour this, others might well investigate one of the premier prog-rock bands of their day. The music is still relevant and Akkerman still amazes on guitar.
This DVD is part of a series 'Masters From The Vaults' which will feature Family, Rory Gallagher, Atomic Rooster and Curved Air amongst others. Highly recommended based on this release.
(David Randall, Get ready to rock)
"Masters from the Vaults" is a solid and surprisingly thorough bunch of clips from the best years of Focus' career. More or less all of their best-known material is presented here in full-length clips from TV performances, rehearsals and a concert. The main film of the DVD also features an interesting recent interview with Thjis van Leer. The first clips we're about to see is some very atmospheric footage from an old castle were Focus rehearsed the material for "Moving Waves" (still their masterpiece in my opinion). Here they play "Le Clochard" and a beautiful "Focus II" in addition to "Orfeus" and "Answer" from "Eruption". We also get some looser jam sessions, including a great flute-improvisation from van Leer. The TV-performances are mainly taken from The Grey Old Whistle Test and includes "Tommy" and "The Bridge" from "Eruption", "Hocus Pocus", "Sylvia" and "Anonymous". The earliest clips we're seeing are from the studio where the band mimes along to "House of the King" and the vocal version of "Focus". These are fortunately the only cases of miming here. "La Cathedrale de Strasbourg" and "Hamburger Concerto" are here in a concert from 1974. Even a clip from the not so memorable (although Mr. Van Leer himself seems to be of a different opinion) period with Philip Catherine is represented with "Angel Wings" from The Old Grey Whistle Test. The skipping picture on "Hamburger Concerto" and the lack of track selection for the main film are the only flaws I can find on an otherwise good DVD.
(Tommy Schonenberg, Vintage Prog)
The Dutch masters of prog didn't take long to find a way into the hearts of music lovers in the early 70's, becoming as well known as Jethro Tull, YES, ELP etc. with appearances on The Old Grey Whistle Test and even Top Of The Pops. The growling Hammond, flute and strange yodelling of Thijs Van Leer and fast and intricate guitar of Jan Akkermann brought tunes such as Silvia and House Of The King to the ears of the general populous, the latter song being used for more than one long-running TV programme here in the UK.
Their music was often thought of as modern classical; largely an instrumental band (vocals are rare and usually take the form of an additional instrument rather than verbal communication), their most highly rated albums are Moving Waves and Hamburger Concerto, both which feature on the DVD, along with the aforementioned Silvia and House Of The King.
Thijs talks about the history of the band in between tracks in the 'retrospective' section of the DVD, which features clips from The Old Grey Whistle Test and other sessions.
If you were too young to recall what a prog band 'looked like' back in the early seventies, the depiction of Focus in this DVD is representative; a bunch of very talented young musicians, highly focussed in their music, almost embarrassed to be in the limelight and not a short back and sides between them. Ahh, those were indeed the days.
(Jem Jedrzejewski, The hairless heart herald)
The Ultimate Anthology (2004)
The Anthology (2004)
Ragnarock DVDL008D (2004)
Classic Rock Legends (2004)
Another Ragnarock 'Ultimate Anthology' release, this time featuring Dutch prog- rock super-group 'Focus'. The Ragnarock library has been a mixed bag thus far, generally under-delivering on the 'Ultimate' promise but on this occasion they've struck pure gold.
Focus were one of those peculiar bands (straddling the line between the kraut-rock extremities of Can and Faust and 'hey-nonny-no' prog) that had an instantly definable sound. Sometimes experimental, but always extremely musical, it was the virtuoso combination of classically trained keyboardist/vocalist/flautist Thijs Van Leer and guitarist extraordinaire Jan Akkerman that defined their emotive soundscapes.
This disc kicks off in fine form with an early '70's TV performance of their hit, 'Hocus Pocus' (available elsewhere on a Ragnarock DVD compilation). There are some great pieces of guitar work and the yodelling segments are as comical today as they were back then. A prog-rock act that didn't take themselves too seriously!
Next up is an extraordinary find. A complete
live TV performance of 'Hamburger Concerto', a 20 minute epic.
Set against a glittering disco-style back-drop, there is no
light show to enhance this musical journey and the audience are
fixed in their seats like Madame Tussaud rejects, but this is
all about the music, not the performance. It's a truly
blistering rendition with surprisingly good sound for a TV piece
reaching its 30th anniversary. Akkerman's guitar work here is
pure magic, and Van Leer drifts effortlessly between his
keyboards and flute during this complex but melodic opus.
Having closed my eyes to enjoy the music, when opening them again it was with a shriek that I realised the uncanny similarity between 1974's van Leer (now in close-up) and Bill Bailey. (He's a keyboard player too isn't he? Hmmmm…).
Track 3 is a near perfect rendition of 'Eruption' from their finest album (in my view) 'Moving Waves'. It's been a decade or two since I listened to this but it still sends a shiver up and down the spine. This performance was from a recent reunion tour (2002) and the sudden time transition is quite jarring. Thijs Van Leer looks like he's performed a 'Hamburger Concerto' too many as there's twice as much of him to enjoy here. Jan Akkerman has either worn extremely well or we have an imposter, and sadly the trademark Les Paul has disappeared too. But despite these disappointments this is a sterling rendition and the live audio quality is really first class.
We then (peculiarly) travel back in time to
get a glorious workout of 'Anonymous II' and it's a relief to
find Akkerman back on the axe. Then it's back to 2002 again (the
logic of track order is weird here) for a pleasant run-through
of 'House of the King' – a flute dominated track that wouldn't
have sounded out of place behind that '70's test card with the
girl holding the clown. Not a highlight!
But then all is forgiven as we're treated to a mid-70's medley of Focus hits, kicking off with 'Eruption' again and by now even the most hardened Focus fan should be wiping a tear from their nostalgic eye. Its just plain bloody brilliant! To keep those tears of joy rolling, we then get a nice version of ' Focus III' from the 2002 tour, and it still sounds great – it's beautiful melody picked out and defined on guitar in a way that is not often heard in contemporary music. The disc ends with a 1970's version of hit 'Sylvia' and then a final clip from 2002 of the band reprising 'Hocus Pocus' complete with wildly eccentric vocals that include Van Leer speaking in a language of his own making that more than doubles his native Dutch.
(Stuart McLean, DVD reviewer)
Focus Live In America (2003)
Classic Rock CRP1079 (2003)
Review:No, this is not the original Focus band, nor is it archival footage. It is Thijs Van Leer with a lineup playing all of Focus's best material, plus a couple of new pieces, at Nearfest 2002, a prog rock festival.
The Dutch progmeister, Thijs Van Leer, returns to
the live arena with a new Focus and three new band members in
the form of stepson and bassist, Bobby Jacobs, Bert Smaak on
drums and Jan Dumee on guitar and vocals.
This DVD features a live show recorded at the
Patriots Theatre, New Jersey back in 2002. The theatre seats just over 1,800 but an occasional sweep
by the camera operative appears to show that about 1,000 prog
fans attended this event, judging by the empty seats at the
rear. All the same,
an audience of 1,000 enthusiastic fans is pretty impressive by
present day prog standards.
The set list is crammed full of classic Focus
most of which do not feature on the Masters from the Vaults DVD
and one or two new unrecorded tracks.
Musicianship is first class with Bobby, Bert and
Jan clearly concentrating on reproducing the classic Focus sound
and performance. The downside to this is that much of the time, they do not show
any emotion visually (with the exception of Bert who is having
the time of his life) until the last number, Hocus Pocus when
everyone springs to life.
A Focus In America Featurette is included where
'rock babe' Liz Steen sporting an enticing black basque laced
from the front pops some questions to the band members.
In addition, a 1973 Medley Alternative Take
featuring the classic line-up provides a comparison with the
main feature, the conclusion being that the fluidity and
excitement of the 'original' Focus cannot really be matched.
(Jem Jedrzejewski, The hairless heart herald)
The Ultimate Collection (2006)
Music Master Collection (2011)
This is a combination of the dvd's Focus Live In America and Focus Broadcasting Live 1971-1973. The latter DVD is also available separately.
Classic Rock HIT1982 (2006)
Music in review (2008)
This is a combination of the dvd's Focus Live In America and Master of the vaults.
Filmed at The Robin 2, Bilston, England, April 28th 2009
Sold only at gigs during their 2009 England tour
Jan Akkerman Live (2003)
Part 2 Leverkusen (44 mins.)
Part 3 Extra Features (35 mins.)
Interview Jan-Douwe Kroeske with Jan Akkerman, including improvisations with Paco de Lucia (Dutch TV 1978) and Coranto for Mrs. Mercott (Jan Akkerman on lute)
Licensed from Live Music Management Ltd.
Film footage Viersen and Leverkusen licensed from WDR - KOLN
Tracks during interview licensed from TROS ("Muzikale Steenbok", first broadcasted on 6.3.1978)
Interview Leverkusen by Ali Haurand
Sound engineer: Neil Denholm
Executive producer: Hans de Deugd for Digimode Entertainment Ltd.
DVD Authoring: Paul Schuurman
Mpeg encoding: The Van Video
Menu design: Edwin Frinking
Biography: Wouter Bessels - Final editing: Irene Heinicke
Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS mix: Jan & Paul Schuurman
Presentation: Jan Douwe Kroeske
Camera: Wim Oosthoek
Editing: Edwin Frinking
Alpha Centauri Entertainment ASCE 11065 (2003)
DVD is also becoming a more important sound medium lately, this week the first DVD of Jan Akkerman was released.
On it, one can a.o. enjoy a half-an-hour acoustic concert in Viersen and also more than 45 minutes of an electrical 'going through the motions' in Leverkusen. Among others, indeed, because there's also a half-an-hour interview by Jan Douwe Kroeske added as an extra item, which is definitely worth watching. In it, Jan fortunately proves he did not change at all. 'Actually I did not change since I was a seven-year-old boy', the same goes for his verbal qualities.
Also extra 'hidden' are: Jan on lute and Jan with Paco de Lucia.
In short: anyone who in some way appreciates Akkerman's music should definitely try to get a hold of this DVD.
Moreover the concerts sound fabulous, Jan really goes for it and the quality of the DVD is splendid.
The stoic withheld passion splashes and sparks in every direction and the more than beautiful 'Am I loosing you' finishes the intimate Viersen with Wilbrand Meischke on double bass.
In Leverkusen Jan fiercely lashes out while fusing 'My pleasure' and 'Sylvia' together.
Isn't it also great an organ can be heard without a corny over-excessively presence. This is worth 10,000 times more than some so called Focus-reunion WITH Thijs but WITHOUT Jan!
And do I also hear a tribute to Miles, Jean Pierre?
After the impact of only Jan and his strings in 'Central Station' ('Blimey, yes, that's what it can also sound like') it is 'Hocus Pocus, embedded in a bluesy 'Piétons', that attracts the attention. It is subtitled 'No yodel'... a joyful sneer is not to be missed of course! In it one can hear a greatly approved bass solo, while the rest of the band cheerfully grooves on.
And Jean Pierre noticed all was fine! Jan easily proves he still belongs to the absolute world top. He still doesn't give a shit about that, by the way.
The concert ends with 'Tommy'. My god, some songs can not be 'cherished only inside our memories' at all, in the contrary, they ought to come alive over and over again!
Goose bumps, available in 3 different soundtracks: DTS 5.1, Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 stereo.
(Ger, De Zaankanter)
A Touch Of Class (2005)
Recorded live for a television broadcast in 1983. The bonus material was recorded 18 months later for a dutch television special.
Voiceprint VPDVD17 (2005)
At the end of 1983 Channel Four in London, England broadcasted a Christmas Special on television featuring guitarist Jan Akkerman. This special had parts from a live performance shot at Virgin Records Group 'The Venue' Victoria, London 21st December 1983. Most of the material performed came from his album "Can't Stand Noise". Some of those songs had blues influences but were also a mix of jazz rock, fusion and progressive rock music. Good examples are songs such as "Heavy Treasure", "Streetwalker II", "Just because" and "Pietons". The last one had live also a short piece of "Hocus Pocus". A song from his former band Focus. This song plus "Sylvia" from the "Old Grey & Whistle Test" live TV performance recorded in 1973 was also featured in this special. They were included because Jan talked about this band during an interview. During this interview he also talked about his classical influences and demonstrates it on his electric guitar. The use of the lute he blames his staying in England for almost one year. How beautiful this instrument sounds he shows at a local church in Friesland when he plays the songs "Britainnia" and "A Galliard by Anthonie Holbourne" from his "Tabernakel" album. This special also shows that Jan Akkerman was an innnovative musician at the time. He was one of the first guitar players who experimented with a guitar synthesizer. Playing several synth parts next to the occasional keyboard player Mark van de Geer. The other musicians in Jan's backing band were at the time the fantastic drummer Hans Waterman (Solution) and the excellent bassist Dino Walcott. The British fans of Jan's music had a great time watching this 50 minutes TV special. The good news is that the whole special is now released on a DVD. Even the sound is very good. It was originally recorded on the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio's and mixed at Pete Townsend's Eel Pie Studio's. As a bonus two extra tracks are included from a live performance shot for Dutch TV 18 months later. This time without the extra keyboard player they play great versions of "Pietons" and "Just because". Jan again demonstrates his great technique on the guitar synth showing that he does not really need someone behind the keyboards. I would certainly name this DVD with the TV Special plus the bonus material a great document. It shows that Jan Akkerman was still a great musician after he left Focus. This DVD is not only a must for his fans only! Fantastic stuff and certainly a touch of class!
(Henri Strik, Voiceprint)
Live in concert - The Hague 2007 (2009)
Recorded live in The Hague 2007.
It comes with a cd with the same tracks
This dvd shows the latest tour of Jan Akkerman of 2007, which had a reprise in 2009. I saw the '09 show with my girlfriend and we were both pleasantly surprised: a no non-sense jazz- rock/cool-jazz concert with amazing guitar solos and a competent band. Jan Akkerman has never been mister accurate, but his prestigious way of playing compensates more than enough! On this show Jan only played the electric guitar.
Though Jan Akkerman has always been very negative about playing Focus pieces, he did play some Focus tracks on this live show. We get to listen to the Answers Questions jam, an eastern styled rework of the House of the King (now Palace of the King), Hocus Pocus (with great guitar effects instead of yodels) and the melodic Sylvia.
I myself bought the vinyl after the show, so I can't tell that much about the extra's of the dvd. I will tell something about the material played though! The Focus tracks are quite like the original, except for Palace of the King. The other tracks played are Tranquilizer, Slowman, Urban String and You do Something to me. All are jazz-rock and cool-jazz pieces with a modern jazz sound. The band had a professional sound, and the use of some electronic samples is functional. The concert could have been better if Jan Akkerman would have given more space for the other musicians to show their professional musicianship.
The recording of the concert is good, but not perfect. Jan uses digital guitar amplifications nowadays which don't work very good in my opinion and the recording sounds as if it was recorded directly from the mixing table. The liveliness suffers from this, the band sounded much thicker live. Still a professional recording, but not very tasteful.
Conclusion. I can conclude this is a good live album, but nothing too special. It is recommended to fans of guitar-oriented jazz-rock, fans of Focus and people who just want so see a normal jazz-rock band playing a good concert with some nice improvisations. Three stars, and Focus and Jan Akkerman fans can add one star themselves.
In & out of focus
The music of Jan Akkerman & Focus
Written by David Randall
More information can be found at the website dedicated to this book: www.musicsogood
The life & journey of rock's dutch masters
Written by Peet Johnson
Wereldsuccessen, ego's en machtsstrijd
Written by Jaap van Eijk
More information can be found at: www.rockklassiekers.nl