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FOCUS Masters From The Vaults
Classic Rock Productions CRP1112 (2004)

FOCUS Live Legends
Classic Rock Productions CRL1521 (2004)


If there's one criticism of the Masters From the Vaults CD: it undersells itself. Those unfamiliar with the Dutch classic rockers, and even some fans, may not be aware that this contains the audio from some of the band's seventies BBC Whistle Test sessions. The early sessions effectively broke the band in the UK and the record pressing plants couldn't keep up with demand. Others will realise that this is the audio soundtrack lifted off the companion DVD.

There's no information in the CD booklet but there are five tracks from the BBC recorded in 1972. The version of Anonymous II is a standout, just listen to Akkerman's superb rhythm playing behind Van Leer's flute and Hammond before he breaks out into a world of his own, always carrying the listener forward. Two tracks from the 1971 Belgian TV documentary are straight lifts from the original albums but in crap quality as they are also taken from an ageing TV soundtrack. There are a couple of tracks from the BBC 'Hamburger Concerto' set and two tracks from the band's 1976 Whistle Test session when Philip Catherine had stepped in at a moment's notice for the departed Akkerman. This will be a welcome CD for fans. ***


Live Legends is again a bit of recycling (and there's duplication with the 'Masters' CD) but it wouldn't be a bad purchase for the punter who just wants to dip into a bit of prog rock history. On this double CD there are tracks from all periods of the band's history, from the aforementioned Whistle Test sessions through to the more recent 'Live In America' set. The 'Focus Medley' is a bit of lazy titling, it's actually a longish section from 'Eruption' which first appeared on 'Moving Waves' and is here taken from the BBC in May 1972.

Juxtaposed, it's interesting to compare Focus 1972-4 with Focus thirty years later. Of course the sound quality is much better in 2002 (sadly the BBC recordings are in mono) but, really, Van Leer should be proud of his current band as they replicate the old stuff to perfection. This is largely due to guitarist Jan Dumée who emulates Akkerman's tone and feel, if not his histrionics. 'Hocus Pocus' and 'Sylvia' are fantastic and thank God we can hear the former in all its original glory with Dumée tackling the high vocals as well as Akkerman's original fiery guitar figures. Superb. Higher stars all round for better packaging and information. ***

Review by David Randall

Buy this CD

Related>> Focus 8 CD

Related>> Masters From the Vaults DVD

Related>> Focus In America DVD

Jan Akkerman/Focus Book

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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