Tag Archives: At the Rainbow

(1974 Album) Focus – At the Rainbow

Once again I fell for Holland’s finest prog rock export.

Focus at the Rainbow was, as the name suggests, a recording of a live performance by the band at the Rainbow Theatre in London’s Finsbury Park.

The sleeve was another of those die-cut affairs that were all the rage at the time, cardboard flaps opening left and right to eventually reveal…..um, actually I can’t remember!

It may have been the first live album I ever bought.

If it was, then it kicked off a lifelong disinterest in live recordings. Unlike many other music fans, I have never really embraced the notion of “in concert’ albums and in all my years of buying records or CD’s I have amassed just the merest (one) handful of them to listen to.

This may be surprising to some of my readers. I just reckon live versions of songs are never anywhere near as good as studio originals, no matter how much ‘energy’ is exhibited. Plus there’s that whole “audience joining in” rubbish which has never struck me as listenable.

I know I’m in a minority with this point of view. On the upside however I have never, ever had to invest in dodgy bootleg recordings of my favourite artists – something which a lot of my ‘musical’ friends feel is necessary to their collections.

So, in 1974 I bought “At the Rainbow” and I’ll bet it wasn’t played more than a half a dozen times before I got rid of it.

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Filed under 1974 Diary Entries

January 23rd 1973

“Bort MOVING WAVES – FOCUS – ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT” / “Got opticians appointment” / “Today is the 1st (day) Anniversary of finding my history book”

Why did I write that stupid line about my history book? (Monty Python had WAY too much influence on my teenage brain I reckon!)

I suspect making an appointment with an optician scared me. (It always has). I wonder if this might have been the fateful “contact lens” appointment? (More on that later. If I can bear to write it)

As for “Moving Waves”, my brief review in 1973 may have been somewhat biased? After all my anticipation of finally buying this album had been building for almost a month or more. I suppose that, unlike in later life, I couldn’t afford to have “buyers remorse” about the music I bought. Heavens forbid that a 15-year-old boy should ever make a mistake?!!

If you wake up one morning fancying some shrill yodelling underpinned by mellotrons, flute music, classically-tainted piano and what can only be described as “heavy metal” guitar, then I really can’t recommend “Moving Waves” enough to you!

This album was originally released in 1970 with a totally different cover – and entitled “Focus II” – in Holland, the band’s home country.

Following the astonishing “hit single” success of the quirky single “Hocus Pocus“, the album was repackaged and reissued all over the world.

The album did amazing business in England following an appearance by the band on TV show “Old Grey Whistle Test“. (Something I have spoken of before) It also reached #8 on the USA Billboard album chart.

Side 1 kicks off with the single, then mellows right out on “Le Clochard” a somewhat haunting instrumental highlighting guitarist Jan Akkerman’s more laid back style.

Track 3, “Janis“, was also released as a single (an unsuccessful release in it’s own right… not surprising considering it is perhaps the weakest cut on the album).

Tracks 4 and 5 (“Moving Waves” and “Focus II” respectively) are often considered ‘classic’ Focus compositions, combining Thijs Van Leer’s weird imagery and piano chords over Akkerman’s jazz-influenced guitar work.

The whole of Side 2 is a 23 minute “concept” track (I often wonder if there’s any album in the early 70’s that didn’t include some kind of tripped-out ‘concept’ piece?). “Eruption” is an ambitious suite split into 5 segments which the band pull off with professional aplomb. It’s a captivating musical journey of stunning guitar licks, hammond organ and drum solos, all infused with excitement and melody.

Here’s a 10-minute sample of “Eruption” courtesy of You Tube… you will notice that Thijs Van Leer has forgotten to put his shirt on…

“Moving Waves”, along with “Focus III“, are without doubt my favourite Focus albums. Other Focus albums like “At the Rainbow“, “Hamburger Concerto“, as well as their debut, “In & Out of Focus“, failed to fire my imagination anywhere near as much.

And the least said about 1975’s terrible – and APPALLINGLY-titled – “Mother Focus“, the better. At least IMHO.

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Filed under 1973 Diary Entries