Focus 3 or Focus III is the third studio album from the Dutch rock band Focus, released as a double album in November 1972 on Imperial Records in the Netherlands, Polydor Records in the UK, and Sire Records in the US. Recorded after touring in supporting their previous album, Focus II (1971), the album saw the band write extended pieces and is their first with bassist Bert Ruiter in the group’s line-up.Focus 3 or Focus III is the third studio album from the Dutch rock band Focus, released as a double album in November 1972 on Imperial Records in the Netherlands, Polydor Records in the UK, and Sire Records in the US. Recorded after touring in supporting their previous album, Focus II (1971), the album saw the band write extended pieces and is their first with bassist Bert Ruiter in the group’s line-up.
Focus 3 received a positive reception upon its release. It went to No. 1 in the Netherlands for one week and reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 35 on the US Billboard 200. “Sylvia” was released as the album’s sole single, which reached No. 4 in the UK and No. 89 in the US. The album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling in excess of 500,000 copies.
In July 1972, after touring in supporting their previous album, Focus II (1971), the band retreated to Olympic Studios in Barnes, south west London, to record their next album. Initially a single LP was intended to be recorded but the group had written a considerable amount of new material, so the group opted to release a double album.
Mike Vernon reprised his role as the record’s producer with George Chkiantz assigned as recording engineer.[ Two versions of the album’s sleeve design exist; its North American release features each member photographed during a performance on the BBC music television show The Old Grey Whistle Test with a black background. The second, designed by Hamish Grimes, depicts a close-up of van Leer playing the flute with the title over his face.
“Round Goes the Gossip” features five lines from the poem Aeneid by the ancient Roman poet Virgil, sung in Latin by van Leer and its chorus hook, “Round goes the gossip”, also sung by Vernon. The five lines from the poem are printed on the album’s sleeve in Latin and English with the 1916 translation by Henry Fairclough.
“Love Remembered” is a track written by Akkerman, playing an acoustic guitar with van Leer’s flute, which is based on a young couple’s morning walk. Van Leer wrote “Sylvia” in 1968 when he was a member of his previous theatre group Shaffy Chantat, formed by singer and actor Ramses Shaffy. He was not fond of a composition that singer Sylvia Alberts was given to sing for her solo performance, so he wrote the instrumental with a set of lyrics in English written by Linda van Dyck. Its original title was a long one: “I Thought I Could Do Everything on My Own, I Was Always Stripping the Town Alone”, and concerned an independent young woman who fell apart after she met the love of her life. van Leer kept the music, re-arranging it as an instrumental track when it came to selecting material for the album.
He renamed it “Sylvia” after Alberts “to tease [her] a little”. The track includes a guitar introduction written by van Leer’s brother Frank.
Peet Johnson, one of the group’s biographers, highlights several musical references and similarities that van Leer incorporates in “Focus III”, including riffs from Bernard Hermann, “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” made famous by Petula Clark in 1967, Tchaikovsky, and Schubert. The track’s end segues into “Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!”, titled by Akkerman, featuring extended flute and guitar solos. Ruiter came up with its basic riff, with Akkerman coming up with the “second part”. Akkerman wrote “Elspeth of Nottingham” after driving around England for a holiday in 1967, stopping in a town in the Cotswolds where he first heard Julian Bream play the lute which inspired him to learn the instrument. Akkerman requested to include birdsong on the recording; Vernon suggested to include sounds of cows mooing and the song’s title, the “Elspeth” being an old Scottish variant of the name Elizabeth. “Carnival Fugue” borrows from Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier before venturing into cool jazz territory, then culminates in a rock finale with piccolo improvisations and a hint of Calypso rhythms on guitar. “Anonymous II” borrows its theme from “Anonymous” from the band’s first album and features a solo spot for all four members, lasting for 26 minutes.
The vinyl pressings of the album includes “House of the King”, a track Focus recorded for their first album, Focus Plays Focus (1970), intended to fill up space on side four. The two former members who perform on the recording, bassist Martin Dresden and drummer Hans Cleuver, are not credited on the album sleeve.
Released in November 1972, Focus 3 was a commercial success for the band, reaching No. 1 in the Netherlands for one week. It reached a peak of No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart in March 1973 during a 16-week stay on the chart. In the US, it reached No. 35 on the Billboard 200. “Sylvia” was released as the album’s sole single, which reached No. 4 in the UK and No. 89 in the US. In November 1973, Billboard announced the album was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling in excess of 500,000 copies. The album reached the same certification in the Netherlands and the UK. (by wikipedia)
Riding on the success of their hit single “Hocus Pocus” from the revolutionary Moving Waves album, Focus got to work on this, their third LP in four years. While the debut album featured a style not too dissimilar to the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Focus’ second LP, Moving Waves, was purely instrumental and wholly serious-minded. Focus III kept this same sound, but approached it with a jollier, more accessible tone. As with its predecessor, Focus III featured only one tune that would have a chance of being a hit single. The enjoyable rhythm of “Sylvia,” partnered with Jan Akkerman’s victorious guitar solo, some of Van Leer’s finest organ work, Bert Ruiter’s tight basslines, and Pierre Van Der Linden’s mellow drumming, assured the track classic status.
“Sylvia” found worldwide success and gained the band valuable radio and press exposure. The song remains one of the most loved and best remembered songs from Focus’ catalog. The consistency in musical quality throughout Focus III is enough to merit any listeners’ respect. To be frank, this LP has it all: diverse songs, astounding musicianship, one of the finest singles ever released — Focus III should unquestionably be ranked alongside the likes of Revolver, Dark Side of the Moon, and any others of rock’s greatest. (by Ben Davies)
In other words: A masterpiece !
Jan Akkerman (guitar, lute)
Thijy van Leer (keyboards, flute, harpsichord, vocals)
Pierre van der Linden (drums)
Bert Ruiter (bass)
Hans Cleuver (drums on 09.)
Martin Dresden (bass on 09.=
Mike Vernon (background vocals on 01.)
01. Round Goes The Gossip (van Leer) 5.14
02. Love Remembered (Akkerman) 2.49
03. Sylvia (van Leer) 3.32
04. Carnival Fugue (van Leer) 6.09
05. Focus III (van Leer) 6.04
06. Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! (Akkerman/Ruiter) 13.50
07. Anonymus II(van Leer/Akkerman/Ruiter/ v.d.Linden) 26.21
07.1. Anonymus II (Part 1) 19.28
07.2. Anonymus II (Conclusion) 7.30
08. Elspeth of Nottingham (Akkerman) 3.11
09. House Of The King (Akkerman) 2.51