At just three-and-one-half minutes, "Sylvia" is scarcely one of the epic productions for which Focus are renowned. But, alongside the signature "Hocus Pocus", it is probably as representative of the band's overall aura as any of their extended marathons, an exercise in economics that established guitarist Jan Akkerman among the most tasteful players of the age. A stately guitar-led instrumental, "Sylvia" has been compared to Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing" in terms of melody and mood. That, however, is to overlook the solid bedrock of organ from which Akkerman soars so high, while one of Thijs Van Leer's most characteristic yodels certainly adds further character and impact to the performance.
An early highlight of 1972's Focus III double album, it was "Sylvia" that opened Focus' late 1972 debut on British TV's Old Grey Whistle Test, a performance that, according to host Bob Harris, was so well-received that label Polydor's manufacturing plants were pressing nothing but Focus albums for the next week. Released as a UK single in the new year, "Sylvia" then shot to #4, outperforming even the earlier "Hocus Pocus" (the opposite occurred in the US, where "Sylvia" inexplicably halted at #89).
With the song still ever-present in Jan Akkerman's live repertoire, there are now several versions to choose from. The studio original notwithstanding, however, the finest is that which, medleyed with "Hocus Pocus", closes Focus's 1973 Live at the Rainbow album.