Focus

Sylvia

Composed by Thijs van Leer

Song Review by

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.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Focus III 1972 Music on Vinyl / Urp Music Distribution
Focus at the Rainbow 1973 Jvc Victor 2:47
No Image 1985
The Best of Focus: Hocus Pocus 1994 Import 3:33
The No. 1 70's Rock Album 1995
Various Artists
Alex 3:30
No Image 1997
Various Artists
Disky
100% Rock [RCA] 1998
Various Artists
Disky / Disky Communications / Target Records
Six String Superclassics 1999
Various Artists
Repertoire 3:30
Masters from the Vaults 2003 Classic Rock Legends 2:46
Live in America 2003 Classic Rock Legends 4:34
While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Car Classics: Driven Rock 2004
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:28
Greatest Hits 2004 Dejavu Retro Gold 4:34
The Anthology 2004 Classic Rock Legends
More Classic Rock Legends 2004
Various Artists
Classic Rock Legends
Nederpop 70-79 2004
Various Artists
Hunter Records
Classic Rock Anthology, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Classic Rock Legends
Live Legends 2004 Classic Rock Legends 4:34
Rock Chronicles: The Seventies 2005
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:30
Classic Rock Anthems 2005
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:27
Rock Giants, Vol. 1 [BR] 2006
Various Artists
BR Music
Classic Rock Presents Prog Rock 2006
Various Artists
Gut-Active 3:30
Music in Review 2006 Classic Rock Legends / Inside Sets
The Sound of the 70s [Warner] 2007
Various Artists
Warner Strategic Marketing 3:30
100 Hits: Drive Time 2008
Various Artists
100 Hits 3:32
Legendary Guitar 2008
Various Artists
Disky 3:28
The Pop Years: 1972-1973 2009
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:30
The  Pop Years: The 70s 2010
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:30
Total Rock Anthems 2012
Various Artists
Anvil Media / Sandbeach Holdings
Hard Rock Hits 2013
Various Artists
Paradiso 3:31
While My Guitar Gently Weeps [Universal] 2014
Various Artists
Universal Music TV
Golden Oldies In and Out of Focus
blue highlight denotes editor's pick