Masters from the Vaults [DVD]

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Focus' contribution to the often disappointing Masters from the Vaults DVD series is, in fact, one of the better editions in the entire collection. Whereas too many of the other releases serve up no more than 20 to 30 minutes of the headlining band, then stuff the remainder of the DVD with extraneous odds and ends, this disc rounds up a full 82 minutes of primal Focus, including a TV performance of 1974's Hamburger Concerto and a sizable chunk from the band's 1972 appearance on British TV's Old Grey Whistle Test -- the performance, of course, that ensured overnight stardom for Focus in the U.K. The heart of the disc, however, is an hourlong retrospective, hosted by frontman Thijs Van Leer, traveling through the entire history of the band by way of a host of archive footage -- further Whistle Test performances of "Hocus Pocus," "Sylvia," and "Can't Believe My Eyes" and a string of long-forgotten European TV appearances (including an excellent "House of the King"). Neither are these the 30-second clips one normally expects to find -- rather, viewers are treated to the full-length performances, interspersed with some genuinely informative remarks from Van Leer. The opportunity, for example, to hear the genesis of "Sylvia," complete with a sample of its original lyric, is one that few fans will want to pass up. A solidly excellent DVD, Masters from the Vault reminds fans just how vastly talented, and correspondingly successful, the original Focus was -- and how the lineups that followed were no slouches, either. If you only buy one DVD within the Masters from the Vault series, make it this one.