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Audience - The House on the Hill CD (album) cover

THE HOUSE ON THE HILL

Audience

 

Eclectic Prog

3.88 | 72 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Raff
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Audience were another of those early British progressive rock bands that would have deserved to achieve greater fame than they actually did. Their third album, "The House on the Hill" was released one year before the band called it a day in 1972, after the flop of their fourth disc, "Lunch" (originally meant as a concept album). Unfortunately, as happened to far too many of the bands that were active in those heady years, they fell victim to internal strife, and ended up being forgotten by all but the more dedicated followers of the genre.

More melodic than the likes of East of Eden (another unjustly overlooked, early prog band), Audience had an idiosyncratic approach to music, involving an unusual lineup with two percussionists, a noticeable lack of keyboards, and the pervasive presence of woodwind instruments (courtesy of the very underrated Keith Gemmell). One could indeed go as far as to say that the woodwinds are the real driving force behind the band's distinctive sound, together with Howard Werth's dramatic, high-energy vocals.

Although "The House on the Hill" can strike the listener as a definitely upbeat album, its title-track is in fact a rather dark offering, hinting at mysterious, disturbing goings-on in the titular mansion. At over 7 minutes, it is the longest track on the album (together with opener "Jackdaw"), and the most interesting by far, with its screaming saxophones and quiet, eerie, flute-and-percussion-driven bridge, complete with ominous sound effects that let the imagination run wild. Werth's vocal performance is particularly impressive on this song, as on the aforementioned "Jackdaw" - an angular, jazzed-up song in which the singer offers a very convincing Hammill impersonation. He also proves himself no slouch on his main instrument, the classical guitar, as shown by the exquisite instrumental "Raviolé". Compared with these three, the remaining songs on the album are not equally impressive, though undeniably interesting and well-constructed, with their blend of disparate influences - folk, blues, jazz, even gospel, like in the soothing ballad "I Had a Dream".

On the whole, "The House on the Hill" is a solid album in the best art-rock tradition, sufficiently eclectic to appeal to dyed-in-the-wool prog fans, ultimately uplifting (in spite of the title track's sinister slant), and full of memorable melodies that can appeal to those more inclined towards the mellower end of the musical spectrum. While not a masterpiece, it keeps up a consistently high level of quality, and as such deserves far more exposure than it usually gets - even on sites or magazines specialised in progressive rock. If you can get hold of it, this album will definitely be a worthy addition to your collection.

Raff | 4/5 |

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