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Audience - Audience [Aka: The First Album] CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.56 | 72 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars You've been a great Audience

Audience's fifteen minutes of fame came when they released their masterpiece album, "House on the hill" on Charisma Records. They had however been around for some time before that, and this eponymous album, originally released by Polydor records, goes back to where it all started.

Deciding to adopt the name Audience, rather than persist with the laborious Lloyd Alexander Blues Band from whom they emerged, the band recorded this album in early 1969. "Audience" is a typical album by a band desperately trying to find their direction. That is not to say there is nothing of value here, there most certainly is. The unique voice of Howard Werth is not fully exploited, but songs such as the opening "Banquet" would have sounded OK on "House on the hill".

Thereafter we have the anonymous soft pop of "Poet", the upbeat folk blues of "Waverley stage coach" and the Stackridge (whom Keith Gemmell would later join) like folk parody of "River boat queen". The last of those is the most interesting, the arrangement having definite prog nuances.

"Heaven was an island" supposedly contains incisive political lyrics by Trevor Williams, but the slurred, semi-shouted vocal delivery of Werth makes them all but indecipherable. The track actually sounds rather Family like, with some jazzy improvised sax as the instrumental break. There are other early hints of the jazz rock which would come to the fore on later albums, especially through the wind instruments of Keith Gemmell.

"Maidens cry" reportedly inspired part of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to heaven", Audience having supported the Zepsters in 1969. The song is a fine, moody piece with notable harmonies and confident sax. The final track on the original album is an early version of "House on the hill", a song the band would substantially rework when recording their third album ("House on the Hill"). The version here is totally recognisable though, and one of the highlights of the set.

The recent and somewhat overdue CD release of the album (called "Audience, the first album") has a few additional tracks from the period. "Paper round" is a lightweight Traffic pop like number which features a nice change of pace midway. "Troubles" was the first song written by Werth, when he was 15 years old. Only the backing track was recorded around the time of this album, so Werth recorded the vocals for it in the mid 1990's for this re-release. "The going song" is a track from the incidental music recorded by the band for a film called "Bronco bullfrog", the music never having been previously released.

Incidentally, the version of "Too late, I'm gone" included here is not that which appeared on the original album, but one which features Mike D'Abo on piano. The inclusion of this version was at the behest of Howard Werth, who assures us that the differences are otherwise minimal.

In all, a mainly pop orientated debut, but one which contains regular and transparent indications of what would follow. The quality of the songs, the performances, and the arrangements all combine to confirm that this is an ambitious band with the talent to turn those ambitions into success.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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