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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really.

Their second album with its stupendous psych artwork gatefold sleeve was really a small masterpiece that is sadly and criminally under-rated and shadowed by its equally excellent successor House On The Hill. Audience was never a full-blown progressive rock group in the strict sense of whatever definition everyone tries to find, but almost everything they did write is adventurous enough to guarantee that progheads will love and adopt them, and certainly this album. The three characteristic that define their sound is that they are without a keyboard player, the have a very talented front man playing many wind instrument (including saxes, flutes, oboes etc.) and a lead vocalist/guitarist with a very uncommon voice. This might be the key factor for you to enjoy the band because Werth's voice is an acquired taste, but if you love Colin Goldring (Gnidrolog), Roger Chapman (Family) or Peter Hammill (VDGG and the voice-sax combination will remind you of them often), you will have absolutely no problem getting used to it.

From superb and charming It Brings A Tear to the very energetic (but still partly acoustic) Right On Their Side to the frightening and poignant Raid (and its almost 9 minutes of blood curdling sinister but fascinating ambiances) to the demented Priestess, every one of these songs fit each other except one. The gifted but totally out-of-context Ebony Variations is a showcase for Gemmel's superb talents but is filled with jazzy and folk feels, quite enjoyable track in itself but unfortunately not suited for this album. But this is the only "flaw" (if you can call this superb digression a flaw) in the continuity of the album. Appealing most to progheads will be the two longer tracks Raid and Priestess, the title track (Werth has even a bit of early Van Morrison intonations in his voice) and the finale Nothing You Do (with its infectious bass line) are of high calibre.

As I mentioned above, this absolute gem is completely over-shadowed by its successor The House On The Hill but by no means is FFF any inferior to their third album. I might even consider this album more even and constant (in spite of Ebony Variation) the its more famous follow-up. Sadly after those two superb albums, they set about to write what was supposed to become their magnum opus concept album called Lunch with an expanded line-up (two other reed player) but things went quite wrong and the band broke-up soon after its release and nothing outside a contract-filling compilation was heard of them. Until recently that is!!! In the last couple years Audience has reformed with three of its original members and have been touring the British Isles and are apparently still together (see the link to their website).

The early 70's were a great time for young and adventurous musicians and the era was favourable for the record industry (and the small subsidiary labels) to allow so many groups to releases obscure albums, so numerous in those years that it was simply impossible to promote every group. Then will come the first oil crisis, which will modify Europe's living habits and kill many groups that had not yet broken through! But at least, it leaves the joy to progheads to discover real hidden, buried and forgotten gems such as this one!

Report this review (#30881)
Posted Tuesday, June 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars For me , this is the best Audience's album. Impressive musicianship of all the members. I like Keith Gemmel's work on saxes and woodwinds and especially Trevor Williams' inventive and melodic bass guitar playing which reminds me on Glen Cornick (early Jethro Tull) and Tony Reeves (Colosseum first crew). The tracks I like most : Nothing you do, It brings a tear, Priestess .
Report this review (#30882)
Posted Saturday, September 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I won't get into the discussion whether Audience should be considered a "real Prog" band whatever this should mean but no matter how one might classify them this band certainly has to be considered a rather unique one and anyway it's one of all-time fav ones since my youngest days. The combination of Howard Werth's vocals which might be admittedly not everyone's "cup of tea" and Keith Gemmell's versatile use of sax, flute and clarinet had been just immediately highly fascinating for me when I listened to this group the very first time some 30 years ago. This one and its more famous follow-up were certainly their two outstanding works but even if their first and their last album "Lunch" were considerably more light-weighted I wouldn't call them complete failures and still consider them good and highly enjoyable records. All the tracks on this album are just equally great although it's true that the instrumental "Ebony Variations" with its playful jazzy renditions of a classical theme and Gemmel's really virtuoso clarinet play doesn't fit quite well to the rest but nonetheless this piece is an excellent one as well. Absolute highlights are of course "Raid" being with almost 9 minutes by far longest track here with an awesome sax solo and the slightly weird sounding "Priestess" with great psychedelic flute play but as said already none of the other shorter tracks really drops down in anyway. This album had been a really unique blend of folk, jazz, psychedelic and rock elements and should be considered for sure an essential one in any Prog collection. 4 ― stars really!!
Report this review (#100580)
Posted Monday, November 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Friend's friend's friend is by far the best album from Audience. It is said that Stand by the door is better, but I don't think so. After their promise debut, the band achieved the edge of their limits (in positive way). The next one is not as sincere in emotions as this one.

Musically it is a full of energy and very emotional stuff. From the great opener Nothing you do till The big spell (mono) it is nice creative and quite a progressive kind of music. The main instruments are sax and acoustic guitar, but this album is also full of nice bass and drums cooperation in the jazz way. The unique vocal is not needed to be mentioned, even A. Haslam from Renaissance was a great fun of it.

I really like this album, yet it is not a masterpiece (that's the biggest problem of this site, people usually give five stars to everything that they've heard and liked it). Four stars, it is a must have for all.

Report this review (#103464)
Posted Monday, December 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the band's great debut, they continued from strength to strength. Sticking with the same format, classical guitar, woodwind, bass drums, they continued to produce a high quality and unique kind of folky jazz. The sound on this LP is much heavier, with the rhythm section being far more prominent. The opening track will definatley appeal to fans of label mates VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR with a hint of JETHRO TULL. Some tracks are lengthy and have improvised passages. Check out the sax solo at the end of The Raid. Keith Gemmell firing on all cylinders on the sax, marvelous ear-splitting stuff.

I have to say that this is probably my best AUDIENCE lp. Was thinking of giving a 5 star, but it's just short of masterpiece status, so 4.5 stars I'm afraid. Great album throughout, though, with a wonderful cover to boot.

Report this review (#112320)
Posted Friday, February 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I must admit to being a little disappointed with this second effort from Audience. I loved their debut for the short but intelligent songs. Rock tunes with a progressive twist. Friendīs Friendīs Friend has some of the same lovely things that made their debut so good, but itīs a bit too streamlined in comparison.

The music is as on the debut driven by Howard Werthīs beautiful voice and Keith Gemmelīs winds and sax. This time there is even a banjo part in the song Belladonna Moonshine. A bluegrass part if you like. My biggest problem though is that there are more soloing and I donīt feel the melodies stuck as well as with their debut. The worst part though is the instrumental song Ebony Variations, which brings to mind german tyrolen music. Even though it is very well played by especially Gemmell, this is a horror to my ear. I have to note that the song Raid is about the viking attacks on the british shores. This is of course a treat for a dane like me.

I have to say that even though there are many good songs on this album ( especially Belladonna Moonshine, which has a hilariously funny story), itīs just not as good as their debut, and therefore I will only give this one 3 stars. Well 3.5 but in the Prog Archives thatīs a 3.

Report this review (#156713)
Posted Wednesday, December 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Audience are a band that I never heard of when they originally roamed the Earth back in the early seventies, yet they have a sound that is comfortably familiar thanks to their semblance to many bands of that period. On the opening track “Nothing You Do” for example the vocalist sounds quite a bit like David Bowie circa the same time period. “Right on their Side” could have been an Ozzy Osbourne-era Black Sabbath tune were it not for the flute. And before it turns jazzy “Priestess” comes off quite a bit like a Rainbow song, as does “Raid”.

This album was produced by the band themselves before they gave way to hired guns to produce their next two records. Probably thanks to their comparative inexperience the tracks lack much continuity, but all of them are pretty good when taken individually. Some like the humorous “Belladonna Moonshine” with its odd moral tale and banjo picking are even very good. The title track is another that presents a folksy tale, in this case with picking guitar (nylon-string electric I believe) and a wispy saxophone that’s both sad and beautiful.

“Raid” is both the longest and most interesting composition here. This is some sort of bizarre and not very historically accurate tale of Vikings and battles, and features some of the most creative work on a saxophone I’ve heard in quite a while. Keith Gemmell alternates between soft wailing, discordant choppy bleats, and some extended wails that are painful on first listen but really grow on you with repeated playing.

I’ve read the band’s next two albums are their better ones, but overall fame and fortune eluded the group and they disbanded in 1972. Most of the members continued in other groups including a short stint by the lead singer in a failed revival of the Doors, and a long run with Hot Chocolate by bassist/ keyboardist Trevor Williams. The band has recently reformed and released a new album (which I haven’t heard but may add to my wish list if I read some good reviews).

This is a band and an album that is largely forgotten but probably deserve some recognition for producing a handful of artistic and pretty decent albums. Three stars for this one and recommended to fans of heavier seventies art rock.


Report this review (#160017)
Posted Sunday, January 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Audience on this album come across much like Charisma Records' answer to Family - a psych-prog band with a vocalist with a distinctive and energetic style. Musically speaking, Audience have much more jazz and folk influence than early Family, but Werth's powerful delivery really does put me in mind of Roger Chapman's vocal mannerisms. It's a good match to the music, which manages to get far darker and heavier than you'd expect psychish folk-jazz to get - especially on the menacing and accusatory Priestess. Audience seem to be comparatively forgotten compared with other Charisma stalwarts like Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator, or even Rare Bird or Lindisfarne, and this is a real shame; they certainly deserve recognition for their contributions to early prog. Four stars.
Report this review (#460830)
Posted Monday, June 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars At first hearing I didn't like the sound of this band at all. The album opens with rocking songs somewhere between folk and blues-rock; the sound is a bit messy and the vocalist sounds like a bad, less expressive version of BEGGARS OPERA vocals. Acoustic guitar and banjo can be heard a lot, keyboards almost missing. But further down the album I started to get the idea of this little known band in the Charisma label. Their ace in the sleeve is the sax/ woodwind player Keith Gemmell, who has a wide spectrum in handling his instruments. Well, the vocals may also be a trademark but I personally don't like them much. Howard Werth uses some mannerism that makes comparisons to VDGG's Peter Hammill and FAMILY's Roger Chapman, but with notably poorer results, I think. Also Lindisfarne is mentioned here. Indeed, AUDIENCE really sounds like a Charisma band!

Album's highlight is the 8-minute 'Raid' where saxes show their magic, and on the whole the album is better in the latter half. At times the music comes close to the more jazzy/ meditative/ impressionistic moments of VDGG with its wailing saxes or woodwinds, and that's when I like it the best. Another good song is the effectively dramatic 'Priestess'; the lyrics repeat "priestess... murderess..." However there are some rather poor compositions, and none that could be considered excellent, especially from prog's point of view. The only instrumental 'Ebony Variations' remains quite boring. Maybe their following album House On The Hill (from which I've heard one track) is better, even though some think this one is their best. But being an album from the year 1970, definitely not one to ignore completely.

Report this review (#591281)
Posted Monday, December 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars AUDIENCE were a four-piece, London-based Jazz-Rock outfit. This album "Friend's Friend's Friend" (1970) - released on the Prog-Rock Charisma label - was the second of four albums released between the years of 1969 and 1972. Their first album, the self-titled "Audience" (1969), failed to gain much recognition, so they did comparatively well to release four albums in total, considering how many other bands have quickly fallen by the wayside after releasing a debut album with poor album sales. Audience followed this particular album with "The House on the Hill" in 1971 and a final album "Lunch" in 1972. A bonus track was added to the original eight songs on the "Friend's Friend's Friend" album on the 1992 CD reissue. Let's join the Audience now and have a listen.

We begin with "Nothing You Do", a rip-roaring, toe-tapping, Jazz-Rock number, designed to really lift the spirits up into the "progosphere". It's a bright and brassy song, with the horn section in full flow. One of the best features of the song is the uplifting vocal harmonising in the style of some of Uriah Heep's uproarious songs. The lead vocalist deserves a word of mention too, because on first hearing, his voice does sound somewhat nasal and high-pitched, but once you become accustomed to his nasal twang, then you may come to love it. Despite the uplifting nature of the music, the lyrics tell the sad story of a broken relationship:- "Nothing you do could make me feel towards you, What you obviously feel towards me, Nothing I hear from you is more than a mere excuse, Confirming my every fear." ..... It's a bittersweet ballad with attitude! Onwards now to Song No. 2 and "Belladonna Moonshine", another rumbunctious brassy number with a jaunty and jazzy rhythm. There's a quick-tempo honky tonk shuffle in the mid-section which really livens things up. It's insouciant, it's vibrant, and it's very pleasant too. Take a look at these playful lyrics:- "Jeremiah Cade though a singer by trade, He couldn't sing a note without the liquor he made, He could never make it big 'til the night he took a swig, From his homebrewed Belladonna Moonshine." ..... Who needs moonshine anyway, or any other alcoholic spirits, when you can have your spirits lifted by listening to this joyfully intoxicating piece of music. Next up comes "It Brings a Tear", a song more likely to bring tears of joy with its happy vibe. It's an impassioned power ballad, opening with a delightful flute solo and with the sound of those uplifting vocal harmonies in full flow again. It's a song full of radiant energy as warm and bright as a hot summer's day. If you could SEE this music, then it would be shining in full Technicolour brilliance! We've reached the halfway point now with "Raid", the longest song on the album at over 8 minutes long. This epic song opens with a relentless pounding and pulsating rhythm, followed by a sensational and sophisticated saxophone solo in the middle section. It's a tale of barbarous Vikings rampaging, pillaging and ..... Well, we won't go into that, but you can guess the rest.

Side Two open with "Right on Their Side", another sonorous and thunderous burst of British Jazz-Rock going full steam ahead. Song No. 6 is "Ebony Variations", an instrumental, classically-inspired number, as the song title implies. It's a jolly and joyous piece of music, where the saxophonist really gets to play his heart out and demonstrate his musical mettle in no uncertain terms. He's really having a blast here. On now to Song No. 7, and "Priestess", an impassioned and impressive 6-minute song featuring a gorgeous flute solo. Don't have nightmares though, because it's a dark satanic tale of nefarious goings-on in the middle of the night as these lyrics reveal:- "Bathed in moonlight, Devil worshippers chanting, Throughout the night, Music grew ever haunting. High on her throne, Satan seated beside her, Face cold as stone, Prince of Darkness to guide her." ..... Yes, it's that kind of a song, but try not to let that put you off, because this is great music! You may want to sleep with the lights on though after hearing it for the first time. And so, we come to the final song on the album dear friends with the title track, "Friend's Friend's Friend", a melodic and gently lilting saxophonic ballad which closes the album in salubrious and symphonious style.

This amazing band deserves to be heard by a much wider Audience. "Friend's Friend's Friend" is a bold and brassy rejuvenating album that's guaranteed to brighten up the dullest of days with its vibrant spirit and rollicking attitude. Audience represent one of the finest exponents of classic British Jazz-Rock. Tell all of your friends about this superb album, and tell your friend's friends too!

Report this review (#2285681)
Posted Friday, December 6, 2019 | Review Permalink

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