Audience are a real English cult band which lasted during their first period from 1969 until 1972 and reformed between 2003 and 2004. They might be considered as real legends of progressive rock. The band followed in the footsteps of Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator, signing for the prestigious Charisma label in the seventies.
Their eponymous album was distributed by the Polydor label and released in 1969. At the time the band consisted of Howard Alexander Werth (vocals and acoustic guitar), Keith Gemmel (saxophone, clarinet and flute ), Trevor Williams (bass) and Tony Connor (drums). Their debut was reissued by Esoteric Recordings in 2015. This reissue has faithfully transcribed the original release and offered a booklet full of information about the band. The CD booklet includes a new essay by Sid Smith plus an exclusive interview with Howard Werth. The bands proto prog sound is very similar to a style which could be labelled as folk-rock. This you can hear right from the start on the opening tune Banquet and a little more on tracks such as Riverboat Queen and Pleasant Convalescence which even has strings in it. The use of a saxophone throughout the entire album makes sure their compositions have some jazzy elements in their music from time to time. However, do not expect real progressive rock like the other bands mentioned earlier got on the albums they made at the time. This does not mean the music isn't enjoyable. You just have to be a little bit more open minded towards other styles if you want to enjoy the band's debut. Besides the tracks of the original album you can find three bonus tracks on this reissue. The songs are in the style of the rest of the material they released on their first album, although I did get the feeling some of them were recorded during jam sessions and have a slightly psychedelic atmosphere. Furthermore some early fusion-jazz elements can be noticed as well.
The band's second album Friend's Friend's Friend was also reissued by Esoteric Recordings. Once again a very tasteful booklet comes along with this release. This time around the lyrics of the original album are included. Furthermore you will find the liner notes and pictures from the time the album originally came out in May 1970. The line up is still the same as on their debut. Also their musical style didn't change that much. However the use of the clarinet or saxophone takes them more towards a style which could be labeled as psychedelic jazz-fusion music, similar to bands such as King Crimson or Van Der Graaf Generator, which were well known at that time. In addition to the original compositions bonus tracks are included on this reissue. This time more than on their debut. Included are a single B-side plus six in 1971 remixed songs by Gus Dudgeon which were previously unreleased. Again the songs are in the same vein as on the second album.
While listening to both albums you know that you are enjoying some cool beautiful vintage stuff. The spirit of the late sixties and early seventies certainly comes to the surface on Audience and Friend's Friend's Friend. If you want to go back to the spirit of the late sixties and early seventies and forget the progressive rock of today, this might be your cup of tea. Next to the first two Audience reissues Esoteric Recordings also released new versions of the follow up albums The House On The Hill, released in May 1971 and Lunch, released in February 1972. Unfortunately we didn't get review copies and therefore couldn't review them.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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