Release Info: AUDIENCE - The First Audience Album (1969) @flac
This London quartet recorded their debut album with the large label Polydor (Phillips), but for some reason the record got pulled from the stores soon after its release and is now a much sought-after collector’s item. The album had received a first Cd reissue with the German TRC, but for some reasons, the album was only lasting some 28 minutes. Released again nowadays, the full album is present as well as three bonus tracks, but I am not positive of the legitimacy of this release or its label. Nevertheless it is nice to hear Audience’s debut even if we are far from their next two albums, which are masterpieces of the British proto-prog scene. The lest we can say is that this album is a bit nave (is that really a flaw) and lacks a bit musical direction (on the other hand, this…), but holds enough charm to allow its weaknesses go easily forgiven.
Audience developed a blues-derived proto-prog that had two main characteristics, guitarist Howard Werth’s voice (which can sound like VdGG and Gnidrolog’s voices) and Keith Gemmell’s many wind instruments. Tracks like the opening Banquet (this has the power of future records), the superb Heaven Was An Island (with its great percussive intro leading to a sizzling sax and wild lyrics), the dreamy Maiden’s Cry (plaintive yet riveting with its sax approaching VdGG’s Jackson), the solemn Leave It Unsaid and a first version of House On The Hill are all excellent tracks indicating the greatness of their future oeuvres.
Other tracks like Poet (cool flute), Waverley Stage Coach (too bluesy), River Boat Queen (weird, not unpleasant but highly surprising with its strings in the background), Harlequin (a bit of a filler), the forgettable and brassy Too Late etc. are slightly weaker
The three bonus tracks do not really hinder the album’s running (except for the closer that is really not of good recording quality - and its origin not explained), but do not add much in value either as they do not range in their better tracks. But in some ways they are related to the song Ebony Variations from their second albums by presenting an underlying jazz facet that surfaces now and again.
Yes this debut is hardly representative of Audience’s blistering and sizzling hard-bluesy prog of their future Friend’s Friend’s Friend and its better-known successor House On The Hill. But if you loved those two albums enough, this one will also please you because the nascent Audience sound is there, with their power musical powers waiting to be unleashed. Because of this album’s quick disappearance from the market, you will find many of the ideas getting a second chance (under different names mostly) over the following two albums, making this album sounds sometimes like a demo.