Charisma 1970 / Esoteric 2015
Sending their message down the line, newly invigorated proto-proggers find their burning soul.
Easy come, easy go: that’s how it was for this band quickly signed by Polydor and just as quickly dismissed when their debut LP sunk without a trace due to the lack of promotion and got deleted. But the group’s strength continued to grow and, spotting them opening for LED ZEPPELIN, Charisma head Tony Stratton-Smith stepped into the breach and offered AUDIENCE a contract that would see the quartet bloom. The first fruit of it is “Friend’s Friend’s Friend” – note the apostrophes that describe the social connection of this album’s music – wherein fancy songs receive a soulful lining.
Such sympathy warms Keith Gemmell’s brass on the otherwise novelty “Belladonna Moonshine” with its saloon singalong and frenetically frailed banjo, but the arresting theatricality sets in from “Nothing You Do” as Howard Werth’s deliberately mannered voice cuts through his nylon strings’ rumble towards an uplifting chorus and an almost orchestral instrumental reverie, where the woodwind reigns gloriously. Yet it’s the expanse of “The Raid” that opens the ensemble’s dramatic scope in full: here’s a rare example of tension built on purely acoustic terms, Trevor Williams’ bass and Tony Connor’s drums stoking the fire and pulling back for the multi-tracked sax’s cleansing release, before “Right On Their Side” sends its Spanish-tinged and English-themed charge up the listener’s spine for the flute to smooth the tune’s edge.
Then, the band’s classical leanings are manifested, and the clarinet leads them into the elegant “Ebony Variations” which chases Mozart away until a perfect dose of jazz madness pours in, whereas “Priestess” proposes a rippling flight of majesty in a very cinematic way. But there’s also a nice rhythm-and-blues belter, a B-side “The Big Spell” that breaks the magic circle, only for other bonuses to restore it, with most of the album remixed, and effectively brought to a real life, by Gus Dudgeon who would produce the group’s next LP. That’s where the real relation chain starts.