Polydor 1969 / Esoteric 2015
Brass-blazing, if precocious, progressive blues on a short-lived album of a cult stripe that lingers still.
More known for their trio of Charisma LPs, AUDIENCE released their eponymous debut on Polydor, the label who’d signed the quartet within weeks of the band’s formation only to neglect on the record’s promotion and delete the album rather soon. That sealed its status among today’s collectors, yet there’s vivacity to this dozen songs which run beyond the curiosity factor, as psyched-up period pieces scattered across the tracks are interspersed with jazz-tinged creations given an ever-growing dynamic scope.
A sonic feast of opener “Banquet” introduces Keith Gemmell’s vigorous sax to the baroque sway where piano chords drizzle on the strum of Howard Werth’s nylon-string electric, a shining presence in the Spanish atmosphere of “Leave It Unsaid” but there’s a blues hue to it, too. Yet while the clarinet on “Poet” taps into an Arcadian vibe, too dark to feel pastoral, the dirge of “Maiden’s Cry” sends its flute-brushed waves to epic shores, and “Heaven Was An Island” gets high on Tony Connor’s thunderous drumming and a guitar wail.
As for merrier material, the vaudeville rock of “Too Late I’m Gone” and the violin-washed “River Boat Queen” are close relatives of dances by STACKRIDGE who Gemmell would join in the mid ’70s, whereas bonus “Paper Round” adds a ska tincture to the quartet’s palette. There are more colors on this album’s follow-up, but as far as debuts go here’s an obscure classic being brought into the light.