When the golden age of prog is discussed in polite society, certain names will always be mentioned.
Then there are the second tier, who will also cross the radar of those who bother to look beyond Peter Gabriel’s flower costume – your Van der Graaf Generators, Gentle Giants, Caravans and Camels. But sometimes even prominent acts from that early-70s era find themselves curiously written out of the simplistic join-the-dots history of the genre. Audience are one such neglected minor player, and these reissues remind us that there’s a fair bit of buried treasure waiting for the more adventurous progophile to find. With the band signed up by Charisma Records boss and Genesis manager Tony Stratton-Smith the previous year, 1971’s The House On The Hill was their second album for the label and third overall, but it’s arguably their best. Jackdaw is a powerhouse of an opener, as Howard Werth’s bluesy bellow is offset by a plodding but addictive riff and Keith Gemmell’s gutsy tenor sax. Distinct echoes of Jethro Tull can also be heard here in Werth’s tendency to strangulate his vocal chords, as well as the generous flutterings of flute on Eye To Eye. Best of all, though, is the spooky, sax-strewn romp of the title track. Combining folky mysticism, art-rock melodrama and jazzy instrumental jamming, it’s a bona fide early prog nugget waiting to be rediscovered. By 1972’s Lunch, however, Audience seemed to have lost their way. Stand By The Door and Ain’t The Man You Need are ritzy barroom romps, but they sound a little too simplistic and keen to play to the gallery, even if they feature erstwhile Stones collaborator Bobby Keys on sax, Gemmell having quit by this point. Unlike the bonus tracks on House On The Hill, though (just alternate versions of the single You’re Not Smiling and its B-side), this expanded edition of Lunch features a previously unreleased bonus track Elixir Of Youth, a folky, flute-flecked ditty that’s a welcome throwback to their more satisfying early sound.