After the release of their fourth album ‘Lunch’ (1972),
a very lacklustre affair, Britain’s premier Art-Rock band ‘Audience’
imploded. Things had started so promisingly with their original self titled
debut album in 1969 released by Polydor Records. But although it met with great
critical acclaim the record buying public turned a deaf ear and hardly a copy
left the record shop. The band was immediately dropped like a hot potato by
Polydor, to be immediately picked up by the new progressive rock label Charisma
Records run by Tony Stratton Smith, who had been impressed with the band when
he saw them supporting Led Zeppelin at the Lyceum in London, England.
Howard Werth had a unique soulful voice, and his choice of
instrument, an electric nylon strung guitar, gave the band a distinctive sound.
Keith Gemmell was perhaps the number one saxophone and flute player of his day.
It can be fairly laid at Keith Gemmell’s door that he really made the
saxophone a hard rock instrument, whilst his flute playing lent light and
colour to the sound. In Trevor Williams on bass and Tony Connor on drums they
had a rock solid rhythm section to build upon. Tony Connor’s style also gave
the band a bit of a jazzy feel, so there were not many elements of music that
were left out of the ‘Audience’s’ repertoire.
But even with the release of a separately recorded single
‘Indian Summer’ (1971), which started to rapidly climb up the American
charts, the band and record label felt despondent about their lack of immediate
commercial success, which in hindsight is hardly surprising considering the
competition they were up against, Led Zeppelin, Free, Genesis, Pink Floyd, etc.
They should have perhaps bided their time instead of pushing out the poor
‘Lunch’ and splitting up.
Rock ‘n’ roll is a funny old world and after often
bumping into each other over the years, they decided after thirty three years
to give it another go. Keith Gemmell, Howard Werth, and Trevor Williams were
all keen, but it was too much to ask Tony Connor to give up the security of his
position behind the kit with Hot Chocolate who have a very heavy gigging
So the hunt was on for a new skinsman, the band had to
search long and hard to find somebody as versatile as their former drummer. But
when they came across John Fisher they had their man. He had plenty of rock
experience, including a stint with the Blue Bishops, but had also served in big
bands, leaving himself open to any form of music. John’s open mindedness was
essential, so was his sense of humour, playing with this bunch of jokers.
Once rehearsals were complete for the first time in thirty
three years ‘Audience’ hit the road. After their first tour the last
concert at Deal in Kent’s Astor Theatre was recorded for release. Some may
say that a live album from Audience may be thirty three years too late, as if a
live album had been released in 1973, it may have broken them into the big time
then. But better late than never I say.
There’s something about this album that defies believe. If
these guys have been apart for so long, how come they have almost telepathic
sense in their play whilst at the same time being so relaxed, and obviously
enjoying themselves? You can actually hear them grinning at one another through
the music as they play along. One could be forgiven for thinking they had done
nothing else in the intervening years.
There are ten songs on display. Three from ‘The House On
The Hill’, opener ‘Your Not Smilin’ - a jaunty and well chosen song to
play first up, the haunting ‘I Had A Dream’ and a ten minute version of the
title song with plenty of improvisation from Keith Gemmell; one song from their
debut ‘Leave It Unsaid’ and one from Friends, Friends, Friend; the moving
‘Nothin’ You Said’; which leaves room for two songs from Howard Werth’s
last solo album, ‘The Evolution Myth Explodes’ - a Werth composition
Zig-Zag and Swirl, plus a stunning interpretation of Lennon and McCartney’s
‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, which the boys originally wrote for ‘The Rolling
Stones’ when they could not write themselves a hit back in 1963. Audience
have taken the song, taken it apart, and slowly burnt it back together again.
There is no point doing cover versions unless you have something to add to it
or a different slant to add. ‘Call Me Responsible’ is a chance for Keith
Gemmell to show of his skills and sense of humour. This is immediately followed
by the old James Brown classic ‘The Bells’ which gives Howard Werth his
chance to show that the talents of his throat have in no way diminished.
Finally, as an encore, the band launches into the late great Tim Rose’s
‘Morning Dew’, which will send shivers up and down your spine, such is the
emotion poured into the song by the band.
As a live album it may have come a little late in the
band’s career, but nothing diminishes pure raw talent. I for one hope that
the band gets some more belated success, as news seeps through that we may be
treated to an all new studio album later this year.
You may think the name of this album a little strange but
actually it just goes to send up the band’s sense of humour. The album cover
shows an audience sitting in complete boredom watching a band, until you look a
little closer and realize that it is a collage of the band themselves in the
audience watching themselves (the look of distaste on Keith Gemmell’s face is
hilarious). Which just goes to show that Audience are indeed ‘Alive and
Kickin’ and Screamin’ and Shoutin’.