on 8 January 2007
I remember listening to my brothers copy of this LP, after he'd been impressed watching them perform Live at the Electric Circus in Scarborough (don't look for it, it's not there any more). I was hooked from the 1st. The Songs certainly stand the test of time. I'd sell my soul for the guitar tab to Ravioli. Extremely underrated prog rock outfit. Buy and be impressed.
on 25 August 2008
Another example of quality music from a lesser known band. This album while definitely entrenched in the rock genre is enriched by its jazz and classical influences. The two long tracks 'Jackdaw' and 'The house on the hill' are superb, with Keith Gemmell's reedwork outstanding. The rest of the album is not far behind with Howard Werth's classical guitar always to the fore especially on 'Raviole'.
Never heard of Audience?, don't let that put you off, they were one of the many unsung bands of the early 70s underground scene.
on 3 January 2000
Who knows who lives in the mysterious House on Hill but it does'nt matter, sit back and enjoy some unique sounds of Werth & Gemmell. If you can find musical nirvana somewhere between Pink Floyd & Pavlov's Dog then this album is for you! Audience is a typically alternative English collaboration that spawned out of the last days of flower power and the end of the 60's. Defying pigeon holing & catagories, this eclectic and adventuresome band knew what 'unplugged' was long before Nirvana or Eric Clapton. The production by Gus Dudgeon giving an eerie acoustic tone over the whole album. If you've heard Elton Johns' Funeral for a Friend you'll understand the types of production techniques Mr Dudgeon had been experimenting with. Overall a fantastic album - check out the bands other albums too!
on 3 March 2009
First released in 1971, this album still sounds wonderfully fresh. I don't know whether the CD has been remastered, or the original recording was especially good, but it sounds great.
The CD also contains a track not listed on the Amazon page - 'Indian Summer'. This was not on the original vinyl release.
What is it about this album that has kept its appeal and relevance?
Well, one thing, I think, is the unusual line-up - acoustic guitar, bass, drums and woodwind. The woodwind includes clarinet, flute and tenor sax. There are occasional keyboards too, both a sort of honky-tonk sound and possibly mellotron. The vocals are really strong - a sort-of bluesy style - but what I really love are the woodwinds. They, for me, are the real strength of the album.
'Jackdaw' starts with great bluesy vocals and acoustic guitar, but when that clarinet and saxophone kick in, you know you're listening to something a bit special. This is not the usual backing horn section. Oh no.
Perhaps because there are no electric guitars in the line-up, the clarinet/sax mix provides both backing and solos. To fill the sound even further, the saxophone uses effects - what sounds like a 'fuzz-box' to start with, double-tracked with the clarinet - the gritty deep sound of a fuzzed tenor sax with the woody-sounding clarity of the clarinet over the top just works so well, then the clarinet just takes off into a screaming solo, before returning to the main melody and the vocals. An absolutely storming start to the album.
I love the second track 'You're Not Smiling'; again, the mixture of quite delicate acoustic guitar and full-on sax/clarinet are wonderful. But I love the lyrics too. On the one hand, it's quite sad:
You're not a smiling,
I come a long way just to see you smiling,
You're not livin',
I come a long long way just to see you livin'
But then it gets really quite raunchy:
You really make me feel so insecure,
I feel like packin up and goin back,
Or maybe we should try a natural cure,
Come on baby let's hit the sack
And that kind of follows the juxtaposition of gentle acoustic guitar and up-front tenor sax/clarinet. It just works so well!
'Raviole' is lovely, acoustic guitar and strings, and makes a nice break in the album. Then 'Nancy' is almost, lyrically, a sort of folk-rock ballad but way up-tempo and with glorious power sax again.
'I Put a Spell on You' is an original take on Nina Simone's classic, and the vocals work well, but it's Audience's own tracks that really stand out for me - that, coupled with such a powerful and different line-up make this an album that has really stood the test of time.
And, on the CD, we get an extra track - I don't know if or where this has been released before, but it's a great track - about a man who meets a woman whose husband has gone. He tells her that his wife has gone. And they have an affair - and that was his 'Indian Summer'. It's such a joyous but somehow sad song and a lovely end.
Oh, don't forget the cover - it's wonderful! What is the story? No idea - but it's an early Hipgnosis. You can't see the other side of the cover from here - but the butler is dragging out an unconscious visitor - hence the rather surprised look on the young man's face. Hummm...
on 5 October 2011
I absolutely love this album, it's one of the best and most iconic albums of 1971.
House on the Hill blasts off with the fantastic "Jackdaw" (Werth-Gemmell). Howard Werth's powerful vocals and distinct guitar style is driven along by Keith Gemmell's powerful sax riff inter-spaced with quiet flute solos and a fantastic main sax solo, part of which is played through a distortion effect so the sax sounds like a guitar! All this complimented with fine drumming and bass playing by Tony Connor and Trevor Williams. What an opening track!
Just as you're still quivering from the opening track, "You're not smiling" another Werth-Gemmell gem bursts into life. This again is another powerful vocal performance by Werth and his distinct finger-style nylon strung guitar work shines through Gemmell's sax and Williams' driving bass.
Just so you can get your breath back, the next track is "I had a dream" (Werth-Williams) which is a nice slow number which features some good backing vocals and sax over Werth's excellent vocals with a solo on vibes played by Tony Connor (A true percussionist!)
Next, for a change, we have "Raviole (Werth) a pleasant classical guitar instrumental backed by members of the LSO who, at the time, were recording at the same studio (I like to think that Werth went into them and said "Hey lads, could you give us a hand with this track?"). The track builds nicely and the rest of the band join in towards the end.
Next we have "Nancy" (Werth-Williams) another track that drives along with tongue-twister lyrics, a percussive guitar rhythm and another fine guitar & sax solo with some clever bass and drum work.
"Eye to eye" (Werth-Williams) is a jaunty track which features a fine flute solo by Gemmell.
"I'll put a spell on you" (J Hawkins) the classic song made famous in the UK by Alan Price as his first solo single after leaving The Animals is given the Werth/Gemmell treatment. I really think that this is the best version. With a nice guitar arpeggio from Werth coupled with his powerful vocals, Gemmell's fine flute playing and excellent drum, vibes And bass work it moves from quiet phrases into powerful solos and finishes with some very nice sax work.
The title track, "House on the hill" (Werth-Williams) is a Gothic horror story which has some fine bass work. the free-form sax and flute solos are excellent and there is a very listen-able drum solo! At seven minutes twenty-seven seconds it is a "Value for money" track which crowned the original UK Charisma release.
The last track "Indian Summer" (Werth-Williams) was originally a single release and although it's quite a nice track, I personally feel that it's out of place on this album as it came from another stage in their career but that's me, others will see it as a bonus!
The Album was produced by Gus Dudgeon who was already a very successful producer, went on to produce Elton John and was co-founder of Rocket Records.
BUY THIS ALBUM!!!
on 1 June 2011
I too used to have this, and just rebought here on CD. All the reviews here are right (except the 1-star review complaining about VAT!), it's a lesser known classic.
It's funny, but in all the reviews naming tracks here, nobody has even _mentioned_ "I Had a Dream". Which is perhaps my favourite, and just goes to show how this album is so good & consistent that every track is regarded so highly....
on 23 February 2013
I bought this LP years ago (42 actually!) but I cannot resist saying now as I buy the CD version that this is one of the finest albums ever released. Jazz,classical,prog,folk? A bit of everything really, but the musicianship is just sublime and the tunes and songs truly wonderful. Howard Werth, the greatest singer you've never heard of?
on 5 October 2015
I bought this album when it came out (in vinyl format) and loved the sound and feel of the album. After many years and losing a few great albums along the way I come across 'House on the Hill' rereleased in CD format, possibly Audiences best album. The album was first released in 1971 and the band managed to fly under the radar of being a 'big name band'. A great album that got away. The title track 'House on the Hill' has a mysterious flavour to it with a bluesy feel to the great vocals. Don't expect ripping lead breaks on electric guitar as there isn't any, main focus is acoustic guitar and other instruments (as well as an orchestra) but still in the rock framework. The whole album rocks on well starting with 'Jackdaw' and in all honesty there isn't a bad track on the album. The last track on the disc is 'Indian Summer' which did not feature on the original vinyl album but it adds nicely to the overall sounds and shades of a brilliant band from the 70's. Audience have a few albums out and if you like this album check the others out. One good point is that the album doesn't have a dated feel about it and you certainly wouldn't class it as an old album from way back when...it stands the test of time, it could have been recorded not so long ago with musicians who could play their instruments!