Coming in somewhere between Caravan and Jethro Tull, Audience never did reach the heady heights of either two, despite the promise of their most well known offering, 1971's House on the Hill. Indeed, their follow up, 1972's Lunch proved to be their swansong. And so, after 3 years, and a mere four albums, it was all over for this quirky, essentially English band. Or was it?
Sometime in 2004 I discovered that a reunion tour was in the planning stages, and I just knew that whatever happened that year, I was going to see them at last. And so it came to pass.. and even better, once the tour was over, we had word that the recording from their Deal gig was being released as this very CD.
So, after 30 plus years, how did it work out? Well, Howard's voice maybe sounds just that little bit flatter, maybe the notes aren't held quite as well, but apart from that, there can be no complaints whatsoever.
The CD kicks off with a perfectly adequate rendition of You're Not Smilin' from the aforementioned House on the Hill before sliding into unknown territory with Howard's own Zig-Zag & Swirl. From there on in watch the years roll back as the back catalogue is exhumed in honourable style. The track listing is above, take your time to dig out those old LP,s (unless you have been lucky enough to pick up the CD releases) and them imagine them played live in your living room, because this is how it sounds.
I can't finish this review without mentioning House on the Hill one more time. OK, so there's no studio trickery, all we get is the basic goodness of this song, some wonderful soloing and over 9 minutes of a stupendous band thoroughly enjoying themselves. Maybe it doesn't have the finesse of the earlier version, and, as mentioned, at times Howard's voice struggles a little, but the sheer thrill of hearing this done live after waiting 30 odd years more than makes up for any inadequacies.
Best tracks, for me anyway are I Had A Dream and the closer, Morning Dew. Low points? It's just not long enough. A mere 10 tracks is not nearly enough, should have been a double! For this reason I've given 4 stars (would've given another half if I could) instead of 5.
If you know Audience you really do need this album in your collection. If you don't, go dig out their back catalogue (they're all available on Amazon) and amaze yourself, then come back here with a comment and thank me for introducing you to such a great band.