British art rock band Audience finally put it all together on this, their third & most beloved album in their all too short career. Originally released in 1971 on Elektra Records in the US and Charisma in the UK, The House on the Hill is now being reissued, fully remastered, by the fine folks at Cherry Red Records, complete with a few bonus tracks, the original Hipgnosis artwork, photos, and an in-depth essay on the band & album.
Leading off with the adventurous "Jackdaw", it's here that the band present their most powerful prog-rock statement on the album, a lengthy piece with soaring vocals from Howard Werth, searing sax courtesy of Keith Gemmell, and a wild fuzz drenched bass solo from Trevor Williams. "You're Not Smiling" could have easily been a hit single, a real memorable folk rocker that wouldn't have sounded out of place on The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. album, featuring hook laden vocals, jazzy sax, and plenty of Werth's lush electric classical guitar. A similar vibe can be felt on "I Had a Dream", another rootsy Stones-ish rocker (with Werth sounding like a cross between Mick Jagger and Axel Rose), while the classical strains of "Raviole" allow the singer to just concentrate on his guitar skills alongside a lush string arrangement for some wonderful results. The quirky "Nancy" mixes folk, country, jazz, and a touch of prog, and "Eye to Eye" is a charming blend of jazz & prog, Gemmell's flute floating over the top of busy rhythms and Werth's engaging guitar and vocals. The band even covers Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You", here given royal folk treatment, and the near 8-minute title track again pulses towards mysterious prog with some folk & jazz leanings, Williams's bass lines lean and mean as Gemmell's sax squeals off in the distance and Werth triumphantly sings the main vocal line and drops in some lush guitar textures. Gemmell's delay soaked sax solo mid-way through the song is quite neat as well. It's a great track, and a must hear for any fan of the early, blues/folk material of Jethro Tull. For bonus material, you get two two different versions of "You're Not Smiling" and the single "Indian Summer", which was originally on the US version of the album but not the UK release. It's a great little pop/folk tune with a catchy hook, and broke the US Billboard Top 100 at the time of its release.
Overall, The House on the Hill is a classic slice of folky, jazzy, and pop infused prog from a band that would only go on to record one more album, Lunch, in 1972 and then fizzle out. Cherry Red has done an incredible job on this reissue, as the album sounds great and is housed in a wonderful package. As far as reissues go, this is certainly one to seek out.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1) "Jackdaw" - 7:28
2) "You're Not Smiling" - 5:12
3) "I Had a Dream" - 4:17
4) "Raviole" - 3:38
5) "Nancy" - 4:14
6) "Eye to Eye" - 2:30
7) "I Put a Spell on You" - 4:08
8) "The House on the Hill" - 7:27
9) You're Not Smiling (single mix)
10) Indian Summer
11) You're Not Smiling (promo radio version)