|09-13-2016, 12:16 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2016
Humble Pie discography overview
AS SAFE AS YESTERDAY IS (1969)
A brilliant debut album, in which the band demonstrate themselves capable of a variety of styles based upon their basic framework of heavy blues rock with flourishes of progressiveness and psychedelia. The disc kicks off with an impressive and atmospheric cover of Steppenwolf's "Desperation," serving up that track in an epic style which they later use in their own title track. Elsewhere, the band shows themselves capable of more mainstream rock styled tracks and even display a sense of humor on numbers like "Buttermilk Boy". On still another track, Steve Marriott pretends to be an oppressed black man (a la Stray's Steve Gadd on "Suicide") in the mock spiritual "Alabama `69". Tremendous balance of light and shade which shows off each members' ability comprises one of the best rock albums of the year, supplemented by the accompanying hit single "Natural Born Boogie'", a simple but endearing blues rocker.
TOWN AND COUNTRY (1969)
Released just a scant few months after its predecessor, T&C was mostly recorded at the same sessions, making the two discs essentially part of one double album (as they have since been frequently repackaged as). This record goes for a decidedly more acoustic sound. Nearly the whole set is unplugged, with the exception of a couple of tracks including a raveup version of Buddy Holly's "Heartbeat". Within this stripped down framework, the Pie continue to dabble in different genres such as blues, country, folk rock, and even psych. A more than worthy companion piece to the debut, it is more consistent if it doesn't quite reach the same heights. Standouts include Frampton's "Home and Away", Shirley's "Cold Lady" and Marriott's Wild West ballad "The Sad Bag of Shaky Jake".
HUMBLE PIE (1970)
On their third outing, the Pie stick to the same basic formula they established with their first two releases, but begin to evolve into even more experimental and progressive directions on this eclectic offering. This is personified by the opener "Live With Me", almost reminiscent of the Grateful Dead in the way it takes the barest of song structure and builds it up into an intricate free-form blues jam for nearly eight minutes. "Only a Roach" becomes the latest of a half-spoofing series of country-tinged numbers in the style already honed by the Rolling Stones. "The Earth and Water Song" is six minutes of sheer acoustic beauty as gentle as a lullaby, comparable to the best work of Free or the Fairport Convention. "Sucking on the Sweet Vine", which closes the disc, tries for the same effect and nearly makes it. A few bludgeoning electric blues numbers, including a take on Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready", are thrown into the mix to keep the band grounded.
ROCK ON (1971)
It's a 180-degree turn of sorts as the band abruptly return to the realm of tighter, more radio-friendly numbers in what is assuredly their most accessible release to date. The contrast between Marriott's caveman blues banging and Frampton's lush balladry has never been more evident, although the songs complement each other so well in tandem that there is as of yet no sign of the strain that was about to rip the band apart at the seams. "Stone Cold Fever" contains a sledgehammer of a riff and emerges as one of the best things the band ever did. Marriott's transformation of Muddy Waters' "Rolling Stone" into a head-banging track continues in the same vein. On the lighter side of things, the album opens with Frampton's piece of sunshine pop "Shine On", which Pete thought so highly of he would later include it in his set for his mega-legendary solo live album. In response, Marriott shows that he's no slouch in the tender ballad department, contributing the lovely "A Song For Jenny." Tracks like "79th and Sunset" and "Red Neck Jump" show that the band hadn't yet lost its sense of humor. All told, a well-rounded, solid addition to the catalog.
PERFORMANCE: ROCKIN' THE FILLMORE (1972)
The Pie's lone live record is widely viewed as their magnum opus and their defining moment. At this, I would like to venture the perhaps heretical opinion that bestowing this status on it overrates it - for the simple reason that as a live document, it fails to adequately represent the scope and diversity of the group at the time it was recorded. While the band displays the thunder-of-the-Gods guitar work one would expect from such a release of the period, and Marriott is in top form, the final verdict is that none of the elements that made up the band's studio magic are present in this performance. It's a little bit of a case of all shade, and no light, and now one can see how Frampton, who might just as well have not shown up to this gig at all, felt himself starting to get stifled. And, as you might expect with a lineup that features seven tracks over four sides, the album suffers from the same wretched excess that Grand Funk's contemporary live release does, with most of the songs wearing out their welcome long before they end. The individual listener will have to judge for him or herself whether the few breathtaking moments in "Walk on Gilded Splinters" are worth sitting through the entire twenty-three minutes for. However, things do considerably pick up at the end, with rousing, upbeat takes on "Hallelujah, I Love Her So" and "I Don't Need No Doctor", which do end things on a definite high note. However, by this time most of the house has fallen asleep.
A clearly-demarked beginning of a new era. Frampton has gone his own way, leaving Marriott and the rest to fully embrace the boogie blues bandwagon that so many other UK acts were jumping on at the time. And there is certainly no denying "Smokin'" as a classic of that genre, with inspired versions of Eddie Cochran's "C'Mon Everybody" and Holland-Dozier's "Road Runner" as exhibits A and B. But the album's unquestioned highlight is the hit "prison-blues" raveup "Thirty Days in the Hole", which remains one of the band's defining numbers. And despite the Pie adapting a more formulaic approach than on previous releases, their flexibility can't help but show through, as numbers like the soulful ballad "You're So Good For Me" demonstrate.
EAT IT (1973)
And now it's time for that staple of the era - the double album! Actually, in this case, it's really only a three-sided album, as side four consists of a few tracks of a subpar live performance which is completely diposable apart from a mildly intriguing version of the Stones' "Honky Tonk Women". Additonally hampering the album is the much more crippling handicap of horrendous sound, either from poor production or bad-quality master tapes. This is a real tragedy, because you can sense the excellence of such tracks like "Good Booze and Bad Women", "Drugstore Cowboy" and a cover of Ike and Tina Turner's "Black Coffee" to sound like they are coming up to the listener through layers of murky water. Happily, these issues are less evident on the true highlight of the album - the mostly acoustic side three. Marriott's "Say No More" is a lovely little confessional which, at a mere two minutes, is over all too soon. It is followed up by the absolutely gorgeous "Oh Bella". After a superb lazy bluegrass number entitled "Summer Song", side three kicks it up a notch and concludes with the irresistible stomper "Beckton Dumps". Humble Pie's best days may have been behind them at this point, but they were still capable of offering up music worth a listen.
Coming at a time when the band's fortunes were starting to wane, Thunderbox actually seems in retrospect as a revival of sorts for Humble Pie, with a crisp production which had been lacking in recent efforts propelling a fresh-sounding set of material with an effective bend of originals and well-chosen classic covers. While the album had it's shortcomings, such as the band's spinning-it's-wheels "Rally With Ali", a tribute to the then-current boxing champion, or the equally moribund "Don't Worry, Be Happy" (definitely NOT to be confused with the Bobby McFarin hit of the same title and a much later era); it also boasted triumphs such as a magnificent take on Mentor Williams' "Drift Away", fresh off being turned into a worldwide hit by Dobie Gray, as well as inspired renditions of Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain", Don Bryant's "99 Pounds" and Chuck Berry's "No Money Down". If Humble Pie was devolving into a covers band, as many critics suggested, they were at least a cover band who chose their material judiciously and put their own distinctive stamp on each number they selected to pay tribute to.
STREET RATS (1975)
The complicated story behind the release of this album, the swan song of the original band, has been well documented elsewhere. Suffice it to say that few take a contrary position to the stance that "Street Rats" was far and away the weakest of the original Pie offerings and that the imminent demise of the band is clearly foretold within its grooves. Nonetheless, Street Rats, even if it wasn't all that it could have and should have been, still has its own character and is worth a listen for fans of the band and for Steve Marriott. Nearly half of the album's numbers are covers, including three Beatle songs; and Marriott's Motownizing of songs like "We Can Work it Out" and "Drive My Car" is certainly more innovative than any of the band's original material for this disc. The album was not a complete disaster, but the writing was on the wall for the band's (at least temporary) disintegration.
ON TO VICTORY (1980)
But as so often happens in the annals of rock and roll, a band left for dead rises from the ashes for a comeback. Marriott and drummer Jerry Shirley, the two lone holdovers from the old regime, recruited guitarist Bobby Tench and bassist Sooty Jones to fly the Humble Pie flag once again, five years after their last release. And the opening track to On to Victory was a real winner, a rousing, high-kicking inspired number entitled "Fool For a Pretty Face". Unfortunately, the rest of the album failed to live up to the promise of the opening track and the album for the most part comes across as a poor man's Street Rats (and if you've read all the way this far, you know how dire that is).
GO FOR THE THROAT (1981)
A vast improvement over OTV, although plagued by muddy production and doomed by external circumstances to be the final chapter in the story of classic Humble Pie. Marriott gives new life to the old Small Faces classic "Tin Soldier" and also memorably covers Aerosmith's "Chip Away the Stone", two renditions that more than make up for the band's rather lacklustre take on Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up". And, for his own material, he contributes the wicked "Driver" a vicious, almost new age metal ode to a bus driver with "Manson eyes and cocaine hair". But the highlight of the album is the excellent "Teenage Anxiety", Steve's heartfelt eulogy for John Lennon. Go For the Throat may not be everything that Humble Pie once was during its glory days, but it's a respectable enough curtain call.
Last edited by Todd Pence; 09-13-2016 at 04:15 PM.
|09-13-2016, 02:33 PM||#2 (permalink)|
Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: SoCal by way of Boston
Love their live album. Marriott was simply one of the greatest rock singers of all time. Have to disagree with your review of it though. Same goes for Funk's live album. Maybe in hindsight they don't hold up too well - most live albums don't. But when that stuff first hit it was as hard rocking as all hell.
|09-14-2016, 04:46 PM||#3 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2016