Sunday, May 28, 2006

Humble Pie: A great choice for rocking out old, old school.

Pretty much all I have to say about Humble Pie is two words: Steve Marriott. He is this pint-sized, mod-turned-rocker, whose voice just oozes ballsy, high-pitched soul. Having axe man extraordinaire, Peter Frampton, on board didn't hurt either. Frampton is better known for his solo career, ironically, one that was launched from another live album, the biggest selling live ablum ever, "Frampton Comes Alive". While there are no "Frampton" sized hits on Humble Pie's featured album, this is one of those listening experiences that you can file under: "I felt like I was in the freakin' front row!"

Quick history lesson: Steve Marriott came from the legendary mod/soul/psychedelic band The Small Faces, which after he left became, simply, The Faces. The Faces acquired Ron Wood and Rod Stewart and essentially were starting to steal The Rolling Stones fire, in their ability to bring the house down. I guess that's why The Stones stole Ron Wood away from them. The Faces are the superior group to Humble Pie, but Humble Pie did a better live recording, in this offering, than anything that the Faces put live on wax. Why? Well, it's not the performance, rather, this one has a certain voodoo charm about it that's hard to explain.

So, back to our little history lesson. Steve Marriott, singer/guitar player, decides to quit and grabs a fresh-faced teenage Frampton to form a harder version of the Stones. When it worked, it was divine. However, it never seemed to really take off where it should have, given their talent. I still can't peg just exactly what it was. Maybe the fact that the two leads in Frampton and Marriott cancelled each other out star-wise. They both played massive boogie rock guitar and both had great voices. Who knows. I think that for casual listeners, a best of would be the way to go with these guys. But if you like real live rock'n'roll, that does not backslide, pull punches, or lack raw energy, then this one ranks with some of the best live albums ever.

Eddie Kramer is the man you want producing your live album. That is a fact. Not only has he worked on various Led Zeppelin records (you can credit him with the far out bleed through mistake/cover-up on "Whole Lotta Love" where Plant sings, "Woman you need it!"), Hendrix (He built the Electric Ladyland studio at Jimi's request), and so many more huge things. But his live credentials are astonishing: "KISS ALIVE!", "Frampton Comes Alive", Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same" record and movie, The Rolling Stones "Love Ya Live", and Humble Pie's performance here. The list goes on and on with this man.

The first song on this album is Ida Cox's "Four Day Creep". It starts out with a single riff, then a double, then Frampton goes off on a melodical guitar run that floats off like an electric butterfly. Frampton is the first in singing and has a lower, smoother voice than who comes in next: Marriott! Marriott comes in tag team style and raunches up the stage. Great tune.

"I'm Ready", starts with Steve Marriott testifying soulfully to the audience asking them, "Are you ready?" and I'm guessing that Peter is the one doing the call and response on the guitar. Marriott shouts, "There it is...Oh, God Yeah! Pick it up!" while the drums kick in and the whole house comes tumblin' down. "I'm drinking T.N.T.", Marriott sings. No shit! Frampton comes in a little later and it just feels so right. The band gets right in that groove and all you have to do is lay back and enjoy it. Frampton's solo work is so beautiful, it doesn't rock like you think it should. It has this lyrical flutter that contrasts to Marriott's unflinching rhythmic power that really makes it special. Frampton sings, "I've been drinkin' gin like never before". Marriott joins in, "Feelin' good. You ought ta know. One more drink--wish you would. Take a whole lot of lovin' to make me feel good. I'm ready!!!" I do believe that KISS ("Cold Gin") owes these guys and Willie Dixon some royalties, or at least a nod.

"Stone Cold Fever" this one really exhibits Marriott's vocal prowess, and has the best shit-faced riffs this world has to offer. Beer companies, you should be stealing this one for your adverts. Frampton delivers an out of this world jazzified guitar spurt. Only Jeff Beck does this better. Marriott makes a little comment on his girl that cracks me up, "She's got two arms, got two legs, got two titties, got one nose..."

The next tune is a cover of Dr. John Creaux's "I Walk On Gilded Splinters". This thing runs 23 minutes and 25 seconds and never gets dull. It burns slow, then just rages out of control in certain points, and turns to embers near the end. In Peter's quiet intro, you can hear someone in the audience drop a beer bottle on the floor and it goes rolling down. "Gris gris on yo door step", Dr. John's Creole English mix gets treated to a full on electric drama treatment of reverent, yet spooky, hushed spell, followed by sublime outbursts of pure ecstasy. At the end, I believe they mix in another piece in there of a blues artist. Who, I don't know, but it blends in seamlessly.

Muddy Waters is tapped here as well, in, "Rolling Stone". This one is a slow, yet muscular track that pounds and trills it's way into your bad thoughts--on part I. Part II: Marriott gets dirty. A whore offers her daughter but with one caveat: "You can have her all you want, but don't forget me--'cause I haven't had any in a long, long time!" At the end of this long track, they do a boogie send up that gives you that little reward for sitting through dirty story time.

In "Hallelujah (I Love Her So)" Humble Pie does Ray Charles. It is my least favorite track on this album, but I guess you had to have been there. Hey, they all can't be winners. It's actually pretty good, but, meh.

"I Don't Need No Doctor" is my absolute favorite Humble Pie song. This live version is so powerful. Steve Marriott's voice and Frampton's guitar's, buttressed by Marriott's axe, just peels the paint off the joint. I don't need to say anymore that this, "I don't need no doctor, 'cause I know what's ailing me....all I need is my baby!" The return on this number is the orgasm. Trust me, if you like this kind of music, then you'll have a happy ending.

Play it Loudest!

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