Humble Pie - Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore (UK Release: 28 Oct '13) // Words: Simon Opie
In the 1970s, live albums became highly popular and hence profitable. So labels started recording almost everything by way of live performance, although much has leaked out over the years and is often of questionable quality. Back then, rock music still retained some common roots with jazz – bands played more than one set per night – and both genres exploited the live album as a way of capturing the dynamic quality of the music that often did not come across in studio recordings.
So to Humble Pie, an early British ‘supergroup’ whose astute manager Dee Anthony realised were much more effective live than in the studio – and so he proposed a trick he had already pulled off for Joe Cocker - a live album to capture the raw essence of the band’s performances. The resulting double LP (yes, it was still in the vinyl-era) 'Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore' was an absolute cracker that became a classic of the genre and Humble Pie’s most successful album by far. It has influenced greats such as Paul Weller as well as inspiring a whole generation of teenagers to follow the path of rock and roll.
The original album was culled from four sets played over two nights at the legendary Fillmore East in New York City. Humble Pie weren’t even the headliners. Now the entire recordings of all four sets have been released and they make a fascinating document of the times. You could compare them to Miles Davis’ 'The Cellar Door Sessions' as a record of a live band on top form in full flow at a perfectly suited venue, where each set is strikingly different but equally outstanding.
Humble Pie were fronted by sixties luminaries Steve Marriott, from the Small Faces, and Peter Frampton with a tremendous rhythm section of Jerry Shirley and Greg Ridley, and much like Led Zeppelin they took blues standards and reworked them into an almost unrecognisable rock form. In four hours of music there’s only a single original track and yet the inventiveness on display is practically boundless.
On their day, Humble Pie were as heavy as anyone out there – just listen to any of the four versions of 'I’m Ready' to hear the sound of a band really tearing the roof off. Underrated maybe, underappreciated definitely, which is why I’m really pleased that this collection has been released. The sound quality is absolutely awesome and the recordings are co-produced by Frampton and Shirley, the only two surviving members of the band. I don’t think you could possibly get closer to having been there in person and of course if you had been, you’d not remember anything about it, as the saying goes.
From the short and punchy 'Four Day Creep' to the extended 'I Walk On Gilded Splinters', this is guitar driven rock at its finest, with the added bonus of the audience being right in the mix. For anyone interested in the roots of heavy rock music, it’s an essential listen. A band who, on their day, could outdo Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Grateful Dead and any other rock and roll band of that era. This is conclusive evidence that Humble Pie could make an unrivalled noise. Of course, things have moved on considerably since 1971, but as a document of a vital force that started a powerfully new movement these recordings are unbeatable.
Find more info at omnivorerecordings.com.