Humble Pie was a band who spent their early years not in forming an identity but rather desperately in search of one. The original band – hailed as one of rock's "super groups" during a time period that was bloated with such – included the Small Faces' Steve Marriott, The Herd's Peter Frampton, and Spooky Tooth's Greg Ridley. The group's first two albums, As Safe As Yesterday and Town And Country, were a curious mix of straight-forward rock, powerful R&B, and even a dash of country blues. Oddly, there is very much an acoustic orientation to many of the songs, with subtle rhythms complimented by Frampton's inspired guitar playing and the material's reliance on Marriott's throaty vocals.
Modest success in England was matched by utter indifference stateside, audiences in the United States refusing to warm up to the band, even through a second pair of albums, the self-titled Humble Pie and Rock On. In a last-ditch attempt at grabbing a widespread American audience, the band recorded a series of gigs at New York's legendary Fillmore East for inclusion on a live set. The material performed was harder-edged and more electric and proved to be the jumping off point for the band's subsequent success.
Rockin' The Fillmore
What was to follow is pretty much recorded as history. The 1971 release of the two album Performance - Rockin' The Fillmore proved to be Humble Pie's most successful effort to date and their commercial breakthrough stateside. Driven by the hits "I Don't Need No Doctor" and Ida Cox's classic "Four Day Creep," as well as solid performances of songs like Ray Charles' great "Hallelujah, I Love Her So" and Muddy Waters' "Rollin' Stone," the album spurred sales of the band's previous work as well as introduced a legion of new fans to their own unique brand of electric boogie. At this zenith of success, Frampton left the band to pursue a solo career, destined for a brief moment of success.
Humble Pie never missed a beat, replacing Frampton with Clem Clempson, alumni of the British band Colosseum and a solid musician in his own right. This line-up recorded 1972's Smokin', which surpassed even the earlier live set in defining the band. Full of smoky R&B, electric blues, and highly-amped rock, Smokin' yielded a handful of hit singles in "Hot 'N' Nasty," "C'mon Everybody," and "30 Days In The Hole," all of which were to become AOR radio staples for the next decade. Subsequent releases would never live up to this peak of commercial success and critical acclaim, and after a few more albums, Humble Pie fizzled out in mid-decade, only to reunite for a short while (and a pair of albums) during the 1980s.
Humble Pie's Hot 'N' Nasty
Hot 'N' Nasty: The Anthology chronicles the rise and fall of Humble Pie. Dividing the 31 songs almost evenly between pre-success and post-success material, the two CD set presents a chronological timeline of the band's creative efforts. A half-dozen songs are taken from the band's first pair of albums, another eight from their lesser-known second two releases. There are some impressive performances among these tunes, such as As Safe As Yesterday's title cut; "The Sad Bag Of Shaky Jake," from Town And Country; or the single-only release "Big Black Dog."
The second disc of Hot 'N' Nasty: The Anthology includes all of the aforementioned 1970s-era hits – five tracks total from Smokin' and three red-hot live performances from the Fillmore set (including a cover of Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready"), as well as the underrated "Black Coffee" (from 1973's Eat It) and the wonderful "Rain" (from 1975's Street Rats), among others. As a band, Humble Pie is often overlooked by historians, although their guitar-driven sound and Marriott's whiskey-drenched vocals have served to define a decade and spawn pale imitations like the Black Crowes.
The Reverend's Bottom Line
Humble Pie may have come late to the British blues-rock party, which was fairly well over by the early 1970s, but the band's impressive body of work – a total of 22 sides of solid music in six years – as well as their unique fusion of rock, blues, and R&B definitely stands up with any other band's work during the period. Although it may be difficult to find a copy of the set at this late date (used may be your best bet), Humble Pie's Hot 'N' Nasty: The Anthology provides a fine introduction to the band for newcomers, and a solid collection of musical memories for the casual fan who doesn't want to dig any deeper into the catalog. (A&M Chronicles, released June 1994)