Humble Pie - 'Official Bootleg Box-Set Volume 1'

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Humble Pie - 'Official Bootleg Box-Set Volume 1'

A wonderful collection.

Formed by Steve Marriott in 1969, Humble Pie is widely regarded as one of the first ever super-groups. The initial line-up consisted of Marriott (Small Faces), Peter Frampton (The Herd), Greg Ridley (Spooky Tooth) and the hitherto unknown seventeen year old, Jerry Shirley. It saw them originally recording for the Immediate label, before switching to A&M Records in 1970, and releasing two of their finest albums in 'Humble Pie' and 'Rock On'. With Frampton quitting the band to pursue a solo career, his replacement, Clem Clempson, made his debut on 'Smokin'' in 1972. The subsequent touring schedule saw them starting to make headway in the States, thanks in the main to the chart success of 'Thirty Days In The Hole', and that's pretty much where this box-set comes in.

A power-packed performance at Chicago's Arie Crown Theatre in the September of 1972 sees the four-piece band taking the Blues to the hometown of Muddy Waters and shaking it to its very foundations. An oversold show (it saw Slade as the opening act), it is, according to Shirley, amongst one of their best ever gigs. From Marriott's habit of singing the raps in-between songs, to blistering versions of 'C'mon Everybody' (Eddie Cochrane) and 'Honky-Tonk Women' (Rolling Stones), they epitomised the seventies and can be rightly lauded as one of that decade's stadium behemoths.

The one thing that is plainly evident over the course of this three disc box set is the heavy reliance on covers and Blues standards. The Chicago gig sees just the two originals ('Up Our Sleeve' and 'Hot 'N' Nasty') nestled amongst a plethora of material by the likes of Ray Charles and Ashford & Simpson et al. As we hit the end of the first disc we move forward six months to May 1973 and the Shibuya Kokaido, Tokyo; a five-thousand capacity venue, it was slap bang in the middle of promotion for the recently released double album, 'Eat It'. In my opinion this is where Humble Pie really started to flex their creative muscles.

The ensuing gig in Tokyo is sonically superior, not to mention musically tighter. What a difference six months and recording your career defining album makes. For 'Eat...' they pushed forward and recorded an album that was a mixture of originals and covers. It also saw the first appearance of The Blackberries, an all-female trio that enhanced the group's sound no end. With TB in tow, the Tokyo gig is probably the better of all the gigs and occupies all of disc two. With a set-list that is pretty much identical, it's a shame that tracks like 'Black Coffee' never got an airing, and as per the first disc, we are treated to the usual staples that made the Pie's set back in the day. To the casual observer this may seem a tad boring, the aural equivalent to "watching paint dry", so to speak. However, to the completists this will be manna from heaven. Just take a listen to 'I Believe To My Soul' and marvel at TB adding depth to this Charles classic.

As we hit home soil for disc three, we are treated to two 1974 shows from Charlton Athletic Football ground and the Rainbow Theatre in London. Promoting the 'Thunderbox' album, the Charlton gig saw them mixing it up with the likes of Lou Reed, Bad Company, Lindisfarne and The Who amongst others. For Shirley this was one of his most triumphant gigs; it's a show that kicks off with a rambunctious 'Whatcha Gonna Do About It' and ends with 'I Don't Need No Doctor'. From the rough sound issues of Charlton, the Rainbow show collates four songs, giving us the fourth and best version of '...Everybody'.

The repetitive nature of the set-lists, plus the varying soundboard and audience recordings that make up this collection, could be an issue for some. I certainly found sections of this box-set to be a hard listen. That being said, if you want to see where the likes of Cormac Neeson (The Answer) stole his whole stage act from, then look no further than this wonderful collection and the enigmatic Marriott.

Rob Evans

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