Top 10 Humble Pie Albums

Humble Pie Albums

Feature Photo: A&M Records, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Humble Pie was one of England’s foremost hard rock bands from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. Best known for their thundering double-live album, Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore, the band diversified their style on their studio albums. Below, Classic Rock History runs down Humble Pie’s Top 10 albums, each of which has a distinctive place in the band’s catalog.

The brainchild of Steve Marriott (formerly of Small Faces) and Peter Frampton (formerly of the Herd), Humble Pie thrived on vocal, guitar, and keyboard skills of both performers. Marriott’s voice was high, raw, and soulful – an inspiration for countless rock singers, from Robert Plant to the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson. Frampton’s voice was quieter and more melodic, especially on the acoustic material found on Humble Pie’s early albums.

Frampton achieved solo fame after leaving Humble Pie in 1971, culminating in his eight-million-selling Frampton Comes Alive! album in 1976. His replacement, Clem Clempson (formerly of Colosseum), brought a bluesier style to the Pie’s later work.

Other Humble Pie members included bassist and third vocalist Greg Ridley (formerly of Spooky Tooth) and drummer Jerry Shirley (who was also Syd Barrett’s session drummer after Barrett left Pink Floyd). Having three lead singers and such a raft of experience gave Humble Pie a unique sound. Later artists such as the Black Crowes, Gov’t Mule, Quiet Riot, and the Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock have cited Humble Pie – Steve Marriott in particular – as an influence.

Humble Pie’s history is divided roughly into three periods. The first, from 1969 to 1971, saw the band experimenting with different genres, including psychedelic rock, country-tinged folk rock, and an early form of progressive rock. Later, after Frampton’s departure, the band delved more into heavy R&B – Steve Marriott’s main calling since his years in the Small Faces. After a hiatus in the late seventies, Humble Pie returned in the early eighties with a more commercial rock sound.

Peter Frampton and Steve Marriott made plans to work together again in the early 1990s. Marriott’s tragic death on April 20, 1991 in a house fire (when he was just 44) ended any chance of reconciliation. Years later, Jerry Shirley toured under the Humble Pie name with a new lineup, although without Marriott this band was more of a tribute act.

Our Top 10 list includes Humble Pie’s best albums, ranked in order. Several albums didn’t make the cut, including 1975’s Street Rats (a “contractual obligation” album issued against the band’s wishes), 1981’s Go for the Throat (a second reunion album less solid than the first), and Back on Track (a 2002 album by Jerry Shirley’s version of the band). Several more live albums culled from archives have appeared on budget labels in recent years, but the two on our list represent Humble Pie at their best.

# 10 –  On to Victory (1980)

Steve Marriott and original drummer Jerry Shirley reformed Humble Pie in 1980 to record On to Victory and one follow-up album, Go for the Throat, for Atco Records. Joined on guitar and vocals by Bobby Tench (a former Jeff Beck and Van Morrison sideman), the band recruited American bassist Anthony “Sooty” Jones to complete the new lineup.

On to Victory is not a great Humble Pie album, but it has solid moments. The opening track, “Fool for a Pretty Face,” a commercial rock tune with a sound akin to Foreigner, reached the lower reaches of the pop charts. Marriott’s love of R&B informs “Infatuation” and “Take It from Here,” and a surprising foray into reggae on “Savin’ It” adds some variety.

Cover versions of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s “Baby Don’t You Do It” and Otis Redding’s “My Lover’s Prayer” fill out the album. On to Victory put Humble Pie back in the spotlight after a long hiatus, although the reunion didn’t last long.

# 9 – Live at the Whisky A-Go-Go ’69 (2001)

Released twenty-two years after it was recorded, Live at the Whisky A-Go-Go is a live album very different from the more famous Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore. Recorded during Humble Pie’s first US tour in December 1969, the set from the famous Los Angeles nightclub features just five tracks, three of them long musical excursions that present Humble Pie almost as a jam band.

The album contains the band’s nine-minute acoustic version of the Yardbirds’ “For Your Love.” Rambles through “Shakin’ All Over” (very different from the Who’s version on Live at Leeds) and the group’s own “The Sad Bag of Shakey Jake” (from their second album Town and Country) present Humble Pie as a looser, earthier group than would emerge on subsequent tours.

Released by Sanctuary Records in 2001, Live at the Whisky A-Go-Go ’69 is not on standard streaming services but can be found on CD. True fans of Humble Pie should check it out.

# 8 – Eat It (1973)

Creative and personal tensions ran high as Humble Pie recorded the double LP Eat It, their sixth studio release. Suffering the pressures of fame and a worsening cocaine habit, Steve Marriott retreated to his cottage in Essex where he constructed a home studio in an adjacent building. Three sides of the album were recorded there, each presenting a different facet of Humble Pie’s sound – rock, R&B, and acoustic ballads. A fourth side, recorded live in Glasgow, recalls the sound of Rockin’ the Fillmore with somewhat weaker material.

Backup vocal group the Blackberries (Billie Barnum, Clydie King, and Venetta Fields) added their soulful voices to various tracks. Marriott wrote all the original songs on Eat It himself, a shift away from the more collaborative spirit of earlier albums. A few key tracks stand out, including Marriott’s ballad “Say No More,” a soulful cover of Ike and Tina Turner’s “Black Coffee,” and a spirited live take of “Up Our Sleeve.” Eat It is not a bad Humble Pie album, just less consistent than the band’s earlier work.

# 7 – Thunderbox (1974)

By the time of 1974’s Thunderbox, Steve Marriott had transformed Humble Pie into a rocking R&B band (as opposed to the harder rock outfit of earlier albums). Vocal group the Blackberries were full members by this point, lending their gospel flair to the tracks on this album.

Sadly, Marriott’s substance abuse issues were in full swing by this point, affecting his ability to deliver strong original material. The best tracks on Thunderbox are energetic covers of classic R&B, including Arthur Alexander’s “Anna (Go to Him),” Anne Peebles’s “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” and, best of all, Don Bryant’s “Ninety-Nine Pounds.”

As an intriguing side note, lost footage emerged in 2024 of Humble Pie performing in London the same year they released Thunderbox. A video of the band performing “I Don’t Need No Doctor” (posted on YouTube) affirms Steve Marriott’s legacy as one of the all-time great rock and roll frontmen.

# 6 – Town and Country (1969)

Released just three months after debut album As Safe as Yesterday Is, Humble Pie’s Town and Country shifted away from its predecessor’s heavy psychedelia. Peter Frampton’s “Take Me Back” opens the album, featuring acoustic guitars and hand percussion instead of the usual electrical onslaught. Steve Marriott’s “The Sad Bag of Shakey Jake” and “Every Mother’s Son” reflect a country-folk influence, a little like the Band’s Music from Big Pink (an album of which Marriott was a huge fan).

Bassist Greg Ridley and drummer Jerry Shirley make their first songwriting contributions to Humble Pie (respectively, on “The Light of Love” and “Cold Lady”), making Town and Country a truly collaborative album. Despite the emphasis on acoustic instruments, the album occasionally rocks out with the highway-friendly “Down Home Again” and acid-drenched “Silver Tongue.” Town and Country is Humble Pie’s least typical album, but one that endures thanks to solid songwriting and its laidback spirit.

# 5 – Humble Pie (1970)

Humble Pie’s self-titled third album was the first for US-based A&M Records after the collapse of Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate Records in the UK. The album begins with the lengthy “Live With Me,” a brooding heavy blues that features Steve Marriott’s cathartic vocals. After the smoky twang of “Only a Roach,” written and sung by drummer Jerry Shirley, the band rocks furiously on “One Eyed Trouser Snake Rumba” – a silly title for an otherwise catchy song.

Peter Frampton delivers one of his best acoustic rockers on “Earth and Water Song,” Greg Ridley brings his country flair on “Sucking on the Sweet Vine,” and the whole band delivers an electric blues rave-up on Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready.” While it lacks the signature tracks of some of Humble Pie’s other albums, this self-titled set demonstrates the band’s versatility.

#4 – Rock On (1971)

After the more acoustic-inflected Town and Country and Humble Pie, the group set out to make their ultimate rock statement on Rock On. Released the same year as Led Zeppelin IV, Who’s Next, and the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, Humble Pie’s fourth album was similarly fixated on balancing anthemic tunes with instrumental prowess.

Peter Frampton’s “Shine On” is a hook-laden song the guitarist would later revive on his blockbuster solo release, Frampton Comes Alive!. “Sour Grain” is a bluesy midtempo rocker similar in style to the earlier hit “The Sad Bag of Shakey Jake.” And on “Stone Cold Fever” Steve Marriott sings his guts out on one of Humble Pie’s heaviest songs.

Side Two of Rock On brings Marriott’s R&B fixations into sharper focus. A trio of female backup singers – P.P. Arnold, Claudia Lennear, and Doris Troy – lend gospel and soul inflections to Marriott’s “A Song for Jenny” (a tribute to his then-wife) and Greg Ridley’s “Big George” (one of the bassist’s strongest tunes). Rock On is one of Humble Pie’s best studio albums – a disc that belongs in any classic rock collection.

# 3 – Smokin’ (1972)

After Rockin’ the Fillmore turned Humble Pie into major stars in North America, frontman Steve Marriott wanted to steer the band towards the R&B music he had adored since childhood. Peter Frampton’s departure the previous year cost the band some of its melodic strengths. To compensate, bassist Greg Ridley and drummer Jerry Shirley kicked the funk and soul-influenced grooves up another notch.

Frampton’s replacement, former Colosseum guitarist Clem Clempson, brought a bluesier dimension to the group’s new material. Doris Troy and Madeleine Bell added soulful backup vocals, while Stephen Stills, working in an adjacent studio at the time, added his voice to the opening raver “Hot ‘n’ Nasty.”

Other standout tunes on Smokin’ include the soul ballad “You’re So Good for Me,” a heavied-up romp through Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody,” and the swampy blues-rock anthem “30 Days in the Hole.” One of Humble Pie’s signature tracks, the latter song has been covered by Gov’t Mule and the Black Crowes. A Top 10 hit in the US and Top 20 contender in the UK, Smokin’ is Humble Pie’s definitive mix of rock and R&B.

# 2 – As Safe as Yesterday Is (1969)

Humble Pie had only been together a few months when they released As Safe as Yesterday Is in August 1969. Preceded by the single “Natural Born Bugie” (a bonus track on later digital reissues), the album combines intense rock with blues, psychedelia, and an early form of progressive rock. One reviewer described the album (disparagingly) as “heavy metal” – one of the earliest uses of that phrase in print.

A cover of Steppenwolf’s “Desperation” opens the album with its organ-driven riff and slow, thundering rhythm. Psychedelic sounds inform Peter Frampton’s “Stick Shift” and Marriott’s sitar-drenched intro to “I’ll Go Alone.” After the pastoral interlude of “Growing Closer” (which recalls the flute-laden sound of the band Traffic), “As Safe as Yesterday Is” presents Humble Pie in full prog mode – a style they would soon abandon.

Steve Marriott recalls the blues-rock sound of the Small Faces on “Buttermilk Boy” and “A Nifty Little Number Like You.” His acoustic blues number, “Alabama 69,” allies the singer with the American Civil Rights Movement. As Safe as Yesterday Is remains a classic of late-sixties rock, an album both innovative and accomplished.

Read More: Top 10 Peter Frampton Songs

# 1 – Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore (1971)

No album better represents the decadent spirit and sheer heaviness of early seventies rock than this double-live set. Culled from several performances at Bill Graham’s legendary Fillmore East in New York (the complete recordings were released on four discs in 2013), Rockin’ the Fillmore features a louder, tougher Humble Pie than appeared on any of the group’s studio albums.

The album opens with an incendiary “Four Day Creep,” supposedly a cover of a 1939 blues by Ida Cox (although the two versions have no melodic resemblance). Bassist Greg Ridley and guitarists Peter Frampton and Steve Marriott trade lead vocals on the verses, while Jerry Shirley swings and thunders like the great unsung drummer he was. Heavied-up versions of Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready” and Muddy Waters’s “Rollin’ Stone” reflect Pie’s determination to trample the blues like a brontosaurus stomping prehistoric ferns.

A more laidback rendition of Dr. John’s “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” echoes the improvised jams of the Allman Brothers on their own At Fillmore East album, released the same year. But the two most enduring tracks, “Stone Cold Fever” and “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” feature Humble Pie in blissed-out overdrive. Rockin’ the Fillmore captured pure adrenaline in its grooves to become Humble Pie’s best-known album.

Read More: Top 10 Humble Pie Songs

Top 10 Humble Pie Albums article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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