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A full-flavoured Pie-Feast to relish
on 22 December 2013
For a younger music fan unfamiliar with this classic, Humble Pie were an English rock band formed in 1969 by guitarist/singer Peter Frampton and front-man rhythm guitarist, keyboard and harmonica player Steve Marriott, who had an distinctively raucous vocal style perfect for hard rock. Joining them were the excellent Greg Ridley on bass and vocals, and young Jerry Shirley on drums.
The quartet experienced only modest success with their studio releases but was always an A-list act onstage, with a reputation for hard rock grooves which drove their audiences wild with enthusiasm. This 1971 live album sees the Pie at the top of their game: four back-to-back concerts at The Fillmore East in NYC as the middle-act of a triple bill (between openers Fanny and headliner Lee Michaels) each set time-constrained to just over an hour. The original 1971 double-album release culled songs selectively from the four performances and was a commercial breakthrough for the Pie, is widely regarded as a rock classic and by many as the best live-on-stage rock album ever released.
Now you can hear all four concert performances unedited, Eddie Kramer's original recordings lovingly restored by the two surviving band members Frampton and Shirley. Ashley Shepherd's remixes are crisp and beautifully sharp, and the remastering work by Bob Ludwig finally does full justice to these epic, muscular rock performances.
Pie fans who remember the original 1971 `Performance' vinyl double-album or who already have it in the collection but have not yet heard this October 2013 four-disk box set might still be asking themselves "Is it worth buying?"
The answer is a definite "Yes". The sound quality throughout is stunning, and the four complete performances are subtly - and sometimes more obviously - different, not only in overall tone but in the song mix: `Rolling Stone' features in only two of the concerts, and `Stone Cold Fever' in only one. Marriott's banter (complete with refreshingly unedited cockney-accented profanities) punctuates each performance, driven by the dynamic interaction with each night's unique audience. The captivating guitar-vocal interplay of Marriott and Frampton and the improvisational virtuosity of the whole band in the long sections (especially evident on `Walk on Gilded Splinters') give the performances depth; the quieter sections offer light and shade and make the jump-to-your-feet-and-dance hard rockers even more invigorating.
The presentation of Omnivore's new box set is superb. Housed in a robust hinged box decorated with the original 1971 artwork, a separate CD is devoted to each of the four performances. The 20-page booklet includes an intelligent and thoughtful essay by Tim Cohan, track-by-track sleeve notes and some fine photographs from the period.
One more thing: this music makes most sense when played very, very loud. It's not background easy-listening or dinner-party ambient. So buy it, crank up the volume and have a party to some of the greatest live rock music performances ever recorded.