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Humble Pie - “Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 1” (2017) review

“A great document of a great band at its very best: LIVE”
Humble Pie “Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 1” (Cherry Red Records, 2017)

Gathered from various sources by drummer Jerry Shirley, Official Bootleg Series Box Set Volume 1 is a wonderful 3 CD collection of bootlegged recordings by one of the best bands to see live in the 1970s. To make it even more special all these recordings are taken from the band’s heyday 1972-1974 and includes tracks taken from four of their most memorable gigs. Originally formed by members coming from legendary British bands, Humble Pie was indeed a most formidable force to reckon with in concert and this, its definitive lineup, rarely, if ever, failed to impress the audience.

Humble Pie was born in 1968 when Small Faces guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Steve Marriott asked Herd guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Peter Frampton to form a band. They were joined by the amazing Greg Ridley who had been bassist/vocalist in Spooky Tooth and drummer Jerry Shirely whose band, Apostolic Intervention, released a sole single in 1967. This incarnation of Humble Pie released four studio albums and the live Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore before Frampton exited the band, replaced by guitarist/vocalist Clem Clempson, formerly of Bakerloo and Colosseum. As with Small Faces, Marriott also contributed harmonica and with the Pie he adds keyboards as well. It is this lineup, with Clempson, that recorded all the tracks found on Cherry Red’s new triple disc box set.

Disc one opens with nine tracks taken from the second of two gigs, played ten days apart, at the Aire Crown Theatre in Chicago, IL on 22 September, 1972, with Slade as the opening act. The theater which was overbooked for both concerts had a seating capacity of 2,500. Following their introduction, the group breaks into the band penned r and b stomper “Up Our Sleeve.” Ridley’s bass booms and Clempson’s guitar roars as Marriott screams his vocals over the top while Shirley attacks his drum kit. A cover of Eddie Cochran’s “C’Mon Everybody” one of the group’s signature tunes follows with Marriott chatting the crowd up before The Pie break into the tune which brings visions of The Who to mind. Ridley’s bass and Clempson’s guitar as especially tasty on this number. An exceptionally well crafted cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” is introduced by Clempson's guitar, before the band takes a break and Marriott again chats up the audience, the band then turning things up into overdrive with Shirley’s drums to the fore. Marriott’s voice was especially well suited for heavy r and b versions of rockers like this tune. Other highlights of the show are the band’s familiar cover of “I Don’t Need No Doctor” featuring incredibly heavy guitar by Clempson and more booming bass from Ridley complimenting Shirley’s machine gun attack on his drums. A romping take on the band original “Hot ‘N’ Nasty” has the audience in a frenzy with Ridley and Shirley driving the beat and Clempson’s lead guitar adding an exclamation point with an especially inspired solo as icing on the cake. The disc ends with the first part of Humble Pie’s 16 May, 1973 show at the Shibuya Kokaido in Tokyo, a show attended by Beck, Bogert and Appice who happened to be in Japan at the time. The presence of Jeff Beck made guitarist Clempson more than a bit nervous, but his performance is proof that he overcame his case of the nerves with flying colors. The band again opened with a sterling performance of “Up Our Sleeve” with Clempson's guitar on display, contributing an especially well executed solo. Likewise, “C’Mon Everybody” the disc’s closer features more incredible guitar from Clempson and lots of audience participation.

Disc two opens with more from the Tokyo show, which was originally intended to be filmed as had Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs And Englishmen tour, as the bands’ shared management. The band employed a Boeing 707 with the capacity to hold 100 to ensure room for the film crew, extra gear, etc., but in the end only the band, their family and friends, and roadies boarded the plane, the band thus spending a fortune needlessly. In addition to renditions of “Honky Tonk Women” “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and “Hot ‘N’ Nasty" from the Chicago show, an incredible take of the Marriott original “30 Days In The Hole" is here, including its Sly & The Family Stone “I Want To Take Your Higher” spoken intro. Marriott’s vocals and Clempson’s guitar are to the fore, with Ridley and Shirley holding down the bottom end quite nicely. A cover of the Holland/Dozier/Holland penned “Road Runner” often credited to Bo Diddley, and covered by so many bands of the day, features more monster guitar from Clempson and has the audience clapping and cheering loudly. The band’s take on Ray Charles' “Hallelujah (I Love Her So)” provides another breath taking performance, with Ridley’s roaring bass and Clempson's screaming guitar setting the tone, Marriott’s vocals being screamed over the top.

Disc three opens with performances from the 18 May, 1974, Charlton Athletic Football Ground concert, which featured The Who as headliners and included Bad Company on the bill, playing their first proper gig. Following their introduction, Marriott and company break into the Small Faces number “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” featuring yet another inspired solo by Clempson and the pounding beat of Ridley and Shirley. The band’s performance on the Marriott/Clempson penned title track to their then new Thunderbox album shines with Marriott’s vocals up front, and Clempson's guitar giving great aid, especially his extended solo. An updated take on “Sweet Peace And Time” a cut from “Performance” displays the band at their very heaviest. Clempson’s riff overpowers the listener’s ear in a most delightful way, as does his inspired lead line. The band delivers fine performances of “C’Mon Everybody” and “I Don’t Need No Doctor” from the gig as well. The disc ends with four tracks from a 6 June, 1974 show at London’s Rainbow Theatre. These performances were filmed and included as part of Don Kirshner’s “The Midnight Special” TV series in the US on the NBC television network. A killer version of “Thunderbox” has Marriott’s r and b vocals being screamed over the cacophony of sound created by Clempson, Ridley and Shirley. The band was certainly at the top of their game live at this point, something sadly not reflected in record sales. Recordings of band originals “30 Days In The Hole” “Sweet Peace And Time” follow, with Marriott's harmonica being especially inspired on the former and the guitar of Clempson forcing the issue on the latter. The disc and box set close with another version of the Pie’s cover of “C’Mon Everybody” with the instrumental skills of the entire band on fine display as well as crisp vocal harmonies. With the audience whipped into a frenzy this tune, Clempson’s soaring guitar a huge inspiration, serves as the perfect closer to a delicious collection of live recordings by one of the best live band of the era. 

Humble Pie Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 1 comes housed in a clamshell box and features a 16 page full color booklet. The booklet contains a full track listing, photos of the band and posters from performances of the day, as well as a most informative and enjoyable essay by drummer Jerry Shirely who, as previously mentioned, was instrumental in compiling this fine collection. While the sound quality may not be perfect, it is amazingly good considering the sources of the recordings, which included bootleg releases, radio shows, audience recordings and soundboard taps. This box set certainly deserves a place in the collection of any Steve Marriott or Humble Pie fan, and would not be out of place along side other sets of live recordings done by Humble Pie contemporaries. Many thanks to Cherry Red Records, UK for making this box set available, and at a most reasonable price. I recommend it very highly.

- Kevin Rathert
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