During early 1969, Peter Frampton who had left The Herd and Steve Marriott who had departed Small Faces were searching for a band. What they found was each other. They added bassist Greg Ridley and drummer Jerry Shirley and Humble Pie was born.
They were four studio albums into their career when they decided to release a live album. Always better on stage than in the studio, Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore proved to be their commercial break through both in the United States and the U.K.
The original 1971 two-disc, seven song vinyl release was culled from four shows recorded at the legendary Fillmore East, May 28-29, 1971. The album was 72 minutes and included a 23 minute performance of “I Walk On Gilded Splinters” and a 16 minute “Rollin’ Stone.” The album became the defining musical statement of their career as it presented the original line-up at its best.
Now, their performances at the Fillmore East have returned in a complete form. Both afternoon and evening shows are presented in their entirety on the four-disc set, Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore: The Complete Performances. Each concert was five or six songs and there was only seven different songs altogether. There is repetition as “Four Day Creep,” “I’m Ready,” “I Walk On Gilded Splinters,” and “Hallelujah (I Love You So)” appears four times each, but each is unique due to the improvisational nature of the band.
“I Walk On Gilded Splinters” is the bands tour-de-force. The four different performances average about 25 minutes each, which allows room for all the band members to solo. Frampton has always been an underappreciated guitarist and after hearing his solos on this tune, one wonders why. The rhythm section of Ridley and Shirley also step forward as does Marriott on the harmonica. This track is a fine example of the band’s chemistry.
Very few rock bands have been able to successfully interpret a song made famous by Ray Charles. “Hallelujah (I Love You So),” with Steve Marriott as the center piece, is moved into a rock format for one of the better version of this old rhythm & blues classic.
The Ashford and Simpson penned “I Don’t Need No Doctor” is arguably the band’s most popular song. They completely reworked the song from its soul origins with the guitars out front. A shortened version charted as a single in the United States but the original full length version became an AOL staple. The band wisely never cut a studio version.
The Muddy Waters blues standard, “Rollin’ Stone” is the other extended piece that allowed the members to use their creativity. The interplay between Frampton’s guitar work and Marriott vocals is the highlight
The sound is crystal clear and the accompanying booklet includes comments about each song by the bands two surviving members, Frampton and Shirley.
Forty-two years have passed since Humble Pie took the stage at the Fillmore East. The legacy of those two days and four performances is some of the best live music of the era.
In many ways Humble Pie never again approached the level of musicianship contained in this series of live performances. You may not want to play all of the discs back to back but rather approach them one at a time. Also, don’t forget to play it loud.