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Humble PIe - Smokin'

Humble PIe - Smokin'

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Genre: rock
Rating: **** (4 stars)
Title:  Smokin'
Company: A&M
Catalog: SP 3132
Country/State: UK
Year: 1972
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: --
Available: 1
Catalog Number: 322
Price: $10.00

1972's self-produced "Smokin'" was the album that made Humble Pie's commercial reputation in the States. Earlier albums had attracted critical and commercial attention, but this studio set ultimately went top-10, achieving gold sales status. All of my older friends had it in their collections and I can actually remember going into my local record store a couple of years after the album was released and a guy checking out in front of me was buying a copy 'cause he'd worn out his original album. How in the world do you wear out an album ? The band's first studio release after founding member/guitarist Peter Frampton's departure, the album introduced former Colosseum guitarist Clem Clemson as his replacement. In spite of the personnel change, musically the set wasn't a major change from their previous collections. Frampton's more commercial touch was obviously gone, but most folks bought Humble Pie album's for their blues and boogie rock moves and exemplified by material like 'Hot 'n' Nasty' (their biggest US hit), 'The Fixer' and '30 Days In the Hole', those characteristics remained firmly in place. If anything, Frampton's departure allowed the band to focus on Marriott's vision of Humble Pie as a hard driving blues-rock band. In line with that vision, if may have been as subtle as a hammer, but '30 Days In the Hole' was simply one of the scariest drug songs ever .., while tracks like 'I Wonder' and 'Sweet Peace and Time' were equally pounding. In fact the only letup from the frenetic pace was the unexpected ballad 'You're So Good for Me'. And here's where my minority view comes in. While lots of folks love Marriott's voice, I've always found it to be an acquired taste; particularly when he tried to push it. Instead of sounding tough and blues, the results usually strike me as brittle and irritating. Frampton wasn't a great singer, but he was better than Marriott. Bassist Ridley was better than both of them, though he seldom got a chance to take the spotlight (check him out on the closer 'Sweet Peace and Time'). Luckily, Ridley handled a couple of tracks on the album and, giving credit where due, Marriott didn't sound bad on a couple of his performances ('30 Days In the Hole'). Even with those complaints, this is a great place for a casual fan, or someone curious about the band to start checking them out.
"Smokin'" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Hot 'n Nasty (Steve Marriott - Clem Clemson - Greg Ridley - Jerry Shirley) - 3:22
One of the funkiest things Humble Pie ever did which probably explains why A&M tapped it as a US single ... I'll readily admit the backing vocals were quite good (you can hear Stephen Stills if you listen hard enough) - who would have thought these guys would have such a deft touch in that area and Greg Ridley's bass was rock solid. Not sure why; perhaps the fact Marriott's vocal came off as exceptionally shrill and brittle, this rocker simply never did a lot for me, though I can see why it sold well. rating: *** stars
2.) The Fixer (Steve Marriott - Clem Clemson - Greg Ridley - Jerry Shirley) - 5:00
Hum, Marriott and company pull a page out of the Led Zeppelin ? Well, that's what 'The Fixer' has always reminded me of. Like a good Zeppelin song, this one had a slinky, blues melody with Clempson turning in a tasty lead guitar performance. rating: **** stars
3.) You're So Good for Me (Greg Ridley - Steve Marriott) - 3:53
If only because it offered a break from their frenetic boogie rock moves, 'You're So Good For Me' served as one of the album highlights. Penned by bassist Ridley and Marriott, I'd argue the song would have been even better without the screeching female backing vocals, but even with those, it's one of the prettiest tunes they ever recorded and Ridley's rich voice made a nice change from Marriott's whine. rating: **** stars
4.) C'mon Everybody (Eddie Cochran) - 5:11
I've always been partial to the Eddie Cochran original so I see the "heavied up" Humble Pie version as a mixed blessing. I will admit there was some nice wah wah guitar action going on here and Clempson and Marriott turned in a nice segment of dueling lead guitars towards the end. rating: *** stars
5.) Old Time Feelin' (traditional - Steve Marriott) - 5:05
Aptly titled. 'Old Time Feelin' ' was an acoustic blues number featuring Ridley on lead and Marriott on harmonica. Nice enough, but not up my musical alley. rating: ** stars

(side 2)
1.) 30 Days In the Hole (Steve Marriott) - 3:58
One of their best known songs, '30 Days In the Hole' had everything necessary to become a major hit - great melody; pounding rhythm section, one of Marriott's best vocal performances, and a lyric that should have struck pay dirt with every 17 year old - how can you go wrong with sex, drugs, rock and roll, and drugs ??? Marriott was supposedly inspired to write the song by a line of dialogue out of a Humphrey Bogart film (Angles with Dirty Faces), resulting in what was easily one of the band's classic performances. Is it really about illicit drugs ? I'm not sure, but the lyrics do seem to support that contention. rating: **** stars
2.) Road Runner /Road Runner 'G' Jam (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier - Eddie Holland) - 3:48
Motown covers typically suck, but The Pie's cover was actually pretty good with Marriott turning in a slinky vocal that underscored the song's bluesy vibe. For hardcore fans, Stephen Stills (taking a break from recording the first Manassas album), was featured on the Hammond organ solo. rating: *** stars
3,) I Wonder (Cecil Grant - Raymond Levern) - 8:53
I'm not a big blues fan and I'll tell you 'I Wonder' is far from my favorite song on the album. It's a traditional blues-rock track that would have sounded right at home on an early Fleetwood Mac, Savoy Brown, or Led Zeppelin LP. It also goes on and on and on ... Even with those strikes against it, the song isn't a total loss, with Clempson showing his playing could be as melodic as Frampton's. Damn it is long though ... rating: *** stars
4.) Sweet Peace and Time (Steve Marriott - Clem Clemson - Greg Ridley - Jerry Shirley) - 5:49
I can hear the backlash already, but as much as I like Steve Marriott, I'd argue bassist Ridley had the better (if lesser known) voice. Deeper and tougher than Marriott, Ridley's voice was well matched for this killer rocker which happened to feature one of the band's best melodies. One of the album's standout performances and deserving of inclusion on any career overview package. Recorded a couple of years after the album was released, YouTube has a nice live performance of the song at: rating: **** stars
As mentioned, the album spun off one of their biggest singles:

- 1972's 'Hot 'n' Nasty' b/w 'You're So Good For Me' (A&M catalog number AM-1349)

Summary - one of the best things they ever did. Propelled by the hit single and some big concert dates, the parent album hit # 6 on the American charts.
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