Monday, 25 June 2018

"Eat It" [April 1973 2LP Set] by HUMBLE PIE (November 2016 Japan-Only Universal/A&M 'SHM-CD' (2007) Remaster in Mini LP Artwork) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Things You Do To Me..."

Ah the mighty Pie! They might have been white on the outside but inside their Souls were black and raring to batter the lugholes of the world with their brand of British Blues Rock and Rock Soul.

Preceded by four underwhelming studio albums on two different labels (Immediate and A&M Records) and after the groundbreaking and rocking live double "Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore" broke them huge everywhere (especially in America) – it was time for more studio shenanigans. The wildly underrated single studio LP "Smokin'" from April 1972 came next and was itself followed in 1973 by this - the equally fantastical double LP set "Eat It" – another strangely forgotten milestone in this British band’s stellar career.

Split between three studio sides of soulful Rock tunes and Acoustic ballads (beefed up with backing vocals from The Blackberries –a trio of veteran American ladies - see below) and one final side recorded live at Green's Playhouse in Glasgow (mostly cover versions) - their second double-album paired back on the band's usual cache of swagger and snake trouser boogie anthems and instead went for mellow and tuneful as Soul Music seemed to consume Steve Marriott whole.

Marriott wrote all of Side 1 and 3 and the lyrics to the opener on Side 4 "Up Our Sleeve" (the band wrote the music) with all of Side 2 and the remaining pair on Side 4 being Deep Soul covers from the Sixties (O.V. Wright, Ray Charles, Edwin Starr, Ike & Tina Turner, Jr. Walker & The All Stars etc). "Eat It" was also housed in a chunky and colourful gatefold sleeve (a John Kosh design) complete with a gorgeous illustrated 20-page booklet (reproduced here in full). But what issue to buy on CD?

Fans will know that Humble Pie's back catalogue (on A&M Records especially) has been strangely ignored by British reissue companies (licensing issues perhaps) and Japan has and still is your first port of call for remasters. I’d recommend this reissue from November 2016 that offers the full double-album Remastered onto 1CD as your fastest and best poison. It can be purchased as new for about £22 to £24 online from several sites including Amazon (sometimes less secondhand) – has a 2007 Remaster that wrestles well with a dense mix, Mini LP Gatefold Repro Artwork with the Booklet (separated from the sleeve) and both looks and sounds great. Here are the Drugstore Cowboys and Black Coffees...

Released 23 November 2016 in Japan - "Eat It" by HUMBLE PIE on Universal/A&M Records UICY-77981 (Barcode 4988031188149) is an SHM-CD Reissue (Double-Album onto 1CD) in Mini LP Repro Artwork with a 2007 Remaster that plays out as follows (65:25 minutes):

1. Get Down To It [Side 1]
2. Good Booze And Bad Women
3. Is It For Love
4. Drugstore Cowboy
5. Black Coffee [Side 2]
6. I Believe To My Soul
7. Shut Up And Don't Interrupt Me
8. That's How Strong My Love Is
9. Say No More [Side 3]
10. Oh, Bella (That's All Hers)
11. Summer Song
12. Beckton Dumps
13. Up Our Sleeve [Live] [Side 4]
14. Honky Tonk Women [Live]
15. (I'm A) Road Runner [Live]
Tracks 1 to 15 are the double-album "Eat It" - released April 1973 in the UK on A&M Records AMLS 6004 and March 1973 in the USA on A&M Records SP-3701. Produced by HUMBLE PIE [Sides 1 to 3 are Studio Recordings - Side 4 is Live] - it peaked at No. 34 in the UK and No. 13 in the USA.

STEVE MARRIOTT – Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar and Harmonica on "Good Booze And Bad Women" and "(I'm A) Road Runner [Live]"
(DAVE) CLEM CLEMPSON (ex Bakerloo, Colosseum) – Second Lead Guitar and Backing Vocals
GREG RIDLEY – Bass and Backing Vocals
THE BLACKBERRIES [Clydie King, Venetta Fields and Billie Barnum] - Backing Vocals on all Tracks except 9, 10, 11, 12 and 15
B.J. COLE - Pedal Steel Guitar on "Oh, Bella (That's All Hers)"
SYDNEY GEORGE – Saxophone on "Shut Up And Don't Interrupt Me"

Fans will know that Japan has had a 'long' history of reissuing Humble Pie – in this case a whopping four times on the SHM-CD format alone. Number one came 14 February 2007 on Universal/A&M Records UICY-93223 (Barcode 4988005459770) - that issue featuring SHM-CD technology and Mini LP Repro Artwork (or Paper Sleeve) and most importantly - a new Remaster by Audio Engineer HIDEAKI NISHIMURA (all reissues since have been based on this variant).

Second was 22 April 2009 on Universal/A&M UICY-94070 (Barcode 4988005555199) – again on SHM-CD and Mini LP Artwork. Third arrived as part of the 'Back To The Rock Years...' reissue series on 9 November 2011 – but this time the SHM-CD Universal/A&M Records UICY-25064 (Barcode 4988005677952) came in a standard jewel case only.

Which brings us to number four and our chosen poison today - the 23 November 2016 variant again in Mini LP Artwork. Essentially yet another reissue of the 2007 Remaster but one that is still on catalogue (the earlier discs are all deleted) - the Mini LP cover repros the original double-album gatefold colour artwork and 'the lovely Sheena' drawn booklet that came with original copies. The CD insert consists of a foldout white paper inlay that approximates lyrics in English and Japanese with a separate history of Humble Pie in Japanese (only). In its sealable plastic outer sleeve with an Obi strip along the side, this reissue is a sweet thing to look at and hold.

As a recording "Eat It" is a notorious mishmash of sound quality. Whilst Side 1 and 2 feel good (dense in places) - it's as if audio quality abandoned the record for Side 3 - many of the primarily acoustic tracks are a tad hissy and sound like they were recorded on the huff - more for feel than fidelity. The live side (4) is crude and rude and feels at times like a bootleg - huge and snotty nonetheless. But the Hideaki Nishimura Remaster is great and the enhanced SHM-CD brings out the sheer power of the band ("(I'm A) Road Runner" is a beast of Bass and Drums - the band rocking like mad as Marriott whips the audience into a frenzy) and the delicacies of the softer material and that's the real winner here. Let's get to the music...

Side 1 opens on a winner and a musical mission statement - out goes straight up 'Rawk' and in comes Humble Pie doing 'Soul Rock' with the wonderful "Get Down To It". The first thing you notice is his deliberate inclusion of The Blackberries giving it some bolstering Soulful Backing Vocals on every track. A trio of veteran ladies in the shape of Venetta Fields, Clydie King and Billie Barnum – their names will be familiar to anyone who has poured over inner sleeves for decades from hundreds of appearances on huge catalogue albums throughout the Seventies and Eighties. Marriott was clearly trying to move his hard-rocking band into different and looser territory and a No.13 chart placing in the USA in March 1973 proved that the American public at least thought this a good idea.

A rare barroom rocker "Good Booze And Bad Women" sees Marriott bring in the wailing harmonica as it chugs Ten Years After-like along - the girls shadowing his lead vocals as Clem Clempson solos away like a goodun. "Is It For Love?" has sadness to it - a slow melancholia like the Faces bemoaning a relationship breakdown (the girls add subtle power as they sing back Marriott's pain - so hard to feel the same again). The near seven minutes of "Drugstore Cowboy" - a fabulously sloppy rocker - probably reflected SM's lifestyle just a little too realistically - higher than a hog in L.A. Side 2 offers four Soul covers - a fantastic slow Blues screamer in Ike & Tina Turner's "Black Coffee" (probably my fave tune on the whole double) - a slow pleader in "I Believe To My Soul" by Ray Charles - a cheeky R&B dancer by Edwin Starr where Marriott shouts "Shut Up And Don't Interrupt Me" over the saxophone of Sydney George and finally the Roosevelt Jamison song made famous by O.V. Wright in 1964 (Goldwax 106) - "That's How Strong My Love Is" - Marriott duetting with the ladies to amazing effect.

After the full-on Band vs. Soul Singers noise of Side 2 - Side 3's acoustic opener "Say No More" comes as a shock and something of a relief. If you're my foot, them I'm your sock, I just need you, you're my long shot...say no more. It's a gorgeous little tune really. "Oh, Bella (All That's Hers)" continues in that vein but is even more delicate - his vocals sounding like he's even so slightly stoned. B.J. Cole's Pedal Steel guitar lends the lonesome lyrics a pathos quietly pinging away in the background for that beautifully vocalised chorus. He employs some very cool and musical slide acoustic guitar for "Summer Song" - asking you to listen to his summer song as he warbles on the Harmonica - while the jaunty Mickey Jupp rhythms of "Beckton Dumps" again feature lyrics about a sleepy head in someone else's home - a restless body that needs to wake up and move on from cravings that need to be tended to.

Side 4 is like the first three sides didn't exist. Live in Glasgow - raw and rocking - this is the Humble Pie of "Performance". First we're treated to the naughtiness of "Up Our Sleeve" - Marriott shouting his customary 'aw right!' before letting rip into those twin guitars. After a 'finest Rock 'n' Roll band in the country' intro they roar into the lethal new song and you can't help think that the stuffy-voiced announcer was in fact right. It ends with two covers - a tribute to the Rolling Stones with "Honky Tonk Women" and a nod to Motown with the encore of Jr. Walker's "(I'm A) Road Runner" which runs to a crowd shredding thirteen and a half minutes. What a ride...  

We would lose Marriott in 1991 aged only 44 from a horrible home-fire accident – robbing the world of one of the great front men and characters in Rock (much like the equally beloved Ronnie Lane). I miss him and them – and this entire reissue series has brought that home with a hammer blow. And isn't that the best compliment of all...

The Japan-Only 23 November 2016 Series of 
HUMBLE PIE SHM-CD Reissues in Mini LP Repro Artwork are:

1. "Humble Pie" (July 1970) – Universal/A&M UICY-77977 (Barcode 4988031188101)
2. "Rock On" (March 1971) – Universal/A&M UICY-77978 (Barcode 4988031188118)
3. "Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore” (November 1971, Live 2LP Set onto 1CD) – Universal/A&M UICY-77979 (Barcode 4988031188125)
4. "Smokin'" (March 1972) – Universal/A&M UICY-77980 (Barcode 4988031188132)
5. "Eat It" (April 1973, 2LP Set onto 1CD) – Universal/A&M UICY-77981 (Barcode 4988031188149)
6. "Thunderbox" (February 1974) – Universal/A&M UICY-77982 (Barcode 4988031188095)
7. "Street Rats" (February 1975) – Universal/A&M UICY-77983 (Barcode 4988031188156) – 11 Tracks
8. "Street Rats – UK Version" (February 1975) – Universal/A&M UICY-77984 (Barcode 4988031188163) – 15 Tracks

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