When it comes to most 1970s double LPs, you can count me out. Especially the live ones. Bands almost inevitably saw them as an opportunity to stretch out, and engage in long, boring, and masturbatory free form shenanigans. Whole sides given over to one song! And in some cases, such as The Allman Brothers’ Eat a Peach and Canned Heat’s Living the Blues, TWO sides dedicated to one song! But look on the bright side. Should you ever decide you want out of this world, all you’ll have to do is put on Canned Heat’s 41-minute version of “Refried Boogie,” and presto! Suicide by ennui.
England’s Humble Pie was as guilty as the rest. On the band’s 1971 double live LP Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore, Steve Marriott and company dedicated whole album sides to both Dr. John’s “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” and Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone.” Rockin’ the Fillmore is not so much an album as a tar pit, perfect for sinking slowly into on Seconal, Nembutals, and all the other great downers that made the seventies the Decade of Drool. I did my fair share and they were fun, especially when it came to basic motor skills, so much fun indeed that I once attempted to force a forkful of spaghetti into my forehead.
But Humble Pie redeemed itself with the 1973 double LP Eat It, because (1) I spent a lot of time listening to it as a kid, (2) there was simply no beating front man Steve Marriott—the legendary former guitarist and vocalist for The Small Faces—when he was at the top of his game, and most importantly (3) only one of its four sides is live. Amazing! Not a 40-minute track to be found! And what’s more its mix of hard rock originals, quieter numbers, jacked-up soul classics, and good old hippie blooz inexplicably works, thanks to the wonderfully grainy voice of Marriott—one of rock’s most unheralded lead singers—three of the greatest backup singers ever, and a band proficient enough to master songs from any genre under the sun.