Tuesday, May 19, 2020


I bought this CD out of the budget-bin in 2000, when it came out, at a K-Mart that went out of business soon after. It was thrown in with dozens of other discs containing cheapo hits collections, some of which were surely re-recordings. I wondered why a live album of Steve Marriott, former Small Faces and Humble Pie frontman, doing blues covers live in some club in 1989, just two years before his passing, would be mixed in with cheap, amateurish-looking ten-track collections of “greatest hits” from the likes of Johnny Mathis or the Jefferson Airplane or Sam & Dave or Tina Turner, but at $3.99 or so, I took the plunge, and I’m glad I did.

Marriott was always among the most respected among his 60’s UK peers, not surprising considering how The Small Faces made so many great records and were THE most stylish of the major mod bands. He barnstormed all across North America in the 70’s as part of Humble Pie, finding an all-new audience with their blues-based hard-rock, and though he no doubt had many enticing offers, he never really sold out. When he died in 1991 in a fire (only 44 years old!), he’d been playing small gigs across England with a local blues band (the band on this album), and from what I’ve read, he was quite happy and satisfied. Keith Richards wanted Marriott to replace Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones in the 1970’s, but evidently that was nixed by Jagger, who knew that he’d be upstaged by Marriott. Though that would have given Steve a level of financial security, he was probably pleased and comfortable doing the mid-level shows where the stress-level was much less. Stones fans would have demanded Marriott do a song or two on each Stones album or live show, and we all know that the insecure, spandex-clad Jagger could not have dealt with that in the welcoming way other frontmen would have.

So what is this album like? It reminds me of some of those reissue albums of UK freakbeat bands released on labels like Angel Air where their original two or three singles along with some 60’s demos and acetates are compiled, but to get the album up to CD running time we get some live tracks from a 90’s revival version of the band, recorded at some pub where the guys are local heroes, and they blast through various Chess or Excello blues covers with abandon and sounding like both the band and the audience had had a few pints before the show. Of course, it doesn’t sound like 1965 again….the recording quality and the band’s equipment and amps guarantee that….but the boys play a hard-edged set with impassioned and raw vocals, slide guitar, harmonica, and the like, showing that they have not forgotten their 60’s blues roots. With a repertoire ono this album including Tampa Red, Wilbert Harrison, Rufus Thomas, Bobby Parker, and Eddie Boyd, all you need is a tall-boy of your favorite malt liquor, and you’ve got it made.

I know I have more of a taste for post-1960’s blues bands than many reading this do, but if you’re the kind of person who enjoyed the Canned Heat BOOGIE HOUSE TAPES collection I reviewed here a year or so back, you’ll probably like this. If you get excited (as I do) when you’re at some bar, and the band’s guitarist whips out a pocket knife and launches into a slide-guitar Elmore James “Dust My Broom” riff (the kind of thing that filled the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac albums), then this is the album for you. It also shows that Steve Marriott went down a champion, trusting the no-BS honesty of the blues as a means of expression and not worried about his celebrity status.

There are a number of posthumous live albums recorded in the last five years of Steve Marriott’s life floating around, including multiple-disc box sets, and you can also find live material online if you’d like to get a taste of where the man was at during this period. This album has no covers of earlier Marriott hits; it’s all blues material. I could have spent my $3.99 that day 20 years ago at K-Mart on a hot-dog and Icee combo (at the infamous K-Mart snack bar) instead of on this album, but other than the indigestion, I’d have forgotten that meal in an hour. This album I am still cranking up today and raising a can of Karbach Hopadillo beer to Steve Marriott’s memory!


Alvin Bishop said...

Good find, Bill! Huge Humble Pie fan here. Will seek out this CD. (Or as Chris would put it: Cee-Dee!) Cheers! Alvin Bishop

Pops O'Reilly said...

Stellar review as always Mr.Shute!