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Humble Pie: Rock On - Album Of The Week Club review

On Rock On, Humble Pie proved that they were not the 'minor league Rolling Stones' while busy inventing the Black Crowes

Humble Pie: Rock On album cover
(Image: © A&M)
Humble Pie: Rock On

Humble Pie: Rock On album cover

(Image credit: A&M)

Shine On
Sour Grain
79th and Sunset
Stone Cold Fever
Rollin' Stone
A Song for Jenny
The Light
Big George
Strange Days
Red Neck Jump

In 1971 Humble Pie exploded into major stardom with not one but two best-sellers. 

First - and released two months before Humble Pie's historic Fillmore shows (and the runaway success of the live Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore) - the band's fourth album Rock On established their heavyweight credentials, with Steve Marriott singing R&B over heavy riffs the others came up with. Their final studio album with guitarist Peter Frampton, it contained wonderfully fresh tracks like Shine On and The Light

Co-produced with the Small Faces’ old engineer Glyn Johns, standouts include Stone Cold Fever and Marriott’s tender ode to his first wife, A Song For Jenny, on which the band are joined by soul sirens Doris Troy, PP Arnold and Claudia Lennear. 

Rarely has Marriott sounded as inflamed as on the bluesy Strange Days, while their sulphurous take on Muddy Waters’ Rollin’ Stone made other would-be badasses of the period sound like choirboys. The steak on the plate was funky come-git-some rockers like Sour Grain and the aforementioned Strange Days. If you wanna know where the Black Crowes learned to fly, look no further.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in March 1971

  • Alice Cooper - Love It To Death
  • Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Love And Hate
  • Black Oak Arkansas - Black Oak Arkansas
  • Jimi Hendrix - The Cry Of Love
  • Delaney & Bonnie - Motel Shot
  • Steeleye Span - Please To See The King
  • Humble Pie - Rock On
  • Amon Duul II - Tanz Der Lamminge
  • Mott The Hoople - Wildlife
  • Jethro Tull - Aqualung

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What they said...

"On this, their second album for A&M, Humble Pie proved that they were not the 'minor league Rolling Stones' as people often described them. Led by the soulful Steve Marriot, the Pie was a great band in every sense of the word. Although Peter Frampton elevated himself to superstar status in just a few years, this album proves what an excellent lead guitarist he was." (AllMusic)

"On this album the band really proves why in the early seventies it was considered one of Britain's greatest R'n'B outfits. They are becoming thoroughly Americanized by this time, much more so than their principal concurrents, the Faces: country, blues and bluegrass influences are all over this album, but Steve Marriott adds to everything his impeccable vocal stylizations, really bothering to sing and, okay, maybe 'articulate' instead of just barking and shouting his way through all the songs." (Only Solitaire

"Rock On proves exactly just how talented those musicians were and why Frampton deserved the superstar status he got years later, and why Marriott is recognised as one of the best amongst other musicians. The record has an undeniable live feel to it, due in part to Glyn Johns' humble yet precise recording, framing the group as if they were a boogie version of the Band." (Rate Your Music

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What you said...

John Davidson: Wow... was never a fan of Peter Frampton and Small Faces were a sub-Who psychedelic mod band so I didn't really pay them much heed either. So it's not a huge surprise that I never listened to Humble Pie.

What a mistake. This is a fantastic album, full of light and shade, showcasing Marriott's excellent voice as well as strong performances from the rest of the band.

This is early 70s soulful blues rock that straddles the gap between Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. Again, wow.

Richard Cardenas: Humble Pie was one of my favourite groups when I was a kid. This was about the time when I discovered them and Rockin’ the Fillmore and Smokin’ just hooked me.

I’ve always loved the rawness of the band and this reminds me of early 70’s pool halls that had no issues with 14-year-old kids hanging out.

Incidentally, I saw Frampton’s first solo tour when he opened for Johnny Winter. I’ve always loved his guitar playing.

Mike Canoe: With the exception of catching 30 Days In The Hole on classic rock radio, Humble Pie seems to be another band of a certain vintage more heard about than actually heard - at least in the U.S.

Already a legend with the Small Faces, singer Steve Marriott formed Humble Pie in 1969 with hotshot guitarist Peter Frampton after several failed attempts to get Frampton accepted into the Small Faces as second guitarist. Only a year later, the band was on a new record label with a new manager who a) pushed them to a harder rock sound and b) worked hard to break the band in America. Both elements place a greater emphasis on Steve Marriott.

Rock On, the band's second album for A&M, really pushes Marriott to the forefront. Sure, the album starts with Frampton written and sung, Shine On and the similarly luminescence-themed, The Light, and bassist Greg Ridley takes a gruff lead vocal about the lovably gruff Big George.

But the other seven songs showcase the genius of Steve Marriott. There's the primal blues rock of Muddy Waters' cover Rollin' Stone, Stone Cold Fever, and Sour Grain. There's the bawdy humour of honky tonkers, Red Neck Jump and 79th & Sunset. There's the sinister Strange Days - no connection to the Doors tune besides a similar dark and troubled theme. Finally there's the cathartic A Song For Jenny, another in the bursting canon of songs about the weariness of the road, lifted by the gospel-like chorus of the backup singers, the Soul Sisters.

At this point, Humble Pie was another band with greater success still ahead of them. Funnily enough, it would be achieved without Peter Frampton, but fortune had another smile in store for him. Rock On is a generally enjoyable album, but for Humble Pie, the future was... ahem... Smokin'.

Alex Hayes: Another week, another quality album up for appraisal. The Club has been chipping away at a very rich seam of classic rock goodness of late. Let's hope it stays that way.

I've long been a fan of Humble Pie. In their heyday, they were a terrific, seriously hard rocking outfit. Rock On (1971) is both their finest, and most effective, studio album. It was the point in the band's career where their musical leanings, previously somewhat disparate, coalesced into a more naturally rounded and pleasing whole. The recipe for the bands signature sound, hard-driving rock sprinkled with a little R&B for extra flavour, wasn't necessarily cooked up on Rock On, but was definitely perfected here.

With all due respect to Peter Frampton, Greg Ridley and Jerry Shirley, superb talents all, it's the late, great Steve Marriott that will always steal the show for me. Marriott is one of the finest male vocalists this country has ever produced, and a huge personal favourite of mine. The fact that he's so perennially overlooked is nothing short of bloody criminal. Rock On is yet another fantastic showcase for Marriott's vocal chops, in particular on the album's deeper cuts. His powerful performances on both Strange Days and the cover of Rollin' Stone are simply phenomenal.

I'm also an admirer of Marriott's previous group, The Small Faces. They weren't around long enough to be super prolific, but I'm proud to own everything that band ever recorded. It was Marriott's desire to be taken more seriously as a performer that led to him quitting The Small Faces and forming Humble Pie with Frampton in 1969. Frampton also acquits himself well here. His self-written tracks, Shine On and The Light, are also album highlights. They were to be his last major contributions to Humble Pie though.

Rock On was the last studio album to feature Frampton before quitting the group, although he does of course feature on the noteworthy Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore live opus. Recorded just a couple of months after the release of Rock On, Performance... is one of the classic live recordings, but it's also an album that you really have to commit yourself to for the long haul. It goes on a bit in other words. Not entirely sure what became of Frampton after that...

Weak spots? To be honest, I don't think that Rock On's mundane cover was ever gonna win any awards. The blurb that was added across the bottom on some of its later pressings doesn't help. It almost makes the album look like it's a 'best of'. In a way, I guess it kind of is.

There was a brief period there in the early 70s, where Humble Pie were putting out some very appropriately titled albums. Rock On, and its sequel Smokin' (1972), were clearly so named for being little else than raw, primal statements of intent. Humble Pie were one of the finest groups in the world at the time. It couldn't last though, and the band split up in 1975, leaving Marriott exhausted and skint. He did reform the band later that decade, but they never again recaptured the vitality and spirit found in abundance on Rock On.

Not that any of that ultimately matters. Rock On, along with the likes of Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore, will always stand as testament to a great rock band, and also to Steve Marriott, a rambunctious, powerhouse singer and true rock'n'roll giant.

Keith Jenkin: With my pocket money spent collecting records by bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath , Bad Company and The Faces etc., Humble Pie kind of slipped through my net in the seventies but over recent years playing catch-up has been fun, with all the titles up to at least Eat It worth the entry fee. Rock On is their best studio album and I can't understand why this was never on my radar. Versions available are very basic on CD and I would love to see this one and its follow up Smokin' properly remastered with some decent sleeve notes etc. Anyone who loves in particular The Faces, Bad Company and even early Black Crowes will find lots to enjoy here.

Shane Reho: Marriott and Frampton were one hell of a team, and this album certainly proves that. There aren't any bad tracks here, even if some don't really stick out from the bunch, but overall a solid album. The opening salvo of Shine On, Sour Grain, 79th And Sunset and Stone Cold Fever stand out particularly. Not bad for an album I only bought at the time because I had to return a mis-graded Todd Rundgren album. 9/10. Track picks: The first four songs on side 1.

Greg Schwepe: So, everyone on the planet has heard of (and owned a copy of!) a little live album called Frampton Comes Alive, right? But did all of us know that Peter Frampton was in a band called Humble Pie before he became a solo artist and released that career-changing live album? Nope, not me initially. The Frampton Comes Alive liner notes mentioned him being in Humble Pie, and when I finally decided to “go backward” and find out what he did before he was a solo artist, I was floored.

Sure, I investigated Humble Pie due to the Frampton connection, but oh my gosh, this Steve Marriott guy is amazing. And Jerry Shirley and Greg Ridley provide great bass and drums. I had another one of those “What Have I Been Missing?” moments. While I thought I would really like Humble Pie due to Frampton, I found that they were a great band who all contributed. But again, man, the howl of Steve Marriott! Now here was a front man who could grab your attention! While I came to the Humble Pie Party for Frampton, I stayed (and stayed!) for Marriott.

Rock On is their “now we have some really killer songs” album that led to their career changing live album Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore. And Spoiler Alert: career changing as in one heck of an album, and then one member (Frampton) leaving the band to go solo before the album was released. Only to second guess his exit after seeing the popularity of the live album.

This album seems to encapsulate everything Humble Pie was about, but not too much or too little of one thing. Here you have the mix of blazing up tempo rockers; Stone Cold Fever and Rollin’ Stone, the acoustic-y A Song For Jenny, the sax-infused Big George, and the boogie of the album closer Red Neck Jump. And this is all after the impressive opener; Shine On, which would later appear in a reworked format on Frampton Comes Alive.

Prior albums, while good, seemed to have a little of that “Hmm, we’re not really sure what we want to be” vibe, while Rock On seems to finally get that figured out. And then when you get to the Frampton-less studio follow up, Smokin’, they really decided where their bread was buttered. But that’s a review for another time.

Back to Stone Cold Fever, you have this great power chord opening, great groove, then you get to this jazzy breakdown section in the middle. Not expected, but superb!

This is by far the best of the albums with the original line up. I would point to this album as a start if you are looking the check out what Humble Pie is all about. 8 out of 10.

Craig Peters: I like so many had to backtrack after discovering Frampton Comes Alive. Turns out Humble Pie is a solid band. This LP is the real deal. There isn't a bad track on it. I remember listening to it in the mid to late 70s.

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Final Score: 7.43⁄10 (53 votes cast, with a total score of 394)

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