By Chris Gill
One of the greatest live rock concert albums of all time, Humble Pie’s Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore is a nearly perfect time capsule of an incendiary band in peak form. How could one improve upon perfection? By releasing the legendary Fillmore East performances in their original form and entirety, which is what Omnivore Recordings has done with this impressive box set.
The original Rockin’ the Fillmore album’s seven songs were culled from three of four performances recorded in New York City on May 28 and 29, 1971. For the first time since then, fans can hear each set exactly as it was performed, including 15 performances that remained unreleased until now.
Listening to the various versions of “Four Day Creep,” “I’m Ready,” and “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” it’s immediately apparent that the person assigned with the task of choosing the original album’s tracks faced a considerable challenge, as each is different but outstanding in its own way. The extended jams on each of the four 26- to 27-minute versions of “I Walk On Gilded Splinters” vary remarkably, and to hear each side by side is a testimony to the imagination and improvisational prowess of guitarists Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton.
Engineer Ashley Shepherd mixed the recordings with assistance from Frampton and Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley. The performances sound stunning, with crisp definition that makes listeners feel like they are there in the Fillmore, experiencing every shift in dynamics and energy. Marriott’s stage banter at the beginning of the first set, where he announces, “I got a new ax! It’s too much. It’s gonna make me rock on, man!” may finally reveal why these performances are so powerful.
Guitarists can certainly relate to the inspiration that comes from playing a great new guitar for the first time at a gig. Notably, Frampton received his trademark 1954 Les Paul Custom as a gift from a fan at the Fillmore West the year before. Playing that Les Paul during all four of these sets, he shows why that guitar rightfully belonged in his hands.
Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore—The Complete Recordings
Humble Pie (Omnivore Recordings, $49.99)