Smokin’ was the fifth studio album released by British boogie rock band Humble Pie, the super-group that was created by ex-Small Faces frontman Steve Marriot and 70s guitar god Peter Frampton. Released in 1972, Smokin’ would fit right at home within the hard rock boom that was storming the UK at the time with acts such as Led Zep, Sabbath and Deep Purple strutting their stuff. However the UK audiences largely turned their noses up at Humble Pie, and it would be in America where the album’s release would catapult the band into the stadium rock scene of the mid-70s, with a highly respectable number six placing on the Billboard charts.
From a musical perspective, Smokin’ is quite a departure from the bands earlier material which largely blended folk, country and rock influences. Here the band lay down a heavier sound that incorporated boogie rock and hard blues rock, with some soul and country thrown in for good measure. This album is full on sound-wise and one does get the feeling when listening to it that you could wear earmuffs and still hear enough of the music, it is that loud. The components which make up The Pie’s sound on this album include the heavy blues guitar of Marriot and lead guitarist Clem Clemson (Peter Frampton had left the band by this point), the whaling soulful vocals and Hammond organ playing of Marriott himself, vocals which again showed why he was one of the best rock singers to come out of Britain, and finally a solid rhythm section comprising one of rock’s underrated bass players Greg Ridley and drummer John Shirley, who work so well together in giving the heavier tracks a steady backbeat . Notably, there are also key contributions from Stephen Stills on backing vocals and Hammond organ, and Alexis Korner on vocals and guitar.
As for the tracks themselves, well the album kicks off with a sizzling boogie rock barnstormer called “Hot ‘n’ Nasty”. Here the organ sizzles, the rhythm section pounds, while Marriott lets it all go vocally on a track which certainly has plenty of high octane and sets the scene for the rest of the album, laying a significant marker down in the process. This track is followed by “The Fixer”, a standard heavy blues-rock track with plenty of riffage, big vocals and pounding drums, a sound that was pretty much in line with the other heavy bands of the day. “You’re So Good for Me” is a beautiful soul ballad complete with gospel sounding female backing vocals and represents the most tender moment on the album showing that the band did have a softer side to them as well. This has to be one of The Pie’s best songs and is a definite album standout. “C’mon Everybody” is an Eddie Cochran cover and represents another blues-rock style track, all be it an improvement on “The Fixer” which lacked the boogie feel and energy of this track. “Old Time Feelin” is an acoustic blues track that has a barroom jam vibe to it with its rolling piano, harmonica and overall laid-back feel. This track is also notable for not featuring Steve Marriot on vocals, with Greg Ridley and guest Alexis Korner lending a more than adequate hand on vocal duties. The album then comes to a storming end with heavy rocker “30 Days in the Hole”, a cover of Junior Walker’s “Road Runner” titled “Road Runners G Jam”, a track which literally takes jamming to a whole new level and literally smokes as a track, and finally album closer “Sweet Peace and Time”, a brilliant heavy rock track that encapsulates everything about this album, while going a long way in proving that this band was one of the loudest and heaviest of their day.
Humble Pie carved quite a successful career for themselves in the States but never really took off in the UK, something which in itself is surprising as I feel their sound was where Marriot was wanting to take the Small Faces down before they separated. My gut feel is that they were passed by in an over-subscribed hard rock market in the UK, with their being just too many bands of a similar ilk. Despite this, there can be no doubt that Humble Pie released some great albums like this one and benefited strongly from having the likes of Marriott and Frampton at the helm. In conclusion, I would definitely say that Smokin’ is a highly underrated hard rock album and an album that would go on to influence hard rock and heavy metal bands in the future. It had everything you want from a hard rock album and helped to establish Steve Marriott’s legacy as one of Britain’s greatest rock singers, something I which his contemporaries would wholeheartedly go along with.