Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Humble Pie 2: Town And Country

With its cover photos of two of the band in a front room and the other two out in nature, one might think Town And Country is Humble Pie’s play on the idea behind the first Traffic album—to wit, guys getting together away from civilization, living communally and making music. The album doesn’t immediately display the same power as the first album, but don’t be deceived by the acoustic guitars.
All this time later it’s easy to forget the legacy that put Peter Frampton on the map. Barely 19 years old when the album came out, his guitar, vocals and songwriting deserves discovery, beginning with “Take Me Back”, “The Sad Bag Of Shaky Jake” is another Steve Marriott Western pastiche, but “Down Home Again” at the end of side one delivers the boogie much more effectively, if generically. “The Light Of Love” begins with sitar droning and tablas, as sensitive tune from Greg Ridley, while Jerry Shirley’s “Cold Lady” begins moodily before diverting into a boogie climax. (A banded, copyrighted snippet called “Ollie, Ollie” is credited to the full band and the engineer, for no apparent reason.)
“Every Mother’s Son” is a curious little strum, starting as a country lament, moving into the travails of a rock star on the road (and would also be the title of a Traffic song a year later, oddly enough). There’s a terrific cover of Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat”, recorded right around the same time Blind Faith did “Well All Right”, the song’s original B-side. “Only You Can Say” begins like one of David Crosby’s latter-day Byrds songs, but when the bass comes in, it’s all Pie. “Silver Tongue” is probably the “heaviest” song on the album, just ‘cos it’s mixed so densely. It’s all Marriott, so Frampton’s and Ridley’s combined input on “Home And Away” makes a big difference. Stick around for a coda of sorts, a slow variation on the same theme, and what sounds like a warning from the engineer.
Thanks to their inept label, it would be a few years before the album was properly released in the U.S. When it was, it was as the first disc of a two-record set with a truly ugly cover; at least it made the first two Humble Pie albums available for re-evaluation. Put in the same package, both As Safe As Yesterday Is and Town And Country sound better in each other’s company. They just might fit on a single CD, but then there wouldn’t be room for singles, B-sides and bonus tracks. Both albums deserve better exposure.

Humble Pie Town And Country (1969)—3

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