MARRIOTT - Steve Marriott (Lemon)
Expectations for a post-Humble Pie Steve Marriott solo album from 1976 would have to be decidedly low. After achieving greatness with the Small Faces and showing initial promise with Humble Pie, the latter soon degenerated into a lower-rung British boogie band with Marriott lending indiscriminate yelps, grunts, and “ooh-yeahs” to banal originals and lackluster blues and soul covers. As Pete Townshend put it to NME in 1975: “Marriott’s music falls short of his potential, which is a bloody shame because everyone knows what he’s really capable of ... there’s all those incredible Small Faces records piled up.”

Marriott (who died in 1991) never got to that level again, but with his solo debut, he at least found respectability. Freed from the arena rock trappings and sales expectations of Humble Pie, Marriott eases off the bombast that made them so unbearable and rediscovers the singing voice that enhanced Small Faces records a decade earlier. The result was his best record since the second Humble Pie album, as songs like “East Side Struttin’,” “Midnight Rollin’” and “Lookin’ For a Love” from the “British Side” of the original LP rock hard, but with soul. The British Side also contains the album’s standout track, a bluesy, yearning cover of Leon Russell’s “Help Me Make It Through the Day” in which Marriott turns in one of his best vocal performances in years.

The “American Side” starts off well enough with a female-backing-vocal enhanced original called “Star in My Life” and a cover of Freddie Scott’s “Are You Lonely For Me Baby” that’s even funkier than the original. Unfortunately, the remainder -- two awful FM ballads and a cocaine rock bar-band tune -- is worthless, undercutting what started off as a fairly solid effort. Can’t say it’s on the level of the Small Faces or even the Faces, but for a moment in 1976, when hardly anyone noticed, Marriott turned in a worthy effort that might have seemed inconceivable even a year earlier. -Doug Sheppard