Humble Pie was a transitional album and a harbinger of the band's new, heavier direction. The material was darker than their previous two efforts, with striking contrasts in volume and style — Peter Frampton's gentle "Earth and Water Song" is buttressed between two of the heaviest tracks on the record, the band composed  "One Eyed Trouser Snake Rumba," and a cover of Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready". Drummer Jerry Shirley contributed a rare lead vocal on his song "Only a Roach," a country-twinged ode to cannabis that also appeared as the B-side of the summer 1970 single "Big Black Dog". This was their first release under the auspices of new American manager Dee Anthony — who'd pushed for a louder, tighter sound both live and in the studio — and for their new label, A&M Records. At the end of 1969, the Pie's old label, Immediate, owned by Andrew Loog Oldham, went bankrupt — a saga chronicled by Marriott on the satirical ballad "Theme from Skint (See You Later Liquidator)".
"Humble Pie" is often referred to by fans as "The Beardsley Album," because of the distinct cover artwork by artist Aubrey Beardsley, an influential English illustrator and author best known for his erotic illustrations.