Wednesday, March 02, 2016
With so much fanfare around the 40th anniversary of Frampton Comes Alive, it is easy for the casual listener to overlook the artistic path that led up to that incredibly successful double set. Peter Frampton is a gifted musician, solid singer and writer, though it took some time for a wider audience to catch up and fully appreciate these attributes. Released in 1975, Frampton (the album) combined great melodies with some very tasteful playing, moving all of the final pieces into place before his career was launched into the stratosphere.
I can't believe this is happening to me...
Plying his trade from a tender age (playing in his first band at age 12), he went from leader of The Herd (which had chart success in England) to joining up with Steve Marriott as a founding member of Humble Pie in 1969, all while still in his teens. Four albums into this project, he left that band to go solo in 1971. Frampton carried on to craft three under appreciated LPs (Wind of Change, Frampton's Camel,Somethin's Happening) building a following by touring extensively to get his message out to the masses. His diligence would start to pay commercial dividends with the creation of his fourth disc.
Joined by the rhythm section of Andy Brown and John Siomos, Frampton wore virtually every hat, composing all of the material while handling lead vocals, lead/rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, organ, talk box and kitchen sink. Most impressive is the fact that he wrote this stellar set in its entirety over a three week period.
I'm yawning, I've been up too long
Appropriately, a chorus of birdsong precedes the drum pickup that kicks off "Day's Dawning", with verses anchored by tastefully arranged piano and a bridge that really adds value to the overall tune. The avian choir remains just under the surface in the mix, returning at the end with a single volley from a rooster which is quickly shouted down by a non morning person. There is great confidence on display here, which pours from the grooves on "Show Me the Way". How was this not a massive hit upon first airing? Worth your time for the intro alone, the walk from D through Dmaj7th, Bm, Bb6 and C9 is then topped with that signature riff by way of the talk box. The chorus is quite impossible to dislodge from the brain, which is helped along by great harmonies. Definitely one of the highlights, though he runs up another near-single with the atmospheric "One More Time". Featuring an absolutely jaw dropping detour into a delicate solo that passes in an instant, the masterful blend of acoustic and electric guitar is to be commended. This goes for all tracks, as Frampton feels no need to assault the listener with a one-dimensional heavy guitar attack. When he does let loose a little on cuts like "Nowhwere's Too Far (for my Baby)", the six string fireworks are nicely bevelled with melody. This one actually calls to mind Big Star in feel, with his incredible guitar tone icing the sonic cake.
Arguably, there is no better showcase of his versatility than what you will encounter on this LP. The songs are tightly edited, production values are high and George Marino's final mix plays to the strengths of the artist. As it is with the best of work, side two gains momentum as it progresses, with the ubiquitous rock ballad, "Baby I Love Your Way"(the live version of which remains a radio staple to this day) giving way to the uptempo "Apple of Your Eye", pausing momentarily for a brief acoustic interlude ("Penny for Your Thoughts") that sets up the finale, "(I'll Give You) Money" which is my personal favourite of the set along with the aforementioned "One More Time". "Frampton" went gold, making a respectable showing in the charts at the time, though it has transcended the sounds of the decade in which it first appeared. The next part of the story is well documented, however, for those who are not acquainted with this record, it comes highly recommended as required listening.
Frampton is currently touring, presenting his songs in a stripped-down, acoustic format. Catch up here with the artist and his upcoming tour dates.