Frampton Comes Alive!

Peter Frampton

A & M Records, 1976

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Once upon a time in the land of music, just before the Sonic Plague that was disco and just after the birth of the Metal Dragon, came upon the land a young prince (no, not that Prince -- it's a metaphor, dammit!).

This young prince was lithe and blonde and long of hair, and spoke in the soft, lilting tones of an Englishman, setting the hearts of all the young maidens in the land to pittering and pattering... and yet he could also pound out a tasty, jamming eight-minute cover of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" if the mood struck him. Truly, for his one brief shining moment, this prince had it all.

Leading into Frampton Comes Alive!, nothing particularly suggested Peter Frampton was about to issue the biggest selling live album of all time (15 million units and counting... paying attention, Garth?). Sure, he'd produced several well-regarded singles with Brit-pop bands The Herd and Humble Pie, and shown off some very solid guitar work and melodic tunesmithing on three solo studio outings.

But despite the strength of his musical chops, he'd been passed off as something of a lightweight thanks to his forays into sentimental, acoustic love songs. What Frampton Comes Alive! let him do was show both sides of his musical personality, the crooner and the rocker, and do it in the charged setting of a high-energy live show. As Cameron Crowe says in the liner notes, this album is "a testimony to Peter Frampton in his natural habitat." His lack of sustained success in any other context makes these words ring truer today than ever.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Recorded largely in the cozy confines of San Francisco's legendary Winterland, Frampton Comes Alive! captures the energetic, yet unmistakably clean and terribly British pop-rock sound Frampton featured on songs like "Something's Happening" and "I Wanna Go to the Sun." Many songs dabble in blue-eyed funk, with the aptly-named "Doobie Wah" in particular sounding like it could have been borrowed from an early Doobie Brothers album. "(I'll Give You) Money" ventures even farther into the land of Cream, featuring a fat guitar sound over a simple blues beat and a couple of shimmering, authoritative solos from Frampton.

The keys to Frampton's kingdom clearly came, though, in the songs where his generally gentle approach to lyrics melded with a choice radio-friendly riff or two, as in the monster hits "Show Me the Way" and "Baby, I Love Your Way." Songs for the ages? Maybe not. But a great pop song is still a great pop song. You think those girls in the audience screaming out the chorus of "All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)" cared whether it was the most original approach they'd ever heard?

"Show Me The Way" also featured a relatively obscure rock instrument (Joe Walsh being the other main practitioner), the talkbox. Frampton's inventive use of it as a melody instrument to supplement his own voice provided a funky edge to an otherwise straightforward pop song. It was, in hindsight, a brilliant addition.

The talkbox gets a real workout on the other big song here, the fourteen-minute (and surprisingly coherent at that) musical tour de force "Do You Feel Like We Do." Frampton's made-for-concert refrains segue perfectly into Bob Mayo's entertaining keyboard jam, some sharp soloing from Frampton, and then a minutes-long ride through the outer reaches of talkbox territory, ending in a breakout full-guitar finish. It's a piece of work that manages to be elegant, funky and hard-rocking all at once, and it's quite possibly the best thing he's ever recorded.

There can be no question, however, that the album as a whole represents Frampton's musical high-water mark. It was, in fact, an achievement from which he never seemed to recover. Twenty years later Peter Frampton has become the answer to an obscure musical trivia question. But for a year or two in the mid-70s, this prince was the guy every girl wanted and every guy wanted to be... and this album is all the evidence you'll ever need that he didn't do it on looks alone.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


I agree with your review. This album started my love for 70s rock. I am a R&B fan, but maybe because of the funk influences on this album I really liked it.The first time I heard do you feel like I do. I was high on weed, perfect way to be initiated to 70s rock. I loved it then and do now. I saw Peter Frampton on a commercial recently, and didn't recognize him as the same guy on the album cover. I'm glad he has the bragging rights to the biggest selling live album of all time. This album deserves it.

© 1998 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A & M Records, and is used for informational purposes only.