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Peter Frampton

Already a veteran of the rock-pop scene by way of HUMBLE PIE, via The HERD, and turning 21 years of age, South Londoner PETER FRAMPTON (born 22 April 1950, Bromley) instigated a solo career. Injecting some needed youth, inspiration and several songs when he took over lead vocals/guitar for The HERD, this flower-power era combo had three Top 20 hits (`From The Underworld’, `Paradise Lost’ and `I Don’t Want Our Loving To Die’), before they couldn’t keep his teen-mag “Face of ‘68” talents no longer.
The supergroup of HUMBLE PIE (featuring ex-SMALL FACES icon Steve Marriott) had lured Peter into their hard-rock lair early in ‘69, and this suited the teenager until November ’71; they had one solitary UK hit, `Natural Born Bugie’, and five LPs from as `As Safe As Yesterday Is’ to the live double-set, `Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore’. Who could’ve predicted that by 25, FRAMPTON had “Come Alive!”, as suggested by his multi-platinum-selling live double.
Peter maintained his links with A&M Records for his debut album, WIND OF CHANGE (1972) {*7}, a record duly supported by a US tour with headliners the J. GEILS BAND. Augmented by guest stars RINGO STARR, BILLY PRESTON, plus session men Mike Kellie (ex-SPOOKY TOOTH) on drums, Frank Carillo (of DOC HOLIDAY) on rhythm guitar, Rick Wills (ex-COCHISE) on bass, Andy Bown (ex-HERD) on keyboards, and Klaus Voorman (ex-MANFRED MANN) also on keyboards, the soaring singer and multi-instrumentalist was at his happiest performing spirited ballads. Turning his back on HUMBLE PIE’s hard-rock boogie (all but a re-tread of The ROLLING STONES’ `Jumping Jack Flash’), the Chris Kimsey co-produced set was melodious and lush, FRAMPTON showing the way on the title track, `It’s A Plain Shame’ and `All I Wanna Be (Is By Your Side)’.
Peter subsequently formed a fresh band, and named it accordingly, FRAMPTON’S CAMEL (1973) {*7}, retaining only Wills from his previous effort and roping in keyboardist Mick Gallagher (ex-BELL & ARC) and Chicago-born drummer/percussionist John Siomos (ex-MITCH RYDER & THE DETROIT WHEELS). Stalling outside the US Top 100, the record failed once again to make any substantial commercial impact in Britain, but that didn’t reflect that there were a couple of mighty FM-friendly songs on board: the finale piece and live staple `Do You Feel Like We Do’, `All Night Long’, `Which Way The Wind Blows’, the suggestive `White Sugar’ and a cover of STEVIE WONDER’s `I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)’.
It was decided to drop the “Camel” part of the name to avoid confusion with the British band of same name. A year on and maintaining faith in his backing band (bar Gallagher), Peter garnered yet another moderate seller in third set, SOMETHIN’S HAPPENING (1974) {*6}, although the production felt decidedly murky. The promising second side featured `Baby (Somethin’s Happening)’, `Waterfall’ and `Sail Away’; the latter two with pianist Nicky Hopkins, which pulled the set up from the brink of disaster.
Swapping ROXY MUSIC-bound Wills for a reunification with BOWN (on bass), the delightful FRAMPTON (1975) {*7} popped into the US Top 40. Spreading his love over 11 cuts, Peter excelled on three numbers at least: `Show Me The Way’, `Baby, I Love Your Way’ and `(I’ll Give You) Money’.
Kicking off 1976 with a classic live double LP, FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE! {*9} – recorded the previous summer primarily at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco and Long Island Arena in Commack, NY – steadily crawled its way to the top of the US charts (UK Top 10), bolstered by a triumvirate of transatlantic hits: `Show Me The Way’, `Baby, I Love Your Way’ and `Do You Feel Like We Do’ (edited down from 14 minutes!); all but the middle track saw the singer/guitarist trademarking his new “talk-box” guitar sound; note too that his backing band consisted of drummer Siomos, keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Bob Mayo and bassist Stanley Sheldon.
A hard act to follow in many ways, 1977’s I’M IN YOU {*7} was a star-studded affair, listing LITTLE FEAT’s Richard Hayward, plus MICK JAGGER, RINGO STARR and STEVIE WONDER (PF charted with SW’s `Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours’) to create a funky, laid-back feel. Registering one place off the top spot in the States, but only Top 20 in Britain, its tear-jerking title track also reached No.2 across the big pond where he’d set up home part of the time. There was no doubting FRAMPTON’s soft-rock voice was the key to his success, so in `Tried To Love’ and `St. Thomas (Don’t You Know How I Feel)’ it all came together, which couldn’t be said for tackling Holland-Dozier-Holland’s `(I’m A) Road Runner’ – sweet soul music it was not.
1978 turned out to be FRAMPTON’s anus horribilis, appearing as he did as Billy Shears in the monstrous movie musical of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, although worse still, was his near-fatal automobile crash in the Bahamas which left his recuperating with concussion and several broken bones. Heavily medicated, Peter duly promoted WHERE I SHOULD BE (1979) {*4}, which proved to be – like his accompanying hit `I Can’t Stand It No More’ – his last major Top 20 success. Back-to-back readings of ISAAC HAYES & David Porter’s `May I Baby’ and `You Don’t Know Like I Know’, were ill-suited to the singer’s curly locks and youthful face, which his record company displayed once again on the sleeve shot.
Turning 30 and with around a dozen sets to his name (if one counted his early teething days), BREAKING ALL THE RULES (1981) {*5} squeezed a place inside the US Top 50, but the “golden boy of mainstream AOR” was hardly the force he was half a decade ago. Together with stalwart bassist John Regan, keys/synths man Arthur Stead and TOTO’s Steve Lukather (guitar) and Jeff Porcaro (drums), his failure to chart with the title track (lyrics by PROCOL HARUM’s Keith Reid) and `Wasting The Night Away’, only served notice that his time had long since passed; once again, he tried to fill gaps by covers, this time through The EASYBEATS’ `Friday On My Mind’ and the ALESSI BROTHERS’ `Rise Up’.
The Englishman was in need of another hit album, but in the rather forced commercial issue of THE ART OF CONTROL (1982) {*3}, there was certainly no control, and the art factor was absent in tracks such as the appropriately-titled `Sleepwalk’, `Don’t Think About Me’ and `Save Me’. It mattered not that it was co-produced by Eddie Kramer and augmented by Regan (bass), Mark Goldenberg (rhythm guitar/keyboards) and Harry Stinson (drums), but one thing was clear, it was time for a major change.
Virgin Atlantic came on board for his next PREMONITION (1986) {*4}, a record that hosted a Top 100 single, `Lying’, but not much else in easy pickings. FRAMPTON had kept up a fairly rigorous recording schedule through the 80s, and by the time of 1989’s WHEN ALL THE PIECES FIT {*3}, his time was taken up by BOWIE, who installed him as his guitarist in ’87; the following year Peter sessioned for KARLA BONOFF and witnessed Florida dance troupe WILL TO POWER scale the US charts with a medley/segue of his `Baby, I Love Your Way’ and LYNYRD SKYNYRD’s `Freebird’.
1994’s eponymous PETER FRAMPTON {*4} set was a comeback worth its entry fee for featuring a track penned with the sadly-missed MARRIOTT, `Out Of The Blue’, but as a whole it seemed out of its depth in its STEELY DAN-esque motifs via `Can’t Take That Away’ (penned with Jonathan Cain), and others scribed alongside Kevin Savigar. Inevitable as it seemed – but not quite so FM-friendly – the no-static-at-all (including his receding hairline) element, FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE II (1995) {*5} was a sequel that was hyped enough to reach #121.
Peter began the new millennium with a concert set, LIVE IN DETROIT (2000) {*4}; original keyboard man Bob Mayo still on board and even co-writing a tune or two. A belated studio album, NOW (2003) {*4}, showed the aging axe-meister to be ticking along nicely if not exactly at the top of his game. In this he covered GEORGE HARRISON’s `While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ in tribute to the late Beatle.
Ramping up the amps for 2006’s FINGERPRINTS {*7}, the record proved that his axe-playing days were far from over. Comprising 14 Grammy-winning instrumental numbers that could be deemed as the missing link between DJANGO REINHARDT, JOE SATRIANI and the late GARY MOORE, Peter performed some funky blues and cool jazz, while friends HANK MARVIN, COURTNEY PINE, BILL WYMAN and CHARLIE WATTS helped out when called upon. Working with PEARL JAM’s Mike McCready and Matt Cameron for `Blowin’ Smoke’, the grunge connection was underlined through his cover of SOUNDGARDEN’s `Black Hole Sun’. Co-producer/co-writer Gordon Kennedy must take some of the praise for making FRAMPTON come alive, as he was once again bubbling under the Top 100.
Much of the same inspiration and ambition would project his next recording, the WWII concept album THANK YOU MR. CHURCHILL (2010) {*6}. About to support the mighty YES on a North American tour, the heavy-prog riffs and motifs had found a new master; the irrepressible FRAMPTON finding his voice again on `I’m Due A You’, `Restraint’, the title track and the FUNK BROTHERS-enhanced soul-stirrer `Invisible Man’.
On the back of another star-studded, but Canadian-only FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE! – 35 TOUR (2012) {*6} the new Hall of Fame inductee was at his very best again on the 7-track, vinyl-only mini-set HUMMINGBIRD IN A BOX: Songs For A Ballet (2014) {*6}. Turning the corner a little late in life, Peter was fast-becoming an artist to be reckoned with once more. Half a century in the business, PF’s soothing voice has simpatico with his delicate guitar brush strokes, best served up on `The Promenade’s Retreat’, `Friendly Fire’ and a tribute to another British institute, `Norman Wisdom’.
Another testament to his newly-found re-birth as unplugged strummer second-to-none, ACOUSTIC CLASSICS (2016) {*7} had singer-songwriter FRAMPTON stripping-down timeless tunes in his own cosy fireside setting. Alongside re-treads of signature songs, `Show Me The Way’, `Baby, I Love Your Way’ and `I’m In You’, Peter explored heavenly avenues by way of the beautiful opening salvos, `Fig Tree Bay’ and `Wind Of Change’.
Subsequently founding the PETER FRAMPTON BAND; i.e. Adam Lester (guitar, vocals), Rob Arthur (keyboards, vocals) and Dan Wojciechowski (drums), the former HUMBLE PIE icon decided it was time to claw back some roots. 2019’s ALL BLUES {*6} was nigh-on just what it said on the tin – a tight 10 tracks that covered the classics from WILLIE DIXON’s `I Just Want To Make Love To You’ (highlighting Kim Wilson from The FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS) and `You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover’, to B.B. KING’s `The Thrill Is Gone’(starring SONNY LANDRETH) and St. Louis Jimmy Oden’s `Going Down Slow’ (with STEVE MORSE). The exception to rule, but with no less clout or savvy, was the nocturnal title track, a revision of MILES DAVIS “Birth Of The Cool” magnum opus, featuring crossover jazz guitarist LARRY CARLTON now at the helm.
© MC Strong 1994-2004/GRD // rev-up MCS Jul2015-Jun2019

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