This was not intended to be a bad review, but come on. After four solo albums that went nowhere, Peter Frampton suddenly brings out a live album and everybody rushes to the shops?
Now released as a two disc CD set, the concert was originally recorded in San Francisco and, according to legend, is pretty much what the band played that night with no jiggery pokery going on in the studio to tidy it up afterwards, as was the habit back in the day. So from that point of view, so far so good.
You cannot argue with the sales figures either after the album was released in January of 1976. It only took until mid-April to reach the top of the American Billboard charts, where it stayed in the number one slot for ten weeks, and remained in the top one hundred for ninety-seven weeks.
Three singles were released along the way, all of which were smash hits and you could not move in America without one of the songs from this album blasting out at you on the radio. In all, the album sold eight million copies in the States and eleven million worldwide.
But then we get to the nuts and bolts. The tracks on the album include the terribly annoying “Show Me The Way”, with its use of a talk box that enabled Frampton to ‘magically’ make his guitar talk. But this was nothing new as many people had been using talk boxes for years. In fact Jeff Beck had used one to devastating effect on his album “Blow By Blow” (1975) and by the time “Frampton Comes Alive” came out Beck had all but given up using his.
After a quick introduction and a great reception, Frampton and his band break into the pretty upbeat “Somethin’ Happening”, which opens things up quite nicely. But after that it all turns a bit soulless. I mean, who calls a song “Doobie Wah”? The music here also starts to show up the limitations of the backing band, who, while all being competent musicians were nothing startling, and did you ever hear of them doing anything individually after being in Frampton’s band?
To a man they had to rely to a large degree on Frampton for the razzle-dazzle. And this again tends to disappoint as he very rarely gets his guitar playing to the fore – something you would expect with his reputation as a renowned axe slinger. Frampton was also not really known as a great singer either, pleasant maybe but eleven million albums?
Things do drag on a bit on the first CD, reaching a point of boredom on “Just The Time of Year” when Frampton is alone on stage with an acoustic guitar and sings about “suddenly yawning” and “wake me up I’m sleeping.” From here on though it does get a lot better, with the band starting to get in a bit of a groove, although never with the crunch or power of Frampton’s previous band Humble Pie, who had also recorded a successful double live album, “Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore.”
By the time we get to the second CD you can almost see why the album was so popular, with a fine almost fourteen minute version of “Do You Feel Like We Do”, including some good audience participation and a roaring Frampton guitar solo (alas the talk box does make another appearance.)
Just when it feels like Frampton and band are coming into the home straight they then make a complete hash of the last fence as they try and pile into “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. It sounds like a hotel lounge act has been asked to play some Rolling Stones and without rehearsal gives it a bash. Peter Frampton is no ‘Keef’ and certainly no Mick either.
A couple of bonus tracks have been tacked onto the new updated version of the album but to be honest, they should have been left off.
Peter Frampton – guitar, vocals and talk box
Bob Mayo – rhythm guitar and keyboards
Stanley Sheldon – bass guitar
John Siomos – drums
Lines on My Face
Show Me the way
It’s a Plain Shame
Wind Of Change
Just The Time of Year
Penny For Your Thoughts
Baby, I Love Your Way
I Wanna Go To The Sun
Nowhere’s To Far For My Baby
(I’ll Give You) Money
Do You feel Like We Do
White Sugar (bonus track)
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
Day’s Dawning (bonus track)