There have been, in the intervening years between Frampton Comes Alive! and this anniversary set, two other FCA!-related live albums from Peter Frampton. Each, really, only underscored the idea that if you were one of the 17 million who bought the 1976 release, then you had all the live Frampton you needed.
Put aside 1995’s Frampton Comes Alive II, and the deluxe 25th anniversary set from 2001. Heck, FCA! 35 Tour: An Evening with Peter Frampton — issued on Tuesday via Eagle Rock Entertainment — might just replace the original.
I know. Bob Mayo is spinning in his grave. But hear me out: Not only does this two-disc DVD set include a complete retelling of Frampton Comes Alive!, presented talkbox note for talkbox note, there is also a just-as-interesting career-retrospective collection on Disc 2 — providing keen new insights into Frampton’s underrated more recent releases like the Grammy-winning Fingerprints, his first-ever all-instrumental project.
[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: The riffs scattered about Peter Frampton's episodic triumph 'Do You Feel Like We Do' are considered standard fare today -- but that's only because they've been emulated so often.]
Long-time fans will likely come for the old stuff, but don’t skip Disc 2. You’d be missing some of the most vibrant music that Frampton has ever put out. That includes “Asleep at the Wheel,” “Restraint” and “Vaudeville Nanna and the Banjolele,” all part of his 2010 heavy-progressive, incredibly varied release Thank You Mr. Churchill. “Boot It Up,” “Float,” “Double Nickels” and Frampton’s surprisingly effective take on Chris Cornell’s “Black Hole Sun” were originally on 2006’s Fingerprints. He offers a new version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which Frampton initially tackled on 2003’s Now, as well as “Off the Hook,” from his 1994 self-titled release.
Frampton also goes deeper back for scorching runs through Ida Cox’s “Four Day Creep” and Ashford and Simpson’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” both originally found on Frampton’s final album with Humble Pie — 1971’s gold-selling Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore. Here, too, Frampton connects the past with the present, by featuring his son Julian on vocals.
Of course, the period immediately following Frampton’s exit from Humble Pie would include a series of criminally overlooked studio recordings, though Frampton’s focus on that period throughout the original FCA! belatedly turned many of these songs into new-found hits. If you remember his update of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” at all, it’s not from 1972’s Wind of Change, which featured a trio of Beatles-related figures in Ringo Starr, Billy Preston and Klaus Voorman. Same with “Lines on My Face,” originally found on the oddly named Frampton’s Camel, in 1973.
The bulk of the tracks on FCA!, however, were culled from 1974’s Somethin’s Happening (four, including set-opening title song and “Do You Feel Like We Do”) and 1975’s Frampton (four, including the similarly named hits “Show Me The Way” and “Baby, I Love Your Way.”) “Shine On,” from 1971’s Rock On, was the lone look back on FCA! to Frampton’s time as a member of Humble Pie. This show wasn’t conceived as a detailed retrospective, at the time, so much as another set filled with his newest songs.
They’ve since become something else entirely, of course. Yet FCA! 35 Tour doesn’t treat them like curios, too precious to be handled. Instead, fast forever some four decades, and Frampton can be found adding fresh ideas to even the most familiar grooves. His hair is shorter — hell, it’s white and almost gone — but he hasn’t lost a thing on the guitar.
That’s perhaps best heard through a grease-popping series of runs on the previously rather shop-worn “Do You Feel Like We Do,” even as the crowd occasionally drowns Frampton out shouting back the now-familiar lyrics. It’s impossible, of course, not to miss Mayo, who had such a memorable role at the keyboards on that track, but Rob Arthur’s jazzy turn ultimately ends up inspiring Frampton past his early pyrotechnics into these thrillingly riffy, very Wes Montgomery-ish asides. (Mayo, by the way, isn’t the only original member of Frampton’s FCA! cast to have died in the intervening years. Drummer John Siomos has also passed, and this new project is dedicated to both.)
Finally, yes, Frampton does the talkbox stuff — both on “Show Me the Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do” — but not before referencing both his memorable appearance in the “The Simpsons” on the latter, and then pretending to adjust his dentures. The crowd roars its approval, even as Frampton — once more — brilliantly marries the past and the present.
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