Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Peter Frampton - Best of FCA! 35 Tour: More Alive Than Ever!

There are those that don't dig Peter Frampton - and they are wrong, it's that simple. He has been guitar player enough for both Steve Marriott and David Bowie. He's had an incredible solo career by any measure, being a great guitarist, a fine writer, excellent singer, and his skills are as sharp as they were the first time he came alive.

Best of FCA! 35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton is a fantastic record - easily one of the best live records of the year, and a fabulous treat for any guitar lover. Mind you, the songs are ace, Peter is singing really, really well, and the band is as sharp as a tack, but it's the guitar work that keeps grabbing me, and reminding me of what captured my attention in 1975 when I first heard my first Frampton album. His tone is superb, his chops are finely honed, and his remarkable sense of melody never fails to make me grin from ear to ear.

I've seen loads of shows by acts who haven't had big hits in years, some with memberships in tact, some made up of farm club level players, some who've never been off the road, and some who went missing at varying junctures, and some, like Peter Frampton, who have just always kept playing through it all. Ups and downs are apart of the game, and few experience it with more grace than this gregarious Englishman. He's made great records when few were listening, but for the last few seasons his stock has been steadily rising, and this record is the perfect capper for this chapter.

Frampton's band is fiercely on point, especially returning bassist extraordinaire Stanley Sheldon, whose fretless playing added so much texture to the original Frampton Comes Alive back in '76. Guitarist Adam Lester also shines, filling in tasty rhythm work and supplying some fiery leads next to the boss, as well. Keyboardist Rob Arthur nails the classics, supplying the proper tones, and notes, but it's on the second and third discs that he really earns his keep. His playing on the third disc, filled with later era Frampton solo material is exceptional. You'll also love the way he replicates the piano on the intro of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Drummer Dan Wojciechowski is impressive on everything - a great drummer can take a band and make it great, and Dan W does a magnificent job. He pushes, pulls, and never allows things to get too laid back.

The first disc is, of course, the doppelganger of the greatest selling live album of all time, Frampton Comes Alive, and while it doesn' sound quite as airy and light as the original, that's exactly what I like about it. I always thought it sounded a little light, and maybe a bit immature - Frampton has aged very well, and he wears this material like a tailored suit. His guitar playing may be better than ever, and his voice has an ease and grace that makes it easy to understand why his shows still sell out with such regularity.

Disc two features an awesome 18 minute wind up of the legendary Do You Feel Like We Do that is worth the price of admission - I use that phrase often, but I always mean it. Frampton is playing the famous three pickup 1954 Gibson Les Paul Custom that served him so well through the glory days, and to see him reunited with this axe after an absence of 32 years is life affirming. It sounds the same, and they were truly made for each other. Peter has always been a vastly underrated guitar player - his melodic grace is at the apex of great stylists. His melodies snake easily through his tunes, and when he goes for the throat, you remember that he was in Humble Pie. Also on disc two is Shine On, and two venerable Brit-rock classics, Jumping Jack Flash, and a breathtaking look at While My Guitar Gently Weeps. His take on the Stones standard is as worthy as Johnny Winter's fiery take from 1971. His soloing is is audacious and his tone huge.

The real treat of this set may be disc three, made up of largely later  solo career catalogue material, and it's all top flight - I'm not going to break it down by song, I'm going to put that onerous burden on you, the listener (the buyer). It's here where the band really stretches out, and shows that they are capable of much more than replication - they take ownership, and it's a great trip. There's some serious instrumentals, some killer rock and roll, and a couple of Humble Pie numbers that still smoke. I will say that Suite: Liberte is an eleven minute slice of blues fusion that will have you smiling, and hitting repeat a few times.

This one really took me by surprise - I knew it would be pleasant and enjoyable, but I wasn't planning on being blown away, but I am. This isn't a trip down memory lane, it's a great three disc live album by an artist who is as valid today as he was in 1976.

Thanks for blowing my mind, Peter.

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