Peter Frampton – reissues (review)

Peter Frampton – reissues (Omnivore Recordings) review

Just in time for Peter Frampton’s first-ever acoustic tour, Omnivore Recordings has just issued three of his albums that have long been out of print: Premonition (1985), When All the Pieces Fit (1989), and Now (2003).

Premonition was Frampton’s first album for Atlantic after his long stint on A&M Records, and it meant a new beginning, and a new direction. The entire album is heavily dominated by keyboards and the typical, “big” drum sound of the Eighties. Yet, underneath the sheen, there are still some great songs. Take, for instance, the buoyant “Lying,” which put Frampton back on the radio after a long absence, and “Hiding From a Heartache,” which resembled the kind of moody ballad that Foreigner perfected. Despite the dated synths, there’s still searing guitar solos, like on “You Know So Well.” Yet, Frampton doesn’t always sound comfortable in this new setting – like on the leadoff track, “Stop.” Here, his singing is great, but it’s drowned out by cheesy keyboards. Honestly, after hearing some of these tracks, I want to go put on a head band and leg warmers!

For When All the Pieces Fit, Frampton made a conscious effort to feature his guitar playing again. As a result, the entire album sounds more assured. “More Ways Than One,” co-written with Danny Wilde, is very catchy, yet still has that signature Frampton feel. “Holding on to You” is a great ballad, and could’ve been a hit, while “Back to the Start” returns him to more rock-oriented material. “Hard-Earned Love” oddly features the same percussion element that was used in “Little Red Corvette” by Prince. The album closes with the keyboard-ballad “This Time Around,” which does feature a nice sax solo from Sam Riney. The record is definitely more guitar-based, but still the production is still very glossy (as everything was back in 1989).

Now came in 2003. Nine years between albums was the longest stretch Frampton ever took (he released one album for Sony, titled Peter Frampton, in 1994, but it is not included in these reissues). In that time, he cut his long blonde locks off, and returned to playing music on his own terms. Immediately, his guitar playing is pushed to the forefront on the leadoff track “Verge of a Thing.” Gone are the keyboards and synth drums that dominated much of his output over the last 20 years. Now sounds more organic and it marks the first time in years where Frampton doesn’t sound like he’s chasing trends. “Love Stands Alone” is an eerie ballad. Other standouts include the beautiful, acoustic “Not Forgotten.” “Mia Rose” was written for his daughter, who has followed dad’s footsteps in the entertainment business.

Frampton sounds more assured that he has in years on tracks like “I Need Ground,” which features a catchy riff and killer guitar playing. Although the sentiment can be applauded, the lyrics in “I’m Back” leave something to be desired: “Like Schawarzenegger in Terminator / I’m back” Um? While his voice may have weathered a bit, he was still a monster on guitar. Nowhere is that more apparent than on his cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” where he just lets loose, tearing through an extended solo. “Greens” is an excellent instrumental, which would foretell his next solo outing: an entire record devoted to instrumentals, which would earn him a Grammy.

After his monumental success in the Seventies, Peter Frampton did not fall off the face of the earth. These three reissues prove that he continued to grow as an artist. If you’re a Frampton fan, it’s great to finally have this trio of albums back in print. —Tony Peters