CD Review: Peter Frampton "Now"

Humble student
Joined: 06/12/05
Posts: 1,579
Humble student
Joined: 06/12/05
Posts: 1,579
12/27/2007 2:04 am
CD Review
Peter Frampton – "NOW"
By Hunter60

"You never give up because you just never know what will happen".
Peter Frampton

For those of us who happened to be around in 1976, it was almost impossible to go anywhere and not hear one of the hits from "Frampton Comes Alive" blaring from somewhere. At that time, the fresh faced kid with a bubble blonde perm and talk box hooked into his guitar was a bona fide superstar. It was relatively short lived. Within the next few years, he toured relentlessly and maintained a solid fan base but follow up commercial success eluded him to the point that by the mid-eighties he had moved from the rock and roll pinnacle to that of trivia question answer.

Despite several bad moments from a nasty auto accident in which he had broken several bones and suffered some nerve damage, the break up of a long term relationship to a quick slide into alcohol and substance abuse and back, Frampton has fought his way back to his most current and Grammy nominated CD "Fingertips".

"Now" was the disc released in 2003, his first studio release after a nine year hiatus from studio recording. This was a bargain bin dive for me. I thought it might be interesting to see what he was doing at the later stages of his career.

I was blown away by what I heard.

Frampton has always had an interesting way of writing hooks, seeming to weave a rock edge and pop sensibility to his music and "NOW" reveals a maturity to his playing if not to his lyric writing abilities. The disc opens with a smoking rocker "The Verge of a Thing", a full on blitz with a gut punch of a groove. He follows that up with "Flying Without Wings" which is slightly more popish, having the feel that this may have been left off of one of his attempts to stay in the limelight post "Comes Alive". "Love Stands Alone" is an edgy ballad, jumping smoothly back and forth between deft acoustic ease and foot stomping electric accompaniment. His vocals are clear and strong, the fifty-seven year old rocker still able to belt out a tune with enough feeling to drag you along for the ride.

"Not Forgotten", which he told to Rolling Stone in an interview in 2003, was written in memory of the victims of 9/11, is almost syrupy and too sweet for a rock crowd but when heard in the context of what it was written for, it works. You can hear the precursor of "Fingertips" in this song alone. Again, the maturity in his playing shows up in this disc in the most unexpected places.

"Hour Of Need" has the sense of a nod to the grunge movement. Heavy chords and repetition with a thundering distortion underneath practically channels the ghost of Cobain and yet there is smoothness in the track that grinds the edge off of the broken glass that was the Seattle sound of the early to mid-nineties. Add to that, the signature Frampton solo work and you have a song that should have gotten some airtime.

"Mia Rose" is clearly the weakest of the eleven tracks on the disc. It is a dopey, shlockey ballad that reeks of filler. It's as if he had taken the biscuits out of the oven a few minutes too early and the results were doughy and difficult to digest. He had the germ of an idea that just didn't quite come together.

But Frampton more than makes up for "Mia Rose" with "I'm Back" which is almost prophetic. "I'm Back" is the Frampton that I remember all grown up. It is what I have would have expected from a former guitar great who has gone from fresh faced teen idol, to rock and roll superstar to has-been and is now easing into the role of one of rocks elder statesmen. It has a strong hook, a steady stomping rhythm and a razor sharp lead line. There is only one problem and it is a problem that has plagued Frampton throughout his career. The lyrics are weak, almost embarrassingly so.

With its snippets of sitar, "I Need Ground" seems to set the stage for what is one the finest examples of guitar playing that I have heard in 2007. In a tribute to a lost friend and fellow musician George Harrison, Frampton does "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" in a beautiful and soulful rendition, adding multiple scorching solos, that gives the feel that you are eavesdropping on a private moment when he is honoring his friend. This disc is worth owning for this song alone.

He winds the disc up with "Greens" and "Above It All". "Greens" is a bluesy, sad, drifting piece, which is pure exhalation after "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", and it fits perfectly. Frampton shows off his ability to work his almost jazz / blues like phrasing in this piece more so than most of his previous work. "Above It All" is nice, easy aural dénouement of sorts to the disc.

In the end, it is a very solid effort from a man who has been through a variety of phases in his career and it is a signpost to things to come.
[FONT=Tahoma]"All I can do is be me ... whoever that is". Bob Dylan [/FONT]
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