"Take me away," Peter Frampton repeatedly implores on the title track of his 1972 solo debut Wind of Change. Indeed, change was in the air. He'd recently departed Humble Pie but stayed at A&M Records to launch his own career. Departing from the band's boogieing ways, Frampton's debut was filled with acoustic-based, melodic tunes plus a handful of muscular rock offerings to prove that the artist hadn't lost his way. Those shimmering acoustic guitars are among the elements that gain crispness and presence on Intervention Records' beautiful Frampton@50 series of three remastered editions, now available on hybrid stereo SACD (playable on all CD players but with added sonic benefit to those with SACD players) and coming on vinyl tomorrow, July 28. The appeal of these is wide to both audiophiles and Frampton newbies, and make exquisite introductions to his discography beyond the ubiquitous Frampton Comes Alive.
The mellow "Fig Tree Bay" with breezy marimba and wafting flute sets the tone for Wind of Change, one which continues through the title cut and the ode to "Lady Lieright." Producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Frampton - he plays guitars, organ, dulcimer, drums, harmonium, and percussion throughout the LP - showcases his flair for sturdy melodies and clean productions here, whether on the intimate "Oh, For Another Day" or the bigger, Spector-esque settings such as "The Lodger." Jim Price's brass and Del Newman's strings appear sparingly but effectively. The electric "All I Wanna Be (Is By Your Side)" practically pops out of the speakers with defined separation of Frampton's leads, Mike Kellie's drums, Rick Wills' bass, Mickey Jones' rhythm guitar, and Andrew Bown's mellotron and percussion. Even the funky, R&B-tinged all-star jam "Alright," on which Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, and Billy Preston guest, doesn't overshadow the subtler approach elsewhere on the album.
The lone track not written by Frampton, the tough, snarling cover of "Jumpin' Jack Flash," is naturally built around his lead guitar pyrotechnics, but the track recasts the familiar Stones song with percussion (congas, shakers), organ, and brass. "Wind of Change," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," the rocking "It's a Plain Shame," and "Lies on My Face" would all appear on Frampton Comes Alive, but the freshness of the studio versions is hard to deny. Wind of Change was eclipsed by the success of Humble Pie's Smokin', but remains a solid entry that set the template for Frampton's solo discography.
Frampton's Camel (1973) was named after the band the artist had just assembled; it's no surprise the album feels much more like a "band record" than its predecessor. While nominally in a harder rock vein than Wind of Change, there's still plenty of melody and stylistic variety on Camel. Frampton was joined by bassist Rick Wills, keyboardist Mick Gallagher, and drummer/percussionist John Siomos, and each contributed mightily to its sound. The LP was Frampton's first to be recorded in the United States, with much of the recording having taken place at Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios. As it failed to yield a hit single, it's remained an under-the-radar Frampton album. Intervention's sonically rich remaster makes a case for it as a lost gem.
The album's ambitions are evident on the AOR/funk of the opening "I Got My Eyes on You," with Gallagher on clavinet and Frampton on electric piano as well as his trademark lead guitar. His tones still dominate Camel, including both acoustic and electric on the languid "Lines on My Face," one of two songs which would appear on Frampton Comes Alive in extended workouts. The other, the anthemic, arena-ready "Do You Feel Like We Do," closes Camel. Co-written by the entire band, it became Frampton's perennial concert closer, too. Mick Gallagher also teamed with Frampton to pen "All Night Long," which takes its place in the artist's rock ballad canon here alongside "Don't Fade Away."
Indeed, Frampton's Camel plays like the first domino that falls down on the path to Comes Alive. "Which Way the Wind Blows" is just one of many tracks showcasing the tight group as they veer from soft and folk-oriented to full-blown rock. There's an element of soul and R&B, too, which comes to the fore on a prog-styled makeover of Stevie Wonder's "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)." Frampton's vocal is mannered but the band's musical attack is sharp and transformative on the ballad. "White Sugar" is as gritty as "Just the Time of Year" - its acoustic, stripped-down accompaniment played entirely by Frampton - is delicate.
1974's Somethin's Happening retained the services of Rick Wills and John Siomos and introduced three songs which would find greater fame on Frampton Comes Alive. Intervention has jumped over the album, continuing instead with 1975's direct precursor to that famous live set. The self-titled Frampton introduced two of the artist's most beloved songs and became his first solo album to reach the top half of the Billboard 200. It didn't just do that, though; it made No. 32 and earned a Gold sales certification. The multi-instrumentalist/producer was joined once again by John Siomos on drums as well as by old friend Andy Bown on bass for an album which occasionally evokes a jazz influence and the early Steely Dan sound.
The driving piano riff of "Day's Dawning" opened Frampton on a high note, but the second song truly augured for the future. "Show Me the Way" represented a leap in Frampton's songwriting, a masterful example of pop songcraft. The arrangement was as good or better than the song itself, with varied acoustic and electric textures and the prominent use of a talk box effect which would become synonymous with Frampton's music. The equally melodic "Baby, I Love Your Way" - like "Show Me the Way," a love song in the time-honored tradition - also debuted on Frampton. Though both compositions would gain greater fame on Comes Alive, there's a more modest charm to their original studio versions.
The mellow, midtempo likes of "One More Time" and "The Crying Clown" sit comfortably on Frampton alongside more rhythmic tunes such as "Fanfare," but all of its tracks have in common the artist's trademark guitar sound and crisp, polished, and clean productions, the details of which spring to life in Intervention's remaster. "Nowhere's Too Far (For My Baby)" and "I'll Give You Money" both interject a dose of pure rock adrenaline but the heart of the album resides in its softer moments. Energy would become the order of the day with the electrifying Frampton Comes Alive, but Frampton represents the artist at a quieter moment, on the cusp of that breakthrough.
All three SACDs have been remastered by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering. Intervention evaluated numerous tapes before determining that the best-sounding analog masters were those from the 1990s A&M Records safety program. The Wind of Change and Frampton safety copies were sourced from U.K. production masters while the Frampton's Camel safety was sourced from the original stereo master. Bellman has also mastered the LP editions which have been pressed at Gotta Groove Records on 180-gram vinyl. The SACDs are all housed in Super Jewel Boxes; the inserts replicate the original album front and back covers only. The tip-on LP jackets have been printed by Stoughton.
Intervention has long held a reputation for remarkable quality and detail in their audio presentation, and these Peter Frampton titles are no exception. Collectors are urged to seek out equally impressive versions of such seminal A&M releases as Quincy Jones' The Dude (featuring the hits "Just Once" and "One Hundred Ways," both sung by James Ingram), the self-titled album from singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading, and Doug Dillard and Gene Clark's The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard and Clark. Intervention has also revisited prior LP releases from Judee Sill (her self-titled LP and Heart Food) and Joe Jackson (Summer in the City) on audiophile-quality SACDs. Longtime fans will likely hear something new in these reissues while they also serve as fine introductions to the albums.
Intervention's Peter Frampton SACDs are available now, and the vinyl editions will ship tomorrow, July 28. You'll find the links to order below!