Frampton Comes Alive!
Released: January 1976
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 97
Certified 6x Platinum: 11/14/84
Why would Peter Frampton, so close to stardom after a decade, release a live, double-record set when he hasn't really established a large audience? He says, "I just wanted to do an album that summed up the first four solo records in the most effective way possible." This album also gives him a dynamic, highly charged context for both his dramatically phrased vocals and a new, rougher guitar style. And the move may not be as ill-conceived as it seems -- his manager, Dee Anthony, used live albums to put J. Geils and Humble Pie over the top.
This album is a primer for those who've overlooked him in the past. In addition to shattering guitar leads on tracks like "Lines on My Face," "Show Me the Way," and "Do You Feel like We Do," the vocals are forceful, the harmonies balanced and the ensemble playing well-rehearsed.
Although Frampton has been stereotyped a hard rocker, the introspective side two is largely acoustic. This album also reveals other facets of Frampton's musicianship that his studio efforts have obscured. Second guitarist Bob Mayo provides a rich, dense middle texture, and working with him, Frampton demonstrates his excellence as a rhythm guitarist, a rare thing among lead players. Echo has always been a key factor in his sound and Frampton here manages to combine Leslie speakers, a compressor and augmented echo onstage without losing any presence. But what really makes his lead playing distinctive is his intuitive melodic sense, the economy of his solos and his elegant, quasi-jazz phrasing.
- Jean-Charles Costa, Rolling Stone, 3-11-76.
Twenty-five-year-old guitarist Peter Frampton made a wise decision when he quit the stale and noisy Humble Pie. He has since become successful, writing and singing I-love-you-baby songs that individually amount to molehills but collectively are... well, nota mountain; more like a steep slope covered by sweet-weed tall enough to hide a few couples at play.
This live album, made up of excerpts from a recent concert tour, contains the screams, whistlings, roars, and cannibal chants of audiences who appear to be more whacked out on their own enthusiasm than they are on Frampton's music.
But Frampton is notable and perhaps special. He is remarkably restrained in that he plays only what he has to play, according to the needs of each tune, and does so in a fresh and pleasing manner. He has charm, a virtue so rare in rock that it is at first almost a little embarrassing; never mind -- it soon becomes most welcome.
- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 6/76.
Double live set from Frampton should be the one to finally establish the British singer/guitarist as a superstar-level performer. To begin, the set is a perfect representation of the excitement Frampton and his three backup musicians capture on stage. The material is as representative of his stage act as could be wished for, and the variety here offers a perfect balance between rockers and lower-keyed tunes. Cuts from the Humble Pie days, oldies from the Stones and original material all offer Frampton, bassist Stanley Sheldon, guitarist Bob Mayo and drummer John Siomos a chance to display some of the most skilled instrumental prowess in pop. Particularly impressive is Frampton's guitar work, which avoids the flash sound of too many "super guitarists." Vocals far better than average as well -- and the spontaneity caught on record is rare. Better than any previous studio LPs, all quality material and perhaps the package that will make Frampton a superstar. Best cuts: "Show Me The Way," "Wind Of Change," "Baby, I Love Your Way," "(I'll Give You) Money," "Shine On," "Jumping Jack Flash," "Do You Feel Like We Do."
- Billboard, 1976.
Fueled by Frampton's voice-box guitar technique and accessible radio-friendly pop/rock songs like "Show Me the Way," and "Baby I Love Your Way," the double album Frampton Comes Alive became the biggest-selling live album in rock history, topping the ten million mark. It's a sensible place to start, since Frampton seems to be in his element here, and the song selection includes the cream of his first four albums. * * * *
- Donna DiChario, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Go ahead; everybody else owns Frampton Comes Alive and you should, too. Its energetic performances are still infectious, even if the "spontaneous" crowd outbursts do get tired. * * * 1/2
- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
"Light yer Bics!" cheer crowds who consider this the grandaddy of live albums (whaa, whaa -- remember when guitars could talk?). "Do you feel like we do? Then show me the way to the bong," quip the nostalgists convinced it captured a moment. Bashers boo it's dated, self-indulgent tripe, adding it's one of the great mysteries how this double wonder could have sold over six-million copies in the U.S. alone. * * * *
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
Peter Frampton was so determined to crack the US that by the mid-1970s he had thrown himself headlong into an exhausting tour schedule of around 200 dates a year.
On the back of four moderately-successful solo outings Frampton viewed this live set, capturing him at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, as a useful exercise in summarizing his solo career. What it did instead was propel him to superstardom, albeit momentarily.
The album's sound was made highly distinctive by a voicebox guitar technique in which Frampton made his guitar "speak" by filtering it through a microphone. It was showcased most memorably on the US Top 10 smash "Show Me The Way."
This album shattered the sales record of Carole King's Tapestry and hit Number One in the US in April 1976. Frampton's record stood until 1978 when the Bee Gees (and others) broke it with the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever. In the UK it managed a Number Six placing.
As of 2004, Frampton Comes Alive was the #32 best-selling album of the 70s.
- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.
Peter Frampton's live double epitomizes post-Vietnam, escapist sunshine rock. With an estimated 16 million sales, it is second only to Bruce Springsteen's 1985 blockbuster as history's most successful live set.
Recorded between March and November 1975 -- principally at Frampton's first headlining gig, at Winterland in San Francisco -- the album was summed up by Cameron Crowe in Rolling Stone as "much more than a souvenir. It is a testimony to Peter Frampton in his natural habitat." Following a template established by Kiss with their Alive!, the album transformed a minor leaguer into a major player. The former member of British rockers The Heard and Humble Pie had made three, moderately successful albums; now he enjoyed ten weeks atop the Billboard chart.
The 14-song selection provides a fine cross-section of his albums and Humble Pie days. Jaunty "Somethin's Happenin'" and insistent "Show My The Way" lay out his stall of echo-rich vocals, jazzy electric and sweet acoustic guitars, melodious harmonies and -- "Ooh baby" -- lyrics. The band rock out on the likes of "I Wanna Go To The Sun," but it is the hysteria elicited by the hit anthem "Baby, I Love Your Way" and talkbox-laden "Do You Feel Like We Do" that proves the life-affirming nature of the Frampton sound. The album prompted an invitation to the White House from President Gerald Ford. We are not worthy!
- Tim Jones, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.
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