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Peter Frampton's Personas Converge On Stage


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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Guitarist Peter Frampton's personas converge on stage

Susan Whitall / Detroit News Music Writer

If they made a movie of guitarist Peter Frampton's musical life, they'd have to have at least three actors play him.

There's the teenaged guitar prodigy who rocked hard in groups like the Herd and Humble Pie, the pop idol years after the album "Frampton Comes Alive" exploded in 1976, and Frampton today, playing the lyrical, jazz, and R&B-inflected style guitar fans expect.

The British-born Frampton lives in Cincinnati and is a lifelong Motown fan. He attended the funeral of Funk Brothers drummer Uriel Jones last winter.

Frampton performs Saturday at the Meadow Brook Music Festival in Rochester Hills.

You just recorded with the surviving Funk Brothers.

I did a session in Nashville with Bob (Babbitt), Spyder (Webb) and Eddie (Willis) and Rob Jones. My writing partner Gordon Kennedy worked just about every Motown title into a song, "The Invisible Man," about where would we be without the Funk Brothers. It's going to be on my next CD. We set up just like they would have done in the Snakepit in Detroit, all facing each other, playing live. It was amazing to see how creative they were. Eddie was playing on a Les Paul (guitar) just like mine, but if I had played it, it would have sounded different. When Eddie played it, it just had that sound.

Les Paul died last week at 94. As a famous player of Les Paul guitars yourself, how do you describe his impact?

He was an amazing guitar player. He could play it all, with great dexterity. That's enough, but then he designed the Les Paul guitar. If that wasn't enough, he messed around with a couple of tape recorders and came up with multi-track recording. He invented the echo chamber, he was the first person to do close-miking of things. He was still playing gigs up until a couple months ago. His passion was as big as his legacy.

You famously lost a stunning black Les Paul guitar in a plane crash years ago.

I had two guitars, a '54 (Fender) Strat that I played on 'Show Me the Way' and my Les Paul. Between the two, I did everything. When they went, I found it very difficult to find something I felt comfortable with. It wasn't until the '90s when I moved to Nashville that Gibson gave me a Les Paul that I liked the look of. Within a year, they said, 'We should have a Peter Frampton model. What do you think?' That was an honor.

You have several careers' worth of material to choose from, from Humble Pie to your last album, "Fingerprints."

We go through all the albums and pick out the songs that sound best live. If we do something from Humble Pie, it's usually 'I Don't Need No Doctor' as a tribute to (singer) Steve Marriott. We even do some stuff from the new CD. One of the new songs we're doing, I'm testing the guitar solo out live.

Are you doing the Motown cover versions you had hits with in the '70s?

Yes, we open with "Shotgun" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." Sometimes I feel a little strange, playing those in Detroit. But when Uriel (Jones) came back after the show when we played DTE last year, he said he was blown away. I said, "OK, that gives me a little bit more credibility."

swhitall@detnews.com (313) 222-2156

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Yeah, Frampton Comes Alive was the first record I ever owned! I was just turning to a teenager and still like his stuff a lot!

I can't say much for the new Disc, I checked it out at his site and there is a lot of Jazz stuff but, there is also a bunch of sound's I don't really like so I don't think I will buy it as of now.

I miss the old day's but he will always be one of my favorite's and, I did see a reunion of him and the old band on the tube a few years ago (2006?) that was great! That was the good thing about his old act there live show's sounded just like the record's they made IMHO.

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I saw him last summer and was blown away at how good he was on guitar. He's worth seeing live for sure.

Unfortunately his pop idol status in the 70s due to the popularity of Frampton Comes Alive! overshadowed his abilities as a guitarist. So much so that some folks are still unable to look beyond it. Frampton Comes Alive! was everywhere you turned back then and it doesn't help that Do You Feel Like We Do? is still a staple of Classic Rock radio. That album was so overexposed I had to give it a good 10 year break myself. I finally revisited it a few years back when the deluxe edition of Frampton Comes Alive! was issued. For those that haven't heard it, it's well worth the investment for the expanded liner notes, remastered sound and bonus tracks. Cameron Crowe penned the liner notes to some of my very favorite live albums back then: Frampton Comes Alive!, Skynyrd's One More For From the Road and The Song Remains the Same original motion picture soundtrack.

I miss the old day's but he will always be one of my favorite's and, I did see a reunion of him and the old band on the tube a few years ago (2006?) that was great! That was the good thing about his old act there live show's sounded just like the record's they made IMHO.

To the contrary, when I hear the studio tracks made famous by Frampton Comes Alive! they sound much tamer than the more well known live versions. I also don't care for artists that attempt to replicate their studio sound note-for-note on stage. I've never seen the point in that. You'd be better off just to stay home and listen to the record.

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Have to say I saw him support Deep Purple a few years back and he was really good, one of the few support acts that I actually enjoyed. I would like to see him again sometime if I can .

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