Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Peter Frampton
We have uncovered an album by a guy who was in a lot of big sisters’ bedrooms during the 1970s – Peter Frampton. But our album today is Wind of Change from 1972, the first solo album by the British rocker after he left the group Humble Pie.
Humble Pie was, of course, the English band formed by Frampton and blues-rock belter Steve Marriott (previously from the Small Faces). By 1971 Frampton was ready for a split, despite the successes that year of the Humble Pie studio set Rock On and the live Rockin’ The Fillmore. At that point Humble Pie was being torn apart by the different directions its two main players seemed be taking: Marriott obviously preferred bloozy-boogie tunes, contrasting sharply with Frampton’s more melodic sensibilities.
So Frampton went to work on Winds of Change, encasing his songs in lush, mostly acoustic settings. The title song is a good signpost: it starts with an chiming acoustic figure that sounds a bit like the gentle underpinnings of Led Zeppelin III (“Tangerine”). “All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)” is a pop/rock ballad that recalls a bit of Steve Winwood’s Traffic, and “The Lodger” puts it all on the table with the lyrics “I’ll play the songs I should be singin’.”
But Frampton also liked to rock out: “It’s A Plain Shame” has an electric guitar edge and the album closer “Alright” showcases Frampton’s always-great guitar playing. (Guest stars Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman and Billy Preston play on “Alright”). Even the cover of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” manages to catch fire, despite the goofy horn section which drags the song down a bit. But here you have a British guitar slinger, a pretty decent singer and songwriter, who seems to know where he’s going despite leaving a commercially successful band.
Well, no – Wind of Change, and Frampton’s subsequent solo albums (including the fake-band thing Frampton’s Camel) failed to make a dent, especially in the United States. Frampton toured constantly to support his solo projects, and it paid off modestly in 1975 with the studio set Frampton. Then, boom: Frampton Comes Alive!, in 1976, was like the floodgates opening. The triple-titanium live album featured some tunes from Wind of Change, like the title song, “It’s A Plain Shame” and “All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)” and even a version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” To this day, you can’t go far on classic rock radio without hearing a song or two from Frampton Comes Alive!
Peter Frampton continues to play and tour; his latest album, Thank You Mr. Churchill, is one of this year’s highlights. Being a superstar in the 1970s was a good payoff for this solid rock talent, but if you dig around on his studio albums you can really find some gems.