Peter Frampton: Frampton Comes Alive! - Album Of The Week Club review

In mid-1975, Peter Frampton was a moderately successful solo artist. Within a year, Frampton Comes Alive! had smashed all known sales records...

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Peter Frampton - Frampton Comes Alive

1. Something's Happening
2. Doobie Wah
3. Show Me The Way
4. It's A Plain Shame
5. All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)
6. Wind Of Change
7. Baby, I Love Your Way
8. I Wanna Go To The Sun
9. Penny For Your Thoughts
10. (I'll Give) You Money
11. Shine On
12. Jumping Jack Flash
13. Lines On My Face
14. Do You Feel Like We Do

In mid-1975, ex-Herd/Humble pie guitarist Peter Frampton was a moderately successful solo artist. Within a year, Frampton Comes Alive! had smashed all known sales records, transforming him into one of rock music’s biggest stars.

Until that point, most live records were little more than thumbprints of an artist performing their most popular songs. The laidback …Comes Alive! went a stage further, as the band elongated their songs to capitalise upon their potential. 

Do You Feel Like We Do was stretched to twice its original length as Frampton serenaded the baying audience with his talk-box, an instrument also used to stunning effect on the enduring Show Me The Way.

The album took root in America’s Top 40 for almost two years. If subsequent name-checks in Malcolm In The Middle, Wayne’s World 2 and even Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out weren’t enough to Ronseal its influence upon popular culture, then the appearance of an animated Peter Frampton performing The Simpsons, performing Do You Feel Like We Do surely was. 

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Background

After two years with Humble Pie, Frampton left in 1971 and signed a solo deal with A&M. His solo career simmered on a low heat for years before coming to the boil, in a way that today’s impatient music industry would never have waited for.

Before any solo recording he played on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, before returning to the freeway, this time at the wheel of the newly named Frampton’s Camel. “It was a carbon copy of what Humble Pie did,” he says. “It was the oldschool thing of start in the clubs, fill the clubs. Go to the theatres, fill the theatres. Play with other people. Doesn’t matter what it is. If they can fill the building, open for them. So we did open for Black Sabbath and ELP. Everyone you would think Humble Pie shouldn’t open for, we opened for. And that counts for me, too. I’m opening for ZZ Top one day.”

By the middle of the decade, and hundreds of shows later, the legend of Frampton Comes Alive was born.

“The ‘Frampton’ album sold more than all my four previous records put together in the States – three hundred thousand copies. I said: ‘Why don’t we do what we did with Humble Pie, do a live record?’ So we set about doing a single live record, because even though we’d had some sort of success with ‘Frampton’ we felt let’s not push our luck.

“So we set about doing three concerts: two shows in one night at Marin County Civic Center [San Raphael, California], and then two nights later at Winterland in San Francisco – it was the seventeenth of June 1975, I can see the tape box! It was good because we owned the airwaves in San Francisco; after the Frampton record I could do no wrong there, and this was my first time headlining.

“Well, as soon as we walked on the stage there’s like 7,500 people out there and I was like: ‘Oh my God!’ And I think it gave us such a kick up the arse. We did this show that was one where you walk off and go: ‘Oh, wish we’d recorded that’. The only difference being that we actually did. So it was just very special.”

Other albums released in February 1976

  • Gimme Back My Bullets - Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • A Trick of the Tail - Genesis
  • Jesse Come Home - James Gang
  • Dreamboat Annie - Heart
  • Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) - Eagles
  • Reflections - Jerry Garcia
  • Starcastle - Starcastle
  • Sunburst Finish - Be-Bop Deluxe

What they said...

"The Herd/Humble Pie graduate packed one hell of a punch on-stage - where he was obviously the most comfortable - and, in fact, the live versions of Show Me The Way, Do You Feel Like I Do, Something's Happening, Shine On, and other album rock staples are much more inspired, confident, and hard-hitting than the studio versions." (AllMusic)

"As well as Frampton Comes Alive! has aged over the years, there’s also something bittersweet about it. In today’s Internet-driven age where YouTube has overtaken physical media as our go to fix for live music (in this article alone!), live records don’t carry the kind of power they once used to champion. Is that the worst thing in the world? No, but it does seem increasingly unlikely we’ll see another live record with the same kind of emotional pull as a Frampton Comes Alive! That just makes Frampton’s masterpiece all the more endearing." (Consequence Of Sound

"After a quick introduction and a great reception, Frampton and his band break into the pretty upbeat Somethin’ Happening, which opens things up quite nicely. But after that it all turns a bit soulless. I mean, who calls a song Doobie Wah? The music here also starts to show up the limitations of the backing band, who, while all being competent musicians were nothing startling, and did you ever hear of them doing anything individually after being in Frampton’s band?" (Mott The Dog)

What you said...

Ian Mears: This is a banger of a live album and something I still occasionally listen to and enjoy. I always felt that Frampton in the studio was never quite there, but he truly comes alive with this one! I saw him live a few years ago in a relatively small club in Bristol (UK) and he was brilliant, mixing up loads of old stuff, new stuff, even some Humble Pie. Will be a pity to see him stop touring, but his legacy will include a mighty fine record of his live performances.

Matthew Joseph Hughes: It's a good live album, but I don't understand why people don't talk about Wind Of Change, Frampton's Camel, Frampton etc. The albums that these songs came from are sublime.

Mick Hoolihan: I think overall the album has stood the test of time pretty well. I can't explain why it shifted the shedloads of copies it did, but I guess there really was a case for it being 'right time', with a couple of perfect 'happy' FM hits on the thing. He looked good and he sounded great, and whats more, he had the chops. 

I'd seen Peter in Humble Pie and it seemed strange he should dump that success just as it was paying off. I saw him on tour with his solo band actually opening for HP at some venues so if there was any rancour it didn't show. Frampton's Camel morphed into just Peter Frampton and after a couple of so-so albums, then came 'the monster'. 

I was really happy for him at the time 'cos he was, and is, a nice guy and a bloody great guitarist. Comes Alive is a staple on my portable devices and when at some point on random play Lines On My Face comes on I can enjoy six minutes or so of great playing and singing. Sure, some of the songs might have been overlong... hey it was the bloody seventies... it was supposed to be that way! Plus an acoustic interlude. 

With a raucous crowd wanting to be rocked you had to have balls to pull that off, but the greats could do that. Rory G always did and Warren Haynes still does it today. I think PF has had a great career starting with The Herd, then Humble Pie and his stellar solo period. And when that was winding down? Yeah... a stint with David Bowie. Not too shabby then. I mean, Bowie knew a bit about guitar players.

I own an original copy, I'm happy to say, and I treasure it still, a staple of any good collection of live rock music from the seventies. So glad I got to see him in period in his pomp. My 24-year-old daughter is mighty envious of me being around during such an iconic period for rock music,but she'll get all those memories when I go.

Philip Qvist: Is this the best ever live album? In my opinion no, but this is still an awesome album - and it easily fits in my top 10 list of best live albums.

Peter Frampton is a talented, if somewhat underrated, guitarist, singer and songwriter, and it is a pity that, for many people, his legacy will be linked to just this one album - although Frampton Comes Alive! is one helluva legacy.

So what is there to love about this album? Plenty.

For a start the songs; Show Me the Way, Baby I Love Your Way and Do You Feel Like We Do are the standard bearers, but there are plenty of great other songs such as Lines On My Face, I Wanna go to the Sun, Jumping Jack Flash and I'll Give You Money. No shortage of quality on that score.

Then there is his backing band; the late, great Bob Mayo on keyboards, Stan Sheldon and the late John Siomos - all great musicians and a very tight backing trio. 

And for better of for worse, we have the Talk Box. How many subsequent artists would have used the Talk Box if Peter Frampton hadn't used it on this album?

As I mentioned above, there is more to Peter Frampton than just one live album - and I urge all casual fans to explore some of his other albums - but if you are going to listen to just one of his records, then Frampton Comes Alive! is the one to go for.

Finally, I have just heard about Peter Frampton's latest ailments - which is sad news. All I can do is wish Peter all the best for the future, and thank him for all the memories.

Joe Cogan: The album that made him a star... until the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie fiasco stopped his career dead in its tracks, and took down the Bee Gees with him. This is a great album, though, featuring several classic performances (Show Me The Way, Baby I Love Your Way, and Do You Feel Like We Do) that are likely to remain classic rock radio staples as long as classic rock radio remains a thing.

Mike Knoop: If I was lying in a field of grass with a nice buzz on and actually listening to this live, I might feel more charitable towards this album. I know the "Big Three" but have never listened to the whole thing start to finish until now. More than forty years on, it’s hard to fathom why Frampton Comes Alive! became the sales juggernaut it did. As it is, it’s an inoffensive, if long, 78 minutes of soft rock. The only time Frampton or the band seem to work up a sweat are on (I’ll Give You) Money and Jumping Jack Flash – and the latter can't best Texas bluesman Johnny Winters’ live version.

So, and I ask this seriously, what’s the big deal? It wasn’t the first double live album by any stretch; the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers, and Deep Purple had successfully – if not as successfully – done it five years earlier. Frampton wasn’t the first musician to have a double live album turn his fortunes around. KISS won that lottery in ’75 with Alive and were already reaping the benefits by 1976. It doesn’t seem to be the critical darling that Hawkwind’s Space Ritual is. Bob Seger's Live Bullet was already in the pipeline before …Comes Alive! was deep into its two year residency on the charts, so it can't be seen as jumping coattails. It seems like Ted Nugent's Double Live Gonzo!, Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous, and Neil Young's Live Rust would have all been double albums without the success of Frampton Comes Alive!

Did it all just some down to timing? Was FM radio at its peak and this album was an irresistible fit? Were sales goosed by the fact that it was released in the US with a low low price of $7.98, only a buck more than a standard single LP? Again, I ask this seriously, what makes this the double live album to be measured against instead of something like Journey’s Captured or Scorpions’ World Wide Live? Again, not a slam at either. I enjoy both. Neither are held in the same hallowed esteem as the seemingly similar “of its time” Frampton Comes Alive! Why?

John Edgar: OK, grab a beer, or a smoke, or a cup of coffee, or the one-hitter or a Coke and a candy bar... because this won't be short.

I didn't buy this when it was new. At the time of this release I was more of an Aerosmith/Ted Nugent/Nazareth kind of guy. But even without buying it, there was no escape from it, because practically everyone I knew bought a copy. Add to that the fact that three tunes from the album were huge hit singles in The States. These things combined meant that almost every teenager in America was fed a steady diet of this thing for a long time. 

Guys liked it, and the girls liked it. It played at every party, every get-together, at the lake, on camping trips, on school trips... it was simply everywhere, especially in cars. At this time in the United States the majority of teenagers had cars, and we lived in our cars. Our cars were our home away from home. And in those cars were stereo systems. There is no doubt in my mind that far more copies of Frampton Comes Alive were sold on 8-track tapes, than on vinyl. I don't think I ever even saw a vinyl copy of this release until I bought one, out of nostalgia, some time in the mid 1980s. 

It was released on Janurary 6th, 1976, and if you didn't like it initially that didn't matter, because within six months it was ingrained deep into your teen-age psyche. 

One has to wonder about the mental state of the band as they moved through the early dates on the tour from which these recordings were culled. Supposedly, from what I've read, this was to be the end. Framton's solo records had not fared well, the record company was ready to dump him, and this live album was a cheap way for the record company to fulfil his record contract without having to spend money on expensive studio time. 

Maybe none of that is true, but those are the facts that have been related in many articles over the years. The record company did do a lot to try and entice the rock n roll public to spend those hard earned teen-age dollars on Frampton Comes Alive. The double album was released in the US with a special reduced list price of $7.98, only $1.00 more than the standard $6.98 of most single-disc albums in 1976. Bang for your buck was a big deal to a teenager. You have to wonder how many initial buyers took the bait just because it was a double album for such a cheap price. The album was pressed in "automatic sequence", with sides one and four on one record, followed by sides two and three on the other. This arrangement was intended to make it easier to listen through the whole album in sequence on automatic record changers.

Whether planned, or unplanned by the record company, magic did happen and what we are left with is a light-hearted rock'n'roll album that has become a symbol of 1970s' pop-culture. 

I want to mention one other aspect of this album. This album was Peter Framton's breakthrough moment, and this album started a trend of bands breaking through with live albums. After this we had Bob Seger And The Silver Bullet Band's Live Bullett, KISS's Alive, REO Speedwagon's Live You Get What You Play For, Cheap Trick's At Budokan and many others. Frampton Comes Alive! was lightning in a bottle, and it was a lot of fun. If you've never listened to it(and that's hard to imagine), give it a spin. Do it right and listen to it start to finish... preferably in your car.

John Davidson: It's one of those iconic albums from the mid 70s that just hasn't stood the test of time. I can understand ( for those who were there or of the time) why it might evoke a happy resonance, but it never clicked with me then and means less now.

It's not without musical merit, Frampton is a talented guitarist, who adds some excellent solos to the songs on the album, but overall there is something missing.

There's a few problems for me.

1. The songs are so laid back they are almost comatose. The tail end of the hippy movement was done long before 76, punk was in full growl, disco was taking over the dance floors and this sort of gentle, clean cut guitar rock was utterly passe.

2. There's no personality in the songs or the playing. It sounds like rock music for IBM salesmen letting their hair down at the weekend.

3. The arrangements are weak. Jumping Jack Flash being the prime example. It doesn't jump. It's barely alive. The soloing is excellent, but the song treatment is just awful - sounding like an off-cut from a UFO album.

4. I'm not a huge fan of singer/guitarists. There's something about that combo that makes the song structure too obvious. Strum strum sing, instrumental break, repeat. Clapton's the same.

Highlights: Money. It has a riff! Most of the songs have interesting guitar solos.

Lowlights: it's a bit one dimensional and dated, mid-paced music for middle class Americans. Worth checking out but ultimately not one that will stay on repeat.

Frampton may have come alive, but it didn't set my pulse racing. 5/10

Jon Schubert: I was nine when this album came out, but don't let the age fool you. I was a rock and roller at that age. I was into guitar rock and that year brought great albums that I had including stuff from Kiss, Alice Cooper, Queen, Nugent, Boston, Rush, and Aerosmith. While this album was and is iconic, it never tripped my trigger. 

While I absolutely love Do You Feel Like I Do with the talk box guitar and audience reaction, I gotta say that the rest of the album just falls flat. Yes there are some nice guitar solos but they are hidden amongst a lot of very forgettable and unremarkable songs that fail to energise. 

I have revisited this album many times over the years wanting to enjoy it and time and time again I find myself jumping though songs to avoid the boredom. The same holds true today. I continue to get jazzed up by so many albums released that year but when it comes to this one, I still consider it a snooze-fest. At best, given the masterful Do You Feel Like I Do and the iconic nature of this album, I will give it a 3/10

Shane Reho: This isn't considered one of the greatest live albums for no reason. While Frampton had been putting out good albums before this, in many cases, the versions here are superior. It works out well (for this album's sake) that he didn't have any big solo hits prior to this, as that gave him a chance to play a good share of cuts from each of his four solo albums (as well as Shine On from Humble Pie's great Rock On album). 

Even the overplaying of three songs from this album (I don't even have to name them) hasn't taken away from its greatness. This album is the classic it deserves to be. 10/10. Track picks: Doobie Wah, I Wanna Go to the Sun, Do You Feel Like We Do.

Carl Black: I have never given Peter Frampton a go, and I think I know why. I was convinced that I had never heard any Peter Frampton... Wrong. I know two or three from this album. These were the poorest on the album. Baby I Love Your Way, and the song with the voice box wah wah intro are throw away pop trash. But those aside, woooow, firstly, this gentleman can play, he can literally make the guitar talk to you. 

The riffs are massive. Money has an amazing riff. He's just as good unplugged. If he hasn't already, he should definitely do an unplugged album. Just him and the guitar. Which leads me nicely into the best song I've heard this from this club's album suggestions: A Penny For Your Thoughts. Blissful and mesmerising. I felt real emotion during that song and its only 90 seconds long. The cover of Jumping Jack Flash is everything a good cover should be, instantly recognisable, but completely different. And finishing with a completely unique song. Loved each of the 14 minutes, well worth a listen. Great choice.

Mark Burd: I tried so hard, but just didn’t understand the appeal. I mean, it sounds like a great, fun concert, but I’m not sure what made it so legendary. Of course it has some tracks on there that have remained classic rock radio staples and are deeply embedded in my rock and roll psyche, but the other songs seem, I don’t know the word I’m looking for - standard? I will say I’m glad I’ve now finally given Frampton Comes Alive! a full chance (all week long on constant repeat lol) but it didn’t strike me as a phenomenal, must-have album. Great, tight musicianship with well written songs, but not as catchy or memorable as many other classic albums of its era. I give Frampton Comes Alive! a 6/10.

Gary Claydon: Inoffensive soft rock behemoth. Don't get me wrong, it's extremely well done inoffensive soft rock, as you would expect from someone as talented as Frampton, but I'm another who has always been slightly bemused by just how successful this album was. Maybe it's a matter of context. If I'd been listening to this cruising around California I would probably have looked at it differently but in the industrial heartlands of South Yorkshire it didn't really resonate with me. 

I was still at school when this came out. I remember a couple of mates, who shared similar musical tastes to me, going on about the fantastic talkbox guitar. I think the first time I heard it was on some concert footage on The Old Grey Whistle Test. After due consideration I came to this conclusion - STOP FUCKING ABOUT WITH THAT FUCKING THING AND JUST PLAY THE FUCKING GUITAR! As you can see, my ability to critique was not very advanced at that time but I'm sure the sentiment is clear.

I like Peter Frampton. He's a decent vocalist and very good guitarist but I think ...Comes Alive! is vastly overrated. I also don't think it's aged particularly well. No, if I want to listen to Frampton then I'll take a slice of Humble Pie, thank you very much. Their punchy blues 'n' boogie is far ahead of anything Frampton did subsequently. And what better place to start than Performance - Rockin' The Filmore. Now THAT'S a live album.

Brian Carr: Although the 80s was the decade I grew up in, I feel like my love for 70s music has surpassed it. There was just so much variety and classic music that I return to that decade often and look for things that I haven’t yet discovered personally.

I always loved Show Me The Way and was aware of the cultural phenomenon that was Frampton Comes Alive!. At some point in the late 80s/early 90s I bought it on cassette, but didn’t end up listening to it very often. It was really long and the songs didn’t blow me away. That was roughly 30 years ago. So what do I think now that my musical tastes have greatly expanded?

Well, for the most part, I still think it’s very long and the songs don’t blow me away. The guitar playing is solid, the vocals are nice, the band is talented, but the songs in general are inconsistent. Lines On My Face is beautiful, Money rocks and there are some cool leads on I Wanna Go To The Sun, but songs like Nowhere’s Too Far For My Baby and Shine On fail to move the meter. 

The latter 70s seems to be the point where albums really started selling multi-millions of copies and the business machine really took over and turned up the hype. Some fine records came out, but they seemed much more mainstream and safe than what came before. Frampton Comes Alive! is a classic example.

Final Score: 7.41 ⁄10 (281 votes cast, with a total score of 2083)

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