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Peter Frampton: Hummingbird In A Box

Virtuoso guitarist releases album inspired by the Cincinnati Ballet.

Peter Frampton’s Hummingbird In A Box – a 29-minute mini album – is his first release since 2010’s critically claimed Thank You Mr Churchill, and his 15th since going solo from Humble Pie in 1971...

Ah, Peter Frampton… Wasn’t he that curly haired-kid with the Gibson Les Paul?

He’s no kid anymore – he turned 64 in April – and most of his hair has gone. But he does still know his way around a Gibson, a Fender and – on this album in particular – a Martin acoustic.

Getting folky in his old age?

Not at all. If anything he’s pushing the boundaries of soft rock a little further…

How so?

Like his 2006’s Grammy-winning Best Pop Instrumental Album Fingerprints, Hummingbird In A Box was co-written and co-produced with guitarist Gordon Kennedy. It comprises seven songs composed as a suite for the Cincinnati Ballet first performed, billed as part of Frampton & Cincinnati Ballet Live, at New York’s Aronoff Center in April 2013, and revived in May 2104 at that city’s Joyce Theater.

Sounds a bit… arty-farty. Is it really classic rock material?

Definitely. This is no bizarro career detour, more like a gentle coda to the criminally overlooked Thank You Mr Churchill (on which five songs were co-written with Kennedy). Only one of the tunes on Hummingbird is an instrumental – the slightly jazzy, kinda funky The One In 901 – and the other six, though based on acoustic guitar hooks, utilise drums and bass – plus a mean electric solo from Frampers where appropriate.

So plenty for air guitarists to get their fingers into?

They’ll tie them in knots trying to follow the acoustic solo in the title-track – and the stunning electric work on the ballad Heart To My Chest. But Frampton is equally and deceptively brilliant on the subtler stuff – check out the deft and hypnotic figure that begins opener The Promenade’s Retreat: it’s virtuoso stuff. Wider recognition of Peter Frampton’s talents are long overdue. He really should be discussed in the same hushed tones as Eric Clapton and Neil Young – two giants the songs and vocals, as well as the playing here, will remind you of. (Fitting, then, that the main drummer is Young’s occasional sideman Chad Cromwell, and ’twas Kennedy who co-wrote Clapton’s 1997 Grammy winner Change The World.)

High praise! Safe to presume, then that Peter can still sing, too?

Oh yes! That aching high-register vocal that previously graced the likes of Lines On My Face, Baby I Love Your Way, Shine On and – yes – Show Me The Way on 1976’s multi-platinum Frampton Comes Live! double is still very much in evidence.

Hummingbird In A Box is out now.