Peter Frampton


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"I'm back" acknowledges Peter Frampton in the song of the same name from his first studio album in nine years. But even though Frampton claims he had complete control over every aspect of this release, the results show that maybe a good A&R person should have been hired for consultation. While this is undoubtedly a Frampton disc, complete with strummy ballads, a handful of harder-edged tunes, and lots of shimmering guitar solos, songs like the riff rocker "I'm Back" -- that sports puerile lyrics such as "I'm back, like Schwarzenegger in Terminator, I'm back like a boomerang" -- could use some tinkering. Otherwise, little has changed over the decades since Frampton's superstar days. He can still write a pretty Beatles-esque ballad like this disc's charming "Above it All." However, the sap factor is far too high on the tune to his daughter "Mia Rose," a track that should have stayed as a personal lullaby and not something he needs to subject the rest of us to. Keyboardist Bob Mayo -- from the Frampton Comes Alive band -- has stuck in there; but the guitarist co-writes the majority of these cuts with Nashville pro Gordon Kennedy, who also adds backing vocals. There's nothing wrong with shuffling pop-rockers like "Flying Without Wings," or the opening "Verge of a Thing," except Frampton tries too hard to rock out, and barely manages to navigate his way through increasingly clumsy lyrics. Far better are the numerous ballads and the Jeff Beck/Blow By Blow-styled jazz-rock instrumental "Greens," which showcases Frampton's beautifully incisive quicksilver guitar. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," the album's only cover, is a by-the-numbers but heartfelt tribute to George Harrison, highlighted by a powerful solo. Now is a middling return to form, with peaks, valleys and enough sparks to show that Peter Frampton remains a vibrant artist who might have some better albums in him.

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