Who is the most underrated musician of all time? It’s a difficult question to consider. There are countless artists who have been overshadowed by sub-par pop acts, but if you ask me, my immediate response will undeniably be Peter Kenneth Frampton.
Frampton was well known for his stints with Humble Pie and The Herd, and for his work with Ringo Starr, Pearl Jam and other musical groups. However, his solo career is equally as notable. One of my favorite albums in that category is “Frampton,” recorded in 1975 just before his international breakout.
I first discovered this album when I picked it up in a grab box at a winter sale from Randy’s Records (when I was 16) — and speaking of, if you are into vinyl collecting, signing up for Randy’s emails is totally worth the killer deals you’ll get.
The record opens with the catchy jazz-like piano riffs of “Day’s Dawning.” This track was a great choice to start with because it showcases Frampton’s pure voice. He sounds a lot like Glenn Frey of the Eagles meets Freddy Mercury and it is perfect for that 70s style. The song starts quiet but continues building to a final crest of guitar solo magic, making you want to keep listening to the end of the album. However, what truly keeps listeners on board is the comical ending to this song: a bird’s charming tweeting suddenly cut off by a boisterous “Shut up!” from Frampton. There is so much personality injected into Peter Frampton’s work and that tidbit is a prime example of his fun-loving attitude.
The next track, “Show Me the Way” travels down a much more psychedelic road. This song is one I shamelessly sing in the car on the freeway, and the instrumentals highlight the idea of being lost in a daydream, as the lyrics describe.
Next, “One More Time” and “The Crying Clown” slow the pace down a bit, but are gorgeous pieces. The album picks right back up again, however, with the powerful black of an intro in “Fanfare.”
Flipping the vinyl over, “Nowhere’s Too Far for My Baby” introduces some debatably Beatles-influenced tracks. This one has the same short snappy guitar sound reminiscent of “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide,” and that Ringo Starr heavy high hat and cowbell in the background. Perhaps Frampton picked that up while on the road with the All-Starr Band?
Another excellent track is the stunning instrumentals of “Nassau,” which are the perfect segue into the greatest single of the whole album, “Baby I Love Your Way.” Though it’s cliché and kitschy enough to be in a bad romantic comedy, this one is a classic 70s hit and is groovy in every aspect of the word. This is the track that, though the most mainstream, got me hooked on Peter Frampton. When I first popped the vinyl onto my turntable, it was just background music while I redecorated my dorm room. This track was the one that finally made me stop and listen. I restarted it at least three more times. Frampton’s groovy vocals and the catchy melody make me wish I could see this album performed live in the height of Frampton’s career. The sheer emotion in his performance would be breathtaking.
The next three tracks are equally as great as my beloved “Baby I Love Your Way.” “Apple of Your Eye” is easy to dance and sing along to, with excellent background piano and rhythm sections. His devotion to great music matches his devotion to the person this song is written about.
“Penny For Your Thoughts” has an entirely different sound from the rest of the album. This acoustic track is folk, rather than rock, influenced with light banjo riffs. Purely instrumental, this track gives listeners a beautiful break and makes for a light, easy listen. Above all, however, “Penny For Your Thoughts” showcases Frampton’s harmonic abilities. The bass and guitar pair perfectly, with the final notes adding a perky touch leaving a relaxing smile on listener’s faces
That relaxation doesn’t last for long, though, because the folk instruments are immediately followed by the cacophonous sounds of Frampton’s exit, “[I’ll Give You] Money.” “Money” is the definition of going out with a bang, waking listeners right back up with full-fledged hard rock sound. Full to the brim with heavy guitar and raspy vocals, Frampton truly gives his all, or rather “gives [us] everything” just like the lyrics promise. Again, this track is full of emotion and personality, making it perfectly encompassing of Frampton to end the record on.
“Frampton” is only a small taste of the brilliance that is Peter Frampton, but I could continue defending his unappreciated value until I die. Go listen for yourself: you won’t regret it.