Peter Frampton is a versatile guy. If you listen to his Fingerprints CD from 2006, then segue into the new release Thank You Mr. Churchill, you’ll find vast stylistic differences. Where the all instrumental Fingerprints is flowing and melodic, Thank You is a brash; raw; and, at times; angry piece of work.
Thank You opens with the title tune, which Frampton says is about his birth and is “a thank you to Mr. Churchill for bringing my father back from the second world war.” But the song is not simply a greeting card; it takes a surprising turn, sliding into topical territory where Frampton argues how we should be “waging peace instead of war”. The sentiment is ages old but the music is hard, biting and blistering. When he is on a topical bent, Frampton’s playing is simply breathtaking. Tearing into world issues seems to have driven him to play harder and with more passion than he has in years.
This is not the Peter Frampton who crooned “Baby I Love Your Way" to an arena filled with fist pumping boys and swooning girls. His artistic maturity has led him to write the darkly ominous “Restraint”, where he blasts those responsible for the Wall Street bailout, calling them “greedy pigs” with “parachutes of gold”. And on “Asleep At the Wheel” he takes on the case of Megumi Yokota, a Japanese girl kidnapped more than thirty years ago by North Koreans to help train their spies to pass for Japanese citizens.
The album does have its lighter moments. The mandolin driven “Vaudeville Nanna and the Banjolele” is Frampton’s charming remembrance of how, as a child, he stood staring longingly into the music shop window on Charing Cross Road, where the guitars all “looked like candy”. And “Suite Liberte” is a masterful eight minute instrumental, showcasing Frampton’s virtuosity.
Thank You Mr. Churchill is a collaborative effort between old and new friends. The songs were co-written by Frampton and longtime collaborator Gordon Kennedy. The album's co-producer/engineer, Chris Kimsey, was the engineer on Frampton’s solo record, 1972’s Wind of Change. This is the first time the two have worked together in thirty years. Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron, and the legendary Funk Brothers also lend a hand.
Thank You Mr. Churchill is a bold, solid piece of work, surprising in its scope and power. It will be released on April 27th on A&M/New Door/UMe Records, and is well worth a listen.