You want to party like it's 1976? Peter Frampton's new album, Thank You Mr. Churchill, has enough guitar riffs and musical hooks to rival the pleasures of his celebrated Frampton Comes Alive album, still the fourth biggest selling live album in America. While Churchill offers a more rocking Comes Alive vibe, it doesn't sound like yesterday's clunky 8-track and there's not a talking box to be heard. It's a breezy bit of serious rock and roll in the classic rock vein that fits nicely among the sons of grunge and teeny-bopper kiddie cocktail music that fills today's radio.
Not that you can expect to hear any of it on the radio even as "Invisible Man" from the album is currently the number six single on the classic rock best sellers list, (it takes a satellite radio connection to realize such a list even exists). It's a catchy Motown inspired rocker, think The Four Tops not so much The Temptations, that may lay evidence to what I've always suspected: Frampton is an unaccredited session player on scores of hit records – "I'm pulling the strings in the shadows behind the scenes. I'm keeping the beat, before you know it you'll be on your feet dancing in the street.", he sings invoking the pleasant beat of Smoky Robinson's "Tears Of A Clown".
It's a tight rocker but not as efficient a hit single as the cutesy titled "I'm Due A You", with a 'do-what-you-do-wah-do' lyrical atmosphere underscored by a foreboding darkness with happily infectious guitar riffs. Steely Dan at their most paranoid contemplative moments come to mind – "emotionally overdrawn, the check's in the mail, something is creeping across the lawn, my stalker's out of jail.".
While the title track seems an impersonal and clumsy sentiment, (Frampton claims he is thanking Churchill for ending WWII so his father can return and impregnate his mother, so he may be born, he may as well be thanking the milk man), "Vaudeville Nanna and the Banjole" is a soft spoken reminiscence of his first affair with a crude stringed instrument, a memory that serves as a nuclei to his life, longing for "guitars behind glass that I wanted to play". The seven minutes plus instrumental, "Suite Liberte" combines surf rock lullaby with blues guitar licks in a simple elegant invitation to every fledgling guitarist to pick up your instrument and play along.
Elsewhere the album rides a wave of competent rockers featuring Frampton's fiery and jagged playing ("Road To The Sun" especially rocks), and testimonial ballads that find him an ever maturing lyricist forever embedded in rock culture.
Peter Frampton, legendary 16 year old guitar player of beloved British blues rock band Humble Pie, proven songwriter and hit maker, seasoned musician and sudden overnight sensation, time weary traveler of the humble concert trail, Grammy award winning composer of the 2007 rock instrumental, Fingerprints, is still punching the clock of the music we love that is rock and roll. So who do you got to blow away on guitar to be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?