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Peter Frampton 

Frampton Comes Alive! (A&M)

There is perhaps no bigger stereotype of '70s musical excess than the double live album. The format became simultaneously proof of success and a bloated embarrassment. Only a spartan few albums in this genre can lay claim to greatness and withstand the scrutiny of historical perspective. Frampton Comes Alive! is one of them, as it survives the scrutiny of the ages because of the purity of the album's intent. Frampton, who now lives in Cincinnati, had twice tasted the bitter fruit of stardom, first as the 16-year-old poster boy with British pop rockers the Herd, then as the incendiary guitarist with Humble Pie. His solo work was less commercially inspirational, as his first three endeavors (Wind of Change, Frampton's Camel, and Something's Happening) all contributed to his growing American cult, but made little impact beyond that.

When Frampton Comes Alive! was released, there was no thought of multiplatinum status or sales of over 16 million worldwide. Alive! was a concert love letter, an early valentine for Frampton's many fans who had remained faithful to his solo vision, a good many of whom turned out at San Francisco's Winterland in 1975 to show their support. Upon its release, FM radio made the band's thrilling 15-minute jam of "Do You Feel Like We Do" a staple of late-night listening. By year's end, Frampton was a star of proportions that dwarfed his previous band involvements. The remastered 25th anniversary edition of the album leaves the formula virtually untouched, brightening the sound slightly and separating the band effectively. The reissue also adds four tracks from the original concert -- "Nowhere's Too Far for My Baby" and "Days Dawning" from Frampton, and "White Sugar" and "Just the Time of Year" from Frampton's Camel. Regardless of the poor choices Frampton made later, Frampton Comes Alive! remains a vibrant moment in history, unshaded by subsequent failures and unsullied by time.

More by Brian Baker

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