In the Vaults (4/27/2001)
Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive (Deluxe Edition) (A&M Records 1976/2001) - To commemorate the silver anniversary of the biggest-selling live album of all time, A&M Records has released a 25th anniversary special edition of Frampton Comes Alive.
The Deluxe Edition showcases such hits as "Show Me the Way," "Do you Feel Like We Do?" and "Baby I Love Your Way," and adds four previously-unreleased tracks (not included largely due to the time constraints of the vinyl format), including "Just the Time of the Year" and "White Sugar," all from the same shows used to create the original album.
Frampton Comes Alive found the former Humble Pie guitarist working at his peak. The band on Frampton Comes Alive consisted of Peter Frampton on guitar, vocals and talkbox, John Siomos on drums, Bob Mayo on guitar and keyboards, and Stanley Sheldon on bass. The album was recorded during two nights of shows: June 13, 1975 at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael and June 14, 1975 at the Winterland in San Francisco.
A scant six months later, on January 6, 1976, Frampton Comes Alive was released to an overwhelmed public. Recalls Frampton, "After we had delivered the album to A&M, I made plans to get away and get some sun because I figured I had a pretty busy year ahead of me. Before I left, I had one date booked at Cobo Hall in Detroit. When I came back 10 days later, there were now four dates at Cobo Hall, all completely sold out. That was the first sign that things were going crazy."
Frampton continues. "Then it seemed like every minute of every day there was another bit of exciting news. We heard figures of what it was selling per week and then a call that it was in the Top Ten. Not long after that it went to No. 1. That was all very exciting. We did eight million records in the first year. There were all kinds of records like that which were broken. That was bittersweet. It was more than I could have ever dreamed was possible, but it was lonely up there. It was a very heady period."
Frampton Comes Alive was also the album that broke out the talkbox on "Do You Feel Like We Do." Says Frampton, "It wasn't until 1975 that I got a talkbox and I used it in the studio for the very first time on 'Show Me the Way.' 'Do You Feel Like We Do' had always been the longest number in the set . . . One night by accident I used it and that became part of the number. I jumped on the talkbox for 'Do You Feel Like We Do' and you could just tell by the audience reaction that I should be doing this every night!"
While Frampton was given the green light to record additional shows, the June 1975 gigs formed the heart of the album. Recalls Frampton, "We had a few days off after the Winterland gig and we went into Wally Heider's studio. We knew we wanted to listen to Winterland. We felt that there was some really good stuff on the Marin tapes, but Winterland was a great show. There was no messing around, just all faders up and a rough mix of the instruments. Listening to it knocked us against the back wall. It was just electric - the band was on fire. We just looked at each other and said, 'Wow!'"
With a sound that is as fresh today as it was 25 years ago, Frampton Comes Alive! deserves to be heard by new fans.
Dion, King of the New York Streets (Right Stuff 2000) - Pioneering artist Dion DiMucci finally receives a boxed set with the three-CD collection, King of the New York Streets. While the set may run a bit long for the casual fan, Dion is well-deserving of this overview.
Dion is a towering figure of early rock and roll, with such hits as "Runaround Sue," "Donna, the Prima Donna," and "The Wanderer." The liner notes hit the nail on the head: "Dion had across-the-board appeal - tough guy swagger meets sensitive soul, rave-up rocker wrapped around suave balladeer. Girls swooned while guys tried to capture his hard cool."
Dion originally recorded with his Bronx buddies, Fred Milano, Angelo D'Aleo, and Carlo Mastangelo as Dion and the Belmonts, charting the Top Five doowop gem, "A Teenager in Love." By quirk of fate (and to save the $36.00 plane fare), Dion did not board the ill-fated flight that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. The Belmonts broke up soon after, and Dion went on to score as solo artist.
But the hits slowed in the mid-60's, with the British invasion. At the same time, Dion struggled with heroin abuse. Says DiMucci, "Talk about losing the thread! I lost it in the 60s." Dion got clean in 1968, just in time to record "Abraham, Martin & John," his folk-rock assassination anthem.
Says Dion, "Truth be known, April 1, 1968, somebody told me that if you ask help from God, he would hear. Well, I was going through that dark period in my life, so I asked for help, and I haven't had a drug or a drink since."
With sobriety, Dion's image changed, as did his songs; semi-autobiographical tracks like "Your Own Back Yard," and "Sanctuary" extolled an anti-drug theme, while the counter-culture movement was peaking. Perhaps unhip at the time, the songs have held up over the years.
Dion spent several years in the 80's recording gospel-oriented albums for a Christian label, before returning to pop music with sparkling covers of "Sea Cruise" (for the film The Adventures of Ford Fairlane), and two gems by Bruce Springsteen - "If I Should Fall Behind" and "Book of Dreams."
The liner notes include a track-by-track annotation by Dion, rare photos, and a complete discography. In addition, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Waylon Jennings contribute personal written comments.
You might think that Dion is dated. But you'd be missing a great artist. While King of the New York Streets covers a lot of material, Dion deserves to be heard again.
Eagles, Selected Works 1972-1999 (Elektra 2000) - Why did I shell out $60 for Selected Works 1972-1999? Because I must be one of the few people in America who don't already have a copy of the Eagles Greatest Hits.
Let's put this in perspective. The Eagles are one of America's great bands, with a studio output consisting of only six albums, plus two concert recordings: Eagles Live and Hell Freezes Over.
The Eagles consisted of Glenn Frey on guitars, keyboards, and vocals, Don Henley on drums and vocals, Joe Walsh on guitar, Timothy B. Schmidt on bass, and Don Felder on guitars. Earlier band members included Bernie Leadon on guitar and Randy Meissner.
Selected Works is a four-CD set that distills the six studio albums into three collections: the Early Days, the Ballads, and the Fast Lane. Also included as disc four is a live set from The Millennium Concert, recorded in Los Angeles on December 31, 2000.
The obvious question - does any this break new ground? No. You've lived and loved all of these songs before.
The ordering of the songs, by producer by Bill Szymczyk has merit. The Early Days include such favorites "Tequila Sunrise," "Already Gone," and "Peaceful Easy Feeling." My favorite disc, The Ballads, includes the band's deepest material: "Desperado," "Wasted Time," and "Take It to the Limit."
The Fast Lane is the most disjointed disc; while "Life in the Fast Lane," "Hotel California," and "Get Over It," are all great songs, they work better in the context of the original album. Selected Works doesn't include any tracks from the other live albums, so it can hardly be considered complete overview.
The Millennium Concert is an acceptable effort, with such oddities as "Ol' 55" (written by Tom Waits), "Please Come Home for Christmas" (written by Charles Brown), the old James Gang standard, "Funk 49," and a live version "Peaceful Easy Feeling." (The Eagles initially allowed fans to download tracks from the Millennium Concert from their website, but the record label brought an end to that.)
Should you buy Selected Works? While the liner notes are really just fan commentary, the booklet has decent photos. In addition, you'll get good recording information and some comic studio chatter at the end of each of the discs.
Unless you're an Eagles diehard, or (like me) don't own all the studio albums, it's hard to justify the $60 charge for Selected Works. There are things I like about Selected Works (particularly on the sequencing The Ballads disc), but I think the public would be better served if these discs were available for individual purchase, rather than only as part of the boxed set.
- Randy Krbechek © 2001
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