fresh on the heels of his 60th birthday last week (and celebrating his 8th year of sobriety), peter frampton's "thank you mr. churchill," the follow-up to his 2006 grammy-winning "fingerprints" has been worth the wait. while "fingerprints" was an all instrumental album (ala the footsteps of jeff beck), not only does frampton bring back his vocals on "thank you mr. churchill," but his son julian takes lead vocals on "road to the sun!" in a retro nod, the album was also pre-released on vinyl (a reason to take the turntable down from the attic?).
"thanks mr. churchill" is an intensely autobiographical album. the title itself is a thank you to mr. churchill for bringing his dad home safely from the ravages of world war two. but the song builds into a peace anthem, after the obigatory nod to mr. churchill. "will there be peace on earth one day/if so i hope i will be near/till we're born with wisdom/war will always be here." frampton's dad went on to become a school teacher, and reappears in "vaudeville nanna and the bandolele." it's a look back at his childhood, learning to play his nanna's "bandolele" ( a cross between a banjo and a ukelele) and wishing for a real guitar: "...they all looked like candy/guitars behind glass that i wanted to play."
but frampton soon learned to play the guitar and the piano. by the time he was just 10, he played in makeshift band called the ravens! through a series of bands he found himself, at 16, playing in "the herd" and had some hits on the british charts. in 1967 he teamed up with steve marriott of the "small faces" to form "humble pie" and the rest is rock history. though it took going solo in the early 70's that really launched him rock stardom with "frampton comes alive" in 1976! most fans remember frampton for that ubiquitous classic (and it's no exaggeration to say it was an album in every record collection).
but frampton continued tour (and release albums) in the decades that followed. what makes "thank you mr. churchill" so great to listen to is it's clearly the product of a working musician - one who honed his craft through decades of performances. it comes through not just on his guitar playing (which is tight and powerful), but his mature voice. this isn't the same peter frampton that followed up "framtpon comes alive" with "i'm in you." but this album is also "follow-up" to his successful "fingerprints." it's worth pointing out that frampton played on george harrison's "all things must pass" album, toured with david bowie and, a decade later, with ringo starr.
all that experience shines through practically every tune on the album. interestingly, the two part instrumental "suite liberte" bridges "fingerprints" and the classic rock sound we associate with frampton. part one, an acoustic intro, turns into a beautiful (and driving) electric jam in the second part. this instrumental riff easily slides into the jam band territory. then, twisting off into an entirely different direction, frampton infuses motown (harmonies included) "invisible man." he covers a lot of varied terrain in the 11 cuts that make up the album. the final song, "black ice" is a mellow, acoustic, look at his efforts to stay sober.
from an interview frampton gave, he mentioned that in the wake of "fingerprints" he penned about 50 new songs in a sustained burst of creativity! so it should come as no surprise that he's got plenty of material for a few more albums. "thank you mr. churchill" also benefited from his friendship with matt cameron (pearl jam's former drummer) who played on six of the album's eleven songs. cameron also worked on some of "fingerprints" as well. with the introduction of his son's bluesy performance on "road to the sun" he had more vocals too!
"thank you mr. churchill" is a must get for any frampton fan. the album's songs will probably be showcased on his summer tour (if not sooner). he's touring with yes for a number of dates this summer and i'm going to make it a point to get ticket to show.