Peter Frampton was solidly in the rock-star conversation even before Frampton Comes Alive catapulted him to an unsustainable megastardom: the kind of exposure from which there is no easy return and no gentle landing. Already a known commodity for his work with the Herd, Frampton really broke through as a premier second-generation British Invasion guitarist with Steve Marriott’s post-Small Faces project Humble Pie, from which he departed after two albums, citing the proverbial artistic differences. While Frampton was getting his solo career off the ground, he made studio contributions to a few significant records, including George Harrison’s masterpiece All Things Pass and Harry Nilsson’s essential Son of Schmilsson.
Frampton’s vision as a triple-threat singer/songwriter and guitarist receives its fullest expression not on the double-album live classic from 1976, but three years earlier on Frampton’s Camel: a rich and varied album, by turns bluesy, torchy, folky, funky and proggy, and pretty darn good but for one lamentable Stevie Wonder cover. In his rich singing and steady, lyrical guitar playing, there’s an unpretentious, agreeable blandness to Frampton that reminds me of the agreeable blandness of Steve Winwood or Dave Mason at their obsequious best. Likability and a strong basic skill set went a long way at the dawn of the singer/songwriter age. That musical sturdiness and Frampton’s golden-boy good looks set the stage for one of most unlikely pop-culture explosions in rock history.
Frampton came down with 1977’s I’m in You, the market performance of which would have been exceptional had he not blown the curve the year before. A big part in the execrable film version of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band fueled his fall. But Frampton’s steadiness, good humor and essential modesty have made him the kind of fellow who could withstand that ordeal with his ego and integrity intact. He has continued to tour and to make solid records such as 2010’s fine Thank You, Mr. Churchill, and to enjoy telling his remarkable story.
As the Hell’s Angels’ house band, the Doobie Brothers have a few stories to tell as well. Peter Frampton and the Doobie Brothers (featuring both founding songwriters, Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons) join forces at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on Saturday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Peter Frampton & the Doobie Brothers, Saturday, July 12, 7:30 p.m., $99.50/$90/$69/$58.50/$36.50 reserved seats, $26.50 lawn, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, 200 Hurd Road, Bethel; www.bethelwoodscenter.org.