I’d never heard it before.
Peter Frampton has a new blues album, “All Blues,” and although it went to #1 on the blues chart, that’s like being big in Poughkeepsie. But if it were 1969, this album would be all over aficionados’ turntables. Back when the blues still inspired the essence of rock and roll, when the scene was vital and comprehensible.
Actually, wasn’t Humble Pie directly influenced by the blues? Just listen to the “Fillmore” album. And Steve Marriott was a blues shouter par excellence.
But by time Humble Pie clicked in the marketplace, Frampton was already gone. The “Fillmore” double album was his last hurrah, he announced his departure before the tour, kinda like he’s announced he’s retiring from the road after this tour because of his illness. Did you read in the WSJ that Linda Ronstadt now says she was misdiagnosed, she never had Parkinson’s, but progressive supranuclear palsy, and there’s no medication for it? But unlike Frampton, who has inclusion body myositis, Linda wasn’t plying the boards on a retirement tour, she hadn’t made a new album, she kind of faded away and eventually said she was never coming back, but Frampton’s hiding in plain sight, and kinda like David Crosby constantly making albums fearing death, Peter is making albums at a prodigious rate before he’s unable to play at this level.
Now insiders know Frampton can wail. Hell, he was on George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass,” but he’s been forever negatively branded by taking a turn into teenybopper land. But “All Blues” sounds nothing like that.
We used to idolize guitarists. They were into the blues and soloists in England first, but after the Beatles broke in America, we hungered for more, and it wasn’t much later that Clapton became God and Hendrix was a legend and…oftentimes the material was just a framework for the axemen to show their skills… can you say “Spoonful”?
And it was Frampton who played on the Humble Pie “Fillmore” album.
But old rockers are supposed to fade away and not radiate. You don’t find anybody pushing the envelope anymore, they’re just on a dash for cash on the road.
But not Frampton, he’s time-stamped, and that inspires you. When you can see the end, you’re activated.
And Peter pulled an Ed Sheeran, he collaborated with a who’s who of players on many tracks. But instead of jumping genres, “All Blues” is just the blues.
The opener is “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” featuring Kim Wilson on the harp.
But to tell you the truth, Foghat burned me out on this song. I never cottoned to their version, even though I love their later stuff…”when I was stone blue, rock and roll still helped me through”. But Frampton’s iteration is less frantic, it sets down in a slow groove and keeps plowing ahead. And Frampton wails, as well as Wilson.
But actually, I like the second track, “She Caught The Katy” more. If you were in front of your stereo, if you were at the show, you’d be grimacing and playing air guitar.
And Frampton somehow makes “Georgia On My Mind” his own. It’s an instrumental take, the guitar sings the lyrics. Listen.
And now I’m intrigued. I start looking at the other featured players. And on the title track, I see Larry Carlton, a jazz master, a studio legend, so I pull it up. And I thought it was an original. And I didn’t like the subtle groove that began the track, the underpinning just didn’t have that much soul, but when Larry Carlton started to wail, at 1:42, my head about exploded. For a long time it was how fast you played. But then we realized that it was more about style. The key was to gain the skills, and then find your own sound, stake out your own territory. And Carlton shines on “All Blues.”
And then I’m listening to another song on the album, “Going Down Slow,” which features Steve Morse, and I wondered who wrote it and when I pulled up the page, I saw not only that “Going Down Slow” was written by St. Louis Jimmy Oden but that ALL the tracks on “All Blues” were covers, including “All Blues,” and I did not know that. You see the Mississippi roots, the building blocks of the blues, the fascination therewith, came a generation before me, in the U.K., at universities, I knew Robert Johnson like everybody else, and of course Willie Dixon and…there were names I’d heard of but didn’t know the music of.
So I immediately went to Spotify and puled up the original “Going Down Slow,” it was a REVELATION! The track had scratches on it, but it was like a previously unknown era came alive. This was not blues rock, there was almost nothing on the track, it was driven by St. Louis Jimmy Oden’s vocal. Packed into its length of 3:11 was a whole lifetime, it made you want to go down to the juke joints, that no longer exist, and hear this music…it was now obvious why the English cats and the students were infatuated.
Then I decided to pull up the original “All Blues,” by Miles Davis.
And what astounded me was it had the same groove, the same basic underpinning as the Frampton version, it’s just that it swung a bit more. And then Miles started to play and I instantly got it, why Miles is so revered, why he was so cool.
Now I saw Miles live in the “Bitches Brew” era, and I love “In A Silent Way,” but by that time he was far from the original sound that made him famous, he was experimenting with electronics.
And then I saw that “All Blues” is on “Kind Of Blue,” which I’d never really gotten, even though I literally had a copy someone sent me for my birthday, and I knew how famous it was…I just needed an introduction.
I mean if you think you hate jazz, have no interest in Miles, just pull this up, you’ll stop in your tracks, you won’t believe there’s something this good that you’ve never heard before.
That’s where Frampton led me. He knows his roots, he’s amplifying the sound.
And like I said, in a previous era, musos would be all over this album, talking about the playing, but now…
It’s just an artifact, like the original delta blues, waiting to be discovered by a later generation.