Peter Frampton Rocks On

“Thank You Mr. Churchill” is Peter Frampton’s first record since his 2006 Grammy-winning “Fingerprints.” Continuing in his vein of solid song writing, “Churchill” is a solid album filled with fetching, uplifting melodies and well crafted song structures.

Unlike the records of many other celebrated guitarists, on “Churchill,” Frampton’s focus is clearly on the songs and vocal melodies as much as it is on his fantastic guitar riffs. It’s easy to play a solo in every song, but Frampton truly proves his musicianship with the intertwining leads and melodies of his guitars and the overall compositions of the songs themselves.

The opening title track, “Thank You Mr. Churchill” is, well, a thank you to Mr. Winston Churchill, who made it possible for Frampton’s father’s safe trip home from World War II. The song opens up with a captivating bass groove over an acoustic guitar riff. The chorus quickly cuts in, a sharp contrast to the verse with Frampton’s staccato power chords and robust vocals. The track has its fair share of tasteful guitar solos as well.

“Solution” is about Frampton’s perception of his public image. The song is driven by heavy guitars and mysterious, “open” melodies. Similar to the title track, the chorus is heavily led by slightly staccato power chords and Frampton’s emotive singing.

“I’m Due a You” opens with an upbeat melody, almost bearing some resemblance to The Police during the verses. After the catchy verse melodies, the song builds into the even catchier chorus – a classic rock n’ roll experience. Just when you think the song is over, it starts back up again with Frampton’s solo building up to a final climax.

Track five, “Vaudeville Nanna and the Banjolele,” is an autobiographical homage to Frampton’s first instrument and the vaudeville-loving grandmother who gave it to him. The song opens with a banjolele riff that leads into a percussive, almost ethnic verse. Just when you think the song is teetering somewhere between U2 and The Lion King, Frampton’s leads kick in to remind you that you are listening to a legendary guitarist, after all.

One of the better pieces on the album, the next song “Asleep At the Wheel” is lyrically based in the abduction of Japanese citizens by the North Korean government in the ‘70s and ’80s. The track opens with an undeniably hard rock and menacing guitar riff. Most definitely, the best parts of the song are the verses, which consist of the main riff and Frampton’s simple, appropriate vocals. All of this manages to make you feel like you’re in a 1970s early heavy metal concert.

The next track is the album’s instrumental score, “Suite Liberte,” which is essentially two instrumentals in one (hence, “suite”). The song follows thematically from “Asleep at the Wheel.” The first part, “Megumi,” opens with a short, atmospheric solo guitar and transitions into an acoustic lead over jazz-brushed drums. Frampton plays some interesting dual guitar melodies here – certainly one of the stand out leads on the record.

Part two, entitled “Huria Watu” is an extended bluesy, hard rock solo. Frampton goes all-out and shows off his famous guitar skills in this four-minute segment. He made a good decision to dedicate one track to his guitar skills, so the other songs aren’t detracted any by cluttered guitar work. The solo is enjoyable to listen to, but there isn’t anything mind blowing or truly memorable to it. It’s just a solid, fun jam.

One of the best songs on the album, “Black Ice” starts off with a somber acoustic guitar riff, coupled with vocals by Frampton that sound eerily reminiscent of Robert Plant’s wails. The song continues on to sound like it could be an acoustic version of a Pink Floyd number. The guitars are sobering and there’s a strong atmospheric air throughout the track. “Black Ice” is a bit of a departure from the other songs on the record – there’re no heavy guitars or punchy chorus. Frampton’s songwriting absolutely shines through here.

“Thank You Mr. Churchill” is, simply put, a good album. The tracks are well unified and it actually sounds like the same person wrote them. With the trend of sonic experimentation among older guitar icons, it’s refreshing to listen to a great guitar player who knows a thing or two about writing songs and shows it.