The Music of Peter Frampton Available Now
Peter Frampton Albums We’ve Reviewed
- Frampton’s solo debut returns, now with Double Plus (A+++) sound on both sides and fairly quiet vinyl for an early UK pressing circa 1972
- This vintage British pressing is the very definition of TUBEY MAGIC, with sound so rich and sweet it will make you want to take all your CDs and dump them in the trash (now that record stores don’t even want them anymore)
- The best copies like this one keep what’s good about the recording while letting us hear into the soundfield with glorious transparency
- 4 stars: “The sound is crisp, the melodies catchy, and Frampton’s distinctive, elliptical Gibson Les Paul guitar leads soar throughout…“
This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’60s and ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd, Elton John and too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.
The best song Peter Frampton ever wrote (and performed) is on this very record, in White Hot Stamper sound no less: All I Wanna Be (Is by Your Side). It has the Tubey Magical sound WE LOVE here at Better Records.
However, the richness that makes British recordings from the era so good can easily go over the edge, turning the sound into a thick, mucky stew in which the individual sonic components become difficult to separate out. Think of the typically dull Who’s Next or early Genesis or Jethro Tull albums and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Only a select group of pressings are able to strike the right balance between Tubey Magic and clarity. This is one of those.
And as far as we can tell it’s the only version of the album that’s pressed from the master tape. The domestic A&M LPs are clearly made from dubbed tapes. They are as flat, small, smeary, veiled and opaque as any Heavy Vinyl pressing being made today, and we long ago gave up on them (i.e., domestic pressings of this album and Heavy Vinyl in general).
What the Best Sides of Wind of Change Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1972
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
The Best Copies Rock
The best copies like this one keep what’s good about the sound — leaner and cleaner they are not — while letting us hear into the soundfield. They have the most transparency and the least amount of smear.
Extension up top is also key to the better copies, as well as the least amount of compression. There is some compression on these tracks — it is after all where some of the Tubey Magic comes from: tube compressors as opposed to the solid state kind.
The best copies balance all these elements in a way that allows the energy and power of this music to come through wonderfully.
What We’re Listening For on Wind of Change
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Chris Kimsey in this case — would have put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Getting in Tune
Peter Frampton is one of the handful of artists to produce an immensely enjoyable and personally meaningful body of work throughout the ’70s, music that holds up to this day. The music on his albums, so multi-faceted and multi-layered, will endlessly reward the listener who makes the effort and takes the time to dive deep into its sound.
Repeated plays are the order of the day. And the bigger and better your stereo gets the more you can appreciate the care and effort that went into the production of the recordings.
Peter Frampton albums always make for tough shootouts. This album’s recording approach — horns, strings, more or less everything but the kitchen sink — makes it difficult to translate such complex sounds to disc, vinyl or otherwise.
Everything has to be tuned up and on the money before we can even hope to get the record sounding right. Careful VTA adjustment could not be more critical in this respect.
If we’re not hearing the sound we want, we keep messing with the adjustments until we do. There is no getting around sweating the details when sitting down to test a complex recording such as this. If you can’t stand the tweaking tedium, get out of the kitchen (or listening room as the case may be). Obsessing over every aspect of record reproduction is what we do for a living. Pink Floyd’s recordings require us to be at the top of our game, both in terms of reproducing their albums as well as evaluating the merits of individual pressings.
When you love it, it’s not work, it’s fun. Tedious, occasionally exasperating fun, but still fun nonetheless.
Wind of Change, Frampton’s first solo album, was recorded by the well-known engineer Chris Kimsey, who famously worked with the Stones and others too numerous to mention. To say that the sound of his albums varies considerably would be the understatement of the year. The first album (British only, FYI) is rich, sweet, and Tubey Magical as practically anything you’ve ever heard (as well as overly tube compressed, its biggest fault).
I unashamedly confess to being a huge Frampton fan to this very day. Wind of Change has been a Desert Island Disc for me ever since I picked up my first copy while still in high school. I bought the first Frampton album as soon as it came out, probably based on a magazine review. Think I paid $3.08 for it; that was the discount price for an album at the little record store I frequented back in those days. It was in Leucadia, CA, not far from where I went to high school.
(I specifically remember going into that store and buying the first Loggins and Messina album. On the store system they were playing Ziggy Stardust but I had no idea what the hell that album was all about and just basically ignored it (!). L&M record in hand, I proceeded to ask the guy at the counter whether it was stereo or not. He looked at me like the dumbass high school kid I was and said something along the lines of “of course it is, they don’t even make mono records anymore.” I forked over my $3.08 plus tax and filed that piece of info in my marijuana-addled brain under Lessons Learned.
I’m a Big Production Rock Guy as you may have guessed from looking at the records we rave about the most, and Frampton’s first album is a classic of Big Production Rock, in the style of Abbey Road, Dark Side of the Moon, Songs for Beginners and fifty others I could name. Make that a hundred others. Or two hundred.
Which also explains why I’ve had very large dynamic speakers since about 1975, when I was first able to scrape together enough money to buy a pair of the famous RTR 280-DR. (My mother had to co-sign the loan I took out shortly thereafter to buy an Audio Research SP3A-1 preamp and D-75 amp, if that tells you anything. And they were pretty cheap back then!)
The fourth Frampton album may not boast the sound of his first, but it can have reasonably good sound, and musically it’s his strongest album after his debut, providing as it does much of the material for the blockbuster double live album that was to follow in less than a year, the one that broke the all time sales record set by Tapestry (and would be bested itself soon enough by a little number known as the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever).
Some Famous Players
- Peter Frampton – guitar, organ, keyboards, drums, percussion, dulcimer, harmonium
- Mick Jones – rhythm guitar on “All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)”
- Andy Bown – bass, organ, electric piano, mellotron, percussion, backing vocals
- Klaus Voorman – bass on “Alright”
- Billy Preston – piano, organ on “Alright”
- Ringo Starr – drums, percussion on “Alright” and “The Lodger”
- Del Newman – strings, arrangements, flute, marimba
- Jim Price – brass on “The Lodger”
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
A Must Own Rock Record
We consider this album Peter Frampton’s Masterpiece.
It’s a Demo Disc Quality recording that should be part of any serious Rock Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Fig Tree Bay
Wind of Change
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
It’s a Plain Shame
Oh for Another Day
All I Wanna Be (Is by Your Side)
AMG 4 Star Rave Review
Peter Frampton’s solo debut after leaving Humble Pie (as they stood on the brink of stardom) spotlights Frampton’s well-crafted, though lyrically lightweight, songwriting and his fine guitar playing… The sound is crisp, the melodies catchy, and Frampton’s distinctive, elliptical Gibson Les Paul guitar leads soar throughout… With its mix of ballads and upbeat numbers with just enough of a rock edge, Wind of Change showed Frampton at his creative peak.