PETER FRAMPTON, Frampton Forgets the Words (Universal Music). Not every musician gets to lead two lives, and do so successfully. Peter Frampton has accomplished this feat. Where once was a teen idol now stands a guitar slinger (which he always was). Frampton Forgets the Words not only puts the guitarist’s world-class chops on display, but it also shows his musical eclecticism. How many other arts would open their records with covers of Sly Stone and Radiohead, back-to-back? Yet, here we are. Frampton’s fire and deft touch breathes instrumental life into music by Roxy Music, David Bowie, and Lenny Kravitz as well. Supported by a rock solid backing band, Frampton is free to let his fingers do the walking AND the talking.
RODNEY WHITAKER, Outrosoection: The Music of Gregg Hill (Origin). Bassist Rodney Whitaker is both a highly talented instrumentalist and the director of Michigan State University’s Jazz program. He and his band (made up mostly of fellow Michigan State faculty members) bring marvelous life to the work of Lansing, Michigan composer Gregg Hill. The band’s (quartets and quintets) instrumentals swing hard, riveting the listener from Note One. When vocalist Rockelle Whitaker brings her vocals to the mix on four occasions, the band takes half a step back, giving her room to shine. This artist and album are true diamonds in the rough.
STRAWBS, Settlemnent (Cherry Red Records). Strawbs relies on the formula that made them progressive rock legends, and hit the ball right on the screws. Settlement finds itself comfortably occupying that space between prog and folk (and the occasional metal tinge), with the Cat Stevens-like vocals of Dave Cousins carrying the day throughout. The band can undertake rhythmic shifts that sound both completely natural and effortless. This is a band playing like they have nothing to prove to anyone but themselves, which makes for a relaxed and pleasant listening experience.
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