Frampton Comes Alive II
Blame it on Meat Loaf. When Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell unexpectedly made Mr. Loaf relevant again, a bevy of other faded ’70s superdooperstars must have wondered: ”Hmmm, what about a sequel to my big album?” How else can one explain Peter Frampton calling his new concert recording Frampton Comes Alive II (El Dorado) and Dan Fogelberg and Tim Weisberg reuniting for No Resemblance Whatsoever (Giant), 17 years after their first collaboration, Twin Sons of Different Mothers?
If anyone needs a Meat Loaf-style comeback, it’s poor Peter Frampton, a pleasant but minor guitar hero who has spent the last two decades trying unsuccessfully to top the overwhelming phenomenon of the first Comes Alive. In a sense, Alive II is a worthy sequel. Frampton was masterfully packaged back in 1976, but he was never distinctive as a singer or songwriter. Nearly two decades later, none of that has changed. His new songs are either plodding power ballads or colorless hard rock, and he remains incapable of sounding tough. Frampton strives to be topical on ”Talk to Me,” a mawkish ballad about the Oklahoma City bombing, but he takes one huge bell-bottomed step back by resurrecting the cheesy ”talk box” of the first live album.
Like its 1978 predecessor, the Fogelberg-Weisberg collaboration relies heavily on instrumentals spotlighting Weisberg’s ultra-tasteful flute breaths. The difference in 1995 is that Fogelberg’s folkie leanings are downplayed in favor of sterile jazz fusion, resulting in an album that could easily pass for John Tesh Unplugged. Even Fogelberg’s four vocal songs, like the bossa nova-lite ”Is This Magic,” don’t disturb the pretty but utterly banal mood. It’s pickup music for a New Age crystals store. Frampton Comes Alive II: C-