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Rock - Released January 1, 2012 | Eagle Rock - Eagle Records

It's easy and natural to confuse this three-disc audio package with the similarly titled DVD/Blu-Ray that was released simultaneously with the same cover art, especially since the song selection is nearly identical. But the CD set is a slightly different animal since it grabs what Frampton thinks are the best performances of the material played from various gigs on his year-long tour from 2011-2012. In comparison, the video is two complete shows from a few cities. The musical differences are subtle, yet there is a case to be made that the audio is a better document of this material and that hardcore fans may indeed want to spring for both. Regardless, even if the concept of classic rockers and new wavers playing their classic albums from start to finish is already cliché in 2012, Frampton and his band, of which only bassist Stanley Sheldon remains from the 1977 Frampton Comes Alive! outfit, deliver a robust and thoroughly convincing show. Considering that the guitarist has likely played much of this material at every concert for the previous three decades, his commitment and sheer enjoyment seem to be fresh, and if not always inspired, certainly inspirational. Frampton's voice isn't quite as fluid as it was 35 years prior, but the slight, grainy edge that age brings injects a somewhat more sober note to these energetic performances. Almost every song is longer, too, with "I'll Give You Money" jumping from just under six minutes in 1975 to over nine minutes here. The show-stopping, talk box-driven "Do You Feel Like We Do" expands, for better or worse, from 12 to nearly 18 minutes with a newly added, jazzy interlude from electric pianist Rob Arthur. If that were all, it would be a pretty successful revival of an album that surprisingly hasn't lost its luster since its mid-'70s release. But Frampton returns with a stunning second set, arguably better than the first, that features live versions of more obscure, newer selections. He also digs into oldies from his tenure in Humble Pie, including a raucous "I Don't Need No Doctor" and an appearance from son Julian who sings lead on that track and a few others. Frampton's guitar chops are finely tuned throughout but he gets a chance to really exhibit them on the beautiful ten-minute classical/blues/jazz-based instrumental "Suite: Liberte" from 2010's unjustly ignored Thank You Mr. Churchill. A roaring 12-minute take on George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" begins with an almost avant-garde intro before Frampton hits the noted riff almost three minutes later and builds the intensity until it explodes in a goosebump-raising crescendo. With over three hours of music, nearly all of this is pretty terrific -- what could have been a shoddy, cash-generating knockoff is powerful proof that Frampton might indeed be getting better as he ages. The result is an artistic triumph and a musical treat, especially for fans and even for those who may not have been born when Frampton Comes Alive! was a staple in dorm rooms and ruled the charts in 1976. © Hal Horowitz /TiVo