By Ray Shasho
REVIEW: Prodigious Classic Rock artist Peter Frampton and his top-notch band performed the entire Frampton Comes Alive! masterpiece on Saturday night at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. The event celebrated an amazing 35th anniversary of his multi-platinum double album that still remains as one of the best-selling live albums of all-time.
The three hour performance was interrupted only once by a twenty minute intermission. And if you ventured out of the Hall during the show you had to wait until after the song was over to return to your seat. The rule was set in place because the show was recorded and a live CD of the concert was made available to purchase after the show had ended.
I was a junior in high school when Frampton Comes Alive! was first released and just about every house party during that time melded the album into its ambience. Saturday night’s Ruth Eckerd Frampton Comes Alive alumni were at yet another house party to relive the good times when the album was first spun.
The first set of the evening included most of Frampton’s big hits and the packed Ruth Eckerd house was unyielding. Throughout the show there were outcries of enthusiasm perhaps to eclipse the audiences from the original concert recordings of 1975. Even during Frampton’s solo acoustic segments as in “All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)” there were bursts of exuberance initiated from every direction of the Hall.
Peter Frampton is 61 now and although he makes fun of losing his symbolic rock star head of locks, Saturday’s show proves that his performances stand the test of time. I’ve witnessed Peter Frampton concerts since 1974 and he’s never disappointed devout fans or concert goers who are there simply as advocates for rock and roll.
The most memorable moments of the first set were an electrified shootout between Sheriff Peter Frampton and Guitar Slinger Adam Lester during “I’ll Give You Money” that blew its audience away.
Frampton’s trademark anthem “Do You Feel Like We Do” followed and generated an ovation of epic proportions. In all the year’s I’ve watched Frampton’s concerts it always appeared like he wore a painted smile on his face. I never witnessed Frampton not smiling. But during a thunderous ovation from an appreciative and galvanized Ruth Eckerd audience, that painted smile metamorphosed into sheer elation.
The eclectic second set enhanced the range of talents in the band. Many of the songs featured muti-instrumentalist Bob Arthur who captured his own fans on Saturday night. Then of course Adam Lester’s mastery on guitar, remarkable bass licks generated by veteran rocker Stanley Sheldon, and the impressive drumming of Dan Wojciechowski completed Frampton’s proficient line-up.
The second set was tight and performed brilliantly with every song accompanied by an awesome screen and light show. An unexpected surprise was a Humble Pie classic called “Four Day Creep.” The tune performed with footage of Frampton’s old bandmates projected on a screen behind him. Vocal efforts although noble could never mirror Humble Pie’s legendary frontman Steve Marriott.
The evening wound down with Frampton’s rendition of Soundgarden’s “Black Whole Sun” followed by a huge ovation and encore of friend George Harrison’s tune “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Undoubtedly Peter Frampton will be back, especially after receiving a response like the one he received at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Saturday night.
“The Clearwater crowd was the best I’ve seen on this tour,” says bassist Stanley Sheldon. I chatted with Stanley after the show and interviewed him prior to the Ruth Eckerd engagement.
INTERVIEW: Prior to the concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall I had the pleasure of chatting with Stanley Sheldon the original bassist of Frampton Comes Alive! since its fruition in1976. Sheldon also played on the album’s “I’m In You,” “Where I Should Be” and contributed his extraordinary talents as co-writer and bassist on the Grammy award winning instrumental album Fingerprints.
Sheldon is an early advocate for the fretless bass.
The Kansas native spent most of the 90’s devoted to Latin American Studies at the University of Kansas and traveled extensively throughout Latin America with studies focused on slave society of the nineteenth century and how its influence on past music continues to affect the transformation and hybridization of world music today. Sheldon often played Salsa and Son music with various players to huge dance crowds during his journeys.
Sheldon shared an amazing relationship with close friend and guitar virtuoso Tommy Bolin. Bolin played guitar on Billy Cobham’s renowned Spectrum album before joining legendary Classic Rock Bands -The James Gang and Deep Purple. Tommy Bolin died of a drug overdose in Miami, Florida in 1976.
Before his untimely death Sheldon played on Tommy Bolin’s critically acclaimed debut album Teaser. Sheldon also appears on varied Bolin archival appearances.
Stanley Sheldon has also recorded with Lou Gramm (Foreigner’s original vocalist) and has toured as bassist with Warren Zevon and the Delbert McClinton band.
Here’s my Chat with Bassist/Songwriter/Musician/Scholar /Stanley Sheldon.
Stanley, thank you very much for joining me this afternoon. My mother was born and raised in Cuba so naturally I’m fascinated about your studies of Latin American culture.
“That’s very interesting because it was the Cuban song the music from Cuba that really enticed me because that’s what later on became Salsa. I was playing at the University of Kansas with some Venezuelans who I’d met there while I worked on my undergrad degree that same decade and I was doing environmental studies for that degree and when it was time to select a Masters program I had been playing Salsa with these Latinos and I just fell in love with the Cuban rhythms especially Cuba and Puerto Rico. So it was that great love of the rhythms that brought me to Latin American studies.”
I grew up in an eclectic household and half of my parents listened to Celia Cruz.
“Celia is one of my idols too and also like Hector Lavoeand all of the great ones Willie Colon and Reuben Blades all the Salsa stuff the Venezuelans that I was playing with they really gave me a crash course on Salsa 101 man I learned from experts of who to listen to it was great.”
Do you have Latino blood?
“You know I do not but my Uncle my dad’s brother went down to Cuba right before the revolution because he had a heart condition and my dad traveled there and they were only in their early 20’s my dad was even younger and my uncle Frank married a Cuban and brought her home right after the revolution so I’ve always felt kind of close to Cuba.”
Did you learn the language?
“My Spanish is getting pretty good I was teaching classes to Spanish speakers for the EPA and now I have my lady interest who is a Mexican National so I’ve been there four times this year to Mexico. I’m in love with a Mexican. So my language skills are pretty good. And she’s very beautiful.”
You know it’s funny we find out much later in her career that Linda Ronstadt had Mexican roots.
“Man she really sang that Mariachi stuff so beautifully. Well you know I kind of knew about her roots because I had done some tours with her when I was in a band called Ronin and playing with Warren Zevon you know she was connected with. So I kind of knew about her Hispanic heritage but not very many other people did.”
After the show on Saturday in Clearwater, a live CD set recording of the show will be available to purchase?
“That is correct it’s a three CD set and it takes three CD’s to fit the entire three and half hour show. What happens is during the show as they’re recording it the first CD get’s finished and they start packaging it and it looks just like the CD you buy at the store wrapped and everything. But the third CD the fans will line up and wait ten minutes only after the show and they can purchase the whole three CD set.”
That’s really cool; it’s like being part of rock and roll history.
“Yea and a lot of fans are really appreciative you know because it’s another Frampton Comes Alive! And the quality of the recordings is getting better and better throughout the tour and the most recent ones just sound spectacular. I think Peter’s among the first to be doing this. We have a staff out on the road with us from Abbey Road that’s recording each night and then packaging it up for us.”
You joined Peter Frampton at the onset of Frampton Comes Alive! I guess that would be in 1975?
“I joined in 1975 right before the live album was recorded and I was kind of the last piece of the puzzle. He was looking for a bass player and my timing could not have been better.”
You played with the great Tommy Bolin prior to joining Frampton?
“It was the fact that I was playing with Tommy that got me to LA and where I needed to be positioned to capitalize on the Frampton thing. If I had never known Tommy I wouldn’t have been there. He was such a great player and my best friend and he went on to play with Deep Purple about the same time that I got the gig with Frampton. And we were out there together looking for a singer for our own band and we were struggling and times got tough so we both had to take gigs and we could’ve picked worst gigs I guess." (Laughing)
Yea, I saw Tommy play with both The James Gang and Deep Purple. He was just such a great guitarist.
“You know he was in Florida the night he died.”
I believe at the Newport Hotel in Miami.
“Jeff Beck who I just recently met told me the story. About two or three month ago I went to see Jeff because the great Narada Michael Walden is playing drums with Jeff Beck now and he was also Tommy’s drummer so there was a connection there. Jeff was a huge fan of Tommy and the Tommy Bolin band was opening for Jeff Beck when they were playing in Miami that night. So Jeff Beck is standing there and this was just back in May I went to see him play and he was telling me the story of how he and Jan Hammer walked in and found out that Tommy was dead. Just imagine that I’m standing there and talking with Jeff Beck and he’s telling me how he found my best friend dead in a hotel room.”
Everyone I’ve ever talked too about Tommy Bolin always said he was just such a nice, sweet man.
“You couldn’t meet a nicer and friendlier guy he’d make anybody smile and laugh. So if it hadn’t been for him I would have never met Peter. We were in LA together and Tommy’s earlier bass player Kenny Passarelli who I came in and replaced because Kenny had started playing with Joe Walsh. We all lived in Boulder Colorado right before all of this happened. So all these musicians are living in Boulder. Joe Walsh had moved there and had put his band together Barnstorm and Kenny Passarelli was the bass player in that band and Peter was a fan of Joe’s and Kenny’s playing and Kenny played a fretless bass like I did. Peter wanted someone that could play fretless bass so when he found out Kenny couldn’t do the job because he was too busy and I think Elton John was about to hire him but he said you should try this guy Stanley. So I was in LA with Tommy at that time and I got Peter’s number and called him up.”
And the rest is history as they say. Did you have any idea after completing Frampton Comes Alive! that it may turn out to be a commercially successful giant?
“Come on how could anybody know that. I tell the story that my advice to Peter was not to do a live album that he should get in the studio and make a highly polished studio record. And that’s the joke and my advice to Peter.”
Well I’m glad that he didn’t take your advice on that one.
“Yea me too.”
You played on the critically acclaimed Teaser Album with Tommy Bolin.
“Yea I played on just about every track. Yea I love that record and that’s how I met Narada Michael Walden who is Jeff Beck’s drummer now and Narada went on to produce Whitney Houston and kind of sculpted her career and he stepped back from playing drums after Mahavishnu to start producing and so a lot of people don’t really know about his playing ability and he’s just an unbelievable and unparalleled drummer. It’s incredible to see him with Jeff Beck now.”
Have you picked up any session work recently?
“No I have not been doing a lot I spent a decade working on my scholastic stuff you know and I took a lot of time off. I didn’t stop playing I was doing the Latin thing you know so I feel as a player I grew more then -then I would playing Coke commercials and jingles and stuff like that. But I don’t do a lot of sessions I never did but I wouldn’t mind at this late date getting a few more calls to do different types of music. I’m starting to get my feelers into the Nashville scene because Peter’s base of operations is Nashville and two of the guys are from Nashville that are in the band. And I went on the road with Delbert McClinton two years ago and he’s in Nashville too. I’m starting to feel a kind of closeness with Nashville and yea there probably is some work there if I could get there and move there or something.”
I just got to ask you about working on the soundtrack of Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke.
“That’s going to be something to talk about till the day I die because everybody loved the movie so much. It was a lot of fun to do that. That’s when I was played with Waddy Wachtel Warren Zevon and those guys. We did most of the soundtrack I mean they used songs from other artist but all the background music was what we recorded for that movie. When they’re driving around in the van you hear the music in the background could be a reggae song or a rock song. I don’t think the songs we did really had names or anything we were just providing music for the background.”
So back to Frampton any plans for a new album once the tour is over?
“I think Peter is formulating what he wants to do and hopefully I can make some contributions on whatever they might be I’m planning on that we’ll see what happens. I hope to be touring with Peter for a long time.”
“Some other things The Tommy Bolin Foundation they’re always looking for someone who can step in and try and represent Tommy's skill as a player maybe as a tribute band we talked about putting something on the road to commemorate Tommy’s music. You know we do a thing in Sioux City Iowa every summer I mean I don’t always go every year but it’s like a tribute performance for Tommy and they get different players each year. But I know some people involved who would really like to see something go out on the road and play some major cities and put a really great band together so I’ve been talking with some people about that. So that could happen.”
“But other than that we’re going to continue on this 35th Anniversary tour even through 2012 and we’re going to come back and do more U.S. dates and we’re going to Europe in November and I imagine South America. I think in 2012 we’ll be playing but not quite as much as we did this year but certainly quite a bit.”
“Peter’s work ethic is really impressive and we’re all just in awe that he can get up there every night and play three-three and a half hour shows we’re all being inspired to follow suit. When he’s on stage man it’s a sight to behold.”
Stanley, thank you so much for taking time out from your busy tour schedule to speak with me. Good luck with the rest of the tour and I will be seeing you in Clearwater on Saturday night.
“Thanks Ray I look forward to meeting you at the show.”
Line On My Face
Show Me The Way
It’s A Plain Shame
Wind Of Change
Penny For Your Thoughts
All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)
Baby I love Your Way
I Wanna Go To The Sun
I’ll Give You Money
Do You Feel Like We Do
Shine On (Humble Pie Song)
Jumpin’ Jack Flash (Rolling Stones Cover)
Asleep At The Wheel
Boot It Up
Vaudeville Nanna and the Banjolele
All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)
Four Day Creep (Humble Pie song)
Off The Hook
Black Whole Sun (Soundgarden Cover)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Beatles Cover)
Stanley Sheldon official website http://www.stanleysheldon.com/
Peter Frampton official website http://www.frampton.com/
Tommy Bolin Archives http://www.tbolin.com/
Ruth Eckerd Hall official website http://www.rutheckerdhall.com/
Special thanks to Cami Opere for arranging this interview and some great tickets.
And as always the entire Ruth Eckerd Hall staff. Especially Katie Pedretty. -Bobby Rossi you the man!
“I found Check the Gs to be pure entertainment, fantastic fun and a catalyst to igniting so many memories of my own life, as I too am within a few years of Ray. So to all, I say if you have a bit of grey hair (or no hair), buy this book! It’s a great gift for your “over-the-hill” friends, or for their kids, if they are the history buffs of younger generations trying to figure out why we are the way we are.”~~Pacific Book Review
Contact Ray Shasho at firstname.lastname@example.org