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I'm In You
Peter Frampton

A&M SP 4704
Released: June 1977
Chart Peak: #2
Weeks Charted: 32
Certified Platinum: 6/13/77

Peter FramptonBefore the extraordinary success of Frampton Comes Alive!, Peter Frampton was known as a solid, if somewhat lightweight, English pop rocker. Seven million albums later, he had become a solid lightweight rocker who had set sales records and who would soon find himself welcoming Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger into the studio for cameo spots on his followup album. The cover of Frampton Comes Alive! captured the Frampton mystique -- the angelic, wide-eyed romantic with a guitar, an image which Frampton carried with such élan it obscured his status as a minor musical figure. As a performer, he is a mass artist of the second generation; if the Beatles' popularity promised cultural manifestations and delivered an enlarged record market, Frampton's breakthrough emphasizes that the culture has grown so large and become so institutionalized that penultimate rock stardom has become business as usual, inspiring nothing more revolutionary than increased record sales.

Frampton's primary virtue is that he's consistently pleasant. The music on I'm in You flows with the same easy-listening ease as the live set. The listener is neither challenged nor surprised, but left to drift in Frampton's sugary romanticism. His execution, both in composition and performance, is professionally smooth, but devoid of any truly creative fire. He is an artist of solid but limited talent (neither a stellar melodist nor a particularly compelling singer, his clear-toned guitar playing is strong though hardly virtuosic) who through hard work and luck produced a commercial masterstroke that all but made these limitations meaningless. Frampton's image is distinctively tied into the sedate Seventies; he is the Farrah Fawcett of rock.

Peter Frampton - I'm In You
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.

The torchy ballad, "I'm in You," sets the tone for the album as well as emphasizing a more insipid aspect of Frampton's style. Though the simple melody is properly attractive, Frampton's whining tones in the upper registers leave a cloying, syrupy aftertaste. It is the lyrics, though, that inflict the most damage. "I can't feel any more than I'm singing," he says, and that's precisely the problem -- his conception of romance is of the greeting-card variety, with the ultimate love described as simply the kind of love he never had. Such frothy sentiment can't hope to engage us beyond the teenage-crush level, and here I may be underestimating the emotions of a teenager in love.

"Rocky's Hot Club," a sprightly tune written about Frampton's dog (shades of Barry Manilow's "Mandy"), features a wonderful little Stevie Wonder harp solo and draws inevitable comparisons to the Beatles' "Rocky Raccoon." Not up to the type of wordplay that enlivened McCartney's playful fairy-tale tunes, "Rocky's Hot Club" is fanciful without being witty, and consequently only half the tune it could have been. Given these lyrical limitations, Frampton is most successful on midtempo rockers where a full-flowing accompaniment adds body to his slight but well-honed melodies and gives his lyrical guitar an attractive backdrop. "Saint Thomas (Don't You Know How I Feel)" is the best of the lot, with a particularly impressive solo spot in which Frampton's shimmering guitar lines spiral upward through the thick mix of acoustic rhythm. His patented synthesized guitar makes four appearances on the album, and while he effectively integrates it into his tunes -- the exception is "(Putting My Heart) On the Line," where the effect needlessly clutters the simple melody -- it's already perilously close to becoming clichéd.

Ironically, Frampton's tribute to Stevie Wonder and Motown -- the medley of "(I'm a) Road Runner" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)" -- points to the weakness of his craftsmanship. Frampton's versions of the Motown tunes are well executed but hardly definitive and yet the integrity of the songs makes them shine like beacons. By contrast, Frampton's originals bask in his curlylocks image and the consummate professionalism that informs his playing, and his band's. His is well-played music that has no impact beyond the sheltered fanzine world that it epitomizes.

The Peter Principle will never mean the same after Peter Frampton. How logical the premise originally seemed, with ambitious people naturally rising to the level of their incompetence. But in Peter Frampton, we have the epitome of the seasoned Seventies rock professional who has risen to the level of his competence but who is ultimately uninspired, who broke through to the mass audience (through sheer consistency and superb career orchestration) with a smiling, bare-chested vengeance. His constant touring paid off in the awesome success of Comes Alive!, and such mass acceptance has allowed for the hawking of fanclub trinkets in a booklet, included in the new record, that's so exhaustive and slick it's hard to believe you can't order an "I'm in You" bracelet or a Peter Frampton watch through Master Charge. Such popularity has also allowed for a record as constantly accessible and ultimately forgettable as I'm in You.

- John Milward, Rolling Stone, 7/28/77.

Bonus Reviews!

Something about this reminds me not of Nils Lofgren, the other "really cute and talented" singer-guitarist with A&M, and certainly not of Django Reinhardt, Peter Frampton's idol according to the liner notes, but of George Harrison. I can't decide whether it's the strained vocals, the know-nothing lyrics, the patience-sapping repetition, or the suspicion that the thing will sell enormously in spite of all that. Oh, well. Frampton Comes Alive made a fortune for A&M after the company spent a fortune hyping it, and I suppose this is a good-enough follow-up. Frampton can now afford to have Stevie Wonder back him on the harp and not even have to boast about it on the outside of the jacket, and he does seem fairly relaxed all through this, so I guess having a huge hit behind you is better than not having one. The title song and "Rocky's Hot Club," vaguely about his dog, have some charm to them, and Frampton doesn't do too badly -- in a fixed-expression sort of way -- by "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)." But the rest of it is not quite my kind of stuff. Listening to "Won't You Be My Friend," "You Don't Have to Worry," and "(I'm a) Road Runner" got me to thinking about all the other time I've wasted in my life (some of it with George Harrison records). It could be the low state of mind that put me into that has me thinking the Frampton phenomenon is the Seventies' answer to beach-party movies. This time there's no Annette Funicello though. Too bad.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 10/77.

This, his first studio LP since Frampton offers a new mood, a maturity not evident on his past LPs. His sound is easy but maintains the infectious drive for which he has become known. This LP was produced by Frampton who also assisted in its mixing. While electronic instruments are abundant they maintain a mellow but deliberate drive. This Frampton LP is obviously rock'n'roll but delivered on a sophisticated level. Guitar epics tend to be more graceful than in the past and are spotlighted throughout this album. This LP is almost MORish. Best cuts: "I'm In You," "Won't You Be My Friend," "You Don't Have To Worry," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)."

- Billboard, 1977.

Like Steve Miller, Frampton is a medium-snazzy guitarist taking no chances on an absurdly salable formula this time out; the only development from his first (and best) two albums is that this one has a kinda "live" feel, and the material is very thin. But at least Frampton sounds completely unsmug, an achievement in a star of his magnitude. C-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

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