Sound — 7
News of the first compilation of new material from Peter Frampton since 2010's "Thank You Mr. Churchill" initially reignited the passionate interest of dedicated listeners, both diehard and those who most readily recognized Frampton through his breakthrough 1976 live effort. Almost simultaneously, however, this same interest was somewhat diminished considering the unorthodox method in which Frampton wrote the material for his new EP, "Hummingbird in a Box." The music was prepared as an accompaniment for the Cincinnati Ballet, whom Frampton had previously collaborated with on several memorial benefit performances over the years. Perhaps appropriately, what is represented throughout these seven new compositions is not what would typically be considered "classic Peter Frampton," and for thorough advocates a considerable departure from the energetic style of his previous studio effort.
With the backstory behind this effort already established, it's equally (if not more so) important to note that this new release features a more relaxed side to the rock guitarist/vocalist than seen throughout his earlier albums. Songs such as "The Promenade's Retreat" showcase the always fluent approach which Frampton is well known to bringing to the guitar, however instead of his arsenal of signature effects is shown adopting a tone channeling directly from the instrument to the amplifier, ultimately achieving a tone not unlike Mark Knopfler. Quickly proving to be a musically vast effort, delicate acoustic guitar accompanied by soaring vocals decorates the album's title track, whereas on "The One in 901" we find a resurgence of Frampton's hard hitting blues-flavored guitar work set to pounding bass lines on a wild instrumental, making it one of the more interesting tracks on "Hummingbird in a Box" to have a ballet set to the theme of.
"Friendly Fire" shows a return to the comfortable territory of solid acoustic guitar and emotional vocal melodies, while a more introspective theme is implemented on the lighthearted "Heart to my Chest." Arguably the album's most traditional composition is "Shadow of My Mind," which has Frampton guiding the listener out on the streets of Cincinnati to the pace of warm musical arrangements. The collection of songs ends on a jazz-flavored note with "Norman Wisdom," a piece filled to the brim with intricate chord progressions and solid backup arrangements.
Lyrics — 8
The range and singing style of Peter Frampton have remained admirably intact over his nearly four decade-long career. While the focus on "Hummingbird in a Box" is directed towards bold instrumentals, Frampton does make more than just the occasional appearance as lead vocalist on this effort. It would hardly be an authentic Peter Frampton album without such an addition, and during such previously mentioned selections as "Shadow of My Mind" and the title track, this same quality serves as the final touch atop a formidable performance.
Overall Impression — 8
Considering this is an accompaniment to a ballet, there was a multitude of different directions in which Peter Frampton's new mini-studio album would have ventured into. However on "Hummingbird in a Box," Frampton remains in a territory that's all his own, while occasionally slipping into more intricate and improvisational instrumental arrangements than we frequently find on his full-length efforts.