Peter Frampton must feel as though he's seen this picture before: In the mid-Sixties he was idolized as "The Face" in a British teeny-bop band called the Herd. Then he graduated to the harder rock of Humble Pie before heading into a solo career that eventually led to a live album in 1976. "Frampton Comes Alive!," a mixture of petulant rockers and trembling ballads, is still the biggest-selling double live album of all time, at about 15 million worldwide.
So the star exploded again, got his pretty mug into a lousy film version of "Sergeant Pepper" and went into eclipse before reappearing in the pop-music firmament. Instead of huge rock arenas, it's smaller venues this time around as Frampton returns to the hard-edged rock he always preferred, it's also what he does best.
"The Art of Control" features nine new songs co-written with ex-Cretones guitarist Mark Goldenberg (also responsible for Linda Ronstadt's "Mad Love" affair) as well as the tensile guitar of Frampton's early solo career. The sound is tight, the vocals keening, the mood power-pop with the emphasis on power. "Sleepwalk" is a taut New Wave- ish single that resolves itself in elementary rock and roll, the best song on a strong return to action. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM: The Art of Control (A&M SP4905). THE SHOW: Friday night, at 9, at the Wax Museum.