In Season: The Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons Anthology (2001)
For those who've lived under a rock for almost 50 years, this review will mean less than nothing. The rest of us have no doubt encountered -- on some ... Show synopsis For those who've lived under a rock for almost 50 years, this review will mean less than nothing. The rest of us have no doubt encountered -- on some television program, a commercial for a K-Tel oldies collection, or, in rarer cases, songs floating in the background on a film soundtrack -- Frankie Valli's shattering falsetto fronting his rock and doo wop band, the Four Seasons. As certainly as other artists of the period are known by their signatures -- the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Miracles, the Shirelles, Dion and the Belmonts -- the Four Seasons are instantly recognized by Valli's lead vocal and flawless three- and four-part harmony, strung with lines of blue-collar American poetry. To the people of New Jersey and other parts of America, the Four Seasons were every bit as much a part of the early pop scene as the Beatles and the Beach Boys -- and preceded both of them with an original lineup that recorded chart singles as early as 1955 and made an appearance on Ed Sullivan in 1959! Rhino Records it seems is in agreement with this premise and has undertaken a crusade to convince critics and the general public that somehow a group that sold literally millions of records has not been given enough attention. To this end they've issued this two-disc anthology and a separate disc of B-sides and other underappreciated "golden nuggets" by the classic Four Seasons lineup of Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito, and Nick Massi. Evidenced by this anthology alone, there is no disputing that the Four Seasons were very special, a singular East Coast supergroup who managed to keep rock & roll exciting and surprisingly white bread at the same time. Parents dug 'em as well as teenagers, which is probably why "critics" at the time -- there wasn't any formal rock criticism yet -- hated them. They weren't dangerous enough. The music here contains all the hits: "Sherry," "Big Girls, Don't Cry," "Stay," "Walk Like a Man," "Dawn (Go Away)," "Candy Girl," "Let's Hang on to What We've Got," and so on. Disc one alone contains 23 essential Four Seasons sides from 1962 to 1966 -- all of which charted. That's a hell of a run. The story is a complex one: they had their own writers (Gaudio, Bob Crewe, Judy Parker, etc.); they were a trad rock combo with a killer producer in Crewe; and they later embraced material from outside their insular world from writers like Burt Bacharach ("Let's Hang On...") and Bob Dylan ("Don't Think Twice It's Alright"). But it doesn't stop there; after various members left the group, Valli -- at least as far as the labels and charts were concerned -- became a solo act though Bob Gaudio and Valli remained partners until the end, and the Four Seasons recorded under Valli's name variously, including the 1976 smash "December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)." The final five tracks of disc one and all of disc two -- 23 tracks -- follow Valli's career through until the issue of his final hit, "Grease," in 1978. The music and notation of where the singles were recorded, who for, date, and catalogue numbers would have sufficed. A history is also necessary, but Anthology producer Gary Stewart and his liner note scribe Pat Sierchio have insisted on beating us over the head with a Four Seasons apologia that at every turn claims to set the record straight by making endless aesthetic comparisons and making sure we know every single time the band charted as high as the Beatles, or recorded a riff or vocal worthy of Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards or Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson. After two pages it's boring, a chore to get through, and you find yourself thumbing to the back to find the label and chart position without reading any more of the pompous drivel that passes for liner notes. Valli's and the 4 Seasons' music stands on its own; it is classic and enduring in every sense of the word; it needs no apology and will be a necessary part of American popular music history forever. So, for the truly wonderful, innovative music on this...
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