Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

The aural archivists over at the Illinois-based Collector's Choice Music (CCM) -- which is found exclusively on-line at <http://www.ccmusic.com> -- are kicking off 2007 with a slew of 'most wanted' restorations -- many of which have been MIA on CD domestically. This week, we're spinning CCM's digital refurbishment of classic LPs from Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons.

Rather than chronologically maneuvering through their sizable catalogue, CCM's initial batch commences with two-fer titles from their mid '60s tenure on the Phillips label. The pairing of Folk-Nanny (1964) and Born To Wander (1964) are highlighted by the inclusion of their hit remake of Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs' "Stay", as well as revamped versions of the doo-wop standard "Goodnight My Love," and Pete Seeger's "Where Have All The Flowers Gone".

The 4 Seasons Entertain You (1965) is interesting for the vocalists interpretation of "My Prayer," "Little Darlin'," and a stunning take of "Somewhere," from West Side Story. The pseudo-live On Stage With The Four Seasons (1966) allows those who have never heard the combo's concert act, to do so in the comfort of their own home. The oh-so obviously canned applause is but a minor distraction and doesn't diminish the arrangements of pre-rock 'n' roll pop standards "Just In Time," "Day In Day Out," "Mack The Knife" and the medley of "By Myself," "Jada" and "We Three".

Working My Way Back To You (1966) scored a massive Top Ten entry with the title track. The full-length LP is coupled with the Four Season's psychedelic outing The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette (1969). While it was meant to give the band a hipper image, it must have confused fans as it barely made it into the charts, yielding no singles of any significance. In retrospect however, it is actually quite listenable, particularly the Brit-influenced "Mrs. Stately's Garden" and the epic opener -- well, by Four Seasons standards -- "American Crucifixion Resurrection".

Half & Half (1970) -- a concept package with five songs featuring the Four Seasons and another five credited to Valli -- is gathered with the mid '70s collection Helicon (1977). While neither made much impact, there are a few moments of unmitigated brilliance, namely the inspired take of Laura Nyro's "Emily" that kicks off Half & Half  and the unmistakable organ of Allman Brother Gregg Allman on the Helicon cut "Rhapsody".

Wisely, rather than excise or edit the contents of either the Streetfighter (1985) or Hope & Glory (1992) 'reunion' projects, CCM have included each respective title on its own CD. Although immediately obvious that Valli and cohorts had not lost their chops, by the mid '80s the Four Seasons were as outdated as cars that ran on Ethyl. Their doo-wop roots happily resurface on the fun update of "Book Of Love" and the sentimental "Once Inside A Woman's Heart".

Saving arguably the best for last is Reunited Live (1981). This isn't a literal reunion as Valli is the only original Four Season that is actively performing -- although Bob Gaudio did produce the recordings. Here you'll find Valli & Four Seasons' favorites ranging from latter-era classics "Who Loves You," "Swearin' To God," "December 1963 (Oh, What A Night), "My Eyes Adored You," and even the theme to the motion picture Grease (1978). And what show could be complete without the tunes that made The Four Seasons multi-million sellers? "Rag Doll," "Dawn," "Let's Hang On," "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You," "Workin' My Way Back To You," "Walk Like A Man" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" are presented as high energy medleys. 

Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and technical producer at WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC. He is a regular contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and Gaston Gazette. Comments and questions can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


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