2021 Brings Long-Awaited 44-Disc Career Set For Four Seasons Fans

Post by: Rick Ellis 09 January, 2021

Along with The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Four Seasons were by far the most commercially successful bands during the 1960s. But The Four Seasons have long been underappreciated by music fans, in part because they were less about music experimentation and more focused with cranking out hit after hit. And they did just that, hitting the Top 40 35 times in the 1960s and early 1970s and selling more than 100 million records worldwide.

While the band's early music found a renewed success following the success of the Broadway show "Jersey Boys," there have been large parts of the band's output that has been neglected. Many of the band's albums are out of print and there have been no deluxe editions or bonus track releases. And many of the group's best-known hits aren't available for streaming because the band prefers to sell the tracks digitally to capitalize on the "Jersey Boys" resurgence.

An expansive new box set of CDs promises to finally give The Four Seasons its proper due with a 44-disc collection that features every album released by the band, along with unreleased tracks, several early live sets and a CD of previously unheard tracks from the group's tumultuous stint at Motown's Mowest label.

The career of The Four Seasons (known in the 60s as "4 Seasons") has a number of chapters and the set will extensively cover all of them. Frankie Valli had recorded and performed under a number of names beginning in 1953, before settling on the name The Four Lovers. The group released a number of singles, but aside from one #63 hit, the group never took off. Personnel came and went and after famously failing a 1960 audition at a New Jersey bowling alley, Valli and band keyboardist and guitarist Bob Gaudio formed the Four Seasons Partnership, which they split ownership of 50-50. That partnership still owns most the group's master recordings, which has ended up being both a blessing and a curse for fans.

Within two years, the band was now called 4 Seasons and had signed to Vee Jay Records, where their first three singles all went to #1. Unfortunately the Chicago-based label was in deep financial trouble, despite at one point having both The Beatles and The Four Seasons on its roster. The group moved to Phillips Records and had a string of hits that continued into the late 1960s. But after the commercial failure of 1969's concept album The Genuine Imitation Life and 1970's part group/part solo Frankie Valli release Half & Half, The Four Seasons were without a label for the first time in 8 years.

The next few years were difficult for the group, but also included a lot of experimentation. Some of which has remained unreleased until being selected for this upcoming (and still untitled) box set. The group signed with Motown's new LA-based Mowest label, and they recorded a large number of tracks. Some with familiar producers like Bob Crewe and some with longtime Motown producers like The Corporation. A 1972 album named Chameleon was unsuccessful, as was a solo Frankie Valli single. The group worked on a new album set for an early 1974 release, but when Mowest declined to release it, the Four Seasons Partnership attempted to purchase all of those master recordings. But the label wanted too much money for the tracks, so the Partnership negotiated a deal that allowed them to purchase one completed track for $4,000. That track - "My Eyes Adored You" - was later released by Private Stock Records and became a #1 solo hit for Frankie Valli in late 1974. 

That solo hit - along with a successful "best of" album release by The Four Seasons - convinced Warner Brothers to sign them. By this point, Frankie Valli's was gradually losing his hearing due to otosclerosis (though eventually, surgery restored most of it). And in an effort to ease the load on Valli, a new version of The Four Seasons was recruited, led by Don Ciccone (formerly of the Critters) and Gerry Polci. The result was the album Who Loves You, an album in which Polci did about half of the lead vocals. That album's title cut went to #3 on the U.S. singles chart, the follow-up single "December 1963 (Oh What A Night) was the group's last #1 hit and the third single ("Silver Star") just slipped into the Top 40.

At the same time, Valli was having a string of solo hits - "Swearin' To God," "Our Day Will Come," "Fallen Angel" - and 1976 ended on a high note for everyone. But that was also the last big commercial success for either Valli or The Four Seasons. The group's next album, "Helicon" didn't produce a hit single and topped at #168 on the album charts. A plan to spin-off the group without Valli so he could focus on his solo career was dropped. The Four Seasons changed members again and became essentially a backing band for Valli and a jukebox to play the group's many hits.

This up-and-down career offers a lot of opportunities to fill in the blanks with unreleased and under-appreciated tracks and this new set reportedly covers nearly every aspect of the band's long career. The set will begin with an expanded version of the 1962 album Sherry & 11 Others and ends with a rerelease of the 2008 Rhino album Jersey Babies. In between are numerous rare stereo or mono versions of tracks, 13 previously unreleased songs from the Mowest-era, three live board-mixed concerts: a 1972 show from Atlantic City, a 1973 show in Boston and a complete live show from 1974 that includes numerous otherwise unrecorded songs. There is a CD of previously unreleased tracks recorded in 1968-1970. And much, much more.

Despite the massive proposed size of this box set, there are plenty of unreleased tracks that weren't included for various reasons. Because the Four Seasons Partnership controls most of the group's masters, the set doesn't include some tracks that for whatever reason weren't approved by the group. While 13 unreleased Mowest-era tracks are being included, Bob Gaudio declined to approve others he and/or Valli felt weren't up to the group's standards. There are an unknown number of tracks that are controlled by long-time producer Bob Crewe and because of a long-running disagreement between Gaudio and the late Crewe, those tracks are also not part of the set.

But given the massive proposed size of the box set and the number of rare tracks, this release - which is due sometime in the summer of 2021 - will be a dream release for any hardcore fan of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

Read 28111 times Last modified on Tuesday, 09 March 2021 23:06