Music

Music (39)

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

Written by 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.


Last modified on Tuesday, 09 March 2021 23:06

Today's Song You Should Know: 'Keystone Lillie' By Saugeye

Written by 26 December, 2020

A musical sweet spot for me is the kinda difficult to describe fusion of bluegrass, country-pop, folk and mountain music. But while I'm hard pressed to define it, it's one of those genres that you can instantly identify when you hear it.

I don't know anything about the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based band Saugeye other than what I was able to discover online, primarily on the group's Bandcamp page.

The track "Keystone Lillie" comes from their upcoming album, which is coming out on January 29th and is apparently an homage to a beloved dog:

"Ten years I got to love you/Ten years just ain't enough/Oh what I'd give/For one more day/With your perfect love"

Saugeye is comprised of a bunch of veteran Tulsa musicians: Jared Tyler (acoustic guitar / dobro / vocals), Seth Lee Jones (electric guitar / slide guitar), Jake Lynn (drums / backing vocals) and Casey Van Beek (bass / backing vocals). I'm a fan of Tyler's solo work, but while I am sadly not as familiar with any of the work from the other members of the band (although I do know the music of The Tractors), that is my mistake. These are clearly musicians I should be listening to on a regular basis.

"Keystone Lillie" is a breezy, bittersweet ray of musical sunshine that instantly makes you wish you were sitting around a fire pit, pulling back a cold one while listening to the band play. The track is timeless in a way that never sounds dated and if the rest of the album is half this good, you should pre-order your copy today.

Here is some info about the band from Horton Records, the label releasing the album. The video of the song is below:

Since 2017, the band has honed its tight live performance with weekly residencies at Tulsa’s Mercury Lounge and The Colony, as well as festivals including Okemah’s Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, Tahlequah’s Medicine Stone Music Festival and Kansas City’s Open Spaces Art Festival, building a loyal following along the way.  The eleven songs on this release reflect that musicianship. 

Recorded at Tulsa’s Black Box Studio on a single day, with the goal of capturing the band’s live show, all of the tracks (including drums, bass, lead and rhythm guitar, and lead vocals) were cut live, with background vocals and B3 organ added later. The songs are a selection of originals (including “Keystone Lillie,” Tyler’s recently penned, beautiful tribute to his faithful dog) and covers by some of the band’s friends and favorites. Saugeye’s powerful rendition of Bill Wither’s  “Grandma’s Hands” features an added original verse, and the band does justice to singer-songwriter Malcolm Holcombe’s “To the Homeland” and “One Leg at a Time.” “Gideon’s Bible,” by the late Brandon Jenkins, is the band’s homage to the considerable lyrical talents of their sorely missed friend. 

Although Saugeye is relatively new on the music scene, its members boast impressive resumes. Singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tyler began his professional career as the longtime sideman to acclaimed singer-songwriter Malcolm Holcombe. Tyler’s solo releases include Blue Alleluia (2006), featuring guest vocals from Emmylou Harris, Here With You (2010), which was co-produced by Chuck Zwicky, Prince’s mixing engineer, and most recently, and Dirt On Your Hands (2017). Seth Lee Jones is a third-generation guitarist and noted luthier who began his career in his family’s band. Jake Lynn plays drums with Texas country outfit Jason Boland & The Stragglers, and Casey Van Beek was a member of The Tractors, with a long career that includes time alongside Glenn Frey and Don Henley in Linda Ronstadt’s band. 





Last modified on Saturday, 26 December 2020 12:50

Taylor Swift Announces Surprise Ninth Album

Written by 10 December, 2020

Taylor Swift announced on social media early Thursday morning that she is releasing a companion album to her recent album Folklore.

 

 

 

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 December 2020 08:07

Halsey Accuses Grammy Officials Of Taking 'Bribes' For Nominations

Written by 30 November, 2020

In a since-deleted Instagram post, Halsey criticized the Recording Academy’s behind-the-scenes operations – including by stating that the organization accepts "bribes" for Grammys nominations and awards.

Halsey's 2020 album "Manic" failed to receive a single Grammy nomination despite having been the first album of 2020 to be certified Platinum by the RIAA.

In the Instagram post, the performer mentioned that many people had reached out offering her words of support and that while she was upset, she was going to choose her words "carefully."

She went on to claim that success at the awards show "often" results from private performances, "knowing the right people," and campaigning "with the right handshakes and 'bribes' that can be just ambiguous enough to pass as 'not-bribes.'"

"And if you get that far," she went on write, "it’s about committing to exclusive TV performances and making sure you help the Academy make their millions in advertising on the night of the show."

She ended her post arguing that the Grammys aren’t "always about the music or quality or culture," and that she hopes the process and the organization will become more transparent.

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 December 2020 07:44

The Oddest Songs Of Christmas: Randy Bachman's 'Taking Care Of Christmas'

Written by 29 November, 2020

Some of the tunes I've been choosing for my daily "Oddest Songs Of Christmas" posts really are best described as terribly inept attempts to provide a little holiday spirit. The singing is clunky, the instrumentation is overblown or the finished track is just boring.

And then there are those tunes that aren't bad in the traditional sense of the word. There are some Christmas singles that are so magnificently insane that they transcend what we think of as good or bad music. They might be catchy and you may even sing along to them. But as you do, you'll feel both joyous and embarrassed.

One Christmas song that neatly fits into that category is the 1996 Randy Bachman track "Taking Care Of Christmas." The song was a bonus track recorded for the album "Randy Bachman Songbook," which featured re-recorded versions of songs Bachman had written and recorded while being part of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. One of BTO's biggest hits was "Takin' Care Of Business," which might have one of the most distinctive guitar riffs of the classic rock era. And for whatever reason, Bachman thought it was a good idea to recreate that song, while changing the lyrics to make it a Christmas tune.

The result is a track that manages to be both ear candy as well as infuriating. You can't help but sing along, but you also hate the fact that you can't resist. Now the fact that Bachman recorded an all-Christmas album in 2008 that also included this song must mean some people loved it. And I'll admit, I've listened to the track a lot this week. I just hate myself for doing so.


Last modified on Sunday, 29 November 2020 13:41

Today's Song You Should Know: 'Little Miss Information' By Insiders

Written by 16 November, 2020

If you're a rock music fan, you're likely familiar with the story of Big Star, a Memphis-based band that created three albums of music that are still regarded as highly influential even though the best-selling release - the debut album entitled "#1 Record" - likely only sold a few hundred copies when it was released in June 1972.  But the band's music has been re-released continuously over the ensuing decades and you can now buy pretty much every track and live show the band ever recorded. Their music matters because not only were they talented, but their songs captured the zeitgeist of what was to come in music. Every one from R.E.M.'s Peter Buck to Paul Stanley have cited the band as an influence. 

There are a precious few bands like Big Star that just seem to capture a specific moment in time. More often than not, the bands aren't all that successful at the time, but as the years pass, their talent and influence become clear. Which brings me to the Chicago band Insiders.

The band was part of a massive wave of talent that exploded in Chicago in the 1980s. You could go to clubs seven days a week and not catch all of the talent playing on a regular basis. And for whatever reason, the scene never took off the way it did in L.A. in the late 1980s or Seattle in the 1990s. A number of bands were signed by major labels but for the most part, the exercise was more frustrating than starmaking.

One group that nearly everyone thought would break big was the Insiders. Imagine Lennon and McCartney backed by Tom Petty's Heartbreakers. Their songs were ear candy, the band was incredibly tight live and they were one of the few bands that didn't have a weak spot in the lineup. After being initially courted by Warner Brothers, they signed with Epic and released their debut album, "Ghost On The Beach" in 1987. The title track became a Top Ten modern rock track and the album reportedly sold about 100,000 copies. 

But like a lot of bands, the follow-up album turned into a bit of a nightmare. They recorded a bunch of tracks in Memphis, which the label apparently decided didn't include a hit. They recorded another group of tracks and eventually were dropped by the label. The entire story is much too long to get into here, but it's worth noting that Chrysalis Records wanted to sign the band, but wasn't willing to pay Epic's price for the recorded tracks.

The band later released several albums through the independent label Monsterdisc, including "Live At Fitzgerald's," an absolutely smoking live album that included tracks from their debut album as well as ones that had been slated for the follow-up.

There are a number of great unreleased tunes from the Epic period, but I wanted to showcase "Little Miss Information" here. In part, because it's just a song with a hook as powerful as a cannonball. And also because a member of the band posted this live clip on YouTube, which gives you an idea of just how good a band they were live.

"Ghost On The Beach" has been out of print since the early 1990s and it has never been released digitally. I love the band enough I spent some time trying to shake loose tracks from Sony to release independently, but wasn't able to make it happen. But if you like their sound, a collection of unrleased tracks called "Back In Memphis" is floating around on some torrent sites. And you can listen to a couple of live tracks and well as songs from their unreleased Epic album on this Soundcloud page.

Last modified on Monday, 16 November 2020 03:04

'The 54th Annual CMA Awards' - Old Dominion (Photo Gallery)

Written by 12 November, 2020

The 54th Annual CMA Awards were hosted by Country Music superstars Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker and featured performances by Jason Aldean, Jimmie Allen, Ingrid Andress, Gabby Barrett featuring Charlie Puth, Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Ashley McBryde, Maren Morris, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi, Charles Kelley and Carly Pearce, Darius Rucker, Thomas Rhett featuring Reba McEntire and Chris Tomlin, Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban and Morgan Wallen and more. Trailblazing Country legend Charley Pride received the 2020 CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.



















Last modified on Thursday, 12 November 2020 14:14

'The 54th Annual CMA Awards' - Morgan Wallen (Photo Gallery)

Written by 12 November, 2020

The 54th Annual CMA Awards were hosted by Country Music superstars Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker and featured performances by Jason Aldean, Jimmie Allen, Ingrid Andress, Gabby Barrett featuring Charlie Puth, Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Ashley McBryde, Maren Morris, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi, Charles Kelley and Carly Pearce, Darius Rucker, Thomas Rhett featuring Reba McEntire and Chris Tomlin, Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban and Morgan Wallen and more. Trailblazing Country legend Charley Pride received the 2020 CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.



















Last modified on Thursday, 12 November 2020 11:56

'The 54th Annual CMA Awards' - Eric Church (Photo Gallery)

Written by 12 November, 2020

The 54th Annual CMA Awards were hosted by Country Music superstars Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker and featured performances by Jason Aldean, Jimmie Allen, Ingrid Andress, Gabby Barrett featuring Charlie Puth, Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Ashley McBryde, Maren Morris, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi, Charles Kelley and Carly Pearce, Darius Rucker, Thomas Rhett featuring Reba McEntire and Chris Tomlin, Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban and Morgan Wallen and more. Trailblazing Country legend Charley Pride received the 2020 CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.



























Last modified on Thursday, 12 November 2020 03:54

'The 54th Annual CMA Awards' - Dan + Shay And Justin Bieber (Photo Gallery)

Written by 12 November, 2020

The 54th Annual CMA Awards were hosted by Country Music superstars Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker and featured performances by Jason Aldean, Jimmie Allen, Ingrid Andress, Gabby Barrett featuring Charlie Puth, Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Ashley McBryde, Maren Morris, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi, Charles Kelley and Carly Pearce, Darius Rucker, Thomas Rhett featuring Reba McEntire and Chris Tomlin, Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban and Morgan Wallen and more. Trailblazing Country legend Charley Pride received the 2020 CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.


































Last modified on Thursday, 12 November 2020 03:52
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