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Box Sets

Reviewed by Greg Beets, December 7, 2007, Music

Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons

Jersey Beat: The Music of Frankie Valli & the 4 Seasons (Rhino)

There's a reason the 4 Seasons never received the veneration afforded the Beach Boys. This 3-CD/1-DVD set oozes classics spanning presidents Kennedy through Carter, but it also highlights where the Seasons fall short of their West Coast rivals. Their variation on Phil Spector fails to match the Beach Boys' sonic resplendence, although it's hard to argue with a streetwise Jersey quartet that landed three straight No. 1s with "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," and "Walk Like a Man." Valli's heartsick falsetto is cataclysmic even without superior production. While the Boys were being true to school, the Seasons tackled class divisions with "Dawn (Go Away)" and "Rag Doll." Lesser-knowns "Little Boy (in Grown Up Clothes)" and "Silence Is Golden" underscore the richness of the group's peak period. Bass vocalist Nick Massi left in 1965, but "Let's Hang On!" and its proto-garage guitar intro kept things rolling. Meanwhile, Valli's successful solo career started with an unlikely thud when "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" stalled at No. 128 before becoming a hit for the Walker Brothers. The lean years are best epitomized by "Saturday's Father," a psychedelic stab at social relevance from 1969's The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette. Valli and a new crop of Seasons returned to No. 1 with the 1975 disco staple "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)," but when they went mano a mano with the Beach Boys on 1984's "East Meets West," both groups embarrassed themselves. The DVD compendium of TV performances is uneventful, but watching Valli perform in a 1972 whorehouse wallpaper tuxedo is good for laughs.


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