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For Frankie Valli Reissues Is The Word


06/04/2008
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(conqueroo) Having reissued a goodly portion of The 4 Seasons' album catalog, it made perfect sense for Collectors' Choice Music to go back and sweep through lead singer Frankie Valli's solo albums. Four twofer CDs containing eight complete albums, due out June 24, 2008, represent almost every solo Valli recording, culled from such labels as Philips, Private Stock and Warner/Curb and MCA/Curb. The twofer packages include detailed liner notes by prolific annotator James Ritz.

The lead singer of the 4 Seasons was often billed as "the sound of Frankie Valli" on the group's recordings, owing to his four-octave range and falsetto that was clear and commanding. Only a few pop singers had perfected falsetto Frankie Lymon comes to mind but only the 4 Seasons pushed it to the forefront of the mix. Frankie was born Francis Castellucio in Newark, N.J. in 1934, and fittingly, his first and strongest influence was fellow Jersey-ite Frank Sinatra. His group, originally called the Four Lovers and later the 4 Seasons, charted two consecutive No. 1 hits right out of the box "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" in 1962 and went on to chart 15 singles over the next two years, which included six Top 10s and two No. 1s. Some four years later, Valli recorded his first solo album, appropriately titled Solo and featuring the hit "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." And the rest is history.

Let's take a look at the eight albums on four twofer CDs:

Solo / Timeless: If there was any thought that Frankie Valli's decision to pursue a solo career was met with animosity from the rest of the 4 Seasons, the cover photo of the 1967 Philips Records album Solo was meant to dispel the notion, with Valli standing on a silver platter held upward by the group. It would launch a 40-year-plus solo career. The 4 Seasons were on hand, but Valli was clearly up front, sans group harmonies. The album went to No. 34 abetted by the smash hit "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." Bob Crewe produced with Bob Gaudio arranging. Many of the Solo songs were originally released as Philips and Smash singles including "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)," which became a No. 16 hit for the Walker Brothers. The 1968 album Timeless boasted more cohesion as an album, with arrangements by frequent 4 Seasons collaborator Charles Calello. The single "To Give (The Reason I Live)" cracked the Top 30. The album also contained the Neil Sedaka/Carole Bayer Sager song "Make The Music Play."

Close Up / Valli: Valli shifted from Philips to Motown's pop label, Mowest, where not much happened, and then to Private Stock (otherwise known as the home of Blondie and Robert Gordon) in 1975, where the hits resumed. When he left Motown, Valli brought an unreleased song over from the label that he believed could be a hit. The master cost him a reputed $4,000. The song was "My Eyes Adored You," which charted No. 1, jump-started Private Stock and re-ignited Valli's solo career. The surrounding album, 1976's Close Up, notched No. 51 on the chart and featured contributions from Crewe, Gaudio and Sandy Linzer. The album's twofer-mate, Valli, recorded in 1976, includes Boz Scaggs' "We're All Alone" and "Easily" as well as the song "Lucia," which featured the London Symphony Orchestra.

Our Day Will Come / Lady Put The Light Out: Disco had permeated pop music by 1976, and Our Day Will Come featured a big Valli disco hit, the Ruby & the Romantics song "Our Day Will Come," with guest vocalist Patti Austin; it charted at No. 11. Other key tracks were "How'd I Know That Love Would Slip Away" and "You Can Bet (I Ain't Going Nowhere)," the latter penned by the album's co-producer Dave Appell, formerly of Cameo/Parkway Records. Lady Put The Light Out, which followed in 1977, featured contributions by some of the best writers of the era: Paul Anka, Albert Hammond, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, Carol Bayer Sager and even the Raspberries' Eric Carmen. Carmen wrote the album's lead track, "I Need You," as well as "Boats Against The Current." The most notable track may be the title tune, which according to annotator Ritz describes as "dead-on as (Valli) bends and milks every nuance of the lyrics. A highlight on any album."

Frankie Valli . . . Is The Word / Heaven About Me: Valli segued from Private Stock to Warner/Curb for 1978's . . . Is The Word. This followed the singer's cameo in the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, where he met one of the greatest latter-day falsetto vocalists, Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. Gibb had always thought the two singers would work together one day, and that day came when Gibb was commissioned to write the title song for the film adaptation of the stage hit Grease. Valli's version of the song became a No. 1 hit, one of the few times the Brothers Gibb didn't occupy the top slot that year. Gibb also wrote the song "Save Me, Save Me," reflecting both Grease and Saturday Night Fever. And Jazz Crusaders flutist Hubert Sumlin came on board with the jazzy and laid-back "A Tear Can Tell." Heaven Above Me, released on MCA/Curb in 1980, featured the charting song "Where Did We Go Wrong," a duet with Chris Forde. Crewe and Gaudio co-wrote both that song and one called "Soul." Valli also waxed French on "Passion for Paris." It was during this time that Valli went through various operations for ostosclerosis, a rare affliction that nearly cost him his hearing. Fortunately, he recovered and continued a career that has now spanned nearly 50 years and has recently been immortalized with the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys.

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