As we move into 2013 it is perhaps for many UK fans a case of saying….”let’s do it again”” as the euphoria of last years’ Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons first tour in 18 years still rolls. And whilst the excitement and anticipation of another set of concerts in summer 2013 builds, maybe that should be the focus. Well not for me on this blog. Royal Albert Hall 26th June 2012 was a peak that could not be bettered or matched for me and a great credit to the band and the stylish show and sound they have been putting on since 2009.
Great songs: done live by the man whose soaring voice dominated the falsetto sound on radio for 5 years during the 60s. Just take stock of the reality of the group’s career and sound. The music today…whether live or in ‘Jersey Boys’ (JB) is not what it was and quite often on CD it sounds mushy and dull. So how do we move on?
Listen to vinyl or the quality CD MONO masters (there are very few good CD’s around today)from their Vee-Jay days and it hits you. Nick Massi’s vocal skills brought the best out of every group member and formed the elements of their ‘hit’ formula and Charlie Calello’s arranging coupled with such great songs from Crewe and Gaudio cemented the mix in classic analogue pop hits. As they moved onto Philips their formula created even more classic melodies and harmonies before Charlie Calello moved on and Artie Schroeck working with Bob Gaudio created a new ‘more modern’ and sophisticated harmony sound by 1967. The fact is that the group sound was good enough to continue and used to create even more classic 70s styled ‘harmonies’ with a new line-up meant their career as a hit making group lasted over 15 years. Truly legendary. But increasingly you have to go back to the vinyl to experience it.
But no matter what ‘tribute bands’ do or how Frankie tries to re-create the sound in his concerts two facts stand-out. One…..the essence of the classic studio sound of the 60s and 70s just cannot be reproduced ‘live’. It is a nearly lost ‘analogue’ sound. It is rarely re-produced well on CD and not ‘live’. We will be reminding readers of this fact and sources for the best sound during 2013. Second…..whilst JB continues to represent a great show, it doesn’t reproduce the group’s ‘true’ sound. It is actually very different, relying on different keys , arrangements and a ‘choral’ rather than ‘open’ harmony and although it makes a great night out at the theatre, it’s continuing success is perhaps damaging to the heritage, legacy and history of the group. Somehow it to me has become???….just not authentic.
The recent You Tube video of the University Of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Entrepreneurship covers some but misses key elements of the show JB’s success. Rick Elice and Bob Gaudio (scoring no points for fashion in a suit with trainers!!) open up a little but clearly need to hide certain facts.
“The way the ‘book’ accesses the music is perhaps one of the key factors in JB’s success”says Rick. That is the key. The ‘book’ takes advantage of the music and it transforms the story. And , not mentioning that the original source for much of the ‘book’ was the original BOOK co-written by Rex Woodard and Tommy DeVito was clearly necessary due to the current court case. Legal papers show its significance but it may be some time before it is published and we can see it for ourselves. But the reality is….the original music rules….not JB but Bob Crewe’s immaculately ‘carved’ 45s.
Yes …..many UK fans want to party ‘one more time’ with Frankie and the band and that is OK….it’s good.
But Casey and the music detectives will be re-visiting and reviving the best sounding MONO and STEREO mixes from the past. We’ve started with ‘Solo’ – Gold. Rhino this month launch a cheap re-issue of the ‘Gold Vault’ masters and our MONO 45s archive will recover all of the 1964 to 1968 Philips 45 mixes as they were from vinyl. But the STEREO masters still need researching on master tapes and re-mixing.
It is a fact that Frankie Valli can’t today sound as he did in his younger days and JB can’t be The 4 Seasons. Recovering the vinyl sound digitally is the best way to preserve and enjoy the sound on today’s players. The technology may have moved on….but a look at Amazon is interesting. There are more record players on sale than at any time since on-line selling started and maybe since the advent of the CD. Each offers the option to record via USB to computer/I-phone………why? So you don’t have to listen to poorly mastered CD’s….you can create your own vinyl sound. …..in the original or a more instantly accessible way. The analogue sound that really is ‘The ‘sound’ of Frankie Valli and The 4 Seasons'.
Little wonder that Rhino have realized this to and issued the ‘Gold Vault’ albums on CD, vinyl and surprisingly cassette!!....: but still a mixture of MONO and STEREO versions that fail to make this set a consistent listening exercise. These sets should have had versions of both but then again this demonstrates that Rhino want to charge for 12 song CD's ( a classic rip-off yet again) but more significantly it demonstrates that some STEREO masters don’t exist in their archive. But, a first Four Seasons vinyl release since the 1990s - it really is a case of Back to the Future! What next? The return of Eight Track?
(Eight track label scans courtesy of Paul Urbahm)