Many music artists from the 1950s to the 1980s with maybe only one hit or a handful of albums in their career have had their original recordings researched and compiled such that the art of their creative talent has appeared on CD in the last 15 years. So how could an artist with in excess of 80million records sold have around 45 studio recordings still languishing in storage vaults nearly 50 years after their creation?. This remains one of the enigmatic mysteries of the Four Seasons history.
Maybe because we have worked so hard as an Appreciation Society committed to research and the documentation of Frankie Valli's musical history we have been the benefactors of music data that others have stumbled upon and gifted to us which the creators strangely wanted to ignore. That seems to be the case with the story of the Four Seasons period at Motown. It seems we are almost the best equipped to tell the story of that period.
During the 1990s information was leaked from Motown UK that there were a number of unreleased tracks from the group and Valli in Motown's huge collection of tapes. This was confirmed during the noughties when a UK Motown CD compiler established these existed and proposed a UK CD release. The Four Seasons Partnership quickly reacted to quash such a project and it was not until 2009 that Motown Universal's CEO negotiated with the Four Seasons Partnership for a release of the Anthology CD collection of the 22 recordings by Frankie and the group that had been released on vinyl only during the period 1972 to 1974.
That was it.! Or so we thought. The tracks from the 1990s listing and the UK compilers project still remained unheard....unreleased. Why? It is a reasonable question. Do they no longer exist as the Partnership's lawyer has contended.?. Or are we to believe they are unfinished and not appropriate for release as has been contended by Bob Gaudio and accepted by Motown Universal?
Certainly not......because since then as a result of anonymous donations of data we have been able to document a long list of tracks, tape references and master numbers which we have made available via our website in the Motown Tape Index. The 2009 release itself confirms the quality with two previously unreleased versions replacing the vinyl versions. This data creates more questions than answers and as we finish our research we are able to share questions and analysis which makes the suppression of this music even more strange. We plan to do this over the next year.
Back in 1971 Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli accepted Berry Gordy’s commitment to work closely with them and bring back the success they had achieved in the 60’s with a new sound. The deal signed with the label in the fall of 1971, following negotiations between Gordy and Valli himself, involved Gordy taking personal charge of guiding them back to the top, with his team of writers and producers, collectively known as The Corporation.(made up of Berry Gordy, Freddie Perrien, Alphonzo Mizell and Deke Richards)
There are four distinct phases of the groups contract at Motown. Originally signed to Mowest they worked intensely initially with existing producers A Valli solo album appears to have been considered too before the second phase and Bob Gaudio's own penned songs reflecting his thinking which resulted in a progressive adult contemporary album (he had failed to achieve commercial success at Philips with Genuine Imitation Life Gazette albeit some artistic acclaim) That album was to be titled 'Chameleon'. Not intentionally it became regarded as a 'concept' album. Single releases failed and Motown seemed to lose sight of this masterpiece’s strengths with failed promotion and mis-management. Such failure oft repeated during the 1970s by the company would contribute to the failure of the Mowest label. In 1971 when Motown moved to LA they had 9 Top Ten hits in the UK. By 1973 this was down to 4. Mowest’s failure to achieve much market success led Gaudio to somewhat abandon the group for his Motown in-house producer role whilst the group was troubled by internal conflict and changing personnel by 1973.
Phase 3 laid the seeds for potential success when Bob Crewe returned having signed as a writer/producer following recovery from financial troubles and nervous exhaustion after the collapse of his Crewe labels. He re-generated a new anthemic Seasons sound briefly before Valli sacked the group and started again recruiting a new line-up.
Phase 4 was the new album project Crewe and Gaudio seemed to have established with Motown which would lead to several top quality songs being demo'd in late 1973.With a quality 45 release in early 1974 success should have followed.
The failure of Motown executives at this time wasn't to be tolerated by Valli, Gaudio and Crewe as they saw potential being ignored or being under-promoted yet again. Leaving the label was the only option with a gem of a track and some potential tracks under consideration by Gaudio and Valli and the new highly skilled group line-up.
New deals for Valli's solo identity and the groups emerging new sound needed companies and Execs with insight and the distribution/marketing potential to create the success their talent deserved. Hence the Private Stock and Warner-Curb contracts that followed in 1974.
Quickly realising the error of their ways Motown rifled through the vaults to issue the 'Inside You' album as they owned all the tracks now left in rhe vaults. Two albums and a handful of single sides the legacy for3 years hard work
Nothing has appeared since with over 45 tracks now known to be recorded and on Tapes listed in our Motown Tape Index. A more detailed profile of all the work they did at Motown where they left 45+ tracks sitting in the vaults has been described in our Motown History of the group Parts 1 and Part 2.(see below) Check out the links. As we said initially, this is a most amazing situation in 2016 when the group's legendary status has been so reinforced since 2007 by the hugely successful musical Jersey Boys.
Would a release of this material prove successful?
If Bob and Frankie stepped back to look at the big picture of their career they would see this period as part of a journey from the desperate days of the debt crisis at Philips and their experimental attempts to revive the group and Valli’s reputation which led to the formation of a NEW Four Seasons band that gave the group their most successful hit ever and the finale to Jersey Boys. They will never be able to deny this fact or to have the world not recognise the achievements of Gerry Polci, Lee Shapiro, Don Ciccone and John Paiva. We just won’t let this happen.
Celebrating the rise from those desperate times was largely at Motown and we.can’t see how with the right Record Company and promotion that this would be a milestone collectors set. The quality of material has been demonstrated by the 'Inside You' album and the few demos that have surfaced since 2009. But more importantly this is a hugely important part of the groups and Motown history. It is musically a lost period.....'the missing link'. But whilst it would perhaps rekindle just what troubles surrounded the people involved during the period it would show how the individual brilliance of Valli, Gaudio and ultimately Bob Crewe created the second coming for two separate and brilliant acts, Frankie Valli AND a NEW Four Seasons which forms the finale of Jersey Boys.
But as with a Chameleon this group is changing colour as we close our focus on the history of the group in the 60s and start our CAMPAIGN TO FREE THE FOUR SEASONS FROM THE MOTOWN VAULT. Join our soon to be facebook group and help create the pressure necessary to bring this long overdue set of music to a deserving public. The fight to hear these lost productions is just beginning.
Read our detailed story of the time at Motown in our two articles
Our Facebook Free The Four Seasons Unreleased from the vaults Campaign page is now up and running