When I was working through old cassettes in the studios this autumn I got to thinking that UK Fans of Four Seasons back in the sixties never got to see their group live[apart from a very brief 1964 UK tour visit that nobody i know ever saw!] and they never appeared on UK TV during the 60s as far as we know. Experiencing that unique 'live' atmosphere and Frankie Valli's stratospheric falsetto was something we eventually heard about from US fans. Those that experienced that live sound are now in their mid/late 60s and will struggle to remember the 'live' sound. In fact even during the 70s when many of us joined the fan club we had no 'live' recordings of their shows from the 60s and only the 'Live On Stage' album to judge from. The earliest audience recorded cassette tape was from Clearwater in Florida 1964 which hardly captured the ‘real’ in concert sound.
So when I picked up a tape titled 'Tommy De Vito Archive' I wondered what I might find. This tape it appears was given to Rex Woodard during his now 'legally' infamous interviews for Tommy's biography now known as 'The Work' and claimed to be the inspiration for the musical play Jersey Boys. What I found inspired me to collate as much as I could of the 'experience' of the group 'in concert' that would create the legend they are. A key collectors set was the result.
I recalled the script of Jersey Boys and Bob Crewe's response to a group disenchanted and wanting an identity and a hit of their own. “Bring me 4 songs......and I'll record you!” is the fictitious line in the play and fans have discussed whether this was true or not....and if so what were the songs? Well it could be that Bob Gaudio and the group presented Crewe with these songs as 4 demos....in late summer 1961. The opening four tracks of this set we discovered can be placed clearly at that time as two would be re-recorded and released in October by the group then named as Billy Dixon and the Topics on Bob Crewe's new label Topix 45 – 6002[I Am All Alone/Trance]. Here we present the original acetate demo versions taped by Tommy DeVito for preservation. This presentation was a big improvement on the Village Voices 45 they did during the Spring of 1961. Possibly recorded 'live' rather than using 3 track studio machines, they feature a group arranged by Nick Massi with a styling distinct from the 45 release versions.[We've finished the CD set with Re-mastered versions of the 45s for comparison]. But two other tracks emerged from these sessions surviving on this tape. 'I Still Care' also appears in Jersey Boys being sung by Miss Frankie Nolan[ABC 10231], with Frankie Valli's soaring falsetto backing and the rest of the group in harmony. This version is in a subdued harmony style that would be a feature of their early albums. The final unheard side was an early version of 'Like You'[which turned up as another alternative version unreleased demo from 1963 only in Spring 2017]. This earlier version by the full group has slightly different lyrics and probably went by the title 'That's You'.
Another discovery from the archive tape would prove to be the earliest good quality 'live' concert recording by the original group that we have ever heard. Featuring a sequence of four songs, 'Stay/Since I Don't Have You/Cry Myself To Sleep/Dawn' we believe this is from 1964 and presents Frankie and the group as we have never heard them...the 'original' superb live concert sound.
Wanting to develop a set worthy of collectors of Four Seasons music we set about gathering as many true live performances from VT recordings during the decade. We were able to gather a good number of songs and medleys that continue to illustrate the 1960s live concert sound of the group. We were even able to include 2 versions of the rare 'Sound Of Music' medley from TV shows. We finished the set with NEW creations in STEREO of some tracks that only ever featured as MONO tracks in their original form re-engineered by sound engineers in the USA.
We re-mastered the archive collections in Wavelab Elements 9 using our MEDSS mix sound treatment[Mono Enhanced with Digital Stereo Simulation]. This removes as much noise and crackles as possible without removing original music and creates a wider/deeper sound stage to enhance the raw MONO.
It is in our view a unique and enjoyable snapshot of the group we love and have collected since our youth. As a step forward it follows on from our late friend Stefan Wriedt's 'The Fantastic First Years'.....taking us through some of the most collectable performances of the 50’s/60s. This set is dedicated to the memory of the late Rex Woodard and Stefan Wriedt but also Frank Rovello and Stuart Miller....who would have loved it. We hope fans enjoy it as much as we we did assembling it. Happy 2018.[47 years on from when those Billy Dixon demos were recorded] . Thanks to John Hornsby and George Juba for their help with this collection. Special thanks to Jim DiNapoli for source tapes. Photo courtesy of Bobby Valli. The download is available for a short time to members of The Four Seasons Motown Unreleased Campaign Facebook Group.