The Motown Years
Pop vocal combo Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons may be remembered for many things, but being Motown artists is probably not one of them. Yet, for a brief time in the early '70s, the New Jersey-based combo was active on the Mowest subsidiary, while Valli himself was a full-fledged member of the Motown family. The results were the band's Chameleon album released in 1972, Valli's solo Inside You from 1975, and a handful of leftovers that ended up on 45s and non-North American market pressings. The appropriately titled The Motown Years gathers all the associated material for the first time onto this two-disc compilation. The archivists at Hip-O Select have now made past, present, and future generations of Valli and Four Seasons enthusiasts very happy, particularly as the contents were formerly nearly impossible to find. They additionally provide curious parties with a valuable missing link between Valli and the Four Seasons' late-'60s and mid-'70s hits. The original quartet had disbanded in the mid-'60s, and remaining from the founding lineup were Valli and Bob Gaudio (keyboards/vocals). During the era (roughly 1972 through 1975) covered here, Valli and Gaudio were working in the Four Seasons in a lineup alongside Al Ruzicka (keyboards), Billy DeLoach (guitar), Lee Shapiro (guitar), Clay Gordon (guitar), and Paul Wilson (drums). Yet the primary influence, especially on the funky Chameleon sides "Sun Country" and "The Night," retains a distinct sonic link to the behind-the-scenes Motown collective known as "the Corporation." They are similarly credited with writing the song "Walk on, Don't Look Back," which ironically is the number that most effectively recalls Valli and company's '60s doo wop-influenced sound. Valli's Inside You sides were likewise occasionally augmented by top Motown producer Hal Davis, while Willie Hutch supplied the standout soul-rocker "Thank You." Reaching further back into the label's "classic" songbook is Valli's update of the Four Tops' venerable "Baby I Need Your Loving." Perhaps it was a lack of material that required a few tunes to appear on both projects, namely "The Night" (which was a huge dance hit in the U.K.), the midtempo ballad "Hickory," and the unimposing soulful rocker "Life and Breath," which was inked by one George Clinton. In a final bit of irony, as forgettable as Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons' Motown experience may have seemed at the time, they were able to redefine their respective and collective careers with the songs "My Eyes Adored You" and "December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" -- both of which were worked up during the Motown time frame and subsequently rocketed into the upper echelons of singles charts worldwide.