Coming on June 2nd is the massive, career-spanning 44-CD, single LP box set, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons – Working Our Way Back To You: The Ultimate Collection.
Working Our Way Back To You features 195 singles and 31 studio albums. The package includes “an extraordinary assemblage of unreleased treats — demos/alternate takes, rare treasures including vintage live recordings, and long-unavailable mixes, including much sought after tracks the group cut for Motown.”
The box set also includes a 144-page hardback book, a separate singles book showing a multitude of picture sleeves from around the world, and a book of collector's notes, written by Four Seasons Appreciation Society’s Ken Charmer.
The hardback book, authored by Paul Sexton follows the group’s story from humble New Jersey beginnings to the opening of the award-winning Jersey Boys musical on Broadway. Also included are over 50,000 words of interviews by New York Times best-selling author Ken Sharp with Four Seasons members Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito, Joe Long, Lee Shapiro and John Paiva, producer/collaborator Bob Crewe, arranger Charles Calello, along with key songwriters and session players.
Key quotes from some of the legends who were interviewed for the box set's liner notes:
Brian Wilson: “I thought they were fantastic. The voice blend was fantastic. The competition helped me to get cracking. It inspired me.”
Barry Gibb: “I've always loved Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. Everything they did made an intense impression on me from 'Rag Doll' to ‘'Big Girls Don't Cry' to 'Walk Like A Man' to 'Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You.' At the time of the Beatles, Frankie Valli's voice reigned as the voice you would hear when you fell in love.”
Maurice Gibb: “Frankie Valli is a fantastic singer. He was doing falsetto long before any of us were doing it. It was just another way of using another instrument for your songs.”
Billy Joel: “To me in a way they were the Beatles before there was a Beatles. They wrote their own stuff. They sang their own stuff and they played their own instruments. This was an incredibly huge band of my youth. There were a lot of life lessons in their music.”
Steven Van Zandt: “They made some of the greatest records ever. They were the biggest productions right there with Phil Spector and Motown.”
In 1972, the Four Seasons recorded one album and released several unsuccessful singles on Motown. Frontman Frankie Valli told us that the original plan of Motown founder Berry Gordy shepherding the group's career never came to pass: “I called Berry Gordy and we talked a bit and he got very excited. And he promised that he was gonna get involved — and it started out that way. Then right in the middle off putting this thing together, he took over being more involved in (the movie) Lady Sings The Blues. Then we got to see that Berry Gordy was not going to be involved. To some degree, we were kind of a secret at the label. Y'know, I'd run into guys, whether it'd be the (Four) Tops or the Temps (and they would say) 'Hey, what are you doing here?' And I'd say, 'We're with the label' — 'No kidding! When did you come?' and it was already a year and a half.”
The Four Seasons' writer-producer-arranger Denny Randell, who co-wrote such Seasons classics as “Workin' My Way Back To You,” “Opus 17,” and “Let's Hang On (To What We've Got),” told us he's still amazed at how the group's music captivates younger fans via the Jersey Boys musical: “I saw that some of the older generations that had, y'know, perhaps known about the Four Seasons from the beginning, were not the only ones that were enchanted that way. We saw, like, kids, like almost like, 'Wow, this is like music!' And I think there was a certain spell that was weaved by. . . where the songs, the arrangements, (and) just where the vibe was coming from.”
Legendary rock journalist Ken Sharp, who interviewed the band for the new box set, shed light on the Four Seasons' 1975 comeback collection, Who Loves You, which returned the group to the top of the hit singles charts: “Bob Gaudio had stopped touring with the band — but he was still a key part of the creative enterprise, writing most of the songs and producing. So, he produced that record and that record features two of the biggest, in fact the biggest Four Seasons songs ever — 'December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)' and 'Who Loves You.' What's interesting about 'December, 1963' is that song was sung by the drummer, Gerry Polci.”
Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons perform tonight (May 5th) at Milwaukee's Riverside Theater.