(Part One of this review considered Collector’s Choice Music’s recent CD reissue of six Four Seasons albums from the 1960’s. This half looks at the boys through their disco resurrection and post-hits era.)
The Seventies And Beyond
If Genuine Imitation Life Gazette was the Four Seasons' failed attempt at garnering hip cred, follow-up Half & Half (1970) can perhaps be seen at the core Seasons' swansong. (Founding members Tommy DeVito & Bob Gaudio both retired from live performing before the release of 1972's Chameleon, the group's sole Motown release.) Per the title, the album is only half a Four Seasons record. Alternating group tracks with cuts designed to build from lead singer Valli's '67 solo success with "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," it pretty much lives up to its billing as a sporadically satisfying record: half pop and half schlock. Though it's tempting to draw a thick line of demarcation 'tween the Seasons songs and the Valli songs (especially when listening to an egregious bit of "inspirational" hokum like Valli's "To Make My Father Proud"), the fact is both sides stumble in their piecemeal pursuit for a seventies hit. Listening to the attempts at early seventies sweetening (hey, there's the obligatory pedal steel guitar!), at times it all sounds more than a little desperate. And did we really need to end the album with a version of "Oh, Happy Day"?
Still, Half/Half contains two sweetly done minor hits: a great remake of Della Reese's 1957 pop hit "And That Reminds Me" which is comparable to the Beach Boys' remake of the Ronettes' "I Can Hear Music," plus "Patch of Blue." Both tracks effectively pit Valli's lead against the other Seasons' soaring harmonies. Album opener "Emily," a solo take on the Laura Nyro song, is also plenty fine, even if its frantic conclusion can't hold up to Nyro's original version, while a group sing written by Chip "Wild Thing" Taylor entitled "Sorry" is engagingly campy in a sixties Cali pop kinda way. (With its sitar outro, it sounds like a track that might've accidentally left off Gazette.) But a few smooth tracks can't mask the fact that this once mighty hit machine was no longer working up to full capacity.