When press releases for Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys began proclaiming this would be the “Summer of The Four Seasons,” they meant it. First of all, there’s the new 18-disc Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons– The Classic Albums Box and the eight-disc Frankie Valli – Selected Solo Works. There’s also the intriguing Audio With A G: Sounds Of A Jersey Boy, The Music Of Bob Gaudio, a two-disc collection of songs Gaudio wrote not only for The Four Seasons, but The Walker Brothers, The Tremeloes, and Frank Sinatra, among others. And when there’s a movie, there’s a soundtrack. In this case, it’s 25 tracks producer Gaudio compiled from the original band (of which he was a member), the film, and the platinum-selling Original Broadway Cast Recording, which won the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. Talk about your re-packaging!
For this compilation, there are only a handful of original Four Seasons recordings. “Sherry,” “Dawn (Go Away),” and “Rag Doll” are added at the end of the disc after the “soundtrack” proper. Valli’s 1953 “My Mother’s Eyes” demonstrates what the singer sounded like before the glory days. At the other end of the spectrum, Valli’s “Fallen Angel” captures the singer in 1975 when he was the last original member still performing. From the same year, ironically, the disco-flavored “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” opens the set, but it also doesn’t feature the original Seasons lineup. Instead, replacement drummer Gerry Polci and bassist Don Ciccone, not mentioned in the film, shared lead vocals with Valli on the hit.
For the lion’s share of the disc, the star is John Lloyd Young, the very talented singer who channeled Valli on both Broadway and in the Eastwood film. Unless you’re a purist, you can’t seriously complain about Young’s delivery of the melodies even if it’s clear he’s not an exact vocal doppelganger for Valli. It’s enjoyable to hear him on lesser-known Four Seasons songs not used in the film, like the early “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Moody’s Mood For Love.” Also from the Broadway cast, “A Sunday Kind Of Love,” “Beggin,” and “C’mon Marianne” make comparisons easy as Young’s voice is mixed in with Valli and the original Seasons as they sounded on stage.
There are many pleasures hearing Young’s interpretations of the better-known canon as with “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and, from Broadway, “Big Man in Town,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” and a four-song medley. Not only do Young and the ersatz Seasons capture the spirit and flavor of the Jersey Boys they’re portraying, credit the producers and instrumentalists who really give all these selections new punch and depth. In particular, whoever it was sitting on the drum throne deserves a special mention for all the intros and fills that kick virtually every song up a notch or two. I was reminded a bit of The Runaways soundtrack, where most of the newly-recorded incarnations of the songs sounded better than the originals. That’s not to say the newer recordings had better singers or players—they didn’t—but current recording technology permits dimensions, space, and definition not possible all those years ago.
Along with the Young material, we also hear “Cry For Me” with a lead performance by Erich Bergen who plays the role of Gaudio in the film. It’s from the scene where Gaudio meets the other guys and plays them his first composition for the group. For the closing credits, we get a reprise of “Sherry”/”December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” credited not only to Young and Bergen, but also Michael Lomenda and Vincent Piazza, who starred respectively as Nick Massi and Tommy DeVito, the other two original Four Seasons. No, it’s not The Angels doing “My Boyfriend’s Back,” but rather Kimmy Gatewood. In the film, two of the Seasons chase two of the Angels, the only reason for the inclusion of this otherwise pointless remake.
For those who’ve seen Jersey Boys, the soundtrack offers much more music than you saw in the film and much of it with much more snap and presence. If you haven’t checked the movie out yet, there’s no reason not to enjoy the collection on its own. The Gaudio songbook is chock full of classics, no matter who the performers. John Lloyd Young was good enough for the film’s executive producers Valli and Gaudio, director Eastwood, the folks behind the Tony Awards (he won for his role as Valli in 2006), and I’m on the Young bandwagon too. C’mon aboard—you’ll either be a big man in town or a big girl smiling instead of crying.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00KDKM58C]