The Four Seasons (1969)
Popular music is always a struggle to keep relevant. Music tastes change and older acts have to find ways to keep up. It was the changes in music in the late 60s that lead the Four Seasons to record their least typical album, The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette.
The group had peaked in the early 60s, but by 1967, they had slowly faded from the charts* and were struggling to come out with a new album. And Sgt. Pepper suddenly made an album of well written pop songs seem old fashioned. You needed to be more ambitious and a concept album/rock opera seemed the way to go.
So Four Seasons songwriter Bob Gaudio teamed up with composer Jake Holmes** to create a concept album.
The album is ambitions, to say the least. It’s a satirical look at American life in the 60s, with ambitious lyrics and philosophical concepts. Gaudio still knew how to write a catchy tune, and the songs cover all sorts of aspects of life. And despite a touch of pretentiousness, the songs are all first class.
But it was in many ways a mistake. The problem was that fans of the group were disappointed that it has no hits in the “Sherry” or “Walk Like a Man” mold. At the same time, people who might have been interested in a concept album of this nature considered the group to be irrelevant. The album snuck into the bottom of the top 100 albums, but probably mostly do to its long-time fans buying it on the name of the group alone.*** It was a failure.
It was certainly a misfire. The Four Seasons underwent some upheaval. and revamped with Frankie Valli featured more prominently. Eventually, they had a renaissance – but The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette was forgotten. It’s not even hinted at in Jersey Boys.
It’s certainly not a great album, but the music is excellent and deserves not to be forgotten.
*Not unusual for a popular music groups; even the Beatles figured they’d have about five years at the top even if they hadn’t broken up.
**Best known as the one Jimmy Page stole “Dazed and Confused” from.
***The cover didn’t help much, either. It was designed to look like a newspaper (much like Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick three years later), and the name of the group is obscured in the design. Also, with the words “American Crucifixion and Resurrection” on the front it as bound to give the wrong impression.