The last gasp of a classic sound

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purposes of an album review, and thus consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released May 1972, Chameleon was The Four Seasons’ only Motown album, after many successful years at Phillips culminating in rapidly waning popularity. Though founding member and lead guitarist Tommy DeVito left after the release of their previous album, Half and Half, the band’s classic sound nevertheless was able to continue for one more album.

While bassist Joe Long and keyboardist Bob Gaudio (both of whom also performed backing vocals) contributed to major comeback Who Loves You in 1975, Chameleon marked their final foray as part of The Four Seasons’ public face and overall style.

By 1972, The Four Seasons’ established voice and style were very out of step with the face of popular music. They’d developed beautifully into a very smooth, mature, adult style, while still staying true to themselves, but it wasn’t what most people wanted to hear anymore.

Songwriters Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe went back to the drawing board to try one final time to get back into the mainstream with an album full of songs people would welcomingly embrace. Their songs were usually such a winning blend of contemporary sounds with the band’s own style, but most of their fans had long since moved on.

Though Chameleon failed to chart in the U.S, it’s very warmly received by both modern fans and critics. It has a wonderful sound, continuing to show how The Four Seasons really hit their creative stride after peak popularity. These albums from the second half of their career show how much deeper they were than their image suggested.

Some of the unused songs ended up on Frankie’s 1975 solo album Inside You, which is composed of Chameleon outtakes and unreleased songs.

Track listing:

“A New Beginning (Prelude)” (instrumental)
“Sun Country”
“You’re a Song (That I Can’t Sing)”
“The Night” (#7 in the U.K. after a 1975 rerelease)
“A New Beginning”
“When the Morning Comes”
“Poor Fool”
“Touch the Rainchild”
“Love Isn’t Here (Like It Used to Be)”

Because the album tanked, Motown’s subsidiary label MoWest (who officially released Chameleon) cancelled a planned follow-up record. In a 2014 interview, Frankie attributed the lack of success to Motown’s nonexistent promotion. The greatest album in the world can fail if it’s not promoted properly, or at all.

One thought on “The last gasp of a classic sound

  1. And I wonder what albums/singles Motown and MotownWest were putting their promotion energies too.

    Listening just now to “A new beginning”.

    The parts I can understand seem to be over-produced.

    And that move from Phillips to Motown…

    Like

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