A contemporary makeover that failed

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Released August 1985, Streetfighter was The Four Seasons’ first studio album since commercial bomb Helicon (1977). By this point in the band’s career, songwriter Bob Gaudio knew it was probably a lost cause to recapture the fan base who’d long since moved on. Instead, he turned his attention to crafting a record in tune with popular sounds.

This was always his aim, listening to contemporary songs and trying to translate that style into his band’s unique voice. This approach was golden during the Sixties, though it notably failed in 1969’s Genuine Imitation Life Gazette. During the Seventies, this approach was hit or miss, though it most notably succeeded with a huge comeback in 1975.

Towards this end, Bob turned to former co-writer Sandy Linzer for help. Together, they’d produced a number of big hits in the Sixties. On Streetfighter, Linzer co-wrote five of the eight songs. Surely such accomplished songwriters, with such a keen ear for currently popular sounds, could craft another great comeback for The Four Seasons.

What was popular in 1985? Lots of synths and electronic beats. As a proud Eighties kid, I can’t complain about that unmistakable sound, but it’s not exactly one most people associate with The Four Seasons. As much as I dislike people who rant about a band or artist daring to try a much different style instead of spending their entire career remaking the same album in different iterations, something’s a bit off here.

In my review of Helicon, I used an analogy of a writer who earned fame for historical fantasies, then tried her hand at steampunk, alternative history, and contemporary urban fantasy. Some fans might only be interested in the subgenre she established a name for herself in, while others will eagerly follow her into those other, somewhat related subgenres of fantasy and historical.

The Four Seasons’ career followed a similar trajectory. As different as records like GILG, Who Loves You, and Helicon were from their familiar sound, they nonetheless were underpinned by the same general style and voice. They’re obvious Four Seasons’ records.

Now imagine that writer decides to try sci-fi because it’s really trendy, and she wants to capture a new fan base. While her new genre bears some similarities to fantasy, in that it imagines other worlds, it’s a lot further from typical fantasy than steampunk or any other subgenre.

Still, there are enough hallmarks of her usual style to pull it off fairly well. Her natural voice is a bit buried under currently popular styles, but she doesn’t come off as entirely trying to be a completely different writer.

That’s exactly how Streetfighter feels. There are enough touches of the band’s established voice and style, but they’re starting to fall by the wayside. All those synths and electronic beats bury some great songs and make them sound too much like those of any other Eighties act who didn’t achieve longterm popularity.

None of the singles charted, and the album was a commercial bomb. It seemed obvious The Four Seasons were over as anything but an oldies circuit band, but Bob Gaudio was determined to try one more time to craft a popular record that would earn them a new fanbase.

Track listing:

“Streetfighter” (one of their quintessential songs, perfectly capturing Frankie’s musical image as a tough guy with a heart of gold)
“Veronica”
“Moonlight Memories”
“Book of Love”
“Did Someone Break into Your Heart Last Night”
“Commitment”
“Once Inside a Woman’s Heart”
“What About Tomorrow” (my fave track)

A somewhat mislabeled reunion

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Released January 1981, Reunited Live, in spite of what the title might suggest, is a reunion of some of the latter-day Four Seasons, not either of the two classic era lineups. Nick Massi, Tommy DeVito, and Joe Long appear nowhere in this 1980 Garden State Art Center concert, though Bob Gaudio did play keyboards.

Present instead are Don Ciccone (guitar and vocals), Jerry Corbetta (keyboard and vocals), Gerry Polci (drums and vocals), and Larry Lingle (guitar and vocals). Absent from the latter-day lineup are Lee Shapiro (keyboards) and John Paiva (guitar). Probably because this is a reunion of a later incarnation of the band, their Seventies material is featured much more heavily. The Sixties songs all appear as medleys, not full songs.

Thanks to venerable L.A. ear surgeon Victor Goodhill, Frankie’s otosclerosis was healed by this point. Dr. Goodhill used bones from UCLA’s bone bank to make a new stapes bone for each ear. The hearing in one ear went from 35% to 98%, and a year later, the second operation brought the other ear up to 87%. With most of his hearing restored, Frankie was able to sing most of the lead vocals on this record.

While there may have been some studio sweetening, this is a great live show, showing this incarnation of The Four Seasons in top-notch form. They were never a live band like The Who, but I don’t think anyone would expect their stage presence to markedly differ from their studio style. What you hear is what you get.

It’s also great to hear Frankie singing again, live no less, so soon after the miraculous restoration of his hearing. These songs show him in peak vocal form, in comparison to how he lip-syncs all his shows these days (though that’s the topic for another post!).

Track listing:

“Who Loves You”
“Our Day Will Come”
Medley of “Save It for Me,” “Rag Doll,” “Dawn (Go Away),” and “Let’s Hang On!”
“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”
“Fallen Angel”
“Silver Star”
“Slip Away”
“December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)”
“Swearin’ to God”
“My Eyes Adored You”
Medley of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Workin’ My Way Back to You,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” and “Opus 17”
“Spend the Night in Love” (#91 in the U.S.)
“Heaven Must Have Sent You (Here in the Night)”
“Grease”
Medley of “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby Goodbye)”

Happy 35th birthday to Colour by Numbers!

Copyright Virgin Records; image used solely to illustrate subject for the purpose of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

This was one of those albums I got because I saw it in the $2 vinyl stack, and I wanted to indulge my Eighties nostalgia (the same reason I bought Rio in 2007, little dreaming I’d become a Duranie three and a half years later). I ended up really liking this album on its own merits. Unfortunately, the first Culture Club album, Kissing to Be Clever, which I also got in the $2 stacks, didn’t impress me so much.

Their début album may be spotty (with a lot of songs sounding too much alike, too close together), but this their sophomore album absolutely hits it out of the park. It’s a quintessential Eighties album I highly recommend to everyone who loves that decade.

Released October 1983, the album hit #1 in the U.K., Australia, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand; #2 in the U.S., Spain, and Norway; #3 in Sweden and The Netherlands; #4 in France and Switzerland; #6 in West Germany; #9 in Italy; and #17 in Austria.

Track listing, with stars by bonus tracks:

“Karma Chameleon” (one of the most overplayed Eighties songs, right up there with “Hungry Like the Wolf”) (#1 in the U.K., the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland; #2 in both Germanies; #3 in Austria; #4 in Italy; #5 in France)
“It’s a Miracle” (#4 in the U.K.; #13 in the U.S.; Top 5 in Canada)
“Black Money”
“Changing Every Day”
“That’s the Way (I’m Only Trying to Help You)”
“Church of the Poison Mind” (#2 in the U.K. and Ireland; #4 in Australia; #5 in Canada; #9 in Belgium and New Zealand; #10 in the U.S.; #11 in Norway and The Netherlands; #12 in Italy and Austria; #13 in Sweden; #23 in both Germanies; #43 in France)
“Miss Me Blind” (#5 in the U.S. and Canada)
“Mister Man”
“Stormkeeper”
“Victims” (#2 in Ireland and Italy; #3 in the U.K.; #4 in Australia; #7 in New Zealand; #11 in Belgium; #18 in Switzerland; #39 in both Germanies)
“Man-Shake”*
“Mystery Boy”*
“Melting Pot”*
“Colour by Numbers”*
“Romance Revisited”*

Critics by and large loved the album, giving it extremely high ratings. Colour by Numbers has been certified quadruple platinum in the U.S., triple platinum in the U.K., and platinum in Hong Kong; diamond in Canada; and gold in France.

The album is still well-regarded today, both as one of the best albums of the Eighties, and an overall fantastic pop album. It’s hard to pick a favourite song, since they’re all so good!

Celebrating The Ox on his 16th Jahrzeit

This year, in honor of the 16th Jahrzeit (death anniversary) of The Who’s bassist, John Alec Entwistle, I’m featuring my favorite songs he sang lead on. He was such a dear, special treasure, and often underappreciated. My estrogen Who lists were very active in the early Aughts, and it was rather uncommon for us to get a John girl. Most of us held one of the other three as our fave raves.

My all-time favorite John song! The lyrics are particularly poignant after his premature passing. Yet again, he proved how very deep still waters run.

This is John’s solo lead vocal on Who Are You, though he wrote three of its songs. It’s quite unusual how Roger sings two John songs. Like “When I Was a Boy,” “905” too has extra poignancy since his untimely passing. I also see parallels with Brave New World and We.

One of John’s two songs from A Quick One. It’s so cute how he sings his Rs as Ls and Ws (noticeable in the words “friend” and “drink”) in the hopes that they’ll run together and come out properly. He had a hard time singing his Rs at this early stage.

One of John’s songs from The Who Sell Out. Like so many of his other songs, it’s so full of his trademark dark, quirky, deadpan humor. His sense of humor is one of my favorite things about him.

John’s song on The Who by Numbers (which I’ll be writing a proper review of soon). It’s also full of his trademark quirky, dark humor, and fits so well with the overall mood of the album. While it’s not as dark and depressing as the rest of the songs except the insipid “Squeeze Box,” it still has that same sort of edge and mood. It also brings some levity to the mix, in its own quirky way. I also love the deep Boris voice he uses on the “fairy manager” line.

Originally the lead-off track on Odds and Sods, but moved closer to the end on the CD remastering. The songs (original tracks as well as bonus songs) are arranged in chronological order on the reissue. Yet again, it’s bursting with his trademark style of humor.

Doesn’t everyone love this song? It’s one of John’s classic Who songs, and the reason I named my stuffed spider keychain Boris. The name is truly pronounced Bah-REECE, not BOR-iss, but I can’t help but use the Anglo pronunciation for my spider when that’s the one used in his namesake song.

I’ve got the VHS of their incredible 1970 Isle of Wight show, and watched it so many times in my early twenties. Sadly, I haven’t been able to play it in years, due to not having a VCR at the moment. The Who often opened with “Heaven and Hell.” The lyrics have extra poignancy since John’s passing. The studio version on the remastered Odds and Sods majorly pales in comparison to the live classic. The Who were known as a live band, not a studio one. Even their greatest studio songs gained an extra level of fire onstage.

John’s song on Who’s Next. It’s one of his most belovèd and quintessential, and of course full of his trademark style of humor. So many of his songs are bursting with it.

John’s solo lead vocal on the rather unfairly denigrated Face Dances, though he also wrote “You.” This is one of his signature songs, and perfectly sums up so much about who he was. There are so many parallels between him and George Harrison, starting with the obvious fact that each was labeled The Quiet One of his respective band. Speaking from personal experience, once you’ve been saddled with that label, it’s damn-near impossible to throw it off, and people often don’t take you seriously. We have to prove how very deep still waters can run.

May your beautiful light shine forever, dear sweet Junnykins. The world is a better place because you were in it for 57 years. It was an honor to share Planet Earth with you for 22 and a half of those years.

“Divine intervention couldn’t keep the word from leaking out”

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine. I really thought I had photos of my own vinyl copy, but I couldn’t find them. Now my entire vinyl collection is 900 miles away, in storage with almost everything else I own.

As discussed in my fandom story, Valentine’s Day 2011 was that magical moment when the switch flipped and I officially became a Duranie (though I was intellectually in denial about it for awhile). It’s hard to believe seven years have already passed!

To mark my seventh Duraniversary, I decided to review their very underrated album Big Thing, released 18 October 1988. Coming after the masses of screaming teenyboppers had petered out, this album came at a time when the musical scene was shifting from the trademark Eighties synth-pop sound to dance music.

To try to get a fair shot at unbiased radio play, the band sent an edited, three-minute version of “The Edge of America” and “Lake Shore Driving” to radio stations, under the title Official Bootleg: The LSD Edit, and credited to The Krush Brothers.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks on the 2010 reissue:

“Big Thing”
“I Don’t Want Your Love” (#4 in the U.S.; #14 in the U.K.)
“All She Wants Is” (a song I found very monotonous until I saw the awesome music video) (#9 in the U.K.; #22 in the U.S.)
“Too Late Marlene”
“Drug (It’s Just a State of Mind)”
“Do You Believe in Shame?” (#30 in the U.K.; #72 in the U.S.)
“Palomino”
“Interlude One”
“Land”
“Flute Interlude”
“The Edge of America”
“Lake Shore Driving”
“I Don’t Want Your Love” (7″ mix)*
“All She Wants Is” (45 mix)*
“I Believe/All I Need to Know”*
“The Krush Brothers LSD Edit”*
“God (London)”*
“This Is How a Road Gets Made”*
“Palomino” (edit)*
“Drug (It’s Just a State of Mind)” (Remix)*
“Big Thing” (7″ mix)*
“I Don’t Want Your Love” (Big mix)*
“All She Wants Is” (U.S. master mix)*
“Big Thing” (12″ mix)*
“All She Wants Is” (Eurohouse mix)*

The album was #15 in the U.K., and #24 in the U.S. While it’s known as the band’s house music album (a popular style of dance music originating in Chicago), there are also lush, beautiful pieces of musical art like “Palomino” and “Do You Believe in Shame?”

The album also contains three experimental instrumentals, “Interlude One,” “Flute Interlude,” and “Lake Shore Driving.” This isn’t the type of album irrevocably date-stamped and immediately announcing its era.

Due to the relatively low chart position of third single “Do You Believe in Shame?,” the planned fourth single, “Drug,” wasn’t released.

My favorite tracks are “The Edge of America,” “Land,” “Palomino,” “Do You Believe in Shame?,” and “Too Late Marlene.” I’d rate this album a solid 4 stars.