Frankie Valli

Romancing the '60s

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Frankie Valli has recorded only sparingly as a solo artist, and virtually never after the late '70s. (Culture hounds should already be aware that the most notable solo Valli performance was the theme song to 1978's Grease, the latest of his Top Ten hits.) But in 2007, with his recurring appearances on The Sopranos and the success of the Four Seasons-based Broadway smash Jersey Boys, Valli's fame was higher than it had been in 30 years, and he returned with the solo album Romancing the '60s. In similar company with the standards records of Barry Manilow that topped the charts in the mid-2000s, the album presents a baker's dozen of nuggets from the pop canon (plus an extra thrown in as part of a medley). It doesn't come as a surprise that Valli's tastes run as heavily into pop as Manilow's, which results in many choices from the Brill Building stable (plus a healthy dose of Motown). Also, there's a preponderance of American choices, the only one outside the hemisphere being Brit producer Tony Hatch on "Call Me" (and that one hit the charts thanks to American Chris Montez). Although Valli had kept active during the years as a live performer, it may still be a surprise to hear how his sweet falsetto has thinned as it's aged. The arrangements don't reveal much in the way of inspiration, but they also don't re-create the originals very faithfully either -- Valli has a large orchestra behind him on most songs, as well as backing vocals on several performances to bolster his singing, and every aspect of the performances is polished to the point of slickness. The last track, "On Broadway," features the Jersey Boys themselves.

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