Mail-order reissue label Collectors' Choice Music combines two relatively obscure Four Seasons titles on this CD: Half & Half (originally released in May 1970), an LP that, as its name suggests, consists of half Four Seasons numbers (tracks two, four, six, eight, and ten) and half solo performances by the group's lead singer, Frankie Valli (tracks one, three, five, seven, and nine); and Helicon (April 1977). The Four Seasons ranked among the ten most successful pop singles acts of the 1960s, but by 1970 their star had dimmed. Valli, who had launched a concurrent solo career in a slightly more middle-of-the-road style, had also fallen from grace after scoring a few hits. Philips Records, which had both acts on its roster, allowed them to throw together the combined album Half & Half, which featured minor chart singles each had enjoyed in the previous year, "The Girl I'll Never Know (Angels Never Fly This Low)" for Valli and "And That Reminds Me" for the Four Seasons. The new recordings found the group backing away from the psychedelic ambitions of their previous album, 1969's The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette, and returning to a more mainstream pop sound. The standout songs were "To Make My Father Proud," a personal statement co-written by producer Bob Crewe and emotionally sung by Valli with the group, and Valli's solo cover of Laura Nyro's "Emily." The closing medley of Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard's "Any Day Now" and the gospel hit "Oh Happy Day" was also effective. Philips, however, released "Patch of Blue" as the album's single, probably because of its anthemic quality and its Brill Building sound (there was a hint of "Spanish Harlem" in there somewhere), but its failure (it only reached number 94) doomed the LP, and after a couple more singles Valli and the Four Seasons parted ways with the company.
Helicon picks up the story quite a ways down the road. After the group's unsuccessful stint at Motown in the early '70s, Valli made a comeback with "My Eyes Adored You," a number one hit in 1975, and then brought the Four Seasons back with the successive hits "Who Loves You" and "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" in 1975-1976. Particularly on the latter song, Valli himself took a back seat role in favor of drummer/singer Gerry Polci, although he chimed in often enough to be recognizable. It was his plan, however, to bow out of the group in favor of his solo career, but leave it as an ongoing entity. Thus, Helicon, which, like its predecessor, the Who Loves You LP, was produced by the Four Seasons' major creative force, Bob Gaudio (who again composed all the music and co-wrote the lyrics with his wife, Judy Parker), was intended to launch a sort of "Four Seasons: The Next Generation." Gaudio always paid close attention to trends in popular music, and he seems to have been aiming at re-conceiving the group along the lines of mainstream rock acts like the Doobie Brothers and the Electric Light Orchestra, but with a bit more emphasis on funk and synthesizers. Unfortunately, the band he had to execute his concept (singer/bassist Don Ciccone, guitarist John Paiva, and keyboard player Lee Shapiro, along with Polci and the disappearing Valli) wasn't that distinctive, and neither were the songs on Helicon. "Rhapsody" and the title song (an ode to the Greek mountain said to be the home of the Muses) had their moments, and the best song by far was the closing number, "I Believe in You," the only one on which Valli really took the lead. But Curb Records, which released the album through Warner Bros., chose the nondescript "Down the Hall" as a single -- the album flopped, and the plan to launch a new Four Seasons failed. This is music for Four Seasons fans who will forgive its faults and be happy just to see it back in print 30 years later during the digital era.