The Four Seasons

Working My Way Back to You/The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette

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Working My Way Back to You/The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette is a strange and wonderful pairing which, between the two, delineates the point where the Four Seasons ceased being a contemporary pop/rock outfit and slipped off that ledge into an oldies/nostalgia act -- and they did not go quietly, as revealed here. Working My Way Back to You was their last album to come off of a hit in the string of chart singles that they'd enjoyed going back to 1962; it was also the last of their original Philips albums to be rooted in their established hit sound, although there are plenty of modernized twists to that sound buried in these songs. "Pity" could almost be a Monkees production, and that's not an insult -- and the lean, delineated textures in "I Woke Up" would seem to show traces of the sound that the Association were burning up the charts with around that same time. Then comes Genuine Imitation Life Gazette, their next album, done about two years later, which is so far out in its arrangements and song settings (and subjects) that it seems to be a deliberate attempt to reshape their image. It was a valiant effort, but probably a little too out there for their old fans to ever fully embrace, and still a little too old-fashioned for everyone else to win them over; still. Together, though, these two albums constitute the group's boldest long-players of the '60s, and they make a fascinating pairing on this very nicely produced and annotated double-CD set. What's more, they're not just for completists -- Working My Way Back to You is a great album in any context, and Genuine Imitation Life Gazette shows what this group could do stepping completely outside of their established milieu; not all of it works, but enough does to make it worth hearing more than once, and Bill Dahl's notes put everything here in proper historical context. The sound is superb, some of the best yet heard on the group's CD reissues. If you want to get past the hits and the best-of compilations, this may be the best place to start.

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