The Four Seasons “The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette”

The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette is as good as (if not better) than many of the more vaunted psych pop creations.  The songwriting is dense, adventurous and very strong this time around.  Like all great legends, Frankie Valli comes through in a big way, delivering some of the best vocal performances of his career.  The harmony singing is breathtaking, never straying too far from what made the Four Season’s such a great mid 60s vocal group (they were often called the Beach Boys of the East!).  Three songs exceed the 6 minute mark and are epic productions but the shorter psych pop numbers are just as good.  The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette is no cash-in effort or group attempt at jumping on the psychedelic bandwagon, it’s the real deal.  Backward cymbals, phasing and other means of studio experimentation simply add to the group’s strong pop sensibility.  Great hooks, quirky ideas and powerful performances keep this LP grounded – things never sound forced, bloated or too psychedelic. Great pop songs like “Something’s On Her Mind,” “Mrs. Stately’s Garden,” “Saturday’s Father,” and the extended title track expand on the group’s mid 60s sound.

Consistent and original, The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette is a terrific LP that always seems to slip thru the cracks. It goes without saying that this is the best LP the Four Seasons ever released.   This is also the achievement that Frankie Valli is most proud of;  in 2002, Goldmine interviewed Frankie Valli who reflected on the album’s lack of success: “We talked about some of the social problems on that album. Nobody was expecting anything like that from us. The record company wasn’t very pleased with the fact that we turned in an album like that. They didn’t do very much work on it. It certainly is an album that I’ve always been very proud of. I wouldn’t call the album exactly psychedelic, [although] it did have kind of a flow or a taste of that. “Wall Street Village Day” was an incredible song. “Soul Of A Woman” was another really great song, and the title song, “Genuine Imitation Life,” is also great. Of all the bands out there, we have touched on almost every kind of music that there is. Everything from “Sherry” to the album Genuine Imitation Life Gazette to touches of jazz with “Swearin’ To God” to “My Eyes Adored You” to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” to “Who Loves You.” I don’t know many acts out there who have done it as successfully as we have done it.”  Four Season main songwriter Bob Gaudio also had some thoughts on the record: “One of the disappointments of our career for me on a creative level was the Genuine Imitation Life Gazette album. It was just something that I had to do at that time. It got wonderful reviews, but obviously it was not an acceptable piece from us. Everybody was expecting Top 40.”

Long time fans usually write Gazette off because it’s a departure from the group’s signature sound.  Dealer’s tend to overlook this classic because it’s an LP by a group who was never considered to be hip, making Gazette a cheap, easy to find score.  Prepare to be surprised.

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“Saturday’s Father”

:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Phillips | search ebay ]

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  • Duncan Walls

    I agree with everything you are saying here….even have a remaindered CD I snatched up 15 years ago as soon as I saw it.

    Probably the most important reason for me picking it up was NOT the Four Seasons, but the presence of Jake Holmes, whose writing is all over the LP. Perhaps best known for having ‘Dazed & Confused’ ripped off from him (w/o credit) by Led Zeppelin. Homes released three LPs on Capitol subsidiary Tower, two on Polydor and one on CBS/Columbia before ‘retiring’ to write commercials ( like Thomas’s English Muffins, Purolater Air Filters & if I’m not mistaken the ‘Be All That You Can Be’ Army spot) for the next thirty years.

    He had ONE modest hit in 1972 “So Close’, which is what he was touring on when I met him sharing the bill with the underrated New York Rock ‘n’ Roll Ensemble (that included future orchestrator & conductor Michael Kamen: working with Eric Clapton, Metallica, …doing Pink Floyd’s The Wall, All of the Lethal Weapon movies, writing Everything I Do I Do For You…etc) and the Rochester (NY) Philharmonic. Homes was able to do So Close and several other selecdtions with a full orchestra and the orchestra helped premiere Kamen’s first Rock/Classical pieces that would be his trademark. I had seen the NYRRE several months earlier and hung with them at another club gig in town (w/ Steve Goodman) so I wen t backstage and ended up dragging the conductor, Holmes and the band to a club to see John Prine after theuir gig. We were most of the audience and Holmes & a couple of the guys from the NYRRE got up and played and sang between Prine’s sets. A great night to remember for me.

    Also of note was the LP ‘Watertown’ which was release about the same time and Jake Holmes wrote entirely for Frank Sinatra…I never knew. Did he get the gig because if the 4 Seasons LP or vice versa?

    I wish someone would post more than just the first Jake Holmes LP with Dazed & Confused on it. He deserves more credit. I think I heard he is back singing again. I hope so.

  • Michael R. Cerza

    I agree with you that this was probably the best album the Four Seasons ever recorded. I was a fan of the Seasons during their “Top 40 hits days” but was pleasantly surprised when they released this record. I know the loyal fans did not like it, for it ventured away from the top 40 format that put the Seasons on the map, but clearly this piece of work was adventurous and bold from their standpoint. I loved every song on the album but my favorite was “Genuine Imitation Life.” I loved the social commentary they were making with this song, and how truthful and poignant the lyrics were. I have heard that this record has been considered by some to be a “lost masterpiece,” evoking thoughts the album is not lost but the record was not played on the radio or pushed by the record company at the time back in 1969, and so the public never really got the chance to listen as to how diverse the Four Seasons were in those days, and could blend their musical talents to produce such a rich and rewarding experience of sound to the ear.

    This will go down as one of the greatest lost treasures by such a well known group, and perhaps in the future, college radio rock stations could discover how good this album is and play all songs for a new younger audience. I am afraid the older Four Seasons fan base has let this treasure pass them by, but you never know with the younger ones.

    Gaudio, Valli, DeVito and Long along with Calello and Holmes should be proud of what they did despite the fact it was not a commercial success!

  • Ray

    Nothing short of a masterpiece.

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