Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Jake Holmes week part 2: The Four Seasons in Genuine Imitation Life Gazette

Unless you're very young, you know Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons so there'll be no introduction, but I'm going to quickly emphasize that Frankie Valli's soprano voice will not be found anywhere in today's post, so relax. Around 1969, The Four Seasons got caught up in the excitement of Sergeant Pepper and flower power and funny cigarettes and decided to record a psychedelic album. Bob Gaudio (main songwriter of the Four Seasons) wrote the songs, Jake Holmes wrote the lyrics, and the result was a commercial dud and one of the best pop-psych albums of the 60's.

No one, and I mean no one, is going to deny that this record has some of the best packaging evah. It's a full scale mock-up of a newspaper, and I don't mean a half-assed job like Thick As A Brick [a commenter points out that this wasn't the best example to give]. You get comics, coupons:

a crossword puzzle (if you click this, you'll be able to read it):

movie listings:

("Andy Warhole's 'Dandruff!'" Ha ha.)

and so on. It's amazingly detailed and I'm going to point out right this instant that it was a flop on a major label, which means that finding used copies in good shape is a piece of cake. Buy a vinyl copy (even if you don't have a turntable)! This has come out on CD a few times, but is currently out of print as far as I know.

Anyways, you can have The Beach Boys and whatever version of Smile tickles your fancy, and I'll take Genuine Imitation Life Gazette as a substitute, and everybody's happy.

GILG sounds like a million bucks, with stacked harmonies, top-notch songwriting, orchestral bits galore, and a really playful and fun approach to psychedelic production. Instead of cramming a million "strange" noises into their pop songs, they seem to have put a lot of thought into keeping space in the arrangements. The drums, in particular, are a lot like Ringo's in the way they're both sparse and perfect.

There are a number of great pop-song-length pieces, like Mrs. Stately's Garden, which is sort of like Ray Davies meets John Cheever, or Genuine Imitation Life which does some brilliant things to open up the original (posted on Monday) but the really, really amazing parts are the epic tracks that bookend the album. Here's the opener, American Crucifixion Resurrection, a pretty daring album opener for 1969. If enough people are interested, I'll post the other long one tomorrow.

Mrs. Stately's Garden by The Four Seasons
Genuine Imitation Life by The Four Seasons
American Crucifixion Resurrection by The Four Seasons

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