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October 9, 2010

13

The Four Seasons – The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette (1969)

Artist: The Four Seasons
Title: The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette
Year: 1969
Format: LP
Label: Philips

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. (The Rising Storm)

Track Listing

  1. American Crucifixion Resurrection
  2. Mrs. Stately’s Garden
  3. Look Up Look Over
  4. Something’s On Her Mind
  5. Saturday’s Father
  6. Wall Street Village Day
  7. Genuine Imitation Life
  8. Idaho
  9. Wonder What You’ll Be
  10. Soul Of A Woman
Read more from Pop Psychedelic
13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oct 9 2010

    a pretty astounding album, some geniuses at work

  2. one bite
    Oct 9 2010

    Thanks Leonard!
    There’s an Ace reissue with great bonus tracks from the same period!

  3. Oct 9 2010

    I’ve been looking for this for a long time. Thanks a lot.

  4. ew
    Oct 10 2010

    Here’s the version with bonus tracks, for those interested:

    http://mocholand2.blogspot.com/2009/04/4-seasons-genuine-imitation-life.html

  5. Oct 10 2010

    wow, a related obscutiry that i am now sampling!
    http://www.electricroulette.com/2008/09/frank-sinatra-w.html
    from above:
    ‘Upon it’s release on Reprise in 1970, popular Hobokum crooner Francis Albert Sinatra’s soft-rock LP Watertown resolutely failed to ‘do business’, and has since been neglected entirely by all but a clutch of hardcore enthusiasts worldwide. ‘Enthusiast’ may be underselling the typical Watertown devotee. Watertown nuts are singular in their passion for the cause, and unrelenting in their efforts to have the rest of the world wake up to what they hold to be the most inexplicably unappreciated pop album made by a mainstream artist of Sinatra’s stature. Watertown nuts stare at the recent Legacy Recordings Deluxe 2CD Blockbuster Forgotten Masterpiece Reissue of Dennis Wilson’s ‘Pacific Ocean Blue’ and weep – ‘when will it be our turn? When will Watertown get this treatment, this respect, this amount of press?’ Watertown nuts tell everybody they meet about this album because they’re so grateful somebody told them about it. I guess this post, and my desire that it turn a few more people onto this wonderful LP, means I’m inducting myself into that fraternity of nuts…’

  6. Niall Cullen
    Oct 10 2010

    Hi Leonard, Great post as usual,got the Ace re issue years ago and have loved it since.
    As for Watertown,all tracks composed by Bob Gaudio and Jake Holmes same composers on Genuine Imitation Life Gazette,I purchased it for this reason,and it really is not that great,putting Frankie into the Pop Psych sound of the day was a real gamble and it failed miserably !!
    Reprise Records re issued it as part of ‘The Sinatra Collection’ with a bonus track and sleeve note interview with Bob Gaudio,so its ‘out there’, but not like the Genuine Imitation Life Gazette was at the time.
    Alas I may be wrong,but Genuine…to me hits the spot all the time !!

    Niall

  7. Mike
    Oct 10 2010

    Hi Leonard! Do you have The Cowsills-Captain Sad And His Ship Of Fools? Thanks, Mike

  8. Dave
    Oct 11 2010

    Unlike so many other obscure 60′s albums, this really is a lost treasure. I have two interesting notes on it.

    1. When I was a teen (long time ago), my brother had this and I maybe listened to it once but didn’t care for it. At the time, the better known earlier Four Seasons hits were still repeatedly being played on AM radio and I like them, although I’ve since come to appreciate those classics. Also I have to admit that I that I thought I was pretty hip by only listening to the up and coming groups like Cream, Black Sabbath etc, and the Four Seasons just weren’t ‘cool’ at the time.

    2. I found an interesting write up here: http://blogs.okayplayer.com/blogarhythms/2009/02/06/reissues-at-random-vol-80-frankie-valli-the-four-seasonsjake-holmes/
    and discovered that the tunes were co-written by Jake Holmes; best known for being the real author of the Led Zepplin multi zillion seller ‘Dazed and Confused’.

    Thanks for sharing this and so many other interesting obscurities.

  9. Peter Mork
    Oct 11 2010

    A scathing indictment (is there a better kind?) of plastic lame-straight America – from the Four Seasons? I don’t buy it, but apparently they put their faith in songwriter Jake Holmes, whose own records were full of similarly heavy-handed social satire. I’d dismiss this as a failed attempt to do a Brian Wilson-stlye masterpiece (failed in that it rings hollow) but I have to admire the production touches that lift every song, such as the odd bass sound and thumping drum on “Look Up Look Over”. Somebody worked really hard on this, and the peculiarities never sound out of place in the sonic landscape.

    So what does sound out of place? The Seasons themselves, but I don’t blame them much for believing they had to do this to stay relevant in a changing world. Maybe if they’d had a hit off this, like “Watch the Flowers Grow” which takes a side trip from Bummerland to do something closer to what you’d expect the Seasons “going hippie” to sound like, it might have made a dent. But “Genuine Imitation Life”, while by no means a potential hit, is the best experiment on the album. A for effort (or is it E? I was never sure).

  10. Ultima Thule Finn
    Oct 13 2010

    I’ve got this on vinyl. It is amazingly wonderful one.

  11. Jan
    Oct 13 2010

    Thank you for this nice album

  12. the ALF
    Oct 13 2010

    I can only add my voice to the chorus of praise of this one – especially Idaho It was their supposed Sgt Peppers – but like all the other ones came out a year too late and could be found in the cut out bins – that and the songwriting probably wasn’t as up to snuff as the production – as to Watertown – it’s funny in that Sinatra had impeccable and stringent taste but he went for that one – the shame w/ later period Sinatra is every joker on earth wanted to peddle him a tune, but he still had to often do the same stuff everyone else was doing – which tells me that real talent is rare

  13. Days of Broken Arrows
    Feb 13 2011

    I was surprised by how much I liked this album. I’m a fan of both the Four Seasons and psychedelia and I honestly didn’t see how the two could mix.

    But it’s a pretty impressive blend of pop songcraft and strange arrangements. Beyond the longer songs, there are a few tracks here that are just simply great pop, including “Wall Street Village Day,” “Something’s On Her Mind” and “Idaho.”

    Back when the Four Seasons began, Italian-Americans were regarded by Americans in much the way Hispanics are now. So it’s not surprising they’d be comfortable in the role of outsiders, commenting on the social mores of mainstream America. They’d already done this, to a lesser degree, in songs like “Dawn (Go Away),” “Big Man in Town” and “Rag Doll” but this album takes some of the ideas in those songs to the limit. Impressive.

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