In the wake of the success of Jersey Boys, the theatrical production based on the Four Seasons' lives, Rhino issued this impressive three-CD, 76-track box set, which also includes a DVD of a dozen film clips from 1962-1975. It's never been hard to find a Four Seasons best-of that includes all their big hits (which are all here as well), but for those who want a bigger collection of the group's material, this fills the bill well. The usual intelligence Rhino brings to such large career retrospectives is in force here, the songs including numerous low-charting singles that usually don't make the cut for best-of anthologies; various LP-only tracks, and B-sides; Frankie Valli solo efforts; singles they released under the pseudonym of the Wonder Who?; and much more material from their post-1967 era than is found on most compilations. In fact, most of the really popular stuff is on disc one and the first half of disc two, though the box runs all the way through their comeback hits in the mid-'70s and a few stray releases from subsequent decades.
With so much more bulk on this release than you hear on standard Four Seasons collections, two things are evident: that there are quite a few interesting songs by the group that rarely get played these days, and that nonetheless most of those songs, especially the ones postdating their early- to mid-'60s prime, aren't nearly as good as the familiar classics for which the group's most famous. Still, there are plenty of worthwhile lesser hits and obscurities here, like -- to name just a few -- the mid-'60s not-quite-hits "Toy Soldier" and "Girl Come Running"; the early Valli solo 45s "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" (covered for a hit by the Walker Brothers) and "(You're Gonna) Hurt Yourself"; the B-sides "Betrayed" and "Huggin' My Pillow," which sound like hits we all somehow missed; some erratic yet rather interesting attempts to move with the psychedelic times, like "Saturday's Father" and "Watch the Flowers Grow"; and a 1969 revival of "And That Reminds Me (My Heart Reminds Me)" that should have been a bigger single than the mild hit it was. The DVD disc is very solid, highlighted by a live 1962 performance of "Big Girls Don't Cry," a live 1964 medley of hits, and a strange 1968 clip of "Saturday's Father" mixing performance and video. The DVD, in fact, can only be criticized on the grounds that it leaves you hungry for more, particularly since there must be a lot more Four Seasons clips in existence considering the group's popularity.
It's true that for all its size, some aficionados might find some of their favorite obscurities missing, like the early B-side "Connie-O" (a substantial regional hit in some areas), "No Surfin' Today," the early Phil Ochs cover "New Town," and the Wonder Who?'s version of "On the Good Ship Lollipop." It's also true that the energy flags on the final disc, which (despite the inclusion of the mid-'70s smashes "My Eyes Adored You," "Swearin' to God," and "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)") might start to wear on the patience of the average fan. But then, like many box sets, this isn't geared toward the average fan. It's for the big fan, who will treasure the breadth of this collection, and the non-fanatic who takes a chance on it will be surprised by how much more diverse the group's records were than is usually realized. And the Four Seasons certainly have a lot of big fans, including numerous celebrities who contributed comments on individual tracks to the 84-page liner note booklet. ~ Richie Unterberger