The 4 Seasons – Christmas Album / Born To Wander


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Track Listing:
Christmas Album : 1. The Merry Christmas Medley: We Wish You a Merry Christmas/Angels from the Realms Of Glory / Hark The Herald Angels Sing / It Came Up A Midnight Clear - 4:27   2. What Child Is This - 2:28   3. The Carol of the Bells - 1:33   4. The Excelsis Deo Medley: Deck the Halls/Excelsis Deo/O Come All Ye Faithful - 1:48   5. The Little Drummer Boy - 2:18   6. The First Christmas Night Medley: Deck the Halls/Silent Night/O Holy Night/ The First Noel - 6:34   7. Joy to the World Medley: Deck the Halls/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/Away In A Manger / Joy To The World - 1:28   8. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town - 1:49   9. Christmas Tears - 2:44   10. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus - 2:14   11. The Christmas Song - 2:20   12. Jingle Bells - 2:56   13. White Christmas - 2:21  Born To Wander : 14. Born to Wander - 2:43   15. Don't Cry Elena - 2:05   16. Where Have All the Flowers Gone? - 3:58   17. Cry Myself to Sleep - 2:53   18. A Ballad for Our Time - 2:31   19. Silence Is Golden - 3:24   20. New Town - 3:01   21. Golden Ribbon - 3:14   22. Little Pony Get Along - 2:19   23. No Surfin' Today - 3:15   24. Searching Wind - 2:38   25. Millie - 2:47


1. All Music - William Ruhlmann
This disc in the British reissue label Ace's series of two-fers of LPs by the Four Seasons combines what are technically the group's second and fifth albums, at least in terms of release dates. The pairing out of sequence was made, as annotator Bob Hyde notes, because they are "two more non-traditional albums." In a sense, that phrase is inapt, since "Traditional," as a songwriting credit, turns up often on the songs from the first album. But certainly, these are collections outside the norm of Four Seasons albums. The 4 Seasons' Christmas Album was actually the second title used for the group's holiday disc when it was first reissued by Philips Records in 1966. Prior to that, it had been called The 4 Seasons Greetings in its initial release by Vee Jay Records in 1962. Although the Four Seasons had first appeared in the charts less than four months earlier, that had followed years of dues paying, and they had already made up for lost time by quickly recording two LPs, Sherry & 11 Others and Big Girls Don't Cry and Twelve Others (which would follow the Christmas album early in 1963). As veteran singers and as Italian-Americans raised Catholic, they no doubt were more than ready to make a holiday album for their first Christmas season as a successful act. The original first side of the LP (tracks one-seven here) was given over to traditional fare reverentially performed for the most part, often with several songs put together in medleys. The quartet sang like choir boys, with Frankie Valli's falsetto making him sound like a pious child. The second side, in contrast, gave a contemporary twist to more secular and pop material, starting with the Top 40 single "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," which was given the same sort of drum-heavy arrangement as Four Seasons hits like "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry." (A similar approach was taken on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.") Selections such as "The Christmas Song" and "White Christmas" were, in effect, Valli solo tracks, with the group mostly restricted to backup vocals. the Four Seasons' comic style came out in "Jungle Bells," a piece of special material spoofing "Jingle Bells." On the whole, this is an enjoyable holiday collection. Born to Wander (tracks 14-25) was recorded in January 1964 as the Four Seasons' response to the folk boom led by the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary; unfortunately, it arrived in the marketplace the following month, coincident with the British Invasion that marginalized folk. The album cover, on which the quartet wears matching sports shirts with two acoustic guitars at the ready, positions them as a clean-cut commercial folk group, and the acoustic guitars prove to be the lead instruments in most of the "folk flavored" arrangements, to quote a subtitle on the cover. There are other instruments, usually played discreetly, but the point is that this is an album of ballads, with nothing in the uptempo mold of the group's hits. "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" is the most overt borrowing from the folk movement, although, curiously, there is an otherwise obscure song written by up-and-coming folk singer/songwriter Phil Ochs, "New Town," recorded and released by the Four Seasons prior to the appearance of Ochs' debut album All the News That's Fit to Sing later in 1964. It is not one of his political numbers, but instead has a traditional folk feel. the Four Seasons also turned to Tin Pan Alley songwriters Sid Jacobson and Lou Stallman for "A Ballad for Our Time," an attempt at a philosophical allegory like "Blowin' in the Wind." And in-house songwriters Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi, and Bob Crewe also tried their hands, although their efforts sometimes range far afield from the nominal theme. "Silence Is Golden" has no acoustic guitars at all, but is a lovely pop ballad later turned into a hit by the Tremeloes. "Little Pony Get Along" is a death ballad with a Civil War setting and a Western feel. And Crewe and Gaudio gave up on the folk theme entirely to take on the Beach Boys with another death ballad, "No Surfin' Today." Born to Wander is thus an atypical and yet exploratory Four Seasons album, and it and the Christmas LP make for a pair of curios on this CD. 

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