When it comes down to the ‘sound’ of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons it seems that fans have been done a disservice over the years. The recent Box Set issue of Jersey Beat was a missed opportunity and the muddy mono mixes and disappointing 60s stereo mixes leaves this groups ‘definitive’, sound quality compilation a distant dream. It hasn’t always been this way.
Back in 1968 Bob Crewe remixed what he could find of their masters. (Philips apparantly didn’t do a good job of managing the multi-track masters and these appear to be lost.) But did Bob give us ‘true’ stereo on Edizione D’Oro or as the sleeve indicates…”Mono recordings electronically reprocessed to give stereo effect on stereo equipment”?
Back in 1997 Steve Massie said….”Bill Inglot has indicated that multi-tracks do not exist or at least can’t be found. He’s been through PolyGram’s vaults several times and says that Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli do not have them either.”
Bill reviewed all that Bob and Frankie have for this Box Set with Rhino. Associate Producer Charles Alexander told us of the sound decisions on this set…….“Bill Inglot offered Bob Gaudio a choice of mono or stereo, except in the cases like ‘Ronnie’, for which stereo is unavailable. Ronnie is not in stereo even on the ACE sets.”
However check out
For the ‘Jersey Beat’ set although alternate stereo and mono discs where prepared for Bob Gaudio, he elected for MONO on the first 23 tracks in the 76 track set. Charles covers the argument familiar to all those who have researched the Mono V Stereo arguments. The Beatles Masters and The Beach Boys Masters have a chequered history too but at least the multi-tracks haven’t been lost like those of the Four Seasons. And then there are the Duophonic versions!
Charles told us of the arguments considered for the Jersey
Beat Box set….”The main arguments for stereo were that it sounds more modern
and was well done on most of the tracks, though on a few tracks, like Beggars
Parade, the stereo was truly terrible. The stereo version of Rag Doll is good,
but one of Frankie’s notes is missing. I guess that’s why Bill Inglot has
almost never used the stereo version of Rag Doll. Here are the arguments for
1. Mono is how we first heard the early songs. We heard them first on singles.
2. Early stereo mixes were not done, I don’t believe, by
3. Fans already have the stereo mixes on many other CDs. Mono on CD is rare. That was Ace’s rationale for putting the mono versions on Edizione D’Oro, but that CD is out of print.
4. It can be argued that the 4 Seasons’ famous four-part harmony is more glorious in mono than when the other three voices are separated from Frankie’s in stereo.
5. It’s always been weird that even on the best CD collections, the tracks go in and out of stereo, because of missing stereo tapes, like Ronnie. It just seems haphazard. In that sense, it was more coherent to stay consistently with mono for 23 tracks before switching to stereo. (Cousin Brucie in mono was the only flaw in that pattern.)”
So those are the reasons why we have this set of tracks which many believe are below par…” Here are some comments from reviews…..
“And the sound quality isn’t much an improvement than the
older Rhino, Curb and Ace
“I was extremely disaappointed at the sound quality of the first disc of this set. I didn’t even try another CD. The distortion and fuzz were awfully noticeable. It was not my Bose speakers or the notebook’s sound-card as I tested an mp3 from my music library. The sound was as bad as a bargain Roy Orbison live performance CD I bought for $3.99 years back…….I can’t believe the sound I am hearing here.”
“This is an excellent boxed set, but the sound is fuzzy and most tracks sound like they were washed with clorox. This is a common problem with copy protected discs. As I own the original sets on Rhino and the LP versions, I am very disappointed with the MONO FOLDED IMAGE PRESENTATION PROVIDED BY THE RHINO ENGINEERS. .ln no way is this collection true to the original recordings ….so yes the music is there and if you can’t hear the copy protection distortion, go for it...lf you don’t believe me and you own the original Rhino recordings, just compare them yourselves. And to the RHINO ENGINEERS..TAKE YOUR ORIGINAL RECORDINGS AND COMPARE THEM.UNLESS YOU ARE DEAF COMPARE THEM.YOU WILL BE SHOCKED!!!!!!THANK YOU!I would wait until they are remastered in clean stereo sound, without the crappy distortion on this one.”
However George Schowerer, who was sound engineer to Bob Crewe at Mira Sound for the 1966/67 sessions said he was very disappointed with the remixes of his original studio masters on Rhino’s original CD mixes for the 25th Anniversary set. . Of the Jersey Beat project he told us…….
“Bill Inglot told me that when he received tapes from all
the songs, he noted that in some cases the record company had destroyed the
multi-tracks, thereby causing only the famous mix heard on the radio to be the
defacto recording heard by everyone. While I certainly do not condone that
rationale, I can somewhat understand their fear of having other versions
appear…as in the case of the group Bread… I must have half a dozen totally
different mixes of their albums...with the very first CD release being dry and
mixed as if the engineer had never heard any of the groups’ previous releases.
But then again, the same thing happened to Simon & Garfunkel’s fist CD mix.
I had A-B ed the CD against my two track 15” safety copy and my jaw dropped.
The Sony guys had to get Roy Halle back into the studio to remix the album for
CD. Same went for classical first CD’s.
So is there any hope as Paul Bigelow asked back in 1997… “I have never heard anything on CD by them (The Four Seasons) that I would call superlative…..(sound quality) The ACE reissues sound OK and look good, but I think they’re working from the same tapes Rhino worked from - just mastered better.”
So who will find that ‘Definitive’ compilation of the 60s “Sound Of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons” and should it be in mono or stereo.?
We agree with the words of Steve Hoffman who is not only one of the true legends in audiophile circles, he is also one of the most open minded and open hearted people you can find. He is loved and well know by audiophiles and musicians all over the world. He is a true magician when it comes to breathing life into music. His work can be heard on albums like The Eagle’s Hotel California, Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, and Joni Mitchell’s Blue.
“It’s all in the
mastering. Digital is a great medium. Any CD can sound good….. It takes a good
mastering engineer! : Stereo is better but it’s not about stereo vs. mono, it’s
about which classic song has the best mix. If the stereo mix “nails it” it’s
the mix to listen to. If the mono mix “nails it”, it’s the mix to listen to. In
the old days the MONO mix was the one that the producer made. In the
1950’s, mono was live to one track and the three-track machine was running
separately for the final stereo mix. It was only when records started being
OVERDUBBED a lot (Beatles, etc.) that the separate mono feed was dropped and
the final mono and stereo mix created from the four track tape.”
When asked ….Is stereo a must? …he replied. “ Not to me. The best mix is the best mix. A song like DRIVE MY CAR by the Beatles, the stereo mix is really weak, the mono mix is really strong and punchy, therefore that’s the good mix”
So what can we the fans do. We can’t wait for a quality sound re-issue…life is too short. Firstly let’s find good copies of all the Four Seasons 60s albums in stereo on vinyl and CD and define the best mixes.
Secondly using good technology and software show how we care about the mixes and see if we can get a quality result from good/mint vinyl.
Thirdly list the mixes (mono or stereo) in a Four Seasons Sound Archive to preserve the best mixes for future generations. With something like 110 CD releases since 1986 in our discography(and there may be more) we have plenty to evaluate.
But if we can define the best mix and identify it's source we have a library reference point for any future releases that don't measure up.
The question is whether there are enough people interested in such a project and if we can find good enough vinyl.? Contact us if you are interested and want to help. Maybe we can achieve something nobody seems to be willing to invest in. It appears a project to remix from the masters cannot work commercially because of the low benefits from it. But someone should try. It’s what the fans today and tomorrow deserve.
And just beware…because our reliable European based expert sound engineer tells us of today's CD's ….”The Ace CD pressings from that 1997 period are low quality (they used cheap pressing plants), so checking for errors (C2) on the original CDCHD 642 showed a max of 80 and a total of 570. Companies shouldn’t accept anything over 30 max and 100 total from a pressing plant! “
So we may lose the 'sound'. It’s time to make a good copy before the original fades away and becomes unreadable. More soon on how best to hear the ‘sound’ and what is involved in creating the ‘best mix’
Contact for contributors to our Sound Archive project
Photo courtesy of George Schowerer - Studio shot - Crewe and Valli 1967