Everybody knows Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, but even the most hardcore fans may not be aware that they recorded an album for Motown. More specifically, the album, Chameleon, was released in 1972 on Mowest, the division of the legendary Detroit label specifically for West Coast artists. Sadly, it wasn’t a success like their previous albums, and no songs from that album appear in Jersey Boys, the biographical Broadway musical about the group. Within the Northern Soul subculture, however, there was a revival in interest in this era of the Four Seasons, and a key track from this album that became a Northern Soul staple is “The Night,” which peaked at #7 in the UK in 1975. In my opinion, this is one of their most underrated songs.
The album starts off with “A New Beginning (Prelude),” which sounds a lot less Motown than the rest of the songs on the album, like “Sun Country,” which has a bit more of an R&B/soul-influenced vibe courtesy of its backing vocals and instrumentals. It’s a very upbeat song, and I like how it picks up the pace of the album. I would say this is also a track that you shouldn’t miss. “The Night,” situated near the middle of the tracklist, is extremely danceable and great for parties (obviously). I admit I’ve played this song on repeat quite a few times after I heard it in the soundtrack of Northern Soul. You can easily see why this was a hit in England, even though it was overlooked in the States because it was never released as a single — in fact, no singles were released in the US from Chameleon. “A New Beginning” is another highlight; I love the chorus of the song, and the vocals are fantastic and make this a can’t-miss track. All of the album’s songs are a bit different from the group’s earlier hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Sherry,” but a band has to change with the times, particularly with the amount of shakeups the band experienced along with Valli’s own forays as a solo artist.
Overall, the album was different from what I was expecting when I first heard about it. Bob Gaudio did a great job producing the album, and I think it’s a great starting point for getting into their non-Jersey Boys-hit-parade music, since there’s a good mix of upbeat and slower songs that really show off the group’s talent during this era. It’s a hard album to get a physical copy of, especially on vinyl or even on CD, but you’re in luck, because you can find it on Spotify within the compilation called The Motown Years, which not only includes the entirety of Chameleon, but also other singles that Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons recorded while signed to Motown such as “Walk On Don’t Look Back.” Take a listen below: