Music in Brief

The 4 Seasons' 1969 psych-pop classic The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette was one of the strangest and most unexpected concept albums of the '60s, and though it's been in and out of print several times in the CD era, it's never been showcased as well as it is in Collectors' Choice's new edition, which pairs the album with the far more straightforward 1966 collection Working My Way Back To You. Genuine Imitation's glee-club vocals and British Invasion shimmer are as lovely and ludicrous as ever, and songs like the sympathy-for-the-clueless-middle-class bounder "Mrs. Stately's Garden" and the ravages-of-divorce sketch "Saturday's Father" remain surprisingly moving. Still, the album's major appeal comes from hearing Frankie Valli and his mates appropriate melodies from "Hey Jude" and sing lines like "Chameleons changing colors while a crocodile cries." As for Working, it combines hits like the title track and "Can't Get Enough Of You Baby" with legitimately rocking post-Dylan pastiches. The weirdest? "Beggars Parade," an anti-hippie anthem in a "Positively 4th Street" vein, with the winning line, "Why should you work like the rest when it's easier to protest?"… Genuine: B+; Working: B

The crate-digging heroes at The Numero Group have taken one of their periodic breaks from compilations to reissue a full album, Catherine Howe's airy 1971 folk-jazz curio What A Beautiful Place. Fans of Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, The 5th Dimension, and Nick Drake should find a lot to like in Howe's gentle, windswept ballads, though deeply personal lost-love songs like "Nothing More Than Strangers," "Words Through A Locked Door," and "It's Not Likely" have their own kind of bruised integrity. These pretty, solemn songs couch hard truths in soft clothes… A-

The college-rock sound and North Carolina music scene of the '80s can both be traced back to The Sneakers, a little Winston-Salem band featuring contributions from Chris Stamey, Will Rigby, Mitch Easter, and Don Dixon during its brief run at underground success in the late '70s. The compilation Nonsequitur Of Silence (Collectors' Choice) combines a few rare tracks, some re-recordings, and the band's two EPs, 1976's The Sneakers and 1979's In The Red. The latter EP and the bonus tracks are merely okay, showing an inexperienced group of singer-songwriters trying too hard to smooth out their rough edges. But The Sneakers is a real wonder, combining hooky Big Star power-pop with clunky Captain Beefheart abstraction—the latter probably unintentionally, though that doesn't make it any less effective. B+

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