Joel Goldenberg: The U and V lists begin

Frankie Valli

We now begin, and pretty quickly, end the U list and then proceed to the V list of favourite artists and groups and their best songs.

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U2: Sorry, but this will have to wait until our upcoming series of albums, as I pretty much only like one of their Lps. Wait and see which. Oh yes, I do love the pulsating I Will Follow from 1979, which was also the highlight of the group's last two Bell Centre concerts that I saw.

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Ultravox: The only song I know from this 1980s group is Dancing With Tears In My Eyes. It's a compelling listen, not only for Midge Ure's urgent vocals and the band's sharp playing, but the real sense of dread from the song's theme, the wiping out of humanity from a nuclear plant accident. The theme seems outdated now, but the song was put out not long after the Three Mile Island accident, around the time of a bunch of made-for-TV movies depicting a nuclear war (particularly The Day After), and not long before the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

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The Undisputed Truth: This early 1970s Motown group is best known for the betrayal-themed hit Smiling Faces Sometimes, one of many examples of the label's somewhat psychedelic productions.

But that's not my song of choice. I have been of the opinion that the Temptations' ultra-compelling and roaring hit Ball of Confusion could not be bettered by anybody. That opinion still stands —kind of. That's because the lengthy version of the song by the Undisputed Truth (which I'm pretty sure uses elements of the Temptations version) is one of the wildest songs I've ever heard, by anybody. It takes the basics of the hit version to extremes, with gospel-like shouts and sound effects throughout. I've now listened to this version nearly as many times as the original.

And now we proceed to the V list:

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Frankie Valli: The lead singer of the Four Seasons had numerous solo hits, running concurrently with the group's career. The best of Valli's own hits, was Can't Take My Eyes Off You. The whole arrangement is 1960s pop at its absolute best, and moves nicely from ballad to climactic chorus. Interestingly, he also released The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore before it became a major hit by the Walker Brothers. The latter was better because it had a more bombastic production.

I used to kind of dislike Valli's 1970s hits, as they conjured up images of men wearing multiple chains on their necks and wearing clothing that exposed their chest hair as they sauntered into discos. But I now kind of like the 1970s-cop show-type music of Swearin' To God. Also, Valli performed the superb title track of the movie Grease, written by Barry Gibb at the time when the Bee Gees and their own songs and work for other artists were part of the biggest hot streak since the Beatles.

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Van Halen: Dance the Night Away has some of the greatest dynamics I've ever heard in a song.

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Vanity Fare: This group's two big pop hits, the adorable Early in the Morning and the bouncy Hitchin' A Ride, were highlights of Rhino's Super Hits of the 1970s series of CDs. A tidbit— the version of the latter song on the Rhino CD is the hit in mono. There's a stereo mix out there, but it lacks a musical element that is added to the mono mix. Too bad.

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Bobby Vee: Vee is interesting for many reasons — his Buddy Holly-like voice, the fact he did More Than I Can Say nearly 20 years before Leo Sayer's big hit version, and the fact I was introduced to his best song, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, via the cover by Carpenters as part of the oldies medley on their Now and Then album. I saw Vee at an oldies concert about 15 years ago, but he didn't sound much like he used to.

Next time: The Ventures and others.

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