Bob Gaudio, Audio with a G: Sounds of a Jersey Boy – the Music of Bob Gaudio (Rhino, two discs). That’s it. I give up. I’m waving the white flag. I just hope Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli can see it. I’m admitting here for any and all who might be interested that the music in this two-disc collection is probably the best thing that has yet come out of the whole “Jersey Boys” phenomenon. The best news here is that other voices besides Valli’s brainpan-piercing falsetto are heard all the way through. So we follow the compositional genius (the author disclaims all responsibility for his involuntary sarcasm) of songwriter Bob Gaudio, all the way up from “Short Shorts” by the Royal Teens, of which Gaudio was a 15-year-old member. The moment when the Four Seasons version of “Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye)” ends and the Bay City Rollers’ version begins is the moment on this double disc when you realize that the quality of mercy is indeed not strained but falleth indeed like the gentle rain from heaven. And whatever you think of Gaudio’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” in the Four Seasons’ version, Nancy Wilson’s version immediately following is one of the greatest demonstrations of what a truly great singer can do since Billie Holiday actually made an eternal classic of American music out of a rather awful song called “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.” How about Frank Sinatra’s version of “Elizabeth” and “I Would Be in Love (Anyway)”? And Nina Simone’s “For a While?” We won’t even mention Gaudio’s songs sung by Diana Ross, the Temptations and Roberta Flack and raised to other levels because of them. Nor will we forget – how could we – Cher singing “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” which, so help me, makes the song sound, for a passage or two, like great pop music. Whatever it is, it’s sure a convincing song for Cher. By the time Lene Lovich sings “The Night,” we have somehow entered a New Wave area where art is actually attempting to rear its head without improving the music much at all. No recent disc could possibly be a better illustration of Noel Coward’s apothegm about the eternally surprising potency of cheap music. 3 stars (Jeff Simon)