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Vanilla Fudge

The Beat Goes On

Review by Steve Alspach

One criticism of progressive music is that it takes itself too seriously. This album is the poster child for that argument. Few albums, if any, are more furrow-browed than this one, but Vanilla Fudge, the band whose music was described as somewhere between "psychedelic symphonic rock" and "barbiturate baroque." For a band that made its name doing no-holds-barred acid rock versions of the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" and Jr. Walker and the All-Stars' "Shotgun", this album shows them in rather restrained mode. And, what the hell - for 1968 it sounded pretty cool. And they were an influence on other bands such as The Nice and Yes.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sketch
This mainly features Mark Stein on Hammond Organ and piano improvisations, with some background noodling from Vinnie Martell's guitar.
Phase One
(hey, we told you this was serious)
Intro: The Beat Goes On
The band hammers out the four-note riff from Sonny Bono's song in typical Fudge fashion - slow and extremely emphatic.
Track 3
The Fudge takes the unenviable task of chronicling the highlights of three centuries of western music -and all in seven minutes. This piece starts with a variation on Mozart's Divertimento No. 13 in F Major with Mark Stein on harpsichord and Moog synthesizer. Up to the 19th century where the group sings "Old Black Joe." Then up to the 20th century, starting off with Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In", "The 12th Street Rag" with Stein on piano and Carmen Appice on drums, "In the Mood" with Stein again on synthesizer, and "Hound Dog." The band finally finishes off with a rather restrained Beatles medley of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "I Feel Fine," "Day Tripper," and "She Loves You." Each piece is interspersed with the thundering four note "Beat Goes On" riff.
Phase 2
The Beat Goes On
The band takes another abbreviated stab at the title song.
Fur Elise / Moonlight Sonata:
Here's the Fudge doing what they do best - playing a dramatic version of a piece that you wouldn't expect them to play.
The Beat Goes On
A bossa nova take on the theme, but the piece is sped up to a single high-pitched tone. Hey, it was a groovy way to end up side 1 on the old vinyl album.
The Beat Goes On
We start side 2 with the song coming down from its high pitch and back to normal.
Phase Three
Voices in Time
Voices of famous people from World War II (Neville Chamberlain, Churchill, Roosevelt and Truman) along with John F. Kennedy are heard while the band quietly and somberly play the main "Beat Goes On" riff in the background.

Phase Four
The Beat Goes On
Yes, again - the cocktail lounge version.
Merchant / The Game is Over
First off, another variation on the theme, this time in a jazz-Indian mode complete with sitar and vibraphone. The song "The Game Is Over" is played while each of the four members gets an unusual solo piece. Vinnie Martell has a spoken piece that reflects on life and those, bassist Tim Bogert is interviewed on various current topics, though his take on people in the music business ("Disheartening…and some other words I can't use") is rather funny. Carmine Appice uses it simply to play drums ("I'm not a talker, so listen to my drums if you wanna hear me talk"), and Mark Stein uses his turn to read of the death of Moses (Deuteronomy 34, in case you were curious).

The Beat Goes On
The band finishes out with a blasting, if abbreviated, version of the theme song.
 
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