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Vanilla Fudge

Renaissance

Review by Gary Hill

Vanilla Fudge may not be progressive rock, or they might. Either way they have seriously influenced and impacted prog rock from the beginnings and I've always included them there. The group's incredibly powerful sound is unmistakable. From smoking organ sounds, crunchy guitar, soaring vocal medleys and a psychedelic texture to their extended creative arrangements, no one does it quite like The Fudge. One of the most influential things, in my opinion, that they did was their method of alternating softer and louder passages to create drama and power. I know that I've read interviews where they guys in Yes remark about that being one of the things that they have always worked with. Well, the Fudge were doing it before them. Actually one of the tracks here I see to be a definite influence on early Yes, but I have a hunch Vanilla Fudge in general had a lot to do with that band (and a lot of others') style. In any event, this album was one of the early ones from The Fudge's catalog and one that is very highly regarded. There is no weak material here and the Fudge's version of "Season of the Witch" (creating incredibly original versions of established songs is another Vanilla Fudge trademark) alone would make this a disc worth having. In my opinion that might be the best song they've ever done. The nice thing is, that is far from the only strong piece on the disc. This one is full of them.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Sky Cried-When I Was A Boy
A noisy gong starts this, then echoes away. Something that sounds a bit like a child's toy instrument runs the first lines of the song and gradually the rest of the band join in on this excursion. It builds fairly rapidly into a noisy, pounding wonderment. Then it crescendos and Vanilla Fudge's trademark organ sound is all that remains. This then leads them onto the next journey a heavy, psychedelic jam that is the main theme and verse of the cut. After they move this through for a time, then crescendo, they turn it to dramatic atmosphere, then pound back out with a psychedelic frenzy. They drop it back to the more sedate for a line of "the sky cried," and then a crescendo with thunder leads to a crazed guitar solo segment. This ends and odd screamed sung harpy like vocals take a quick burst, then the band pounds back out into this scorching jam. This gives way to another crescendo and false ending. They build ever so slowly on this, then burst out into the next part of the cut, what is essentially the second song of the medley. It's more psychedelic jamming. They drop it back to the weird and sedate again, as the group always seemed to do, and then jump it back outward. The weirder textures eventually end this one.

Thoughts
With a pretty typical Vanilla Fudge harder rocking lead in, this one drops to a psychedelic ballad approach based on the keys. This one weaves a dramatic sort of web with this segment, then bursts back up to the harder rocking territory to move it forward. This pulls a lot of the hippie-culture sound ala the musical Hair and the like into its arrangement, but it's also a very effective and solid track. It's got quite a bit going on with its varying themes and textures, and I hear some Eastern tinged melodies in the overlayers at points. And they manage to do all that in the course of a three and a half minute cut. Keys eventually end it.

Paradise
The keyboard textures that start this are weird and oh so tasty. The group let them live for a while to gain their full effect, and I thank them for that. Eventually this feels as if it's about to explode outward, but they withhold that release. Instead vocals come over top of this segment that hints at explosion. The cut builds from adding to and expanding upon this vocal arrangement. It's almost two and a half minutes before they burst out into the real rocking section of the cut. This one is a very strong piece of music and one of my favorites on the album. They move it out through a few segments in the song proper. Then it drops back to just keys to carry forward. Choir like vocals come over the top of this as it continues. As it powers out from there the sound is extremely heavy at first, hinting at proto-metal. Then they resolve back out to one of their trademark jams with all the layered vocals. The bass runs some intriguing patterns underneath this mass of sound. They move it back out to the song proper from there. After one verse a voice ends this with a non-lyrical line.

That's What Makes A Man
This one bursts in with a sound that would later be approximated by Yes's The Yes Album. They run through the introduction like this, then eventually modulate down to a ballad-like movement that serves as the backdrop for the vocals. The cut grows in a very organic manner, then explodes out into something that feels like the music Led Zeppelin would later produce - at least a bit. They crescendo this out then move back to the more mellow again. When they burst out again to the more hard rocking its with an exceptionally tasty riff, and then they work it back to a movement that pulls the themes from the introduction back. This is another exceptionally strong Fudge cut that showcases all the things that made them great throughout its dynamic and growing arrangement.
The Spell That Comes After:
Starting slowly and tentatively, this takes on a weird texture as it moves forward. It turns downright creepy with its psychotic keyboard sound and hints of vocals in the distance. Eventually those vocals begin to grow and bring with them a powerful sort of feeling. This is one that transforms in a very slow manner until suddenly pumping up and seeming like it will burst out. It drops back to just organ for a couple measures and then does what we thought it would. This one rocks out pretty intensely later after some typical Fudge moving about. Eventually tones similar to the odd ones that began this end it.
Faceless People
Spacey keys start this one off. It is another that grows rather gradually. At first it becomes a spaced out balladic type of mode, and moves through several incarnations like this, taking on some definite Eastern tones in the process. This gets quite powerful at times. This introduction ends about a minute and a half in and then the band launch into a furious hard rocking movement that eventually ramps out like a whirling dervish and then ends to allow the keys to regain control. They pull another guitar-dominated excursion from there, then drop to a more sparse combination of the styles for the verse. This is another effective, if a bit typical, Vanilla Fudge journey. A smoking guitar solo later is included in a later instrumental excursion that ends the track.
Season Of The Witch
This is one of my all time favorite Vanilla Fudge songs, even if it is one of their covers. They start this one gradually with space sounds before eventually modulating out into this psychedelic classic. I've reviewed alternate versions of this piece before and my guess is you've already heard this song. If not, what are you waiting for? Follow one of the Amazon.com links we have and buy any Fudge album that has this track on it. It is worth the price of admission on any disc. Don't believe me, feel free to check out one of the other Fudge reviews for more details, but it really does not get a lot better than this one.

 
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