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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Vanilla Fudge

Then And Now

Review by Gary Hill

No one can fault the musical performances on this one. Vanilla Fudge has always been an incredible band capable of creating and producing incredibly complex and powerful arrangements, and this album is no exception to that rule. No, the real problem here comes in the form of repetition. You see, with the exception of two songs, every single cut on this album was released just a couple years ago as two different albums, Vanilla Fudge and The Return. That disc represented the new modern line up of the Fudge putting in their own renditions of classic Fudge songs along with a couple new tracks. Well, just two or so years later, here comes this release. Other than a live rendition of "Need Love" replacing the studio one and the Fudge's all new take on Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy", every song here was on that other release, albeit in a different sequence.

Still, for those who didn't pick up that one, this is a fine choice. It has a lot of The Fudge's classics, granted in their new, not original recordings. Really this band is at least as good as the classic lineup, and with modern recording techniques these renditions hold up as equals to the classic versions. So, with the disc's fine selection of cuts, this is a good album. The only real problem is that for anyone who did put out there money for one of (or worse yet both) those albums, this is very redundant. For the sake of consistency, where the song was included on the self titled album mentioned above, the individual track review is also from that review.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
You Keep Me Hangin' On
The Fudge always did one of the best versions of this song of anyone, and this time around is no exception. The number comes out as a very hard-edged, psychedelic early prog romp with lots of drama. The cut is a tour-de-force showcasing just how proggy a reworking of a fairly simple rocker can be.
Tearin' Up My Heart
A martial beat begins this one. As it builds on and on and on, keys enter the fray working their way around a melody line. The cut continues building, the rest of the band joining the party. After it spends some time intensifying it shifts gear to a brief Deep Purpleish jam, then drops down to just a keyboard melody. As the chorus enters it becomes obvious that this is indeed the *N Sync song. The chorus is done in a mellow sort of musical pattern with the verse rocking out. This cut is a surprise smoker. The instrumental break late in the song is particularly strong.

Shotgun
This is a hard rocking prog cut that is another strong one. A little bluesy, a little psychedelic, all fun, this is old school Vanilla Fudge.
People Get Ready
More old school, this begins on guitar, running through slowly in that mode. Then keys and the rest of the group join the celebration, playing in rather psychedelic modes after a time. Next a great prog excursion comes through. As that winds down, the first strains of the song's melody emerge. Then a brief, non-spoken acapella segment emerges, followed by a new slightly psychedelic keyboard based mellow jam. This runs through, leading into the first mellow verse. The cut makes a gradual building process from there, working it way slowly up in complexity and intensity. It suddenly breaks into a triumphant, progish fanfare and runs through a building from there. A great acapella segment takes the song after a crescendo, and then one more crescendo leads the piece out.
Take Me For A Little While
This cut gets turned into a rather hard-edged prog jam that has strong psychedelic leanings.

Good Good Livin'
This one comes in as a high-energy smoker that leans toward metal. The cut builds and dances around its melody. Once the verse hits it feels a lot like Deep Purple. This one is a bit stripped down, but truly rocks.
I Want It That Way
A hard-edged prog jam featuring killer organ sounds represents the early sections of this song. The cut screams out in a combination of neo-classical and psychedelia before peaking. Then a mellow, more stripped down segment enters for the verse. As the vocals hit, so does another surprise twist as realization floods that this is the Back Street Boys song. This man band certainly takes a Boy Band song where it has never been before, into the realms of real music.
Need Love
This is a live version of the Deep Purpleish rocker. It includes a string section that is generally overshadowed by the hard-edged screaming arrangement.
Eleanor Rigby
Another cut from the old incarnation of the group, Vanilla Fudge transform this Beatles number into a slightly spooky, psychedelic tour-de-force that was probably one of the very earliest prog pieces. I've heard that Banks era Yes used to cover Eleanor Rigby in their formative days and always imagined their version to sound much like this. This is a prog roller coaster ride and a great example of how the Fudge were able to truly re-work songs.

She's Not There
The guys kick it old school on this one. This is another of their classic covers from the old days and another outstanding piece. It is a rather hard-edged prog rock excursion of epic proportions.

Season of the Witch
On a roll, the band include another of their trademark rearrangements. The band take this cut and change it into a jam that has a spookiness that it never truly achieved before, with still being a challenging and entertaining number.
Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?
Haunting sounds start this, then a dramatic and slightly spooky keyboard textures with vocals over top join s in. The keys hint at the main melody for a few measures, then a hard-edged neo-classical romp takes it. Next the band stomp in a hard edge rocking format. Bass guitar feeling a bit like a Head East song takes this, then the familiar Rod Stewart melody line joins in. The vocals come in hard and gritty. This drops to a cool funky segment feeling at times like James Brown, while at others like Parliament. They even throw in an old school rap.
 
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