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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Vanilla Fudge

Vanilla Fudge

Review by Gary Hill

The Fudge is back! I'm sure we can all sit around and debate for ever if they are truly prog or not, but the truth of the matter is, even if they weren't early prog, and I am not sure the answer to that, they influenced so much prog that they have earned an honorary mention. Indeed, I think that there is a whole generation of progressive rock bands that would not have been had it not been for Vanilla Fudge. Therefore, I have included them in the progressive rock section of MSJ. Now, as to the album, the band has always been best known for re-working, nearly re-writing pop songs. Well, that has not changed. Neither have a lot of other things. This is nearly the same lineup as the classic era of the band. The new album shares both a title and a similar cover with their 1967 debut. The band have also re-recorded many of their older songs, essentially producing an album of their current live set with their current lineup and sound. Look for an album of covers, done the way you expect Vanilla Fudge to do them. However, don't look for all the songs to be they type of songs you would expect them to cover. Indeed, they actually hit a couple of famous boy bands in their cover frenzy.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Ain't That Peculiar
An organ solo, ala Deep Purple meets ice hockey starts this one. After it runs through a smoking riff ensues. The cut quickly turns very bluesy.
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
Keys start this one, tentatively at first, but gaining presence as they carry on. Then the rest of the band joins, and the cut stomps through, again feeling a lot like Deep Purple. This one is a screamer with some awesome keyboard textures.

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 close out the disc with 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.

 
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