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Vanilla Fudge

Then And Now - 2021 2-CD Edition

Review by Gary Hill

What can you count on with Vanilla Fudge? Well, you can count on great music that qualifies at least as proto-prog, if not full prog. I mean, Vanilla Fudge was one of those bands at the time (Iron Butterfly being another) that I think had they not done their thing, progressive rock probably wouldn't exist. This two CD collection captures some great examples of their mastery of creating new versions of songs that are often familiar and making them their own. I'm just not clear what the deal is with this collection. I mean, the first disc was definitely released as a single disc version years ago, and I reviewed it. Apparently there was a version with this same batch of songs more recently, but I didn't get the two disc set that time around. I do know that part of the sales this time are being donated to Unicef. I also know that this is a great set. The second CD was recorded live in 2004 with a symphony orchestra.

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Track by Track Review
Disc 1
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.
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.

Disc 2
Good Good Livin'

This is a fierce hard rocker with some smoking hot guitar soloing. This is purely on fire. There are some killer twists and turns, too.

Take Me for a Little While
I love this song, both in general and this version. Loaded with killer organ, this is a great retro-textured slab of Vanilla Fudge goodness.
Ain't That Peculiar
The slide guitar concept on this gets some "Tush" in it as it gets underway. This is a powerhouse rocker that works so well in this live telling.
People Get Ready
I really love the extended introduction on this, but then again the whole tune is so cool. The orchestral elements are put to good use on the mellower sections of this track.
This is another powerhouse Vanilla Fudge tune. They include some interesting musical additions along the road. I love both the organ and guitar work. Then again, everything about this is classy. There is an extensive call and response section with the audience on the tune.
Tearin' up My Heart
A smoking hot cut, this works so well here. The orchestral elements really do bring something special to parts of this number.
She's Not There
I really dig the cool bass guitar solo that serves as the introduction to this track. It brings a bit of classy psychedelia. It turns pretty funky later, too. In fact, that solo makes up about half of the nearly ten-minute length of this tune. As other instruments join, they work into a killer groove on the main song.
Keep Me Hangin' On
Another killer tune that I've always loved. the orchestral elements are a good touch on this number.
Season of the Witch
The mellower section of this cut has so much class and style built into it. I dig the splashes of guitar and the organ tones. There are a handful of songs in the world that I'm drawn to in such a way that I seek out all kinds of various versions of the tune I can find. This is one of those. I love how the orchestral elements bring an enhanced angle to this version. There is some positively incendiary guitar work later in the tune.
Do You Think I'm Sexy
The put a killer hard rocking introduction onto this cut. They eventually work out into main tune from there. While I dig this one, it's perhaps not at the same level as the rest of the material on this second disc of the set.
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