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Vanilla Fudge - Vanilla Fudge [Aka:You Keep Me Hanging On] CD (album) cover

VANILLA FUDGE [AKA:YOU KEEP ME HANGING ON]

Vanilla Fudge

 

Proto-Prog

3.64 | 106 ratings

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TenYearsAfter
4 stars "The most overlooked legendary prog band"

Back to 1967, a magical year in rock music. The UK is flooded by very exciting and adventurous albums, from The Nice, Pink Floyd and The Beatles to Procol Harum and The Moody Blues. These bands are scouting the boundaries of a wide range of styles, with the emphasis on rock, folk and classical, the press labels it as progressive rock. In the USA there is also an interesting progressive movement, but more focussed on blending styles with the emphasis on blues and psychedelia. The most famous bands are The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane and Santana. Another interesting band in the USA in 1967 is four piece formation Vanilla Fudge, in that magical year their eponymous debut LP reaches # 6 in the Billboard Album Top 100. Soon Vanilla Fudge is embraced by the young music fans in the USA and within a few years the band becomes the headliner during concerts with Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Deep Purple and Canned Heat. Later legandary bands like Yes, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple point at Vanilla Fudge as an important source of inspiration. But despite these facts Vanilla Fudge is the most overlooked progressive band, in a world where Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and ELP are hailed as 'the gods of prog'. So how about Vanilla Fudge their music, and the 'prog factor'?

The story of Vanilla Fudge started in the New York-area when Mark Stein (organ and lead vocals) and Tim Bogert (bass guitar) played in a band called Rick Martin & The Showmen. When Mark and Tim listened to the popular band The Rascals they were so impressed by the hot R&B covers with floods of Hammond B3 organ that they decided to form their own band, named The Pigeons. Together with Rick Martin's drummer Joey Brennan and new guitarist Vinnie Martell they started rehearsing and playing but Brennan was replaced by Carmine Appice. He played one night at the same place as The Pigeons and he was simply asked to join The Pigeons. At about the same time The Pigeons decided to change their name into Vanilla Fudge, after the nickname of the female singer of The Unspoken Word (she liked ice cream very much). And also a bidding war started to contract them because the band was very promising. Eventually in July 1967 Vanilla Fudge signed with Atco Records, a division of the famous Atlantic label. They released the single You Keep Me Hangin'On and then their first album Vanilla Fudge, soon Vanilla Fudge became the darlings of the underground, like Pink Floyd in the UK. The second album The Beat Goes On was the over-ambitious project of producer Shadow Morton to tell the entire history of contemporary music , from Mozart to Elvis Presley. Unfortunately it all sounded too weird and then Atco decided to re-release their first single You Keep Me Hangin' On, in order to stop the possible demise of the band. Atco hoped for the best, and indeed, the single became a small hit and soon they released their third album Renaissance that consisted primarily of original material. February '69 their fourth album Near The Beginning came out and in september '69 their fifth and final album called Rock & Roll was released. After these five LP's Vanilla Fudge decided to split up and to look for other musical challenges. During the years they reunited several times, and for me a dream came true when I attended a very inspired and exciting Vanilla Fudge gig in 2015 (see my avatar).

This review is about Vanilla Fudge their eponymous debut LP featuring only covers. How ironical, the creative way Vanilla Fudge re-arranged the covers showcase their unique and pivotal sound. Their trademark has two elements: on one hand the soul and gospel inspired vocals (with different lead singers) and vocal harmonies and on the other hand a pioneering Hammond-harder edged guitar combination.

Ticket To Ride (The Beatles) : The sound of the Hammond organ and the bluesy atmosphere creates a very special climate, fuelled by a dynamic rhythm-section (acknowledged by Jeff Beck who later founded Beck, Bogert and Appice). On this first track Vanilla Fudge also introduced thei trademark blend of soul and gospel inspired vocals. And the fiery guitar is a perfect counterpart to the powerful and omnipresent Hammond organ.

People Get Ready (The Impressions, written by Curtis Mayfield) : A slow rhythm and compelling work on the Hammond, and again fiery guitar runs and gospel/soul vocals.

She's Not There (The Zombies): The lush Hammond and raw electric guitar sound awesome, topped with strong vocals, this is trademark Vanilla Fudge.

Bang Bang (Cher, and Nancy Sinatra, written by Sonny Bono) : An omnipresent Hammond, pleasant vocal harmonies, a psychedelic touch and a strong final part with heavy guitar and Hammond outbursts.

Illusions ? The 3 parts are short psychedelic sonic impressions.

You Keep Me Hangin' On (The Supremes) : This is the single that got Vanilla Fudge on the map and for me the highlight on this album. Vanilla Fudge presents a captivating and dynamic blend of rock, blues and gospel with exciting Hammond waves, powerful electric guitar, distinctive vocal harmonies and excellent lead vocals, an extra dimension on this cover.

Take Me For A Little While (Jackie Ross) : A slow rhythm with soul inspired vocals and vocal harmonies, the Hammond gives a special flavour.

Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles): In the original version of The Beatles they don't play instruments, Paul MaCartney did the double-tracked lead vocals and Harrison and Lennon the vocal harmonies, George Martin arranged the string quartet. Vanilla Fudge replaced the strings by Hammond and electric guitar, creating a huge tension between the slow and bluesy parts and the bombastic outbursts, topped by strong vocals and a propulsive rhythm-section. To me this sounds as a very good rendition (superior to The Beatles but that is personal, I am more a Stones fan). And it showcased the inventive composing and exciting musical potential of Vanilla Fudge.

A band to discover, if you are up to the soul and gospel inspired vocals, that will not be everybody's cup of tea. But the work on the Hammond B3 is a Big Plus for the Hammond aficionados!

TenYearsAfter | 4/5 |

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