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NEAR THE BEGINNING

Vanilla Fudge

Proto-Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars Actually I give it 3.5 stars as the first side is up to par with Renaissance but the second is a long jam session going nowhere and fast witu overlong solo from each musician. Velvet Mornings is flabergasting and Shotgun sounds like a wild Cream number .

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#28020)
Posted Monday, February 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Nowadays the USA band Vanila Fudge is a bit forgotten and unknown within the world of progressive rock. It seems that their captivating progressive blend of rock, soul and psychedelia doesn't appeal to most of the (younger) progheads. But in the second half of the sixties Vanilla Fudge was a highly acclaimed band, both by public and the press. Famous progrock acts with their heydays in the seventies like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and even Yes pointed at Vanilla Fudge as an important source of inspiration. 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 who 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 Vanilla Fudge signed (in july '67) with Atco Records, a division of the famous Atlantic label. They became darlings of the underground radio and so their first album went to #6 in the charts! To stop the posible desmise of the band Atco re-released the first single You Keep Me Hangin' On and hoped for the best. The single climbed to #6, a real surprise for Vanilla Fudge and Atco. Vanilla Fudge became the headliner at the end of the sixties in the USA, bands like Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Deep Purple and Canned Heat opened for them! Vanilla Fudgge played also together with Cream and Jimi Hendrix. My favorite Vanilla Fudge album is their fourth entitled "Near the beginning": everything between soul, rock, blues, classic, symphonic and gospel is in their compositions, loaded with excellent, very Hendrix inspired guitarplay (lots of wah-wah), powerful floods of Hammond organ, strong vocals and a splendid, very dynamic rhythm- section. Side one contains 2 covers (Junior Walker & The All-Stars hit "Shotgun" and "Some Velvet Morning" of Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazlewood) and side two contains the 20 minute live track" Break Song", the alternating highlight featuring lots of great soli. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY ONE OF THE BEST PROGROCK ALBUMS BUT DON'T EXPECT PROG IN THE VEIN OF ELP, GENESIS OR YES!!! By the way, the DVD "Rockin' The Sixties (Ed Sullivan's R&R Classics) features an amazing powerful rendition of their hit "You keep me hanging on", RECOMMENDED!!

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Send comments to erik neuteboom (BETA) | Report this review (#39124)
Posted Monday, July 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've heard that album for the first time 15 years ago when someone lent it to me. Nowadays, I still remember long sections of the album... without to have ever listened to it, so much it turned in my bedroom... I'll soon have it again, and I'm sure I'll really enjoy to hear it one more time after all those years... Simply one of the most surprising album I heard with others like King Crimson, Yes, ELP, Genesis or Zappa!!! Someting ununderstable to me, to take as it comes

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Send comments to spide (BETA) | Report this review (#48495)
Posted Monday, September 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars What a great, great album. In my opinion the definitive VF LP to own. The half live, half studio format, balances it just perfectly. The band's playing is just amazing. It's so powerfull, passionate and clever! The 3 studio tracks are far heavier than anything they have done before. Shotgun is a heavily rocked up version of a soul number. So full of energy and Carmine Appice drums like a maniac, couldn't be better for an opening track. The following two, take more of a downbeat approach. Some Velvet Morning, showcases the bands vocal sound, whislt the self-penned Where Is Happiness draws on a more complex, classical approach. The live side, just one track, is a mainly instrumental featuring solos from each member of the band. Often frowned upon in the world of rock, they can do this for nearly 25 minutes without getting tedious. In case you are wondering, there is a bass solo. Bogert makes sounds on it that I never thought would be possible. It's so good, it actually makes me laugh every time I hear it!

If you had any plans for the rest of the day or indeed tomorrow, simply cancel them to go and obtain this amazing piece of work.

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Send comments to kingdhansak (BETA) | Report this review (#112164)
Posted Thursday, February 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This album falls shy when compared to their brilliant "Renaissance" work. The band was very productive in those days (four albums in two years' time) but IMHHO it was at the cost of quality. Each even album they have produced can't hold the comparison to its uneven counterpart. Just meaning that for each good to very good album they have produced so far "Vanilla Fudge", their debut one and "Renaissance", there will be "The Beat Goes On" and this one.

The extraordinary ("Some Velvet Morning") and the worse ("Break Song") are featured on the fourth album of the Fudge.

The former is a magnificent psyche and soft jewel with brilliant vocals from our dear friend Vince. It is by far my favourite song form this offering. All the psyche magic is working pretty good during this melodic and beautiful track.

As usual, one gets a fantastic instrumental intro and the vocals are so delicate and beautiful. Another one of their great cover work. A style in which they really excel. A great psychedelic anthem.

On the contrary, the latter is just a useless and loooooooooong jam session starting bluesy and ending nowhere. It is very difficult to go through these twenty-three minutes+ (and I 've done it several times.) to try and find what was all the fuss about it.

At times, the super wild guitar and the incredible rhythmic section is producing some explosive parts but this live track is rather self-indulgent. Of course, lots of live albums from the era (and this fact will last for several years, just listen to "Made In Japan") features such solo. And you'll get them all here.

While not displaying these instrumental solo, the "song" reverts to this bluesy mood I just dislike (but you might know that I am not at all into blues).

These musicians are of course excellent but the bass solo is pretty boring actually. This number is only worth for its wild guitar break and the drum solo. Otherwise, it is pretty boring. Press next. Ooooops, it is the last "song" of the album.

In between, "Where Is Hapiness" written by Carmin Appice is on the plus side as well. Heavy rock at its best. This track would benefit from a good remastering work when (or if) available. Wild beat and instrumental parts combined with aerial vocals are very close to the very good "Renaissance" album.

On the contrary, the soul oriented opening track "Shotgun" is not my cup of tea. But again, this musical genre is not mine at all.

This is my last review of the year on PA. It was great fun to post all these reviews on this site in 2007. Just a bit sad that it doesn't end on a higher note.

Three stars thanks to "Where Is Happiness" and of course the brilliant "Some Velvet Morning".

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#157328)
Posted Monday, December 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Vanilla fudge is once more in the likes of so many island based groups, lacking focus and reflecting scattered songs.

The album by Atco was unprofessionally recorded and taints this album. The album begins with a very basic title yet the drumming stands out as much more progressive but not much different to any of the servant lineaged drummers found in groove albums in the same era that also recorded to the same quality as mentioned about this group. This parallel has to be observed since the group members are from island area yet once more using servant lineaged light.

The progressive sounds they did decide to record were casted in the future, and this the correct distancing to how an island based lineage has to reference their sound or else it is a conjured mess, yet the light is referenced from the servant not this group. Many groups decades later decided to venture into the same drumming sequences this group had performed--and all these groups in the progressive distance will not rate past 2 stars.

As a group this band is not very progressive since they had a commercial success that was aired on the Ed Sullivan show. Once more showing support for the island influence rather than the mainland reference. It is a performance based show that is the focus of the band not progressive sounds.

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Send comments to thewickedfall (BETA) | Report this review (#306301)
Posted Saturday, October 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Despite harbouring almost mythical status amongst classic rock fans, the fact remains that Vanilla Fudge never truly fulfilled their exciting potential after the release of their incendiary 1967 debut. Maybe the hint was in the fact that 'Vanilla Fudge' was made up entirely of cover versions, but what cover versions they were, the foursome applying a stretched-out, doom-heavy, proto-psych coating to classic pop-and-soul tracks such as The Beatles 'Day Tripper' and Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready'. However, alarm bells were soon ringing following the release of the abominable 'experimental' follow-up 'The Beat Goes On', whilst 'Renaissance', a 1968 album made-up of both covers and, for once, original material(and rather uninspired original material it has to be said) also failed to set the pulse racing. For some, 1969's 'Near The Beginning' was proof that Vanilla Fudge could write their own tunes - the twenty-three minute closing epic 'Break Song' certainly showed ambition - yet this writer(who, by the way, adores the group's debut) simply isn't convinced. Also containing a pair of cover versions that make up approximately half the album's tracks(Lee Hazlewood's 'Some Velvet Morning' and the Audrey DeWalt-penned 'Shotgun' feature here) 'Near The Beginning' is a definite improvement on both 'The Beat Goes On' and 'Renaissance', yet that in itself is nothing to shout about. Whilst the covers feature the usual amped-up rock veneer, the drony 'Where Is Happiness?' and the chundering, dirge-like 'Break Song'(which was recorded live) simply add to the suspicion that Vanilla Fudge ran out of actual inspiration sometime during late 1967. Quickly overtaken by the likes of Hendrix, Iron Butterfly and The Doors, Vanilla Fudge's canon as heard by 21st century ears seems distinctly limited. Their awesome debut aside, there is precious little to get excited about amongst the subsequent quartet of albums, their bland, organ-doused rock 'n' roll sound seeming ever more slow and cumbersome with each additional listen. Thoroughly uninspired stuff then yet by the same token by no means awful, 'Near The Beginning' is an album strictly for Vanilla Fudge completionists. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2O12

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#822334)
Posted Monday, September 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Vive la differance!

Vanilla Fudge have made a career out of re-interpreting other people's works. Seemingly, they have succeeded in creating a name by doing so. Honestly, it's hard to go wrong with re-heating some already familiar songs. For my part, I am not the least interested in that and over the years I've let go of their earlier releases, but treasuring this one as an exception.

Why? Simple. This album contains a live recording of a rare, original piece "Break Song", where for over 23 mins. the band chooses to stretch out in a bluesy tune. Every member gets to solo - and brilliantly, I may add!

"Break Song" broke new ground in Prog Rock here with perhaps the very first ever recorded bass solo using a distortion pedal, courtesy of Tim Bogert. Carmine Appice also shows what a great drummer can do when allowed to expand and the rest of the crew also shines.

Some people loathe this track, whereas this is the very Vanilla Fudge I would have liked to hear more of. Well, we are permitted to have different preferences, but "knocking" this piece doesn't appear to be reasonable to me.

Of some interest, later the rhythm section became part of CACTUS - a rather coarse Hard Rock band - where Bogert and Appice revisited fragments of what appeals to me in "Break Song", but never really came close to the delivery on "Near The Beginning". (Frankly, CACTUS is best to be left alone...!)

Equally, the formation of Beck, Bogert and Appice also failed to capture the real talent behind these very capable musicians. Were they overrated, or was it restrictions applied by the producer's? We may never know.

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Send comments to BORA (BETA) | Report this review (#869190)
Posted Friday, November 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Near the end of the psychedelic movement many bands recorded jams to show the individual skill of their members. Some bands chose to record studio jams (Love - da Capo; Captain Beefheart - Mirror Man (this was meant to be released on the second Beefheart record as a double record)), whereby others included live jams (Canned Heat - Livin' the Blues). Near the Beginning of Vanilla Fudge also has one side filled with a live recorded jam. Like al the albums named aboth this album got mixed responses by both critics and fans.

The first side of the record contains three songs in a same set-up as the previous "Renaissance" record. The opening track -"Shotgun" is one of the most intense recordings of the 60' with furious guitars, keys and bass lines. This heavy opener contains beside the songstructure some nice solo's of especially Tim Bogert on the bass. "Some Velvet Morning" has a doomy atmosphere with a great dynamical change from heavy to sweet rock as we also saw often on Renaissance. It ends with industrial sounds before going further with "Where is Happiness", which is another psychedelic hardrock effort. This first side of the record will please fans of the previous "Renaissance" record by having the same dynamic approach and quality.

"Break song" is the name of the sidefilling jam. While having a psychedelic hardrock theme this is a loose song which already changes to standard bluesrock within the first minutes. Vince Martell shows quiet impressive guitar handling however and therefor I don't mind the litle complexity of the accompany. Bluesrock as a genre always had great jams and has a better live reputation then the progressive rock genre. The bass solo is almost even more impresssing then the guitar solo. Tim Bogert shows many experimental bass effects which does please me al lot. It is not always nice sounding, but I enjoy the strange sounds because of it's strangeness. The key solo of Mark Stein is good but not as stunning as the earlier solo's. The drum solo is nice, but -as is the case with most drum solo's- gets a bit booring after several listenings.

In total this album is a quiet steady effort and almost as good as the "Renaissance" record. Just excellent psychedelic hardrock!

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Send comments to the philosopher (BETA) | Report this review (#906498)
Posted Tuesday, February 05, 2013 | Review Permalink
Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I remember that I listened to this album for the first time maybe 40 years ago (when I was 8 years old!). I remember that I liked a lot this album then, but I didn`t remember anything about it in the present despite having some very vague good memories about it. Well. I listened to it again today...and the impression that this album gave me has changed a lot 40 years later! Vanilla Fudge was/is a psychedelic rock band and this album is a very good representation of that music style, I think. I found now this album a bit chaotic and without direction sometimes. Very heavy in parts. Very noisy in parts. But not very interesting. With some influences by Iron Butterfly but with a lot of improvisation. Carmine Appice is a very good drummer, and his drums playing is the best part of this album: heavy, energetic, precise. The other members of the band are also very good musicians, and the lead vocals by organist Mark Stein are good. The best song in this album is the long "Break Song" (recorded live) which has some parts played like a heavy blues but with a lot of improvisation, which includes solos by every member of the band, including a powerful drums solo by Appice. But apart from this, the other songs are not very interesting, So I give a three star rating to this album, an album which now sounds very much related to the time it was recorded and released, and a bit dated for my taste. The band`s sound and style maybe inlfuenced other bands in their early stages (Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin). But ithis album has some excess in some parts. Carmine Appice, in a very curious part of his history, went to play and record albums with Rod Stewart in the seventies-eighties and he even had some songwriting credits with Stewart for songs like "Do Ya Think I`m Sexy" and "Young Turks".

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Send comments to Guillermo (BETA) | Report this review (#1029871)
Posted Friday, September 06, 2013 | Review Permalink

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