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VANILLA FUDGE

Proto-Prog • United States


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Vanilla Fudge biography
The story of VANILLA FUDGE started (in my opinion a pivotal progressive band in the vein of KING CRIMSON, COLOSSEUM and THE NICE) in the New York era when Mark Stein (organ and lead vocals) and Tim Bogert (bass guitar) played in a band called Rick Martin & The Snowmen. Tim and Mark were so impressed by the sound of THE RASCALS (swinging and floods of organ) that they dediced to form their own band with Vinnie Martell on guitar and Rick Martin's drummer Joey Brennan. They named themselves The PIGEONS but, after the replacement of Joey Brennan by Carmine Appice, the new name became VANILLA FUDGE. In '71 the band 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". The second album "The Beat Goes On" was the ambitious project of producer Shadow Morton to tell the entire history of contemporary music (from MOZART to COLE PORTER and ELVIS PRESLEY). Unfortunately it all sounded too weird: a 44 minutes nonstop tapestry of sonic images and interruptions by sound bites from band Atco re-released the first single "You Keep Me Hangin'On" and historical figures. To stop the possible demise of the hoped for the best. It 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" (with the sidelong live track "Break Song") 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. VANILLA FUDGE's sound is a captivating and exciting blend of soul, blues, rock and progrock with strong hints from JIMI HENDRIX (fiery electric guitar) and THE RASCALS (floods of Hammond B3 organ).

The best way to get an impression of the dynamic and alternating VANILLA FUDGE sound is the compilation-CD "Psychedelic Sundae (the best of..)": some Rhythm & blues with soul/gospel-like vocals and vocal harmonies but mainly music that is based upon great interplay between the fierce electric guitar (like JIMI HENDRIX) and the powerful Hammond B3 organ. The compositions range from slow, almost hypnotizing to propulsive with heavy outbursts. The vocals sound soulful, a rather unusual combination in progrock. Discover this captivating, very progressive blend of different styles and keep in mind that YES, DEEP PURPLE and URIAH HEEP pointed at VANILLA FUDGE as their main influence! Best albums to start with are "Near the Beginning" and "Rock & Roll".

Discography:
1- Vanilla Fudge (1967)
2- Beat Goes On (1968)
3- Renaissance (1968)
4- Near The Beginning (1969)
5- Rock & Roll (1970)
6- While The World Was Eating [Pigeons] (1970)
7- Star Collection (1974)
8- Two Originals (1976)
9- Best Of Vanilla Fudge (1982)
10- Mystery (1984)
11- Live: The Best Of Vanilla Fudge (1991)
12- Concert Collection [Live] (1993)
13- Psychedelic Sundae: The Best Of Vanilla Fudge (1993)
14- Hits (1997)
15- People Get Ready (2001)
16- Returns (2002)
17- Vanilla Fudge (2002)

: : : Erik Neuteboom, The NETHERLANDS : : :
Fan & official Prog Archives collaborator

Vanilla Fudge official website

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Buy VANILLA FUDGE Music


Vanilla FudgeVanilla Fudge
Elektra / Wea 1990
Audio CD$4.38
$4.37 (used)
The Complete Atco SinglesThe Complete Atco Singles
Remastered
Real Gone Music 2014
Audio CD$9.21
$8.50 (used)
Near the BeginningNear the Beginning
Sundazed Music Inc. 1998
Audio CD$10.02
$11.87 (used)
HitsHits
Rhino Flashback 1997
Audio CD$2.43
$1.28 (used)
RenaissanceRenaissance
Sundazed Music Inc. 1998
Audio CD$10.02
$7.00 (used)
Beat Goes onBeat Goes on
Sundazed Music Inc. 1998
Audio CD$11.87
$10.90 (used)
Rock & RollRock & Roll
Sundazed Music Inc. 1998
Audio CD$9.65
$9.95 (used)
Out Through the In DoorOut Through the In Door
Escapi 2009
Audio CD$16.09
$9.44 (used)
Extended VersionsExtended Versions
SBME SPECIAL MKTS. 2007
Audio CD$2.96
$0.20 (used)
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1969 Vanilla Fudge Rock & Roll SD 33-303 LP Record USD $0.99 [0 bids]
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12h 53m
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16h 39m
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18h 5m
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18h 26m
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19h 50m
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20h 8m
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VANILLA FUDGE 'Eleanor Rigby Parts 1 & 2' Atlantic Records 1967 7" Single 45rpm. USD $0.61 [0 bids]
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MARK STEIN (VANILLA FUDGE) & THE PIGEONS - "While The World Ate Vanilla Fudge" USD $19.79 [0 bids]
2 days
The Best of Vanilla Fudge by Vanilla Fudge (CD, Nov-1988, Rhino (Label)) USD $6.99 Buy It Now 2 days
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VANILLA FUDGE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

VANILLA FUDGE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.59 | 68 ratings
Vanilla Fudge
1967
1.49 | 37 ratings
The Beat Goes On
1968
4.15 | 68 ratings
Renaissance
1968
3.42 | 39 ratings
Near The Beginning
1969
2.67 | 23 ratings
Rock'n Roll
1969
1.87 | 13 ratings
Mystery
1984
3.18 | 10 ratings
The Return
2002
2.41 | 6 ratings
Out Through The In Door
2007

VANILLA FUDGE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 4 ratings
The Best of Vanilla Fudge: Live
1991
3.00 | 2 ratings
Extended Versions
2007

VANILLA FUDGE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

VANILLA FUDGE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

1.18 | 3 ratings
*Star Collection
1974
3.57 | 11 ratings
Psychedelic Sundae: The Best of Vanilla Fudge
1993
3.00 | 4 ratings
Then And Now
2004
0.00 | 0 ratings
Renaissance & Near The Beginning
2008

VANILLA FUDGE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.48 | 3 ratings
Some Velvet Morning/ People
1969

VANILLA FUDGE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Beat Goes On by VANILLA FUDGE album cover Studio Album, 1968
1.49 | 37 ratings

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The Beat Goes On
Vanilla Fudge Proto-Prog

Review by KingCrInuYasha

2 stars Oh boy, what did I get myself into?

Around the same time Vanilla Fudge was tinkering with the material that would end up becoming Renaissance, producer George "Shadow" Morton got the bright idea to create an avant-garde album that would detail the history of modern music as well as some other philosophical mumbo jumbo that was all the rage at the time. The Fudge was to provide the musical backdrop, as well as having their name stuck to the project. Not surprising, the band was not too thrilled with the project, but, for whatever reason, be it record company pressure or overall inexperience on the Fudge's part, Mark, Tim, Carmine and Vinnie went along for the ride. The result is widely considered by fans, critics, and even the band members themselves as the worst album of their classic period and, for those who know it exists, one of the most infamous records of 1968.

The bulk of the blame has to go to Morton. This is pure conjecture on my part, but this is probably another case of someone listening to the weirdest of the weird of Frank Zappa's material and thinking they could start a revolution by indulging in the same genre, when in reality, neither Morton nor the Fudge had even a tenth of the familiarity that Zappa had with avant-garde. As a result, instead of creating freaky masterpieces that musically pushed the envelope (e.g., the last third of Freak Out! and the whole of We're Only In It For The Money and Uncle Meat), they ended up with the aural equivalent of an Ed Wood film.

If you hadn't already guessed, the title of the album and the overall concept refers to the Sonny and Cher hit released the previous year, with the song serving as the leitmotif throughout the album. The opening number - which include clips from the title song - is your typical dramatic affair from the Fudge, sounding like something Emerson, Lake & Palmer would eventually do on their first album, before concluding with a clip of Thomas Edison and his famous "Mary had a little lamb" speech from his phonograph demonstration in 1877. We then enter Phase One of the concept, which is the aforementioned musical history lesson. The piece runs through Mozart, parlor music of the 19th and early 20th centuries, rag time, big bands, Elvis and finally the Beatles. On the one hand, the concept is nowhere as deep as it claims to be, being something Disney probably would have done had they managed to get the rights to use the songs. On the other hand, the idea of a musical history lesson presented by a over the top psychedelic band sounds kind of quirky to my ears, with the potential to delight both pop music deconstructionists and kids who want to get into music. Yes, I know it's cheesy, but I like it.

The overall problem with this phase is that the execution kind of leaves a lot to be desired. The popping up of the dramatic "Beat Goes On" theme throughout the suite, played in the exact same way, is too distracting for me. The Moody Blues' "House Of Four Doors" sequence did something similar, but at least that was better integrated, with its theme having a similar vibe as the interludes in that piece. Hearing a dramatic, Hammond organ drenched fanfare right between two ragtime pieces throws me out of the experience. Probably the biggest distraction is when they uses the theme in between "In The Mood" and "Hound Dog" , when they should have played those songs back to back uninterrupted to show the similarities between the songs, which would have fit the theme that "the beat goes on" perfectly. I also wish they added some more songs to the suite in order to flesh out the concept. As it is, I put the suite in the "could have been worse, could have been better" pile; and that's not getting into how The Residents managed to do the concept better when they made Third Reich 'N Roll.

Phase Two involves the Fudge covering Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elsie and is the best moment on the album, if only because it's the only phase that isn't based on a really bad idea and it's also the only one where it's fully fleshed out to its potential. It's nothing special, just the boys covering Beethoven in a cheesy, late 1960s fashion, but this type of arrangement was what Fudge did best and they pull it off with aplomb. The tune ends with a chord sequence that sounds a lot like the one near the start of their cover of "Eleanor Rigby" and I wouldn't be surprised if they put the two together in their live shows at the time.

If the first side was a pretentious, yet harmless, affair, then the second half is where the whole concept goes completely of the deep end. Phase Three consists of voice clips of historical figures between the onset of World War Two and John F. Kennedy being inaugurated as president of the United States, with Fudge providing some sparse, average sounding, musical background. I assume this was another piece that protested the Vietnam War, given the war and peace themes, and said cycle of war and peace being another beat that goes on. Some call it art, I call it self-indulgent. This is Vanilla Fudge's equivalent of The Beatles' "Revolution 9", but has nowhere near the amount of unintentional comedy that made it entertaining to listen to. I don't care if it's an anti-war message; there are plenty of (actual) songs out there that make the point better than this mess.

The fourth and final Phase does little to stop this train wreck in progress. The main theme, The Game Is Over, is yet another cover, this time taken from the soundtrack of a 1966 film starring Jane Fonda, IIRC. The music is actually pretty good and quite possibly the saddest sounding piece in the Fudge's output. At least it would be if they hadn't butchered it by a) splitting the piece with some Indian flavored music that would become badly outdated two years later and b) having the band members speak over the music itself, with Vinnie reciting some poetry, Mark quoting Bible verses about the death of Moses, Tim bluntly answering questions in an interview and Carmine just telling the audience to just listen to the music.

And there's your record. I give Morton an A for effort in wanting to tackle a genre he had no experience in as well as dragging Vanilla Fudge, kicking and screaming, into this mess, but I still give it 2/5, and a very, very weak 2/5 at that. The second half is every bit as pointless as its detractors make it out to be and if it wasn't for the novelty and somewhat wasted potential of the first half, it would have gotten a 1/5. If you want to hear what the fuss is all about or have a thing for postmodernism, I suggest either borrowing from a friend or buying the record cheap.

Final rating: 2/5

Personal favorites: "Sketch", the music suite and the Beethoven covers

Personal dislikes: Everything from side two

P.S.: In writing this review, I almost forgot the two bonus tracks attached to some CD versions. Their straightforward cover of The Beatles' " You Can't Do That" isn't too impressive, but it's pleasant when on. The pile driving ballad, "Come By Day, Come By Night", on the other hand, is a nice surprise. It's one of the first songs penned by the Fudge themselves and manages to successfully incorporate their sound in an original setting. The vocals are sublime and I like the cricket chirps Mark gets out of his organ at the beginning. The bonus tracks' presence on this version of the album is enough to make this rating a solid 2/5 instead of a shaky one.

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 Renaissance by VANILLA FUDGE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.15 | 68 ratings

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Renaissance
Vanilla Fudge Proto-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Surely ranking alongside the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple when it comes to setting the standards for prog-leaning heavy psych, Vanilla Fudge's second album is a true tour de force, with a range of decent songs building up to the absolutely incredible album closer, Season of the Witch. Devastatngly doomy, if you swapped out Mark Stein's organ performance for a Tony Iommi guitar solo you'd basically arrive at early Black Sabbath - but you wouldn't want to, because the organ-focused proto-doom of the track offers a truly hair-raising and unique trip which must surely be one of the most underrated songs of all time.

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 Near The Beginning by VANILLA FUDGE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.42 | 39 ratings

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Near The Beginning
Vanilla Fudge Proto-Prog

Review by 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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 Rock'n Roll by VANILLA FUDGE album cover Studio Album, 1969
2.67 | 23 ratings

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Rock'n Roll
Vanilla Fudge Proto-Prog

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

2 stars My knowledge on this American band is too narrow considering its importance in prog's developing years. I'm told it should be in the same level with The Nice, but personally I strongly doubt it. I know this final studio album is not VF at their best, so it's definitely not a good introduction, to me or anyone. It's now re-released by Esoteric Recordings. The liner notes tell about the very hard circumstances of the recording: the group was practically divided in two camps unable to communicate to each other. Since this is my first VF album I can't evaluate how much that can be heard in music (the playing itself is OK), or how much more would I have liked their best works. But this one was as uninteresting to me as the red'n'white cover.

Two - or was it three - of the songs are covers. 'I Can't Make It Alone' is from the Carol King songbook, and not the best part of it. The only track I found worth repeated listenings was the Michel Legrand composition 'The Windmills of Your Mind' because the song is dear to me, mostly due to Dusty Springfield's version. Also Noel Harrison's original performance in the film The Thomas Crown Affair is worth hearing. I can't say I was charmed by Fudge's version, but it's listenable enough. On the whole this feels quite uninspired album of organ-dominated rock'n'roll.

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 Near The Beginning by VANILLA FUDGE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.42 | 39 ratings

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Near The Beginning
Vanilla Fudge Proto-Prog

Review by the philosopher

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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 The Beat Goes On by VANILLA FUDGE album cover Studio Album, 1968
1.49 | 37 ratings

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The Beat Goes On
Vanilla Fudge Proto-Prog

Review by J-Man
Prog Reviewer

1 stars Vanilla Fudge's debut may not have moved me a whole lot as a listener, but I certainly understand the album's place as a seminal album in the development of psychedelic and heavy rock music. The success of that album only increases the confusion generated by The Beat Goes On, the American outfit's controversial sophomore observation - this experimental album is a 'head scratcher' for sure, and though some have hailed it as a misunderstood masterpiece, I will join the choir of folks that just don't get it. The Beat Goes On has a few interesting things going on, but the band's total disregard for musical structure and composition makes for a tough pill to swallow, even when looked at from a historical perspective.

Although the music on 1967's Vanilla Fudge was primarily straightforward organ-led psychedelic rock, the same can not be said for The Beat Goes On. There are flirtations with conventional music, like the piano intro "Sketch" and a few Beatles covers in rapid succession, but a majority of the music seems to have very little direction at all - a good portion of side two can hardly be called music, if truth be told. As cool as a sound collage of twentieth century political figures can be if done right, it seems out of place and overly long when it takes up eight minutes on a rock album. The Beat Goes On does have some cool musical ideas from time to time, but they rarely expand beyond interesting fragments; although Vanilla Fudge sticks to cover tracks once again, they never actually recreate any of the tracks they pay homage to. Instead, they briefly touch on numerous compositions, and the result is an incoherent mess.

It's actually a shame that the band never decided to flesh out any of the tunes here, as I think a heavy psychedelic version of "Fur Elise" or "Hound Dog" could have made for an entertaining listen. The Beat Goes On aims to transport the listener through history, musical and otherwise, and although this is a great concept, the execution is baffling. A directionless and confusing album, The Beat Goes On is a failed experiment in my book, and a disappointing followup to Vanilla Fudge's 1967 debut. This is only recommended to the most die-hard of psychedelic collectors - all others should proceed with extreme caution.

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 Vanilla Fudge by VANILLA FUDGE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.59 | 68 ratings

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Vanilla Fudge
Vanilla Fudge Proto-Prog

Review by J-Man
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Released during the famous 'summer of love' in 1967, Vanilla Fudge's debut offering was undoubtedly one of the more seminal psychedelic albums coming from America during the late sixties'. The heavy, jam-oriented atmosphere combined with Mark Stein's prominent organs were rather unique given the time period, and the group's original twist on well-known compositions grabbed the attention of fans and critics alike. Consisting solely of cover tunes and a few short interludes thrown in for good measure, Vanilla Fudge did not captivate listeners with original works of their own, but instead showed what they could do within the limits of famous pop songs from years past. While this formula certainly allowed lots of creativity and solid musicianship to shine through, I don't think that Vanilla Fudge stands as a particularly bold artistic statement or ageless classic.

Musically, we're dealing with psychedelic rock that isn't too far away from what most bands in the genre were doing in 1966 and 1967. Although sidelong jams and increased experimentation hadn't yet become the norm, heavy use of the Hammond organ and Beatles-influenced vocal melodies are plentiful here; Vanilla Fudge were also at the forefront of early hard rock, and some of the organ sections here clearly paved the way for heavy acts like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. Though I would not call Vanilla Fudge a terribly groundbreaking observation, it's easy to understand why this record was so influential as it solidified everything that early psychedelic rock was about.

As mentioned previously, all of the tracks on Vanilla Fudge are cover tunes. This is a bit of a turn-off for me (I typically like bands to write their own material), but it's clear that these guys put a lot of thought into the arrangements. Though the songs may be the same, Vanilla Fudge's renditions of these tracks sound entirely their own. Their take on The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" is a fine example of this, as is their interpretation of the Motown classic "You Keep Me Hangin' On". It's certainly interesting to hear all of these songs re-imagined in a psychedelic setting, but that's arguably all that it remains - a re-imagining. Especially over forty five years after its release, Vanilla Fudge doesn't sound terribly exciting or artistically ambitious. Unlike some other 1967 landmarks like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band or Absolutely Free that have grown with each passing year, Vanilla Fudge feels more like a relic from the psychedelic era than a truly timeless classic.

Of course, fans of psychedelic rock have probably owned this album decades before I wrote this review, but newer listeners of the genre are still advised to check it out. It may not strike me as anything terribly essential, but Vanilla Fudge is an influential release that encapsulates everything that one should expect from late sixties' psych. As a listener, however, I must admit that I was more than a little disappointed.

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 Near The Beginning by VANILLA FUDGE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.42 | 39 ratings

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Near The Beginning
Vanilla Fudge Proto-Prog

Review by BORA

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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 Near The Beginning by VANILLA FUDGE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.42 | 39 ratings

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Near The Beginning
Vanilla Fudge Proto-Prog

Review by 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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 Renaissance by VANILLA FUDGE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.15 | 68 ratings

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Renaissance
Vanilla Fudge Proto-Prog

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Back to what they do best after the disastrous experimental excess of 'The Beat Goes On', the third album from very heavy-rock exponents Vanilla Fudge finds the four-piece trying their hand at original compositions that don't involve plundering the vaults of old radio stations(thank the gods). Coupled with a couple of trademark covers, Donovan's oft-repeated 'Season Of The Witch' prime among them, 'Renaissance' proves a thankful return-to-form. Obviously, and unlike the previous album, there was someone lurking in the studio with the balls to say 'no' to the musicians when it really counted, and as a result we get another punishing blend of meaty guitars, rumbling basses and juicy psychedelic organs, the dazzling seven-and-a-half minute opener 'The Sky Cried When I Was A Boy' leading the way. They may not be the most subtle of groups, yet there is something wonderfully raw about Vanilla Fudge's style, and 'Renaissance' is no exception. Bruising, fuzzy rock, this should more than satisfy hard-psych aficianados.

STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

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