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Archive for May 29th, 2014

Review: Vanilla Fudge, “The Complete Atco Singles”

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Vanilla Fudge Atco SinglesIt’s hard to believe that Real Gone Music’s The Complete Atco Singles (RGM-0239, 2014) is the first such overview for Vanilla Fudge. Between 1966 and 1970, the Long Island quartet delivered heavy riff-rock that bridged the gap between psychedelia and the nascent hard rock form that would come to be known as heavy metal, transforming popular songs with a raw, visceral, punch-in-the-gut sound. This tasty, single-disc collection brings together every one of the 18 sides released on the Atco label during the first reign of Fudge and the band’s brief eighties comeback, plus one bonus track. Atco made a specialty of editing the lengthy recordings by Mark Stein (vocals/organ), Carmine Appice (drums), Tim Bogert (bass) and Vinny Martell (guitar) for 45 RPM release. So these palatable, radio-friendly singles have a very different character than the album versions which frequently bookended the core melodies with heavy, bluesy  (and deliciously indulgent) jams. Every track here except the two sides from 1984 is heard in its original mono single mix.

Vanilla Fudge announced itself in 1967 with the forceful but deliberate attack that opens the searing reinvention of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” from debut album Vanilla Fudge. Light years away from The Supremes’ urgent but smoothly crystalline original from just one year earlier, the Fudge’s dark take on the Holland/Dozier/Holland song wasn’t right for the Summer of Love. Its initial release stalled at No. 67 Pop. But much could, and did, change in one year. When Atco reissued the single in 1968, it reached No. 6. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” naturally opens Real Gone’s anthology, and if it’s hard to top, the band kept its singles varied with a blend of rearranged covers and psychedelic originals.

The B-side of “Hangin’ On,” “Take Me for a Little While,” is far less radical blue-eyed soul with a powerful punch thanks to the rumble of Appice’s thunderous drums. Its thick, dark sound was brightened by the group’s capable harmony vocals, and you’ll hear frequently hear echoes here of the group’s Long Island brethren like The Rascals and The Hassles. With producers including George “Shadow” Morton, Vanilla Fudge curated quite a collection of diverse material. Their stark, ethereal reading of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “The Look of Love” was played straightforward but featured minor lyric changes; more radical was a lengthy version (split into two parts for single release) of Donovan’s “The Season of the Witch.” Morton, no stranger to musical drama thanks to his work with groups such as The Shangri-Las, suggested the song, intuiting that it was a natural for the slow, eerie, and trippy treatment. (Part II of the single features Morton melodramatically intoning “We Never Learn,” a poem by the cult favorite singer-songwriter Essra Mohawk.)

“Season of the Witch” from 1968’s Renaissance is the final single here produced by Morton, who helmed the band’s first three long-players. The group members picked up the production slack for 1969’s From the Beginning, which spawned a fast and furious, amped-up reworking of Jr. Walker and the All-Stars’ “Shotgun.” Especially as edited from over six minutes in length to just two-and-a-half, it’s a pure blast of adrenaline. Lee Hazlewood’s cryptic opus “Some Velvet Morning” followed “Shotgun” on Near the Beginning – and indeed it was back to basics for the group with this slowed-down take on Lee and Nancy’s haunting tale of Phaedra. Though it was unedited for its commercial single release, a promotional DJ single cut “Velvet Morning” down to three minutes, and it’s included here as a bonus track.

There’s more Fudge to chew on after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 29, 2014 at 10:29

Posted in Compilations, Reviews, Vanilla Fudge

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