Vanilla Fudge

Vanilla Fudge (Atco ’67) Rating: A-
Inspired by Leslie West’s Long Island, New York band The Vagrants, who had a slowed down cover of “Respect” in 1966 that was a big regional hit, Vanilla Fudge decided to do the same thing but took it to another level and added their own ingredients. In the process, the band became a key link between mid/late-’60s psychedelia and what came to be known as heavy metal, as the band’s approach of slowing down Motown, Beatles, Curtis Mayfield, Zombies, and Sonny & Cher hits into this heavy, dramatic sound sure was an attention getter. In fact, Ritchie Blackmore and Jeff Beck both admit that this debut album, which was released in the Fall of ‘67, was a huge influence on them that led to each of them changing their styles; Beck even filled in on tour when guitarist Vince Martell was sick. Also, Alex Van Halen has said that catching drummer Carmine Appice’s commanding performance on the Ed Sullivan Show (worth searching for on youtube if only for keyboardist/singer Mark Stein’s unintentionally hilarious stage antics) made him decide to commit to drums. So while Vanilla Fudge are rarely remembered these days, they were a successful and important band once upon a time, and though the music on this album has a “dated” feel and there’s not a single original composition, I still dig this band’s sound lots. The key was the thudding rhythm section of Appice and bassist Tim Bogert, but Stein’s eerie keyboards and surprisingly soulful vocals were essential ingredients as well, and though Martell was no Jeff Beck or even Jim McCarty, his hazy yet heavy guitar tone fit the band’s sound well. Their strengths were never more apparent than on their first and best album, which of course was highlighted by their dramatic, explosive recasting of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On,” which was a small hit and an utter classic. But I’d argue that the whole album is a minor classic, and certainly anybody who likes psychedelic music and soulful hard rock and doesn’t mind super-slow songs that often stretch out past 5-minutes should be willing to give this album a try. Note: The band released several additional albums before a confidence shattering tour with Led Zeppelin and that old bugaboo “creative differences” caused the band to break up, with Bogart and Appice joining the even more worthwhile and even more obscure Cactus before briefly joining forces with Jeff Beck. Appice later collaborated with Rod Stewart, co-writing the massive hit “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” though I suppose the less said about that the better...

send me an email

Back To Artist Index Home Page