Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Rock and Roll - Vanilla Fudge


by Andy Snipper

One of the original behemoths of rock. Sorry Ozzy but these guys were heavier, more powerful and definitely had more funk than Sabbaff. Where BS had mock-satanism VF had honest-to-God Gospel.

It’s incredible to think that this was the last ‘proper’ album by the band. They had split into two separate camps with Mark Stein (vocals & Keys) and Vinnie Martell (Guitar & vocals) on one side, trying to keep to the formula that had been so successful and Tim Bogert (Bass and vocals) and Carmine Appice (drums and vocals) heading off to pastures new with Cactus and latterly Beck, Bogart & Appice (with Jeff Beck). The two camps weren’t even on speaking terms, recording in different sessions. The result shouldn’t be any good but the album here is a masterpiece of over-the-top gonzo rock.

Just looking at the opener, Need Love; kicking off with a keyboard riff and then the bass kicking in by the time the whole band are into the number it is already cooking up a storm. Vinnie Martell freaking out on the vocals and the keyboards going apeshit until the fuzzed guitar kicks in and the whole thing rocking at warp speed that had me bouncing around the room like a loon. The come down on the track feels like afterglow until it ramps up again with the guitar and organ arguing, musically, with each other.

They follow that up with a gospel number, all happy clapping and choir voices chanting “I found the lord” while Mark Stein takes the lead. Tim Bogert’s bass lines on Lord in the Country are simply magnificent, doing far more than the guitar and allowing Vinnie Martell all the space he needs to do a thing.

I Can’t Make It Alone continues the gospelly feel and ratchets the soul feel of the band up to near max.

All of this is a warm up though for Street Walking Woman which takes us back to the madness and the freakout psychedelia. If any track reflected what they were like live it is this one.

I cannot make up my mind about Church Bells of St Martins which is either a lame attempt to do a Beatles style multi-form song or a great song about visiting London for the peace rally – I tend to the former to be honest.

I made my mind up more easily about the next one though – I always thought that Windmills Of Your Mind was a trip song rather than a metaphor for ageing and the Fudge nail it absolutely. It is completely mad, possibly psychotic and I can listen to it time and again and find new things every time. Mark Stein’s vocal with every note stretched to a quavering screech over an almost funereal drum beat is worth the cost of the album on its own.

Finally they give us If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody which is pretty awesome but after Windmills ... almost a letdown.

It actually is a great album, created under the most desperate of circumstances and a fitting end to a great and iconic band.

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