Vanilla Fudge – Spirit of ’67 (2015)

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One of the greatest and most influential bands ever, Vanilla Fudge is back with a bang. But the truth is, they never really went away.

Born 1966 in Long Island, New York, Vanilla Fudge created an immediate stir with their moody extended covers of popular songs of the day. Not only did the band fit right in with the psychedelic climate of the times, but they added something extra and exciting to the enterprising environment. Stately and weighty, Vanilla Fudge threaded their endeavors with improvisational escapades and symphonic measures, leading them to be quite a unique animal. The band definitely invented a style all their own, and are properly regarded godfathers of both progressive rock and heavy metal.

Although 1967 through 1970 was when Vanilla Fudge gleaned their biggest success, they reunited on numerous occasions to wild applause. The band’s latest incarnation, which features original members Mark Stein (lead vocals, keyboards), Carmine Appice (drums, vocals) and Vince Martell (guitar, vocals), along with Pete Bremy (bass, vocals), is slated to hit the tour circuit soon in support of a fantastic new album, Spirit of ’67 (due March 3, 2015 via Purple Pyramid) that pays homage to well-known songs of the fabled year.

Vanilla Fudge’s funk aspirations rise to the top on brash and bewitching versions of the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin'” and the Motown classic, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” while the Monkees are saluted on “I’m A Believer,” which snakes and shuffles with skull-crushing grooves and gospel-induced harmonies. Sparked by military drumming, Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” then takes on a quieter tone before developing into a spinning jam.

The Rolling Stones would no doubt be impressed by the band’s left-field tweaking of “Ruby Tuesday,” which couples operatic moves with hard-fisted singing and playing, and the Who’s “I Can See For Miles” slings a sliver of jazz figures into a dazzling demonstration of acid-flecked gothic rock reflexes. Remodeled melodies and arrangements, stamped with Vanilla Fudge’s signature haunting touch that twist and stretch the songs like taffy, continue to tickle the ears on Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale,” Smokey Robinson’s “The Tracks of My Tears” and “The Letter” by the Box Tops.

The final cut on the album, “Let’s Pray For Peace,” which was written by Mark Stein, hammers a positive message to a bright and shiny sheen smacking of heart and soul. The energy level on Spirit of ’67 is so edgy and electrifying that it belies the band’s age. It’s easy to hear Vanilla Fudge enjoyed making the album, and their enthusiasm is contagious. These guys are killer musicians whose chemistry is consistently locked and loaded.

Powerhouse vocals, escorted by thunderous drums, pounding riffs, Godzilla-sized choruses, doomy rhythms, and keyboards that are alternately gentle and aggressive, sum up the matter driving these pieces. Crammed tight with amazing tics and turns, Spirit of ’67 tells us Vanilla Fudge still has what it requires to stand apart in the crowd. Experimental rock at its finest and freakiest is what you’ll encounter on this gold-star album.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Beverly Paterson
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