Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Vanilla Fudge

Vanilla Fudge used the trippy, time-expanding properties of LSD25 to create intensely dramatic, heart-rending versions of already famous songs to make them their own.  But these were not covers; once they were mixed through the Vanilla Fudge Acid Machine, what emerged was a batch of tastily re-invented songs. While the songs the band fudged were certainly familiar, it was the way they did them that dredged up deep primal dream-state psychedelia.  Their stylized version of The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" is a time-stamp epic of Acid-drenched Psychedelic R 'n' B Soul Rock.

In '68, Deep Purple were tagged as "the British Vanilla Fudge" with their slowed-down psychedelic rock versions of Soul/R 'n' B and Pop songs. Actually, both bands were leaders and explorers of the extended dramatic anthemic, Hammond heavy precursor to Progressive Rock – which would explode in the very early-to-mid ’70s. So, this is where it was at in the second half of ’67 – from then on every level of Pop Culture, Madison Avenue and even the Mainstream, adopted, exploited, and enjoyed the proliferation of Psychedelic Culture in their music, designs, advertisements, and their lives.

Side one
"Ticket to Ride" (John Lennon-Paul McCartney) – 5:40
"People Get Ready" (Curtis Mayfield) – 6:30
"She's Not There" (Rod Argent) – 4:55
"Bang Bang" (Sonny Bono) – 5:20
Side two
"Illusions of My Childhood – Part One" – 0:20
"You Keep Me Hangin' On" (Brian Holland-Lamont Dozier-Eddie Holland) – 6:42
"Illusions of My Childhood – Part Two" – 0:23
"Take Me for a Little While" (Trade Martin) – 3:27
"Illusions of My Childhood — Part Three" – 0:23
"Eleanor Rigby" (Lennon–McCartney) – 8:10

That’s right, not an original track on the LP (sans "Illusions of My Childhood").

If you were around when VF emerged, I was six, then you know they're only understandable in context, and, when understood in context, is truly wonderful (I, therefore, only partially get it, but after years of trying, I find myself obsessing periodically over VF). With their version of "You Keep Me Hanging On," Vanilla Fudge brought something very new to the party (probably a substance from Osley). One can hardly find another LP that better embodies the precursors to Metal; Vanilla Fudge was not a subtle combo - they used multiple sledgehammers to make their point; sounds indeed like Metal to me.

It's easy to call "Bang Bang" high camp, except that, pretty much by definition, camp is tongue in cheek. When Sonny & Cher unleashed this abomination (fun as it is), it was virtually impossible to believe they were serious; it was staggeringly awful. VF does the impossible, they make it even more preposterous and goopy. That in itself is an accomplishment. It doesn't always work , obviously, but there are times when this overwrought, melodramatic, head-banger methodology works to perfection. "You Keep Me Hanging On" - which sounds as good today as it did 40 years ago - blows Diana Ross right back into the dressing room.