This very generously programmed CD is more than just a rehash/compilation for casual fans, though it does serve the function of summing up the group's AM radio presence. Given its 18 songs and over hourlong running time, a surprisingly small amount of what's here is culled from the band's albums -- of the latter, Renaissance and Rock & Roll are represented, and that's only for three cuts. Most of the rest is comprised of the hit single edits of the group's best-known songs, interspersed with worthy B-sides plus oddities such as a previously unissued single mix of "Ticket to Ride." The result is the most user-friendly overview of Vanilla Fudge that one is likely to get, perfect for the neophyte -- which doesn't mean that hardcore fans won't also love its array of rarities and singles, mostly showcasing the band's most accessible musical efforts. The excellent sound brings out in sharp relief not only Vanilla Fudge's distinctive musical qualities, but also those attributes that made them a prime influence on the burgeoning heavy metal field -- one would have to be deaf not to pick up on Carmine Appice's and Tim Bogert's playing in the opening minute of "You Keep Me Hangin' On" and the role both played (especially Appice) in shaping the sound with which Led Zeppelin subsequently conquered the world. And it gets better from there, even if their experiments don't always work quite as well -- their reach may have exceeded their grasp, but if they did go down in flames, such as on their pretentious version of "Season of the Witch," they did it in a sincere effort at creating something new and challenging. And given the tenor of the times, "Season of the Witch" is sort of guilty with an explanation. Matching the quality of the audio production (co-credited to Bill Inglot) is the extensive annotation by Jeff Tamarkin, which -- for serious fans of the group -- will probably be as much of a draw as the music itself.
Psychedelic Sundae: The Best of Vanilla Fudge Review
by Bruce Eder