Vanilla Fudge

Rock & Roll

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Vanilla Fudge took a more basic stance with Rock 'n' Roll, bringing in Aerosmith's first and the Velvet Underground's last producer, Adrian Barber, to replace Shadow Morton. Guitarist Vinnie Martell sings lead on "Need Love," and it is a quagmire of rock sounds, offset by Mark Stein's "Lord in the Country." The band then goes after a good but non-hit Carole King/Gerry Goffin number, "I Can't Make It Alone." It has that vibe that made "Take Me for a Little While" so important and so timeless, but there's just something missing. This is Vanilla Fudge's trademark sound looking for a new personality. The band started in 1967 by releasing an album of seven cover tunes done Vanilla Fudge-style. Along with Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and a handful of other bands, their sound helped shape Top 40 radio in the '60s while heavily influencing Deep Purple and what that group would do for the '70s. "Street Walking Woman" is OK, and that's the problem with Rock 'n' Roll, the album is a picture of a band trying to grow and emerge from the shadow of what initially launched them -- a familiar problem in rock & roll. The Sundazed CD contains original mixes of "Sweet Talking Woman" and "The Windmills of Your Mind," the latter adapted from Dusty Springfield's hit theme to the film The Thomas Crown Affair. Covers like "The Windmills of Your Mind" are what the band was all about, and this version is grunge, hard rock, that style you know Ritchie Blackmore and company copped for their ride into fame. A 19-minute-and-57-second unreleased studio track, "Break Song" is attached to what was already a 39-minute-and-44-second vinyl LP. That is one full hour of Vanilla Fudge, and Sundazed must be commended for helping put history in order. Still, Rock & Roll bares the strengths and weaknesses of this great ensemble, the weaknesses fully exposed on the 1984 "reunion" LP which pushes Vinny Martell into the background and redesigned the band's sound. The strengths are found in their ability to pour passions into other people's already established songs. Just listen to the drums pound away six and a half minutes into "The Windmills of Your Mind," while the keyboard slashes like a guitar. It's the Young Rascals meet Moe Tucker of the Velvet Underground, a sublime blend. It's just too bad sampling wasn't in vogue back then; Dusty Springfield's voice would have been the frosting on the cake. The point of "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody," keyboardist Mark Stein dueting with drummer Carmine Appice, cannot be discerned. It's OK, but sounds bare, and cries out for Shadow Morton's direction. They certainly push the band into a harder direction, but that twinkle in the eye that is the first Vanilla Fudge album seems to have evaporated except for the Carole King and Dusty Springfield covers. The cleancut young men who covered Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" in 1967 were not the brash musicians who tracked Mayfield's "I'm So Proud" in 1973 with Jeff Beck. Rock & Roll captures the band as it was disintegrating, and the long bonus track, "Break Song," is noteworthy, not for musical value, but to show the self-indulgence which would overtake what was an earth-shaking concept. It's a delicious slice of nostalgia for hardcore fans and musicologists, but the general public might want to stick with a greatest hits package.

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