Thursday, 31 January 2013

Influential Albums #1


A few days ago, Martin issued the challenge, and I always accept challenges.  Applying a few criteria – I have to own them, they have to have influenced music in general, and they have to have influenced me – here’s the first.  (Probably the first of two.)

Vanilla Fudge: Vanilla Fudge (Atco 7567-90390-2)  1967

The Fudge were later, in my view wrongly, branded as the fathers of heavy metal.  Although some of their later efforts could justify this categorisation, this first album certainly doesn’t.  If it can be classified at all, it would be as the bridge between psychedelia and prog rock.  Except that it’s a covers album.  Although plagiarism was rife, neither of those genres was noted for consciously choosing other people’s material over their own – egomania was a driving force behind most late sixties music, but Vanilla Fudge weren’t interested in that.  They were interested in drama and emotion.

The track list starts with ‘Ticket to Ride’ and ends with ‘Eleanor Rigby’ (with a sneaky little cross-reference right at the end), but touches a good few non-Beatles bases in between.  Curtis Mayfield, the Zombies, Motown …  These basic pop songs are extended (some might say bloated, but I disagree) into eight minute Wagnerian epics, slowed right down and embellished with classical quotes, melodic squibs, and tantalising links between songs, of which there are just seven.  (Consider that earlier that year, ‘Pepper’ had been regarded as revolutionary in containing only eleven as against the industry-standard twelve.)

The album was produced by Shadow Morton, who’d previously given us the Shangri-Las’ musical  novellas (‘Leader of the Pack’, ‘Remember (Walking in the Sand)’).  As far as I can tell, it was recorded live, that is with no instrumental overdubs (though some of the vocals probably were added later), on four-track.  Shadow rightly judged that studio trickery wasn’t necessary or appropriate, because he was working with consummate musicianship.  

Just listen, if you can (it’s on Spotify).  You will hear the best bubbling, gurgling Hammond organ sweeps and swishes ever; high tuneful virtuoso bass lines to make a Macca swoon; vibrato-laden angelic four part harmonies; some genuinely moving moments as well as some still challenging noise … and above all, sheer smile-triggering entertainment!  Play it LOUD!

9 comments :

  1. Interesting, Tim. I've had a quick listen, and will give it a little more attention over the weekend.

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  2. I hope you set your pleasance control.

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  3. Vanilla Fudge is a masterstroke choice, I agree. Funnily enough yesterday my new USB turntable arrived so the 249 vinyl LPs are being dragged out to see what's worth retrieving - probably not Captain Beaky (I had small kids back then). V Fudge was the first transfer attempt last night (before I read your post - first time played for probably 25+ years - how weird is that?) but trouble is it jumps in a couple of places so the CD will I think, need purchasing.
    Whilst we are on psychedelia you could maybe consider Piper at the Gates of Dawn. And for earlier adapters (sic), Chuck's After School Sessions. Or Ray Charles' Modern Sounds in Country & Western (volume 1).

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  4. I would dispute that the Fudge actually influenced many people outside the Large family. The single "Wonderful Land" inspired many more including Clapton, Knopfler and myself.

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  5. 249, eh? Glad to see the family counting gene hasn't died out. However, I did think the point of those turntables was to preserve stuff that couldn't be found elsewhere. (Actually I ought to get one - it's a bit timeconsuming though, isn't it? And then you have to listen to the bloody stuff.)

    Rog, I would dispute your disputation! But ne-weigh, have you heard VF's version of 'Windmills of my Mind?' Do try it if you want your weekend tote trashed.

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  6. Ok. I will. (I loved 'Leader of the Pack')

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  7. Ahh this post is lost on your younger readers, Tim.

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  8. Amazing! I have that album (unfortunately only in cd)...I like in a peculiar way their version of "Eleanor Rigby" because of this little touch or Hammond, and of course the classic' Supremes "Keep Me Hangin' On" - Tim do you know that an Italian group called I Ribelli covered the Fudge version of this song with the title of "Chi Mi Aiuiterà" in late 1967?

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  9. AND, I've just noticed that Danny Baker chose it in his Great Album Showdown!! So there!!!

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