BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
There wasn’t much evidence of indifference towards Vanilla Fudge back in the day. They were loved and hated in equal measure, decried as pretentious and praised for innovation. Today, the name alone makes some people cringe, representing the way it does, the height of ‘60s silliness and superficiality. And yet, despite the oftentimes bloated arrangements and overwrought intensity, the band did carve its niche by bridging the chasm between psychedelia and heavy metal, while establishing themselves as a notable cover band in the process.
The Complete ATCO Singles serves as the last word on the subject of the Fudge, being that it gathers all their essential tracks into one compendium and serving up just enough innovation and exploitation as to be tolerable for the uncommitted. Certainly this isn’t the kind of band of that merits a multi-disc anthology; truth be told, little outside their circle of radio hits would be of any interest to anyone other than diehard devotees. It really doesn’t take much more than a return visit to any one of these tunes to grasp their essential essence – a sound built on thunderous percussion, dirge-like keyboards and anguished vocals and then all fused together for the sake of elevated importance.
Inevitably, a return to the band’s highlights – “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and its handful of lesser follow-ups, “Take Me For a Little While” and the two-part “Season of the Witch” – becomes more a matter of nostalgia than a contemporary reconnection, especially given the fact that this is very much music of its time and sounds quite dated as a result. Archivists may cheer the chance to add these tracks to their ‘60s library, especially since three of the four original members offer their reflections on each entry. Still, as a fanciful excursion, filled with wistful memories and paisley purpose, the Vanilla Fudge is best appreciated in that quaintest of context.
DOWNLOAD: “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Take Me For a Little While”