Friday, February 24, 2006

Vanilla Fudge

I've always been very fond of "side one" of the Vanilla Fudge album Near the Beginning (1969). The opening six minute attack on Junior Walker's "Shotgun" is less about pulling the trigger than an experiment in bludgeoning a mortar shell with a sledge hammer. It's ace.

Only the Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood original tops Fudge's cover of "Some Velvet Morning," in which the singer promises to tell us about "Phaedra" but never does. I will. Phaedra was a half-goddess cursed with a desire for younger men who hung herself out of guilt & shame, & maybe disappointment after her son rejected her sexual advances. Lee was a peculiar genius. The Fudge do it up like soundtrack music for a Dario Argento movie, & it rates with their spooky version of "Season of the Witch." It's followed by "Where Is Happiness," a slow rumination on why not getting laid qualifies as spiritual suffering.

"Break Song" is a 25 minute long Recorded Live in Concert wrestling match in an elephant graveyard, a perfect example of the genre, but I'm sure most of the audience had passed out before Carmen Appice's drum solo. On CD you also get a slam-bang "Good Good Lovin'," "People" (an original song if not title), plus a radio edit of "Shotgun" for listeners inclined to get migraines. But if you get migraines, please don't listen to this album. Almost a pile-driving masterwork. Shotgun (Realaudio)

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