By Patrick Prince
Vanilla Fudge is known for taking hit songs from other artists and skillfully (and successfully) injecting a loud and extended psych-driven rock trip to each one. The band’s cover of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” for instance, reached the Top 10 in the U.S. in 1967.
The newly released album, “Spirit of ‘67,” Vanilla Fudge’s first studio album in eight years, furthers the example of the band’s talent of reshaping popular songs — this time an album covering tracks that were culturally pivotal in 1967.
With all that in mind, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that vocalist/organist Mark Stein (photo above, far left) knows his fair share of quality music. Goldmine, therefore, thought he would be the perfect subject for 10 Albums That Changed My Life.
Organ Grinder Swing, The Incredible Jimmy Smith There were lots of cool albums by this Hammond B-3 legend, but “Organ Grinder Swing” was one I listened to a lot. Smith was amazing; to me, the greatest innovator of soul, jazz and funk. Lightning speed licks, the coolest passing tones and chord progressions were created by the one and only. Single-handedly, Jimmy Smith opened the door for the great Hammond sound in progressive music, and Kenny Burrell on guitar and Grady Tate on drums rounded out a killer swing, jazz trio.
Soundtrack album of William Wyler’s Ben Hur, Music by Miklos Rozsa Never was there music that had more grandeur, mood and dynamics. Really set my soul on fire and I believe influenced me in my arrangement concepts for Vanilla Fudge early on. Rozsa truly was a brilliant composer and got every ounce out of the symphony orchestra he conducted.
Goldfinger Soundtrack, composer and arranger John Barry Another score filled with great melodies and dynamics. Barry’s arrangements are mesmerizing, as he had the ability to take the audience through a journey in this classic James Bond thriller, leaving you breathless. Again, another influential piece of music that influenced me… just listen to the Vanilla Fudge’s version of “Eleanor Rigby” on our very first album.
Revolver, The Beatles This album, one of my favorite Beatle albums, is filled with great songs, a clean crispy production. “Taxman,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Good Day Sunshine,” the way the lads from Liverpool used their voices was totally innovative. “Here, There and Everywhere” – just a terrific record.
Days of Future Passed, The Moody Blues One of the great early concept albums filled with beautiful songs like “Nights in White Satin.” The London Festival Orchestra, conducted by Peter Knight, took you on a journey that was unforgettable. Anytime you want to disappear for a while into a different sphere, check this one out. The Moodys still tour today.
Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin “Whole Lotta Love” blew away the airways when this single was released from the LP. This is the one that brought them into the beginning of super stardom, and they never looked back. “What is And What Should Never Be” is another great song from that effort. Hard to believe they opened for Vanilla Fudge on their first tour in America in 1968!
Birds of Fire, Mahavishnu Orchestra This album was a trendsetter that brought jazz/fusion/rock into prominence. A band that housed some of the great players of the time (1973) John McLaughlin/Guitar, Billy Cobham/Drums, Jan Hammer/Keys, Moog Synth, Jerry Goodman/Violin, Rick Laird/Bass, introduced mind-blowing energy and technique to their instruments. “Birds of Fire” was a powerful influence that led to a whole new level of musicianship.
Toto IV, Toto This was a super-talented group of L.A. studio players who came together to record a brilliant piece of work during the early 1980s. The sounds they created were ground-breaking on songs like “Africa” and “Rosanna.” Vocal arrangements and production gave you chills. Kudos to David Paich, Bobby Kimball, Steve & Jeff Porcaro (RIP) and Steve Lukather … a classic!
Electric Ladyland, The Jimi Hendrix Experience This one is special to me because back in 1968, while on tour with Vanilla Fudge, we opened for Hendrix for many shows, and one enchanted evening Jimi actually played me “And the Gods Made Love” and a few other cuts from this, his first double album before it was released. Certainly a pivotal moment in rock history. “Crosstown Traffic,” a huge AM radio hit, and “All Along the Watchtower” and “Voodoo Child” were huge FM radio mainstays. Hendrix himself produced this album.
Blow by Blow, Jeff Beck One of rock’s greatest guitarists took the world by storm with this all-instrumental album. One of the truly great, kick-back-and-listen records from the mid-‘70s. Art at its finest.