Confronted with Love: Vanilla Fudge at B.B. King Blues Club & Grille, NYC
Vanilla Fudge, the stellar psychedelic-ish rock covers band that rose to prominence in the 1960s, hit all kinds of emotional levels of wow during their performance last Friday night. The kind of emotional levels that can make you vaguely uncomfortable, like when your best friend gets real with you all of a sudden, or when someone confesses to your face that he’s really into you. Caught unawares, caught off guard, by the sudden confrontation of LOVE. This kind of revelation, honesty, and command of the present moment, was perhaps heretofore alien to millennials raised on the banal auto tuned pop that reigned (and continues to do so, in some respects) supreme in the late ‘90s. This kind of performance was imperfect because it did not shy away from its humanity. This kind of performance was raw – like the best of rock ’n’ roll music always is.
The show was in part to celebrate the release of Vanilla Fudge’s new album aptly titled Spirit of ’67. Renditions of the band’s hit covers of “Season of the Witch,” “People Get Ready” and the most known, and arguably most incredible, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” were accoutrements to those of the new album’s “The Letter” and “Ruby Tuesday,” amongst others. Drummer extraordinaire Carmine Appice frequently stole the show with his amazing beats, including a mid-show drum solo that demonstrated his undeniable prowess – and his own awareness of it, chock full of charm. Lead vocalist and keyboard player Mark Stein seemed to capture the essence of the groovy late ‘60s in his very voice, similar to that of Rascals frontmen Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati. In it was pure emotion, killer tone and complete commitment to the songs it sang. Guitarist Vince Martell played beautiful riffs and melodic lines, lifting the band up into a lofty height of jamminess at times.
Though the music of Friday night’s album release show reeked of the 1960s, there was nothing old or already-heard of in the song renditions. Each sounded as fresh as the era from which it sprung. Needless to say, the new album is well worth an ASAP purchase for all.