By Beppe Colli
Jan. 21, 2021
about a couple of months ago, while writing a brief profile of the Jefferson
Airplane, I found myself thinking that one of my favourite bass players ever,
Jack Casady, is nowadays practically forgotten. Which in a way is absolutely
normal, given the distance (half a century!) that separates us from those times
when the group was at its apex.
reasons why an instrumentalist is widely known usually are: a) because s/he's
part of a group that's really big at a certain moment, regardless of their real
musical merits (which was the main reason why a lot of English musicians from
big groups used to appear in the year's end Top Ten of such magazines as the Melody
Maker); b) because s/he's a really innovative musician, in such a case being
appreciated and well-regarded among their peers first, at least for the
moment, usually quite brief, before their innovations are surpassed by another
innovator, and so on. Of course, one can still be perceived as "an
important figure, historically".
as soon as the music played by the group of which said musician used to be part
of goes under, it's over. Sad, but true.
have to confess that I really became aware of how rarely Jack Casady's name was
mentioned on the day I happened to read an interview with Anthony Jackson (readers
are invited to play the groove at the start of Glamour Profession by Steely
Dan, track #3, Side One, of Gaucho, in their heads) where the prodigious
bassist defined his own influences thus: Messiaen, and Jack Casady. I jumped in
my chair: it was the first time I had seen Jack Casady's name mentioned, his
timbre and his harmonic audacity. (My memory tells me: Spring, 1990. At the
start, Bass Player, guided by good man Jim Roberts, published an issue every
three months, and that was issue #2.)
same thought came to me last week, while writing about the Moody Blues. Because
for a long time now there have been two groups I consider as "impossible
to champion": the Moody Blues, and Vanilla Fudge. "Well past their sale-by
date, in bad taste, out of fashion, pompous... and those vocal arrangements... please!"
since both the Moody Blues and Vanilla Fudge are part of the very brief list of
my formative influences... well, I'm not too pleased about it.
Internet exists, by thought association, I decided to have a look at Wikipedia,
to see how Tim Bogert, the original bassist of Vanilla Fudge, was doing, having
read of his being sick, some time ago. And that's how, totally by chance, I
found out he had died just a few days earlier.
was a bizarre replica of what had happened with Hans Reichel, whom I discovered
to be dead looking at Wikipedia, having not received any news from him for some
to do? Well, I breathed deeply, put my famous "objectivity hat" on my
head, and began writing.
are quite a few musical moments that one tends to associate with the year 1967:
Sgt. Pepper's..., Light My Fire, A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Nights In White
Satin..., and a strange cover, slowed down and quite "lysergic", of a
hit by the Supremes: You Keep Me Hanging On; an original remake which became a
world-wide smash as a single, while being the focal point in the long version,
about 7', featured on the debut album of same name of a strange new American
group: Vanilla Fudge.
were two groups that Vanilla Fudge mentioned as important influences in those
days: the Vagrants, of which a young Leslie West was the guitar player; and the
Young Rascals, a group full of Italian names that was at the top of the
one can watch on the Web a few videos where Vanilla Fudge play their hit on TV.
One can see their drummer, Carmine Appice, "twirling the sticks": a
move that was part of Dino Danelli's - the drummer in the Young Rascals - stage
players, all fine singers - organist Mark Stein being the main vocalist,
bassist Tim Bogert being the one with the "wide" vibrato, a bit
gospel-sounding - the group also featured a great drummer, and a guitarist,
Vince Martell, that in those days was both "excellent" and
"limited" at the same time (sounds absurd, eh? well, look at the list
of his "competitors").
first album can be safely listened to today. The group covers songs by the Beatles,
Zombies, Curtis Mayfield, using the same treatment reserved for the hit by the
Supremes. The recorded sound highlights vocals, the organ, and the bass guitar,
while obscuring the strong rapport between bass and drums, the Bogert-Appice rhythm
axis being destined to more glories in a short while.
To Ride, You Keep Me Hanging On, and Take Me For A Little While are the main points
of interest in the bass dept., but they are great versions anyway.
the Hammond organ is featured in its "psychedelic" mode, to highlight
moods and moments, while the influence of soul and gospel looms large, with
vocals ready to "witness".
is a strong "psychedelic" mood in this period. In fact, when my radio
announced "the new single by Vanilla Fudge, after You Keep Me Hanging On:
Where Is My Mind" I stood still watching the radio, absolutely terrified.
fact that Vanilla Fudge did not write any songs on their first album made it
immediately clear that, while being excellent musicians, they were not really
"songwriters"; a fact that will have dire consequences in a very
album The Beat Goes On (1968) is simply horrible, a kind of "concept
album" encouraged by the group's producer, which the group had not really
the means to bring to fruition anyway. Hence, a third album - Renaissance
(1968) - immediately released as a kind of "damage control".
is the apex of the group's "dark-psychedelic" period, featuring for
the most part songs penned by the group, with a prevailing mood featuring long
silences and choral passages which listeners will have to judge on their own.
has to be said that in their first years, Deep Purple deliberately took Vanilla
Fudge as their model; and even if Jon Lord was technically more gifted, and more
"schooled", than Mark Stein, it's perfectly obvious how influenced
the former was by the latter, even in the group's phase when guitarist Ritchie
Blackmore made the rules, from In Rock to Machine Head.)
best tracks are Thoughts, Paradise, That's What Makes A Man, Faceless People, with
The Spell That Comes After bringing to the fore "psychedelic
nightmares". Tim Bogert plays admirably all over the album, while Carmine Appice's
drums are clearly recorded, but placed in the background.
impossible to underestimate the changes brought to America by (U.K. trio)
Cream, who incessantly toured the States in 1967-68. And so, those American
rhythm sections all said one thing: "What about us?".
so it was that Vanilla Fudge's rhythm section simply exploded, making Near The
Beginning what it is. Wise move, the group decided to produce itself, making an
album whose Side 1 only featured three long tracks - two covers, one original -
while Side 2 featured a long live piece highlighting the group's bravura, with
four long solos, highly celebrated at the time.
better qualified than me would surely be able to describe the beauty and the
inventiveness of the interlocking bass-drums patterns in the music of Vanilla
Fudge. While Carmine Appice was an innovator in the use of the double bass
drum, Tim Bogert - while building on the splendid heritage of the
"Motown" style - James Jamerson, Bob Babbitt - created a highly
personal style, with volume up to "11", towards an original solo
style, both solo and as a "driving" instrument.
the vocal and instrumental work by Tim Bogert make album opener Shotgun an
unforgettable moment. The Fudge's rhythm section had developed a series of
"moves" that are perfectly illustrated here. Check those moments
where, after a brief moment of tension, the drums play a "roll", the
bass "chasing" with a parallel figure, a few moments later.
a video showing Vanilla Fudge performing Shotgun live in a TV studio, complete
with a brief bass solo, in colour, about 4'30".)
cover of Some Velvet Morning takes us back to the psychedelic moods of Renaissance,
but with less "pomp". One has to never lose sight of the track's
"psychedelic" mood: listen to those organ passages disappearing into
the void, and those elements that one could miss at first, such as the soft
vocals that in the right channel, after the lines "Some velvet morning
when I'm straight/I'm gonna open up your gate", go "tàààà..." with
by Appice, Where Is Happiness (I seem to remember that the drummer was the only
group member who had received a formal music education) is one of the group's
high points. An insistent organ arpeggio, great solo guitar, drums leading the
various sections, the bass is not as present in this mix, but it's impossible
to miss all the same.
Side 2, the Break Song, live, has Tim Bogert at his solo best: jazz passages,
"tapping" (in 1969!), strings out-of-the-fretboard, and a fuzz pedal
(a Mosrite?) taking the music towards Hendrix climates.
internal tensions mounting, the group split. Last album, Rock'n'Roll, has group
members playing while already plotting the future. They came to Italy, miming
last single I Need Love for a TV program for kids, Chissà chi lo sa. The album
features a fine track, though: Street Walking Woman, sung by Vince Martell. It
starts with a cymbal that sounds like a gong and a bass drum that will blow
matches at 20 cm (right channel), Tim Bogert playing greatly (left channel): listen
to the passage 2'52" - 2'57", and pay attention to the note where the
phrase "lands". (I checked on YouTube, the timing is the same.)
just discovered a version of I Need Love - definitely not the group's best song
- in a fine performance in a U.S. TV studio. Bogert is seldom shown, but he plays
for a brief anecdote. In September, 1969 Vanilla Fudge came to Italy to play at
the Mostra di Venezia, where they played live their new single, Some Velvet
Morning, but in the album version (about 9'). The cultural shock was enormous,
with long-term consequences. It could be regarded as nothing to write home
about, but seeing the sound being produced by the instruments in real time was
an important lesson for many, both young and very young. (And since a few
months earlier I had taken a few records to my English class at school, among
them a few by Vanilla Fudge, at a time where almost nobody had ever heard of
them, for a moment I was a hero.) Surprising everybody, Vanilla Fudge won the
competition, so we watched them play live, twice. Somewhere, online, a
recording of that version survives.
would you get as your guitar player, in order to put Led Zeppelin to shame? Jeff
Beck, of course.
the time, Jeff Beck was a much more unstable, unreliable performer, when
compared to the mature man we all know and love today. It was assumed he
believed that Jimmy Page had made his fortune by copying the Jeff Beck Group. Hence,
Jeff Beck suffered a serious auto accident.
so, there was nothing for Bogert-Appice left to do but biding their time
assembling Cactus, with singer Rusty Day (a one-of-a-kind kind of guy), and
excellent guitarist Jim McCarty.
the time, I didn't understand that the cover of the group's first album, Cactus
(1970), though slightly modified after a "kind request" of a
terrified record company, was a "parody" of the cover of Led Zeppelin's
output is as easy to talk about as Vanilla Fudge's is complex: Cactus play
"American-made" "rock-blues", love it or leave it. At the
time of its original release the group's first album left me quite puzzled: the
group's instrumental finesse was remarkable, but their horizons looked too
small. Offering a "dry", not "produced", sound, the album
featured such high points as a cover of Mose Allison's Parchman Farm, Let Me
Swim, Oleo ("Grease it down, Timmy", before the bass solo), Feel So
Good, and a cover of You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover, with an un-showy bass
intro that demonstrated Tim Bogert's sheer musicality.
Eddie Kramer as an engineer on second album One Way Or Another made the sound
timbrally varied (and, not surprisingly, quite Hendrix-like). The title-track
and Song For Aries will be enough to give readers a fair idea of the featured
album Restrictions takes the story towards the end. The group's cover of Evil
is simply spectacular, Alaska inhabits unusual climates, and Restrictions shows
the group taking a different attitude when it comes to sound.
the usual tensions, everybody go home, and here it is... Jeff Beck!, alive and
well after the incident, having released two fine albums: Rough And Ready (the
one with the black and white cover), and Jeff Beck Group ("the album with
the orange", produced by Steve Cropper).
last, the trio enters the studio, and the album is... not that great. Three
non-writers with no real repertory trying to write... Of course, best thing on
the album is Superstition penned by Stevie Wonder, while Lady shows Tim Bogert
at his bass best. But it was a sound, and a concept, whose time had come and
gone (West, Bruce & Laing suffered the same problem, but Jack Bruce was
also an excellent singer, writer, and multi-instrumentalist, so the band's two
studio albums were highly listenable). Besides, Jeff Beck now looked like a
reluctant guitar hero, with Bogert and Appice waiting for a guitar explosion
that never came (a fine live rendition of Superstition that can be watched
online says it all, besides showing a fine Tim Bogert at the mike).
trio that left a bitter after-taste for all concerned.
Carmine Appice succeeded in finding his own way - first with Rod Stewart, then
as "Appice as precursor of metal" - Tim Bogert never found a good
group where to shine.
never consider the many Vanilla Fudge reunions, with and without those black
Bogert: musician. August 27, 1944 – January 13, 2021
© Beppe Colli 2021
Jan. 21, 2021