Vanilla Fudge Live: When Two Worlds Collide (ABC Records)
Vanilla Fudge is best known for 1967's heavy, slow and psychedelic version of the Supremes' Motown classic "You Keep Me Hangin' On," and even diehard classic-rock fans might be skeptical about this recent concert which features only half of the Long Island-born band's classic lineup (uh-oh), a set list mostly of covers (double uh-oh), and an accompanying symphony orchestra (triple uh-oh). But pop it in the player, and what you actually get is a shockingly good show by four very vital, passionate and energetic players. This Fudge lineup includes original members Carmine Appice (drums) and Tim Bogert (bass) along with more recent recruits Bill Pascali (keyboards), and Teddy Rondinelli (guitar). All four acquit themselves more than admirably on shared vocals, and they start things off with a hard and fast version of "Good Livin." But it's the covers - all 'Fudged Up' so they sound like completely different tunes - like "Ain't That Peculiar," "Shotgun" and "Season of the Witch," that are revelations.
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The Zombies' "She's Not There" and the Beatles' "You Can't Do That" are downright menacing in their tone. And much of the material - like "You Keep Me Hangin' On," actually benefits from the orchestra's not-dominating strings and woodwinds. The band also shows its wry side with a straight, hard-rock cover of N'Sync's "Tearin' Up My Heart" as well as Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" (which Appice co-wrote).
All four men run at full cylinder and look like they're having a helluva time: Appice pounding with a fury that belies his age, Bogert (one of rock's most underappreciated bassists) fingering his thunder, Rondinelli ripping out acrobatic solos (especially on "I Need Love"), and Pascali pushing his Hammond B-3 to the limits. When Two Worlds Collide is anything but a rote oldies show, and proves that what seems ill-advised on paper can still thrill the ears.
Bonus features include a short documentary on the group's history, Appice and Bogert commenting on old Vanilla Fudge photos and posters, and a shakily-shot excerpt of the band's a cappella version of the Backstreet Boys' "I Want it That Way" (!).
89 minutes, $18.99.