- Album name: The Beat Goes On
- Group name: Vanilla Fudge
- Year: 1968
- Number of discs: one
- Label: Atco
- Collection: Friedman
- Buy it on Amazon: $9.03
Level of familiarity before listening
I’ve never heard this record before, and I only know Vanilla Fudge from their half-sublime, half train wreck cover of the Supremes’ You Keep Me Hangin’ On (and here is a slightly less insane version).
What I expected
I don’t know! I think of them as a psychedelic rock group roughly in the same spirit as Iron Butterfly, but the first thing that crossed my mind when I pulled the album out of the box was that it had Amharic on the cover, so maybe it was going to be the legendary Ethiopiques by my favorite Ethio-jazz star, Mulatu Astatke. No such luck.
Also, the Hebrew on the cover says המקצב לא יפסק, which means “the rhythm won’t be stopped” (kind of like “the beat goes on,” but not quite). Also, it’s written with vowels (הַמִקצָב לֹא יִפָּסֵק), as if it’s a religious text that must be pronounced exactly in the correct way, or for children who don’t yet know how to read well, which is so weird.
What it was actually like
I hated this. Did I hate it because it was bad, or because it just didn’t align with my tastes?
Let’s see. Can I come up with a way to describe this that isn’t just a list of synonyms for bad?
There were no actual songs on it. At various times, they played some musical phrases of their own composition, and snippets of other musicians’ songs, such as a medley of totally serviceable covers of Hound Dog (which I mentioned when reviewing Grease, and recently Straighten Up and Fly Right) and four Beatles songs, but it was about 30 seconds of each song. I would have appreciated full versions, and I would have appreciated them in hard rock, like they did with the Supremes. Similarly briefly, they did handle Beethoven’s Für Elise as a rock song, but why not explore that idea a little more?
So much of this was so self consciously weird, like the Moody Blues or A Pause in the Disaster by The Conception Corporation, with all kinds of sound effects and “creative” use of stereo – but why? No reason in particular.
A low point (among many low points) was the assemblage of speeches by mid-XX century politicians, interspersed with Sieg Heils and harpsichords (I have a pretty low opinion of politicians’ speeches even when presented earnestly, as I mentioned when reviewing Voices of the Presidents, The Age of Television and I Can Hear It Now / The Sixties).
To think of all the things that this could have been – Iron Butterfly, the Beatles, Mulatu Astatke, Elvis Presley, the Supremes – and that it was none of them, was the most disappointing thing about it.
It also ended with a narrator reciting the end of the book of Deuteronomy, because… why not?
Trash. The word to describe this is trash.
1/5: I listened to the whole thing, but wish that I hadn’t