You Keep Me Hangin’ On by Vanilla Fudge from Vanilla Fudge
Vanilla Fudge debuted in 1967 with their eponymous album featuring half-tempo covers of popular songs from the era. This track in particular was originally recorded by The Supremes in 1966 (written by Mowtown’s H-D-H production team).
This track is one of my favorite jams, but the entire album is an amazing listen. Highlights include covers of a couple of songs from The Beatles and a rendition of She’s Not There by The Zombies.
What’s significant about the album, and what can be seen shining through on this track, is the masterful treatment of great songs. An entire album of cover songs, at half-tempo no less, is a bold move for a band just out of the gate, but the Fudge nails it. This album is also significant in that it was one of the first to begin bridging the gap between psychedelia and what would become heavy metal, paving the way for other groundbreaking acts such as Black Sabbath.
I find myself enjoying the slow, plodding rhythm of this track, which lends itself well to the vocals and lyrics. The drums, while measuring out a persistent, careful tempo, are brutal and relentless. The vocals are mournful and sincere, the harmonies a suitable and ironic tribute to the brilliance of the Supremes.
Be sure to really give this one the attention it deserves. If you heard this song on the radio but didn’t give it any notice, it might just be background noise. However, there are a lot of subtle treasures to be had. Pay attention to the rhythm section, it sounds like they’re on fire but not in a hurry to get anywhere. It’s especially fun how the song finally culminates in an insane but brief jam, another hallmark of the album.
That’s it for this one, be sure to leave a comment whether you loved it, hated it, or thought it was sick.
Written by Robert Lamm in 1970. This track first appeared on Chicago’s second album, Chicago (2). Prior to this album, the band was known as Chicago Transit Authority. The band had to change their name due to threats of legal action from Chicago’s actual transit authority.
Chicago is famous for it’s jazz fusion elements. Trumpet, trombone and saxophone feature prominently in much of their music.
I chose this track for my inaugural post because it’s a shining example of the type of music I hope to feature here each week. This track is timeless, full of excellent musicianship, and blends several different styles of music together into one beautiful beast.
Some highlights to listen for in this week’s selection include wah-wah guitar noodling throughout from Terry Cath, who’s adventurous scales and space perfectly suggest the wandering train of thought of the song’s protagonist. Just as the mind tends to wander at 25 or 26 minutes to 4 AM when you find yourself staring at the walls, so does the guitar work on this track.
Also be sure to pay good attention to the lyrics, which describe the plight of the restless mind in the small hours of the morning. It was once suggested that this song was a reference to drug use, perhaps taking a few too many pills at 3:30 in the morning and not being able to get up off the floor. The title was even thought to be a code for a particular type of pill. This has been dismissed by Lamm, who claims that the song is simply about being up all night with insomnia and boredom.
Please listen, enjoy and comment. If you like the track, be sure to buy it and give it a listen in it’s full quadraphonic glory, preferably with a nice set of earphones. There’s a lot going on and a lot to appreciate.