Ludwig van Beethoven
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Rock - Released June 26, 2007 | Rhino Atlantic
The expanded CD release of this second Vanilla Fudge album is much more accessible than the original vinyl version because of the inclusion of a number of cover tunes, most notably Beatles songs. The revealing liner notes that Sundazed project manager Tim Livingston adds to the reissues of these Atco albums helps put this influential band in a better light. The Beat Goes On is a difficult record, especially after the explosion that was their debut. The single from their previous album, Vanilla Fudge, originally charted in the Top 100 in the U.S. in 1967. (Britain was more hip to the group.) They finally hit in America in the summer of 1968, but had already begun to influence Deep Purple and the Rotary Connection, among others. The problem with this project is that they failed to influence themselves. Bassist Tim Bogert notes that "The Beat Goes On was the album that killed the band," while guitarist Vinny Martell adds "we had already started our second album when Shadow (Morton) had this other concept idea for The Beat Goes On." Morton had produced the Shangri Las, not the Beatles, and this creative effort was by a group with only two hit singles arriving on the scene around the time of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Morton set before the boys a daunting task which needed much, much better execution. Renaissance, which they were recording simultaneous with this, at least included a Donovan tune, "Season of the Witch." The exotic wandering would have been better served by a reworking of "Strawberry Fields Forever" across a side of the disc instead of the keyboard notes which reference the tune. Even a killer guitar version of "The Beat Goes On" would have been more exciting than "18th Century Variations on a Theme by Mozart" or noodlings that can't decide if they are "Chatanooga Choo Choo" or "Theme to the Match Game." For a group of impressionable young kids out of high school, as referenced in the liners, this must've been extremely rough. The expanded CD has jam session versions of Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" and the Beatles' "I Feel Fine," "She Loves You," "Day Tripper," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and "You Can't Do That." Any of these extended à la "Eleanor Rigby" from their debut would be more desirable than the interview-type questions about sex; the Beatles' interest in "Indian meditation" (sitar enters here, and how would the VF know?); audio newsclips of John F. Kennedy, Hitler, and others, all a very strong argument against artistic control for some producers. Exploring the initial ideas that brought them fame was what was expected of Vanilla Fudge. What would you rather hear, readings from The Bible or the single from January 1968, "The Look of Love" b/w "Where Is My Mind"? Thankfully, Sundazed has included the Bacharach/David tune and two additional Mark Stein titles, "All in Your Mind" and the aforementioned B side, "Where Is My Mind," on the expanded Renaissance album, the real follow-up to the Vanilla Fudge debut. Historically important, listening to this archive piece is truly a labor of love, with the emphasis on labor. ~ Joe Viglione
Pop/Rock - Released July 1, 2009 | Denon
Notwithstanding its silly title, Denon's The Ultimate Most Relaxing Beethoven in the Universe is actually an enjoyable compilation of slow movements taken from several of the sonatas, chamber works, and symphonies, and one that lacks any of the minor problems associated with other titles in this series. Where some of Denon's Ultimate twofers are slightly misleading in their content or variable in sound quality, this double disc delivers what it advertises, and the reproduction is well balanced and exceptional throughout the set. The list of performers is impressive, including pianist Bruno-Leonardo Gelber, the Smetana Quartet, the Vienna Chamber Ensemble, and the Berliner Staatskapelle, among others, in performances that are clean and sensitively played, often at the highest levels of musicianship. While no one should consider this package the only Beethoven collection ever needed -- indeed, one should learn his works as complete pieces, and not settle for excerpts -- this compilation is a decent introduction that reveals the gentle, reflective side of the composer and his most profound expressions, particularly in the slow movements of such masterpieces as the Piano Sonata No. 14, "Moonlight," the String Quartet No. 16, and the Symphony No. 9, "Choral."