Reissue of their 3rd album with the original cover art intact, plus updated liners notes and three bonus tracks added, 'Good Good Livin' (Previously Unissued Long Version), 'Shotgun' (Single Version) and 'People' (Singl... more »e). The band featured drummer Carmine Appice and bassist Tim Bogert. 1998 Sundazed release.« less
Reissue of their 3rd album with the original cover art intact, plus updated liners notes and three bonus tracks added, 'Good Good Livin' (Previously Unissued Long Version), 'Shotgun' (Single Version) and 'People' (Single). The band featured drummer Carmine Appice and bassist Tim Bogert. 1998 Sundazed release.
Shelby Lambert | Bethany, Oklahoma USA | 01/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Whilst this might not be the band's "best overall album" (that honour usually goes to the previous album, "Renaissance"), I would certainly have to argue that this album represents the band's best playing. Obviously, there's not many songs on this disc, because the "Break Song" takes up about 23 minutes of it, but there's a lot revealing about the Fudge's music from what little you do get to hear. This album's release coincided with the release of the first Led Zeppelin album (early '69, and there were plenty of technological advancements taking place in the music world in the months between the release of "Renaissance" in mid-'68, and "Near The Beginning" in early '69. And at the point where better technology met the improved musical proficiency of EVERY member of this band, was no apparent than on this album. The most noticeable improvement throughout this album was definitely the guitar playing and guitar "sound" of Vinnie Martell. The two previous albums, you hear Martell's guitar sound getting progressively louder, to where it is no longer overpowered by Mark Stein's organ. But on this album, not only is Martell's guitar getting louder--his playing is getting better! Whereas on previous albums, you hear mostly power chords and a few single-note 'freak-outs' from Martell, this album finds Martell playing genuine, bluesy, guitar solos! Not only that, but to aid in his soloing efforts, he finds not only better, clearer-sounding amplification, but he also discovers a new 'toy'--the "wah-wah pedal'. And, oh, what fun he had with that toy--particularly on "Shotgun" and the "Break Song"! The best example I can find on this album of every member playing at their very best together is the "Break Song". That track, in particular, is full of surprises and technical abilities one would never have expected from VF. For those who have never heard, the "Break Song" is a rare glimpse of the Vanilla Fudge "live", and one step beyond the concept of the usual "let-me-introduce-the-guys-in-the-band" sort-of song. Every single member played at their very best--and perhaps even beyond--their own abilities! Imagine a jam with John Bonham on drums, Jon Lord (from Deep Purple) on organ, Jimmy Page on guitar, and John Mayall on vocals--that's exactly what the "Break Song" sounds like!! I don't know if this number was performed on one of the early tours that Led Zeppelin opened fot the Vanilla Fudge, but if Led Zeppelin had witnessed this performance from the sidelines, they had to be impressed! I know for a fact that John Bonham was a fan of drumnmer, Carmine Appice--and Carmine's drum solo on the "Break Song" has to have influenced Bonham's "Moby Dick" to some extent. Carmine's drum solo here has a little bit of what would become Bonham's "Moby Dick", but also a little bit of Ginger Baker's "Toad" from the first Cream album. It sounds like Carmine would carry some elements of his drum solo here, into his next band, Cactus, and their drum solo song, "Feels So Good" for the first Cactus album a year later. But the "Break Song" has other surprises! This was the first introduction to the heavily-fuzzed out, "atomic bomb pyrotechnics" of Tim Bogert's bass solos--another element that Tim would bring with him to Cactus with Carmine Appice. And it also marked one of the band's first forays into "pure blues". The first time you ever hear Vinnie Martell play a very beautiful, slow blues guitar solo, reminiscent of the kind that Jimmy Page would later play in Led Zeppelin. It is also the first time Mark Stein sings "actual" blues lyrics, coming off sounding just like British blues singer John Mayall when he sings! "The Break Song" is a treat--listening to a band going outside their formula, and moving into rare form, and new territory. When British hard rock bands of the '70s say that they were infleunced by the Vanilla Fudge, songs like the "Break Song" have to be near the top of the list of songs that infleunced them most! As for the remainder of the tracks on "Near The Beginning", they're all good--even if they pale in comparison to the "Break Song'. Once again, Carmine Appice tries his hand at songwriting--"Where Is Happiness". It is rare to find a drummer in a band with that kind of songwriting ability. Like "Faceless People" on the previous album, "Renaissance", Carmine's songs convey a sense of loneliness and depression--but more in a dark, gothic, and mysterious sort-of-way, rather than a "bluesy" way. But you can tell that he wrote himself prominently into this song, as it is driven by a shuffle back-and-forth on the drums, swinging side-to-side, while Mark Stein's organ chirps along like crickets on a dark, gloomy night. "Near The Beginning" is definitely worth your purchase--even for just the full-versions of both "Shotgun" and "The Break Song", which total 30 minutes. You wont even find some albums that long, and you certainly won't find the "Break Song" on any "best-of" compilations of the Vanilla Fudge. And yet, to me, "The Break Song" is "quintessential" Vanilla Fudge--not only showing where the Fudge were musically, but also where they were going after the Fudge was over! And after the Fudge was over a year later, it is a shame that Vinnie Martell didn't get pulled into Cactus with Bogert and Appice, as his talents were vastly improving, as evidenced by this album. Instead of Martell, Cactus would feature the talents of guitarist, Jim McCarty, whose skills on the guitar were at a level that Vinnie was approaching. Except that McCarty later proved to be more difficult to work with, and eventually led to the demise of Cactus. Sadly, Martell left the music business permanently after the break up of the Vanilla Fudge--Martell, once perhaps the band's least talented member, becomming one of the band's most prominent musical sounds on their final two albums, now having to waste his musical talent because Bogert and Appice chose a guy for their next band with more talent, yet harder to get along with. Trust me, though. No collection of the Vanilla Fudge is complete without this vital piece of their musical history. "Near The Beginning" shows a band that is improving--and evolving!"
Hot Buttered White Soul (Rock)
Rusty Rench | Eugene | 04/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In that era, Vanilla Fudge was much more than a glorified garage band. When many groups were hastily thrown together by record producers to support a top 40 hit, the live performance ineptness of these bands left a bad taste in the mouths of their fans. Often, their ability to play live was lackluster compared to the recording. Sugarloaf was one such group. But VF was the real deal. They developed a very large loyal following for their live performances. Their acumen on their individual instruments was so intense it was scary. I saw the Fudge several times, once at the Hollywood Bowl with Hendrix. I also was in attendance at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles when the live side of this album was recorded. Contrary to one reviewer's comment here, the audience did not go to sleep during the "Break Song." Every eye and ear was glued to the stage for the entire 23 minutes. Tim Bogert's bas playing was light years ahead of his time. Carmine Appice's drumming was in a class by itself, matched only by Ginger Baker's paradiddles. Mark Stein's Hammond Organ was a classic enhancement of a huge rock sound and Vince Martell's guitar was inventive and melodic. All four of them sang, and sang very well. Tremendous harmonies. But the thing that is missing is their visual performance on stage. They were as dynamic even more than they were bombastic. If you never saw them, you missed something. And they thrilled you to watch them, all without makeup ala Kiss. The Fudge have reunited and they are touring on the East Coast. Here is hoping they come out West the summer of 2006."
The Fudge were the real thing....
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 04/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is Vanilla Fudge's 2nd best album after their first one. It starts with an absolute killer version of Shotgun. It really blows you away. Their take on Some Velvet Morning is equally haunting and good, and Where Is Happiness? is one of their better original tracks. The Break Song (recorded live) is a bit perplexing. It starts out great, keeps going, but then gets a little tired in the middle, but then picks up for a great finish. There's a studio version of this song as well. It was never released initially until it was included as a bonus track on Rock and Roll, Fudge's last album. The live version here is the better of the two. The bonus tracks are really good as well. This, along with their 1st album, are the 2 best albums Fudge ever did. It's a shame they only did 5 albums (4 great ones, and a weird, useless one), because this band was awesome live and in the studio. They had an intensity unmatched at the time, and it's difficult to find a band now that is as powerful as they were. But Near the Beginning is one of their best, one that you can play over and over again...."
HS | 01/31/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These guys were definately a "nitch" band. You have to have a taste for psychedelic rock. The Break song is without a doubt one of their better numbers as is Shotgun. Those two numbers alone are worth buying this CD."