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Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge talks ‘Guitar Zeus’ box set

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Guitar enthusiasts can thank a celebrated drummer for one of the most impressive guitar rock collections ever assembled. It’s no secret that drummer and vocalist Carmine Appice has performed with many of rock’s greatest guitar-slingers. Nearly 40 of those collaborations form the basis of the new box set “Guitar Zeus 25th Anniversary,” a 3-volume project Appice conceived in the mid-1990s that has been unavailable for years.

The “Guitar Zeus 25th Anniversary” edition includes exclusive recordings from Queen’s Brian May, Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora, Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Neal Schon of Journey, Ted Nugent, Dweezil Zappa, and more than 30 others. The original recordings (and two previously unreleased tracks) have been compiled for the first time as a 4-LP or 3-CD box set with photos and interviews.

When it comes to iconic rock guitarists, it would probably be easier to list the ones Appice hasn’t played with. When the psychedelic rock and soul band Vanilla Fudge first split, Appice formed Cactus with bassist Tim Bogert and guitarist Jim McCarty (of Mitch Ryder’s Detroit Wheels). He then spent three years with the brilliant and unpredictable Jeff Beck in the rock trio Beck, Bogert & Appice. That was followed by four years as a member of Rod Stewart’s band where he co-wrote two of the singer’s biggest hits, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and “Young Turks.”

Appice played drums on KISS guitarist Paul Stanley’s solo debut, he toured with Ozzy Osbourne, and founded the heavy metal band King Kobra with whom he’s currently working up a new project.

On “Guitar Zeus,” the concept was simple: Invite many of the world’s most renowned players to perform on a track with a core band featuring Appice, Tony Franklin (The Firm, Kenny Wayne Shepherd) on bass and Kelly Keeling on vocals, keyboards and rhythm guitar.

As Appice explains in the following interview, once he’d received commitments from Brian May of Queen, Ted Nugent, and Ty Tabor and Doug Pinnick of the band King’s X, he knew the rest of the “Guitar Zeus” lineup would fall into place.

The Maine Edge: What prompted the idea for your “Guitar Zeus” project?

Carmine Appice: It was really funny how it happened. I was playing with guitarist Jeff Watson of Night Ranger, Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple), Bob Daisley (from Ozzy Osbourne’s band) and myself in a group called Mother’s Army. I said maybe I’ll do an album with all of my friends who play guitar and I’ll call it Guitar Gods – no, Guitar Zeus! I’d been playing around with the name Zeus.

That night when I went to bed, I thought about it and realized it was a great idea. It took a while to put together but when this was happening, I put on a drum clinic at the House of Guitars in Rochester at the same time Brian May was doing a guitar clinic there. I mentioned the album to Brian, and he said he’d play on it. I ran into Ted Nugent somewhere and he said he’d play on it. Then I ran into the guys from the band King’s X, all good friends of mine, and they said they would play on it. I knew if I started with those guys, it would draw more guitarists that wanted to be on the record too.

The Maine Edge: Did you choose the songs they performed on or did they?

Carmine Appice: A little of both. Yngwie Malmsteen said he wanted to play on the album, and he asked to play on a track with Doug Pinnick of King’s X (“This Time Around”). When I told Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe about it, he asked to play on the song sung by Edgar Winter (“Under the Moon and Sun”).

The Maine Edge: Is it possible for you to single out a personal favorite guitarist of all time?

Carmine Appice: (laughing) No, I love John Sykes, I love Jeff Beck, all of the guys who played on “Guitar Zeus,” Jim McCarty, and Billy Peek from Rod Stewart’s band who played all of that great Chuck Berry stuff. I’m doing a new King Cobra project now with Carlos Cavazo of Quiet Riot, another great guitarist.

The Maine Edge: You mentioned Jeff Beck. I remember what a big deal it was when Jeff reunited with Rod Stewart in the mid-1980s to record (Curtis Mayfield’s) “People Get Ready” which you had also recorded for the first Vanilla Fudge record. Jeff and Rod are like oil and water, but I heard you played a role in getting those two guys to work together again. Is there any truth to that?

Carmine Appice: It happened twice! The first time they reunited was when Jeff and Rod were both touring the same area in Australia. We were all in the same hotel, so I convinced Jeff to come down to the gig which was the first time he and Rod had seen each other in years and it was fine. Then Jeff was staying with me in California, and we went to my buddy Duane Hitchings’ house. We put together the music for “People Get Ready” just for fun and called Rod and got him to sing it. The only drag is that I didn’t get any credit for it (laughs).

The Maine Edge: What are you working on at the moment?

Carmine Appice: It’s going to be called “Guitar Zeus: The Book.” I made a list of all of the guitarists I’ve worked with, including Tommy Bolin (The James Gang, Deep Purple), Les Dudek (Steve Miller Band) and so many guys most people don’t know I’ve played with. The book will be about the experiences I had with all of them. I’m working on it with Bob Spitz who just released the book “Led Zeppelin: The Biography.”

The Maine Edge: You are no stranger to Maine and the Bangor area in particular. What do you recall about playing here shortly before you guys changed the name of the band to Vanilla Fudge?

Carmine Appice: We were called The Pigeons before we rechristened the band. Our manager bought us a Ford Econoline van and we drove up to Bangor, Maine for our first road trip as a band. The whole band was packed in so tight with all of our instruments - even the organ - nobody could move. But it was a really special thing for us to play outside of Long Island for the first time.

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 December 2021 07:47

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