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Mark Stein of Vanilla Fudge talks solo debut ‘There’s a Light’

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It’s funny how things work out sometimes. It isn’t every week that two rock icons that first rose to prominence together in the same band happen to check in with The Maine Edge just days apart for interviews related to their solo endeavors.

Keyboardist and vocalist Mark Stein and drummer and vocalist Carmine Appice of the legendary psychedelic rock and soul band Vanilla Fudge are promoting respective solo projects so it makes a lot of sense to include them in the same issue, especially since they both shared similar memories related to their first visit to Maine, circa 1967.

Vanilla Fudge is still active today, in fact the lineup includes three of four original members in Stein, Appice and lead guitarist, Vince Martell. Sadly, bassist Tim Bogert passed away this year after a bout with cancer. Vanilla Fudge recently released a version of “Stop! In The Name of Love” with Bogert on bass that is billed as his final recording. The single is a full circle nod to the band’s early success and is accompanied by a moving spoken word tribute to Bogert from his bandmates.

Vanilla Fudge recently wrapped a series of shows that included Robbie Krieger of The Doors and a jam with blues guitar great Joe Bonamassa.

Vanilla Fudge is best remembered for their influential initial phase, a four-year period in the late 1960s when they released five best-selling albums, including their top 10 self-titled debut populated with heavy slowed down arrangements of ‘60s hits. The band’s intense take on The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” is one of many success stories for Vanilla Fudge but the group hadn’t yet acquired that moniker when they played their first concert performed outside of Long Island in Bangor, Maine, where they were billed as The Pigeons (formerly The Electric Pigeons).

Mark Stein remembers the band had started to develop a bit of a following in New England.

“I don’t remember the name of the venue, but I definitely remember playing in Bangor as a teenager and I remember what it felt like to get in the van and drive up to Maine. It was very exciting and felt so cool to head out and play in other places for the first time. The next time I remember playing in Maine was years later when I was touring and recording with Dave Mason.”

When Vanilla Fudge first parted at the end of the 1960s, Stein also went to perform in guitarist Tommy Bolin’s band, and later with Alice Cooper’s band.

Stein says his new solo album “There’s a Light” was partially inspired by what he saw transpire during the pandemic. It’s an album containing ten tracks connected by a universal theme that Stein says is embodied in the album’s title and first single, “We Are One.”

“There’s a light within each of us, a spiritual positivity, and if we could maintain that, I think we’d all be better off as human beings,” Stein said.

“We Are One” is a beautifully arranged and recorded song with Stein’s piano and vocals at the forefront, his voice sounding every bit as strong as during Vanilla Fudge’s zenith.

Stein says the single was written in April 2020, roughly a month into the pandemic.

“I kind of had a vision when I was sitting at the piano,” Stein says. “We were afraid to shake our neighbor’s hand, we were afraid to hug our kids. We had so many chances to spread love and human kindness but there was so much division still. It seemed that the pandemic was like a karmic reaction to that.”

That division is represented in two cover songs Stein selected for “There’s a Light.” The Rascals’ “People Got To Be Free” and The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion” reflected much of the division and conflict in America present in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Stein says the messages in those songs are just as relevant today, adding he’d originally recorded “People Got To Be Free” for the documentary “Rockin’ The Wall” which explored rock music’s influence on the fall of communism and the Berlin Wall.

Stein says he’s naturally concerned at what he sees when he turns on the news these days, but he isn’t worried that America has totally lost the plot and that belief is echoed in his songs on “There’s a Light.”

“We’re going through a big divide but there is a lot of good in this country,” he says. “There’s a natural goodness in man and womankind and I think things will get better once we put all of this behind us.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 December 2021 07:49

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