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Hearing the Muse at Puzzle Palace

"I see things I wish my eyes could see. I hear sounds of great tranquility, There's a better life, a better time... I will find it and some day... I'll know of this better life, this better time." "Paradise", Vanilla Fudge, 1968

The five ATCO albums recorded by Vanilla Fudge from '67-'69 were something VERY special for those prepared to listen to them. Let's face it, the "Muse" that inspired the Fudge in that era has not perdured in a world where yuppies lived and hippies died. "All the lonely people" went to disco, then the fast track career and allowed their idealism to die somewhere in a shopping mall. Together, those five albums constituted an "opus" or body of musical work that will perhaps never be equalled again. A musical opus greater than the sum total of it's elements: 4 musicians, their instruments and record producers, engineers, etc. A seraphic opus most rare - mystical or spiritual in quality - slipped into the mainstream of that era of America's musical and popular culture . Something almost wholly ignored, lost too or imperfectly appreciated by the consumer public and musical industry that was too briefly exposed to it.

Sometimes I have thought even some of the band lost faith in that Muse as they abandoned it and pursued more commercially or socially rewarding projects. Like Parzival who stumbled on the Grail castle as a young man... He left it not knowing what or where he was... Parzival abandoned the Grail castle and spent the remainder of his life searching to recover it.

Parzival's story has to do with the mysteries of loss and recovery. Perhaps it is relevant to the Vanilla Fudge experience. What the band wouldn't or couldn't recover by sheer skill, experience and will is now left to the listener of that Muse to recover within himself. For a brief time, the "Muse" spoke through the Fudge and then the "voice" went silent as other muses replaced it in the passage of time... The "Muse" remained silent to those who never heard it or who deliberately rejected it... but the voice abides in those who still listen and "hear" it... a holy listening...

A classical example of this type of "listening" is by the English composer, Sir Edward Elgar's (1857-1934) Enigma Variations or "Variations on an Original Theme, Opus 36, Enigma" (Recommend RCA BMG cd # 09026-68087-2, recorded by the London Philharmonic).

From the liner notes of that album: "The 'enigma' of the title refers to a puzzle which has kept generations of musical detectives busy. The composer claimed that 'through and over the whole set, another and large theme 'goes' but is not played, even, as Elgar noted, 'as in some dramas the chief character is never the stage"

Some experts believed Elgar was referring to another created or "known" work. I don't think so. At the very least Enigma Variations are about hearing the True vs. False Muse or inspiration. It's not about the selling of product or some scholarly musical diversions. It's about the source whence all great music comes from and where it can transport or convey the listener and player who is prepared to receive it.

The five Vanilla Fudge ATCO albums comprise an incomplete unity of sorts. None of the five albums can be fully appreciated apart from the others. Over, above and through them "goes" a greater and larger theme having to do with something very truthful and wonderful. A real place over past the mall's horizon... someplace the ancients called "Paradise". PEACE!


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