Fanny – Mother’s Pride (review)

Fanny – Mother’s Pride (Expanded Edition) (Real Gone Music / Warner Brothers) review

The girls mellow out and get experimental on their fourth release

By the time the quartet known as Fanny entered the studio in 1973 for their fourth album, things were beginning to unravel.  The promise of being the first all-female rock group signed to a major label had not yielded the success the girls had hoped for (their only entry on the Singles’ chart, “Charity Ball,” stalled at #40).  It was certainly time for a change.  Todd Rundgren, who was just heating up as a producer through successes with Badfinger and Grand Funk Railroad, was brought in for a fresh set of ears.

Rundgren chose to scale back the hard rock of their previous album, Fanny Hill, in favor of emphasizing song structure and harmonies. The result, Mother’s Pride, sounds more like a Todd solo album than anything Fanny did before.  The producer’s signature, meaty drum sound is on full display on Randy Newman’s “Last Night I Had a Dream,” also augmented by now-dated synths. The gorgeous, twelve-string led, “Long Road Home,” is another in a long line of Fanny songs that should’ve been hits.  Of course, Rundgren also had a bent side and he lets the girls show theirs on “Solid Gold,” featuring rather painful vocals of drummer Alice De Burgh, backed by the band’s sugary accompaniment.

“All Mine” was surprisingly soulful with a fantastic chorus – capturing the Philly soul sound that Rundgren loved.  “Summer Song,” with its driving beat and Hammond organ, edged very close to Grand Funk, and featured a “la la la la” chorus, while “I’m Satisfied” bordered on power pop like Badfinger.  “I Need You Need Me” finally gave the girls a chance to rock out near the end of the record.

As an added bonus, the disc includes eight additional demo tracks recorded before sessions for Mother’s Pride, with the band self-producing.  It’s interesting to hear versions of “All Mine” and “Long Road Home,” stripped down, without the heavy ornamentation Rundgren would give them. There’s also a great version of the Supremes’ classic “Back in My Arms Again.” The real standout here is the breathtaking acoustic “I’ll Never Be the Same,” with June Milligan on vocals. The immediacy of the performance not only shows her true talents, but also can’t hide the fatigue from being in a band that wasn’t meeting expectations.

Unfortunately, Mother’s Pride would actually fare worse than their previous albums (completely missing the Billboard Albums charts entirely), causing guitarist June and drummer Alice to exit, ending the first era of this criminally-ignored band.  Real Gone has put all four of the original Fanny albums back in print, and every one of them is worth hearing.  —Tony Peters