Friday, September 23, 2016

Iron Butterfly - 1968 - Heavy

Iron Butterfly 

01. Possession (2:45)
02. Unconscious Power (2:32)
03. Get Out of My Life, Woman (3:58)
04. Gentle as It May Seem (2:28)
05. You Can't Win (2:41)
06. So-Lo (4:05)
07. Look for the Sun (2:14)
08. Fields of Sun (3:12)
09. Stamped Ideas (2:08)
10. Iron Butterfly Theme (4:34)

- Doug Ingle / keyboards, vocals
- Ron Bushy / drums
- Jerry Penrod / bass guitar
- Darryl DeLoach / vocals
- Danny Weis / guitar

Doug Ingle (Vocals, Organ) formed the first incarnation of 'Iron Butterfly' in 1966 in San Diego with drummer Ron Bushy. After the group moved to Los Angeles and played the club scene, it secured a recording contract and got national exposure through tours with 'the Doors' and 'Jefferson Airplane'.

Following the release of their 1968 debut album, "Heavy", original members Jerry Penrod (bass), Darryl DeLoach (vocals), and Danny Weis (guitar) left the band and were replaced by guitarist Erik Brann and bassist Lee Dorman. Weis went on to join 'Rhinoceros'. Later that year, the new line-up recorded "In A Gadda Da Vida", a masterpiece of heavy, psychedelic acid rock, which sold four million copies, spent over a year in the Top Ten, and was the first album to receive platinum certification after the RIAA instituted the award. (The title has been translated as "in the garden of Eden" or "in the garden of life.") A shortened version of the title track, which contained extended instrumental passages with classical/Eastern-influenced organ, plus a two-and-a-half-minute drum solo, reached number 30 on the singles charts. The follow-up, "Ball", showed greater musical variety and went gold, followed by two more album releases in 1970 - "Live", and "Metamorphosis".

Erik Braunn left the group and was replaced by guitarists Mike Pinera and Larry 'Rhino' Reinhardt, but the group's success was largely over. Iron Butterfly broke up in 1971; Braunn and Bushy re-formed the group in the mid-'70s.

The members of Iron Butterfly were still finding their footing as heard on these songs from their 1968 debut. The main reason they sounded so different on all following albums is because they lost three members shortly after the album was released.

Although these didn’t resonate in the same way as the music from their sophomore album, Heavy makes good on its title with unapologetically psychedelic rock played at loud volumes. Their trademark organ sets the tone on “Possession” before plodding riffs and rhythms cast spooky tones under Doug Ingle’s haunted-sounding vocals.

 “Unconscious Power” puts a little of the era’s go-go charms into the mix making for something that girls in paisley mini-dresses could groove to under a liquid light show, while the darker “You Can’t Win” lets loose some of that good old-fashioned acid-rock with heavier guitar riffs, foreboding lyrics and menacing keyboards that all come together to sound like a sibling song of a Doors tune. They saved the best for last with the instrumental “Iron Butterfly Theme.”

This quintet is hailing from the LA psychedelic scene and is more of a local band than most of the groups hanging out in LA is hope of exposure. The LA scene at the time also had The Doors, Love, Spirit and a few others, and it was a major scene so much that most of the San Francisco scene came down to record their albums in the city (interestingly enough, SF did not have recording studios in the 60's) and if the LA Sunset strip did not catch public imagination like the Haight Ashbury scene, the psychedelic rock was just as vivid as can be attested by the groups mentioned above. Interestingly enough also, LA was also a very strong Garage rock scene (check out the NUGGETS box-set in our Various Artists section for this), and as those groups became more adventurous and heavier, they also became psychedelic. In this regard, one can actually make a link between Garage rock and proto- progressive rock, and Iron Butterfly is one of those bands that help this transformation.

This quintet had ambitions high enough to make popular pop music change into rock as we know it today. Deliberately choosing an intriguing and heavy name, they chose Iron Butterfly and to make their point come across more clearly, they named their debit album Heavy. By today's standards though, this might make most young progheads laugh or at least smirk. Actually, this reviewer never really found IB particularly heavy, but if you were not old enough to remember when those albums came out (as I was), they received plenty of praise for their groundbreaking and heavy approach. This debut album was quite an impressive one, and its striking artwork sure helped out the imagination of the listeners back then, and had quite an impact nationally as it stayed on the Billboard for 50 weeks a fact rendered even greater that the album contained no obvious hit , but was a very even collection of good songs. The first two tracks appeared also in a movie (Savage Green). Lead by keyboard man Doug Ingle, the music is a pure psych sound that one can assimilate to a cross of HP Lovecraft or early Jefferson Airplane, but with a definite slice of garage rock (all songs are rather short) and a slight Soul touch also.

Opener Possession is one of those signature track (it does remind of HP Lovecraft's sound, though) with instantly recognizable Ingle-played organ. Follow-up Unconscious Power is a lot more upbeat and has a good bass line. Both tracks were part of the movie mentioned above. The next few tracks on the first vinyl side are very much in the crossroad ogf garage rock and would nicely fit on that Nuggets compilation: sometimes sounding like The Seeds, The Electric Prunes, Chocolate Watch Band, Thirteenth Floor Elevators etc..

The second side is off to a soulish (almost Doo-wop vocal) start, but a much better Looking For The Sun (must be hard, through the LA smog ;-) but apparently a successful one, since the next track is Fields Of Sun. Stamped Ideas is for me the highlight of this album side with its fuzz guitar and Ingle great organs. Most of the tracks on the album are on a 4/4 basis and stay relatively simple, but particularly enjoyable is the closing IB Theme. As the album opens on two great track and closes on another two, it is a bit unfortunate that the middle of it, is not up to those. The two bonus tracks on the Repertoire re-issue are a bit different sounding of the rest of the album, but there is nothing shocking.

With the release of the album, apparently there were heavy dissentions in the musical directions and three members left leaving Ingle and drummer Bushy (both mainstays and the only non-LA natives) at the helm. Not clearly of an interest to recent progheads, this album is of an historical significance for most of rock music. But hardly essential to progheads, though.

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