Friday, September 23, 2016

Iron Butterfly - 1975 - Scorching Beauty

Iron Butterfly 
Scorching Beauty

01.1975 Overture (4:19)
02.Hard Miseree (3:42)
03.High On A Mountain Top (4:03)
04.Am I Down (5:22)
05.People Of The World (3:24)
06.Searchin' Circles (4:38)
07.Pearly Gates (3:26)
08.Lonely Hearts (3:15)
09.Before You Go (5:35)

- Erik Braunn / guitar, vocals
- Ron Bushy / drums, vocals
- Phil Kramer / bass, vocals
- Howard Reitzes / keyboards, vocals

When Iron Butterfly broke up in 1971 after a brief but significant existence, it seemed the band was finished. In 1975 however, guitarist Eric Braunn and drummer Ron Bushy got a band together, using the Iron Butterfly name for obvious marketing reasons, and recorded two further albums for MCA records. "Scorching beauty" was the first of these albums.

Anyone looking for another "In-a-gadda-da-vida" will be sadly disappointed by this collection. The album contains nine 3-5 minute songs which, while reasonably diverse, are prosaic at best. The opening "1975 overture" is not particularly impressive musically, but the chanted vocals and Celtic influences misleadingly give the impression that the band is looking to explore interesting new territories. The second track, "Hard miseree" quickly dispels any such notions though, as the band rip off a HAWKWIND riff fronted by some dubious vocals. The track does benefit from some decent if all too brief organ.

After this, we settle down to a succession of songs which sound like THREE DOG NIGHT rejects. "Searchin' Circles" is an insipid ballad which sails rather too close to TDN's "Going in circles", and "People of the world" is a clear attempt at a finding a chart single ("Joy to the world"?).

The CROSBY STILLS AND NASH like "Pearly gates" is slightly more interesting with its alternating tempos, but the main relevance of this track is that it is co-written by a certain JON ANDERSON. Only the closing "Before you go" has any real appeal, and even then it is only once the vocal section has finished and the album plays out with a decent, HOT TUNA like guitar section.

Several things occur to me as I keep listening to Scorching Beauty. First, I wonder at the careful and loving craftsmanship of the record. Just nine songs on here, and none are that long: a couple do develop into feeble jams, but for the most part, the length is adequate. The production is not brilliant, but decent: the sound is very cozy and homely, as if the band is playing right here in your living-room. No arena connotations here, and no 'band-from-Hell' connotations either: just good old plain rock'n'roll with loud, but not overloud guitars and nice touches of organs and synths throughout.

Second, Erik Braunn suddenly displays an amazing singing voice - on the more loud rockers he tries a bit too hard to scream his head off, but on the ballads and the 'quieter' numbers in general he sings in a weird croon, almost reminding me of Bryan Ferry. No, no, 'tis not a joke: I could have sworn that Braunn drew a lot of inspiration from none other than Roxy Music. If you don't believe me, grab this album and start it from track number six, 'Searchin' Circles': a terrific moody rocker driven by Erik's powerful riffage and Reitzes' majestic organ riff, and above it comes Mr Braunn's passionate, trebley vocal delivery that manages to encompass a lonely man's desperate feelings almost perfectly. And the bleating on the chorus - 'In circll-l-l-l-es! In circ-l-l-l-l-l-es!' - is great fun, too.

Third, it has often been said that Scorching Beauty has nothing to do with the former Ingle-led Iron Butterfly, but it ain't right. Some of the songs on here are, in fact, quite hippiesque: '1975 Overture' and 'People Of The World' are just the kind of universalist idealistic anthems you'd expect from a late Sixties record. Here, though, they are 'updated' for the Seventies, and in a nice way, too: 'Overture' opens with an Eastern-flavoured lovely synth melody and Bushy's martial drum rhythms, and 'People Of The World' starts as a typical Seventies grumbly rocker before subsiding into a groovy sing-along anthem with the silly, but charmingly naive refrain ('making each day a little bit better - all together, all together') that keeps repeating over and over a la 'Hey Jude' coda.

Fourth, these guys really know how to rock: 'Hard Miseree' rolls along like a shiny roller coaster, with Erik playing as fast as he can (which isn't really that fast, but it totally suits me, at least) and blazing his way through with some impressive off-the-wall solos. And 'Am I Down' has perhaps the catchiest vocal melody on the record, with Erik once again delivering that weird croon of his. The only misstep is the fake 'hysteria' at the end of the track, but nothing offensive about that, either; it's just that Mr Braunn is not a very convincing nor gifted screamer.

Iron Butterfly isn't quite Iron Butterfly without Doug Ingle. With that said, the band was apparently suffering from an identity crisis here as they sound more like T.Rex than anything else. But T.Rex is (was) a good band so that's not entirely a bad thing. Scorching Beauty saw the return of the 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida' era guitarist Eric Braunn along with the only truly original IB member (along with Doug Ingle) drummer Ron Bushy. That fact alone makes this lineup the most interesting post-Ingle lineup to date. Braunn does deliver some good guitar work here, even though the material never really reached higher ground and the band's efforts pretty much fizzled out among all the top notch music from other bands.

Though there are no clear highlights on the record, the material stays fairly strong throughout. Braunn, Kramer and Reitzes all share the vocal duties and everyone performs real well. The two previous Iron Butterfly records that come to mind while listening to this are Heavy and Metamorphosis. Yet still Scorching Beauty sounds unique when comparing to the rest of the IB catalogue.

In conclusion, this album is far from bad. It may not be the most typical Iron Butterfly record but once you've come to terms with that, you may find that it's a pretty decent 70's rock venture. Atleast it's worth checking out.

1 comment: