Iron Butterfly

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (Rhino 68) Rating: B+
Iron Butterfly may have been a mere footnote in rock n' roll history due to a single legendary hit (the 17-minute title track), but that doesn't mean that they deserve to be forgotten. In fact, this album is surprisingly enjoyable for the most part, beginning with the psychedelic pop of "Most Anything You Want." Sure, like every song here this one practically screams "late '60s!," but I like Erik Brann's guitar tone and the interplay with Doug Ingle's Ray Manzarek-y organ. It's fairly heavy at times, too, unlike much of the rest of the album, despite Iron Butterfly's reputation as an "early heavy metal band." "Flowers and Beads" is quite mellow, actually, and its hippy dippy lyrics ("I just want to make you happy, and spend my lifetime with you"), sung in a manner reminiscent of David Clayton-Thomas by Ingle (who also wrote five of the album's six songs), are almost embarrassingly naive, though the melody is certainly hummable. Likewise, "My Mirage" delivers more pleasantly atmospheric but decidedly dated pop rock, and "Termination" is a short but fairly enjoyable riff rocker with a surprisingly pretty coda, while "Are You Happy" is another solid, hard-hitting slice of silly psychedelia. Of course, the first five songs are a mere warm-up for the title track, one of the great improbable hit singles ever. A stoner anthem (the song's title - which was supposed to be "In The Garden Of Eden" - came about when Ingle was too out of his head to pronounce it correctly), "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" boasts one of the all-time great riffs, as well as a great heavy vibe and overall '60s atmosphere. The meaty bass of Lee Dorman is also notable, and the guys take turns soloing. Fortunately, Brann's guitar solo is quite good, the keyboard solo is appropriately eerie, and even Ron Bushy's drum solo comes and goes relatively painlessly. The song, which was used to brilliant effect in the movie Manhunter (much better than Red Dragon), drags in the middle somewhat, but nobody ever accused these guys of being perfectionists, and I dig the funky little jam section towards the end before the DA DA DA DA DA DA DA DA DA riffs come back for good. Believe me, those riffs were heavy fare for 1968, and Iron Butterfly were big news for a little while before making the fatal mistake of having a new British band open for them on tour. Alas, after being blown off the stage on a nightly basis, it didn't take long for the instantly irrelevant and somewhat shattered Iron Butterfly to be demoted to opening act, as the mighty Led Zeppelin began their inexorable climb towards the top, crushing all competition (upon hearing Zep, a freaked out Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert broke up Vanilla Fudge to form Cactus, who were obviously influenced by Zep) in the process.

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