You may prefer Raid or flypaper, but I like the classic *THHWHACK!* of a rolled-up Sunday paper
The Lineup Card (1967-1975)
Ron Bushy (drums)
Doug Ingle (organ, vocals) until 1970
Darryl DeLoach (vocals, tambourine) 1968
Danny Weis (guitar) 1968
Jerry Penrod (bass) 1968
Lee Dorman (bass) 1968-1970
Erik Braunn (guitar) 1968-1970, 1975
Mike Pinera (guitar) 1970
Larry Reinhardt (guitar) 1970
Phil Kramer (bass) 1975
Howard Reitzes (keyboards) 1975
Bill DeMartines (keyboards) 1975
Iron Butteredbun are the group of Sixties L.A. psychedelic brain surgeons directly responsible for 'Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida', indirectly responsible for one of the funniest sequences ever on the Simpsons, and completely irresponsible when it comes to not sounding like a bunch of hilariously over-drugged Moses Going to A-Go-Go dance-metal flakes. They were also, for a weird brief period in which birds flew backwards, Rice Krispies were silent, and Burt Reynolds was a decent actor, the biggest selling act in the entire Atlantic Records milieu - bigger than Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, Wilson Pickett, or Stick McGhee! Stick McGhee! Of international "Drinkin' Wine Sop-Dee-O-Dee" fame! (Hey! I heard a drunken Canadian bought it thinking it was a Spike Jones single with a typo on the label, so leave me alone already.) What could've made the kids go so very bananas in a dazzling year marked by breakthrough records by the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Frank Zappa, and Cream? A new beginning for popular music, packed with insight, fresh viewpoints, and completely non-stupid vocals? Nope! The stoners in 1968, freshly bedecked with beads and roach clips from their 'psychedelic dungeons' down on Main St. next to the Rexall Drug and Ace Hardware, had very little discernable taste, this much is for sure. As such, Iron Butterfly was seen as 'far out', their fuzzy guitar/clean stadium organ instrumentation deemed 'heavy', and their shockingly deadpan Vincent Price-voiced lead singer somehow 'not the worst vocalist of the 1960's'. Thusly, longhairs who should've known better snatched up In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida like it was free sex. The band soldiered on for a short time, got rightfully blown off the stage by such genuinely heavy bands as Led Zeppelin, and retreated into The Place Where Ex-Hippie No-Name Bandmembers Go (I hear it's actually Fresno). The Butterfly was fondly remembered for a time as a forerunner of heavy metal and one of the more adventurous groups of the entire psychedelic era, but it wasn't long until they were either forgotten or treated as a sort of Dr. Dimento novelty act with the 16-minute Number One hit song.
These days, Tin Gnat are ridiculously thin even compared to their pals in the early West Coast psycho subgenre, having come from the relative provinciality of Los Angeles rather than the elitist dystopia of San Francisco, and therefore absorbing little of the groundbreaking experimentation going on up north. Frank Zappa must've had a soft spot for these fools, as they shared the same clubs that he did down in LA, but never one skewered them by name despite being one motherfucker of an easy target for his hippie-despising ass. The problem is that if you're looking from the wrong point of view, this band really is as terrible as you can imagine them being. Metalheads looking for a bit of 'roots' are liable to burn their copy of the Rolling Stone Record Guide in disgust of having to digest this sort of pussy 'rock' band that lived through their existence with one foot in Moody Blues classicism and the other in cartoonish pop hipsterism...but with a fuzzbox! Well, metalheads can go chew on their bicycle tires or blow up mailboxes, or whatever it is that they do when things don't go their way, because if you approach Iron Butterfly from an ironic hipster classicist pop standpoint, they're great! Like watching Jack Nicholson on the Andy Griffith Show, it's like a deathmatch between utter cool and utter squareness - the modernistic, experimental, noisy component fending off merciless attacks at the jugular from the shockingly idiotic, the horrifyingly pretentious, and the simply misguided ones. What makes Iron Butterfly great is they seem so very convinced that whatever it is they're doing is an instant classic worthy of scholarly analysis and boot-knocking visceral reaction, even when they're producing something so cheesy it makes The Monkees look like Battleship Potemkin. The true hero-clown is lead singer/organist Doug Ingle, the guy who, as legend tells it, couldn't pronounce 'In The Garden of Eden' because of all the bullshit that kept falling from his mouth. Naw, he was whacked out stoned on fuel injection cleaner, or something, but that doesn't excuse him for sounding like Boris Karloff with a nasal infection doing a Charleton Heston impression at half-speed on every song he sang with these idiots. Otherwise, the band sounded very much like a poppier Doors, a fact which should scare no one except for Doors fans. True psychedelic rangers like Pink Floyd or Cream had nothing to worry about from these guys, as they lacked both instrumental chops and an original visionary approach, not to mention the ability to not sound like a huge, irritating joke. Of course, now in the post-post-post Oughties, huge, irritating jokes are the word of the day, and one can appreciate the fucked-up vigor with which Iron Butterfly went around trying to blow little people's minds.
The band underwent numerous changes before trundling off to the dinosaur's graveyard in 1970, but they never really got any less ridiculous. And let's not forget that when you're judging Iron Butterfly, the more ridiculous, the better. Like AMC Pacers and hairless cats, this band is so hideously ugly and fundamentally flawed that it's hard not to like them just a little for proving to the world that the Land of Opportunity is still awarding pearls to swine now and then. As a technical aside, I wouldn't doubt that most of this band's albums are damned hard to find these days (besides Murfle! Murfle! Murf! Murf Murf!, of course), but thanks to my good friends eeeeeefjlfkj849 and phuckRIAA122114 at WinMX, I've got all of this band's albums besides the live one and the second of the 1975 comeback albums called Sun and Steel. No great loss, I'm sure, but then again, I suppose you never know where you're going to find the next 'Belda-Beast', which is the best song ever written which is not by Modern Talking
- Atlantic 1968
About as credible as Josef Stalin at an ACLU rally, Iron Butterfly's debut is actually a train wreck between the Hipster Swing Express and the non-stop from Acidville to Bongwater County. This album is most definitely not, indeed, 'heavy', but I guess naming an album Clumsy is sort of like shooting yourself in the foot except you won't need to buy a new pair of Chuck Taylors when you're done (erm, come to think of it, with all the shit you have to wade through on this record, maybe you will). Sheeit, this here album's about as heavy as a Lawrence Welk Show outtake reel, except with less genocide, and the audience gets showered with enough cutesy mid-60's doodly-bop pop business that I begin to think maybe Iron Butterfly's playing an elaborate joke on us. Heavy? Hell no. Boppy. Goofy. Like seeing an old picture of your mom in a halter top bombed out on Mai-Tais trying to hula-hoop. The overwhelming feeling I get from this thing is that Iron Butterfly were complete dorks desperately trying to sound hep and knowledgeable around people who really were experimental, rather than just bumbling around in the dark, blindly flailing at a fuzzy guitar. Revolutionary it's not, and in fact they sound content to steal blindly from whomever was at hand in 1967. They mostly satisfy their songwriting jones with decidedly un-fuzzy groovy riffage straight out of the Jefferson Airplane Takes Off songbook, but also yank liberally from Freak Out!-era Zappa. 'Unconscious Power' and 'Gentle As It May Seem' all use that start-stop sing-songy style that emphasizes the rhyming in the lyrics, except where Zappa was either funny or weird, Led Bumblebee prefer hipster braniac couplets like 'you gotta learn how to scheme/or else you've lost the scene', which may either be astutely cynical social commentary or the worst abuse of a rhyming dictionary since the last 3rd Bass album. And Zappa's put-on nasally 'teen punk' singing style is cluelessly aped on 'Stamped Ideas' as if it were for real (gawd...there's even a reference to 'people made of plastic', as if we wouldn't notice or something). Somebody here doesn't much get what Zappa was trying to say about being original, do they? There's also noticeable Yardbirds, Animals, and even Byrds rip-offs It's hard to take the flowery harmonized ballad 'So-Lo' as anything other than a swipe from their more successful fellow-Los Angeleans, though the song itself is lovable in a pitiful way. Who can hate that breathy Emerson-lite organ mixed with those squalchy fuzztone lead guitar twiddles? I say dig the harmonies and thank David Crosby.
The saving graces here are mostly of the merciful kind. Mercifully, the album is only thirty minutes long, most songs hovering in the 2 ½-minute range, so if you truly hate what is happening right now, just wait a bit and something less irritating is bound to come along. Don't like the wussiness of 'So-Lo'? Wait a little bit and the bland slow-rock crunch of 'Look For The Sun' will be moseying along soon enough. Don't cotton to that one? 'Fields of Sun' is faster and harder rocking, and while the vocals are more ridiculous the instrumental organ/operatic chorus duet is spiffy.
The one track that really, truly shows what Iron Butterfly are capable of is an exciting, noisy psychedelic deconstructive jam called the 'Iron Butterfly Suite' that closes out Heavy. Hawkwind or Chrome fans would do well to check out this tune and take careful notes of how all of the features that would someday become space-rock staples are already here in force - loping tempos, grinding two-chord riffage, repetitive percussion and bassline grooves, plenty of squalling feedback, vocals limited to more of those mysterious 'choruses', and lots and lots of bad-trip atmosphere. I'll remind you that while this may have also copped liberally from Syd Barrett's 'Interstellar Overdrive', I feel like the 'Iron Butterfly Suite' cuts a lot closer to the heart of what would later flower into its own genre of music. If only there'd been an apocalyptic poem at the beginning, we'd be able to haul Hawkwind into court and get some royalties for these guys. Who'd probabl just have to turn around and pay them back to Zappa and the Airplane, anyway, but at least justice would've been done.
They're really only able to substantially improve on their influences once, and the rest of the time they sound like cluelessly foolish imitators. I guess they make plenty enough mistakes to learn from.
Capn's Final Word: Psychedlic simulators who score one coup with their theme song.
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In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida - Atlantic 1968
Split in half like Dirk Diggler's female lead, 'In The Garden of Eden' spends a side on the mondo-riffic title track and the rest on slight improvements over the same sort of material we heard so much of on Heavy, though with fewer obvious ripoffs and more genErik psychedelicisms. A major improvement is that the band's sound has been fleshed out, with deeper, less insectoid distorted guitar tones from new guy Erik Braunn and a better use of Doug's organ as a fundamental chording instrument rather than the overused ice-rink leads of the debut, which makes the whole thing less painful to hear, and 'In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida' sound somewhat, well, heavy. And this band does heavy fairly well so far, with 'Iron Butterfly Suite' the only time I wasn't embarrassed to be listening to their debut. The first side tunes make the mistake of not concerning themselves much with being heavy, though, and are a massive waste of time as a result. Instead, these are more of that confusing sub-Doors hybrid-pop, blending childish nursery-rhyme melodies and loud 'freaky' organ and scary drumming. Again, it's hard to say these songs don't have a certain unique flavor, but that doesn't mean they're a damn bit of good. When Ingle tries to sing an earnest love song, like on the opening poptune 'Most Anything You Want', his marble-mouth delivery makes him sound much more like a hopelessly stoned hippie mistakenly trying to hit on a houseplant rather than a cassanova of free love, liberating little girlies one virgin at a time. The light popitude continues through 'Flowers and Beads', which is about as freaky as Minnie Pearl at a church picnic, which is probably somebody who could've sung this idiotic little Davy Jones-y song better than Ingle does.
Things get moderately weird on the following trio, however, and act as a sort of warmup for the long acid bath that is the title track. 'Mirage' is a fairly decent take on Zombies dark organ pop, featuring some of the more subtle guitar and organ interplay on the album. The ocean crashes and rolls that frame the organ solo draw up visions of the Velvet Underground for whatever reason, which may be unjustified considering Iron Butterfly is about as deep as a recording of Maureen Tucker tuning her snare drum, but there it is. The over-fuzzed tranwrecks of 'Termination' (more Zappaisms) and 'Are You Happy' are simply unlistenable trash, and if I never hear Ingle attempt to pronounce 'happy' again (he says 'hap-ah-iii' like a six-year-old in need of speech therapy) again, it'll be too soon.
'In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida', however, is simply trashy cool, a raunchy scare-tactic riff ridden straight into the mud over a moderately swinging backbeat that reminds be gorgeously of CCR's 'Born on the Bayou' at the best moments. Most infamously, Doug Ingle's Voice of God is very much in full flight here, intoning all about 'walking this land' and pledging endless love (or for the next 2-4 minutes, whichever comes first), which of course adds more than a tiny bit of cheese to the proceedings, but then again so does his hockey rink organ and Braunn's angry bumblebee guitar fuzz. The groove, driven by that riff and that drumbeat, actually holds some sort of Jedi-mind-trick hypnotism, one that I'm very willing to sell out to through yet another quasi-Bach organ solo or wah-ed to frig guitar freakout. When the boneheaded tom-tom-only drum solo, which sounds more like a collection of fills than an actual solo, and shows about as much flash as a Timex Indiglo, creeps in, I lose the plot and start wondering whether Jennifer Lopez will ever find true love, and when she does, and has kids, whether she'll get so fat the navy will be able to use her ass to launch F/A-18 fighter jets for homeland security. I support homeland security, and I support asses. Why not kill two birds with one stone, eh?
No, well, anyhow, I dig the song again once all that whalloping and whacking ends (and no, I'm not talking about visiting those Adult Only sections of Yahoo Groups again, either), especially the section where the riff drops, the drums play a sort of tribal doo-bippy over a muted guitar scratch and it sounds like they marvelously morph into Can for a few minutes. That section is classic, and makes the return of the riff (and, soon after, the vocals) actually somewhat disappointing. Anyway, cut the drum solos and maybe one of the verses and you have yourself the best possible theme song for Friday Fright Night Late Late Show Terror Theater, starring Elvira, her trailer trash accent, and her two gigantic so-pale-they're-transparent mammary glands. Enjoy!
Think of it as a long single with some bonus tracks, and you're okay. Every fifteen year old budding stoner longhair Zeppelin/Cream obsessive (or, alternately, cheese-hound kitch-monger) needs to own (or at least have stolen) 'In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida' if only just to see what the big deal was about these clowns .However, the disclaimer remains that the rest of the album is terribly written, most definitely not just a bunch of heavy riffing 'Gadda' clones, and even if their performance skills have improved well, it doesn't change the fact that they have a moron for a lead singer and prefer writing songs better fit for Dusty Springfield than Buffalo Springfield, but insist on arranging them all as mindblowing freakouts. It's their curse, and while Innagadavah probably remains their best album, it's still at least 50% terrible.
Capn's Final Word: Seventeen minutes of crap. Followed by a cool, cheesy psychedelic juggernaut called 'In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida'.
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Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: This is a piss-poor excuse for an album...but, damn, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" rocks hard and so well for 17 minutes. Classic overblown trash rock kitsch, should have been the theme-song for "Mystery Science Theater 3000" or something like that.
My favorite use of the song, though, is probably the classic Simpsons gag where Bart replaces all the hymnals and organ music at church with sheet music for "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" and the organist collapses 20 minutes later.
Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Thank God for free speech. Now you boys go back to your beer and sheep. What a PISS POOR excuse for a rating site.
Ball - Atlantic 1969
I guess the printer forgot to insert the word 'Shit-' before the title of this boring-ass album of draggy cottony pop bullshit. The MP3 copy of this album I downloaded is apparently taken from some old Ian Chase Radio London broadcast (complete with 'More music...more music...more music!' announcements straight from The Who Sell Out, also an infinitely better album than this one) which starts out with some random single from some unknown psychedelic Sixties band (Locust) before playing Ball in its entirety. The thing is, this Locust track is a snappy Nuggets garage gem, good but probably not that special, but still strong enough to make Ball sound even more like an unjustifiable wad of phlegm in relief. Misleading statements in the band introduction paragraph aside, Ball was for some weird reason Iron Butterfly's best-selling album, probably a result of the notoriety gained by 'In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida' and the fact that Middle AmErika only latched onto the psychedelic movement wholeheartedly in 1969. Whatever it is, the poor slobs that bought Ball instead of its superior predecessor were in for a big shock - Iron Butterfly had retreated from their psychedelic ranger persona (after one song?) and begun making more of that 'romantic' bombastic pop. Parts of this album sound quite a bit like Blood, Sweat, and Tears without all those horns and bebop charts, and that's not just because Doug Ingle and David Clayton-Thomas both sound like towering buffoons on the microphone. 'Lonely Boy' is just the kind of hammy 'soulful' balladeering that D.C-T would ride right to the bank the same year, and throughout Iron Butterfly attempt to thicken their sound with jazzy chords without actually making anything sound remotely heavy (not to mention 'good'). They stick with pop song structures as well, grafting on a noisy bit here and there, There's a short hint at that Can-style polyrhythmic grooving on the intro to 'Real Fright' (just before it morphs into a game show theme), 'Filled with Fear', which continues the paranoid hash-smoker vibe of 'Real Fright', is somewhat more on the weighty, moody side, and let's not for get the short squall of feedback fizz that kicks off the opening track, but overall this album is not one for the freaky. Tommy James and the Shondells would probably balk at the unhipness of most of these tunes. To be sure, Iron Butterfly never were on par with the San Francisco or LA groups they aped so obviously on their debut, but at least they made a halfway convincing argument for their own parallel approach on their second album. Here they're not even trying to be outside of the mainstream, as if they could score another AM chart hit with the doofy likes of 'In the Crowds', yet another over-cooked upbeat pop number that wouldn't have convinced Herman and the Hermits fans, much less the freaks in the audience. They try again for jazzy pop success with 'It Must Be Love' but get it too obscenely long, try for Strange Days-y dark carnival music on 'Her Favorite Style' but get it too obscenely stupid, and God only knows what these dunderheads were trying to accomplish on the burbly, sleepy prog-rock song 'Belda-Beast', which has all the transportative powers of a box of Raisin Bran. Probably trying to ape Saucerful of Secrets-era Pink Floyd, to which all I can say is that monkeys have not yet, at least the last time I checked, flown from my butt.
Ball is a complete mess of a Sixties rock album, one of those idiotic drug-ruined messes that you always read a lot about but never hope to actually encounter in everyday life. Granted, most psychedelic albums are messy (such is the result of a drug that makes turning on the water faucet seem as profound as witnessing the splitting of an atom), but this album isn't even weird enough to be cheesily interesting, ala Satanic Majesties Request. This album was made by insecure dorks who wanted counterculture stardom but only knew how to write commercial songs like what they played on the Top 40 radio station. The moment they abandoned their instrumental psycho freakout milieu is the moment they became not just a joke, but an irrelevant joke.
Capn's Final Word: I'll say this much: these guys aren't any worse as jazzy pop romantics than, say, Refrigerator Perry is as an Olympic figure skater.
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R Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I was there when they introduced the album. You should have been there because words can't describe the feeling, the people and the time.
(Capn's Response: Did it suck as much as this album?)
Live - Atlantic 1970
I can't find this one for free yet, and I'll be George Bush's press secretary before I pay good money for it.
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George A. Gelish
Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: I have had at least two copies of this album, so I know it backwards and forwards. My off the cuff comment was that this was an album more for the hard core fan than the casual listener. If you had the original albums there was really no reason to buy this live set.
Of course, "In a Gadda Da Vida" is a must for any Classic Rock collection. Here, the boys play it mostly off the record, with some cute little variations (A great "chanting" break) but not enough to warrant the price of admission.
The coolest things on the record are Erik Braunn's mindblowingly psychedelic introductions on "In the Time of Our Lives" and "Filled With Fear." Both versions are, IMHO, superior to the versions on "Ball."
Ditto for "You Can't Win;" a much-improved version over the original track on "Heavy." It also has a cool anti-war introduction. "Are You Happy," from the "Vida" LP, is one of the better songs although it gets a pretty much off-the-record reading here.
"Soul Experience" is one of their best songs and a nice version here, if a little too close to the record. I always liked the lyrics, which I won't regurgitate here although I know them by heart.
I enjoyed the hell out of this live set, but don't recommend it for casual listeners. If you're already a fan, get it by all means.
Barry Stoller Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: The original version of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" was a rehearsal soundcheck; the live version, however, shows the band familiar with the tune. They play it faster, louder and with much more confidence. Braun does a feedback solo that is prime psychedelia. Of course, Iron Butterfly is a post-modern cartoon of "heavy" rock, a Vegas casino conception of hallucinating, but there's a place for it in today's soul-less ProTools world and, if your cool enough to own a copy (suitable for playing once or twice a year), make it the live one.
Metamorphosis - Atlantic 1970.
Erik Braunn left the Butterfly following Ball, an album on which his presence was marginal anyhow, and was replaced by two disgustingly normal hard-rock guitar player dudes (one of whom is nauseatingly nicknamed 'Rhino', a point of which I take considerable offense) who no doubt had little use for hippie bullshit. These new additions, with but a tiny effort, succeeded in pushing Doug Ingle to the side and fprcing Iron Butterfly into a becoming second rate Grand Funk Railroad clones (instead of a second rate Jefferson Airplane or a second rate Blood, Sweat, and Tears, but that's all just piss in the ocean breeze, if you 'fabricate' my 'National Guard service records', and I think you do). On here it's all hoary rock cliches and Big Pretentious Statements, calculated and heartless, and with none of the goofy inept spontaneity that marked this band's psychedelic era. The newfangled Butterfly is more listenable and less immediately embarrassing than the 'romantic' slime-pop Ball band, but they're still about as interesting to listen to as a second-rate Grand Funk Railroad has any right to be. They play riffs, but they play them cold and without discernable excitement (again, only Braunn really did that with any flair), and generally mess about in mid-tempo groove rock land without creating a single moment that lasts beyond the end of the album. Again, since they can't create their own sound, they cop blatantly from others, but lack the chops to create true replicas of their betters. The songs range from generified Jethro Tull blues-rock ('New Day') to generified straight-ahead Southern rock-y groove rockin' ('Best Years of Our Life', 'Easy Rider', which probably marks the 10 bazillionth time that movie that has been unfairly invoked in a song it has little or nothing in common with) to slightly jazzy jive funk ('Shady Lady') to Yes-y acoustic prog-folk ('Slower than Guns', the best and least typical song on the album, featuring some oddly respectable Ingle vocals as an added shocking bonus), but never takes off in any way, mostly because the band never puts an ounce of true gut feeling in their performance, just acres of cold professionalism. I guess there's a nice sincere anti-pollution message in 'Guns' that's as hippie as body odor, but that song almost sounds like it was recorded by someone else and thrown in the middle of this stew of undifferentiated mediocrity anyway. The rest of these songs might as well be about the advantages of clean socks, for all I can tell it's just dumb groove after dumb groove after dumb genErik groove. I may have had some doubts about this band before, but this clinches it - this is an Iron Butterfly the world can definitely do without.
Okay, so it's boring, derivative, and with an almost inhuman lack of synergy, but it doesn't offend me in any way, at least until the 14-minute closing 'Butterfly Bleu', no doubt meant as a competitor to 'In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida', as well as a tearful farewell to this fading band's 'legend'. If the band was too stoned to bring 'In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida' to a coherent conclusion, the band is too stoned to bring this song to a coherent anything. Like much of what Iron Butterfly has done since their peak moment, this track is both way too unimaginatively conventional and gratingly 'experimental', all at the same time. All I hear is a bunch of genErik 'spacey' non-riffing and soulless chroused guitar solo Muzak that sounds ripped from an Allman Brothers outtake reel before things disintegrate into a bunch of bluesy fucking about and random irritating noisemaking for the next 10 excruciating minutes. If the 'Iron Butterfly Suite' marked the point at which Hawkwind was born, this desecration shows us how terrible space-rock can be when put into the hands of incompetent goons like this. Or perhaps Doug Ingle thought retching and belching into the microphone while his new guitar friends played Clapton licks through a Joe Walsh talk-box was inspired? Not to mention that it's self-serving and egotistical lyrically, but I guess that's what you get from people who seem so convinced what they're doing is blowing somebody's mind. Awful, awful, awful. This has to mark some sort of low point for rock music, but I'm frankly too nauseated to try and figure it out.
The band broke up after this album, to the surprise of absolutely nobody since very few people cared about Iron Butterfly when they knew they could get the real thing elsewhere for the same price. Metamorphosis is a rather sad way to (temporarily) end a career, but you have to remember that Iron Butterfly had a rather sad career in the first place. And it has no signs of that bugbear dynamic over-compression, not to mention any obvious typos or grammar mistakes in the song titles, so I guess I'll relent and give it the perfect A+ it deserves. Just like the entire Erik Carmen songbook.
Capn's Final Word: It's become so much a part of their fibre of being, this band can't simply stop the ripoff. Still, they could've shown better taste than on this vanilla hard rock heap.
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Beauty - Atlantic 1975
Since this and the following Sun and Steel are essentially Erik Braunn solo albums featuring old Butterfly bandmate Ron Bushy and a bunch of random session pigs, it'd stand about equal a chance as Marv Albert's toupee in a blast furnace of being reviewed on this site if it hadn't been cheaply branded with the Iron Butterfly name. Weirdly, and this is very weird, it's probably closer to the true core essence of Iron Butterfly (i.e., the band that made 'Iron Butterfly Suite' and 'In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida', not the one that made 'It Must Be Love') than the last two legitimate Butterfly albums really were, and is actually pretty decent, if not much of anything to love. Apparently Braunn was a big proponent of the ol' guitar-driven space-rock dealy bop, and as a result makes Scorching Beauty a sort of mid-Seventies Hawkwind-lite, with plenty of yelping vocals spouting I'd-like-to-buy-the-world-a-Coke utopian pastiches, grinding guitars, tweedly synths, and stately tempos. There's enough psycho coldness, in fact, to provide a German enough makeout music to last a lifetime. This is cold, classy Concorde trance rock, much closer to Roxy Music, Amon Duul II, and the aforementioned Hawkwind than any lousy BST or Jefferson Airplane. Braunn even affects a sort of high-vibrato Brian Ferry vocal style, though without the winning suave smarm, making this stuff sound even more alien to the hippie leftover shocked at seeing a new Iron Butterfly album in his record shop. There are a few minutes of pop surrender such as 'High On a Mountain Top', which reminds me of the sort of Beatle/bubblegum the Rasberries might do, and it's hard not to see the CSNY tinge to the apocalyptic 'Pearly Gates' or the crushing generic arena rocksim of 'Lonely Hearts', which may as well be an REO Speedwagon song, fer Chrissakes.
Speaking of REO Speedwagon, I had a near-death experience the other day at the mall while getting some tires on my Jeep replaced and grabbing some ice cream with my little girl. I peered into a Hot Topic store (a stylized 'edgy' t-shirt shop chain which sells lots of rock 'n' roll t-shirts along with chained wallets and cheap fake-leather combat boots). I scan the requisite Ramones and Misfits shirts (not to mention Kiss, for whom I think everyone alive owns at least one shirt. I have one, and I have NO IDEA how I acquired it. I got drunk, apparently went to a concert, and came home with a Kiss Alive! shirt...I must've been conscripted into the Kiss Army by some sort of high-school dropout press gang or something). Anyway, I see this REO SPEEDWAGON T-SHIRT on the wall, prominently displayed. What the flying fuck are the kids listening to nowadays? Have we really entered the age when kids are so hungry for more 'ironic' 'vintage' crap to put on their bodies that they'll advertise for the band that gave us the likes of High Infidelity? I mean, holy shit! At the very least they could respect themselves and find a Journey 1976 Infinity tour shirt or something, but Speedwagon?!?!? Carson Daly must've worn one on TRL one afternoon and now all the zit-magnets have decided it looks cool....I'm telling you, I'm about this fucking far to ending it all. I'm having a helluva time deciding between drying my hair while I'm asleep, swimming less than 30 minutes after eating a huge meal, swallowing my Listerine rinse instead of spitting it out, and trying to create the world's biggest wall-outlet octopus using only frayed, non-grounded electrical cords. Tell me what you think I should do. Don't let me down here.
Other places, too, this faux-Butterfly exhibit the desire to be liked by a wider audience, beit with the crowd-pleasing slick guitar solos or the slick, shiny production, but their material just isn't good enough to impress this album on the public on even the slightest of ways. The poppier, more song-oriented material is simply done better by other people,
and while Braunn can put together an impressive-sounding instrumental arrangement ('1975 Overture'), he can't write much of a rock song, and the old swipe that Butterfly lacks drive and intensity still applies. There's not a single moment on Scorching Beauty where I feel they break free and just rock the way a band like this should. The whole point for a space-rock band is to balance between this heady, deadpan psychedelic exploration and pure, headbanging power, but even on the hardest moments (such as the chunky grind of 'Hard Miseree'), this band never sounds like they're giving it their all. There's never any 'wow' moments like their Germanic contemporaries have, just a bunch of 'well, okay' ones, probably because their playing is still too based in normal, average hard rock to impress too greatly. That said, 'Am I Down' would've fit in nicely on Bowie's Aladdin Sane album if it'd been played by the rocket-fueled Spiders from Mars insteads of this faceless hard rock machine.
Still, if you stumble over a cheap copy of this album at a garage sale or whatever, and you're already familiar with the 60's band, it wouldn't kill you to put this on for a spin to hear what a more intelligent approach to the Butterfly philosophy might've sounded like. If Braunn had only surrounded himself with heavyweights instead of this anonymous crew, this album might've qualified as a lost classic.
Capn's Final Word: Somewhat compelling attempt to redefine the Butterfly in European terms, but if Erik Braunn couldn't write great songs in 1968 and he sure can't do it in 1975 either.
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Eric S esweenor (at) charter.net Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: I've never heard this, but I had to comment on your REO Speedwagon rant there - do you think these kids actually LISTEN to REO Speedwagon? Hah! It's that obnoxious strain of children (not so far removed from my own age...I went to high school with these slugs!) who have taken the classic misdefinition of "irony" too far, and think that donning a mass-manufactured t-shirt of a band their parents listened to makes them somehow edgy. I suppose it's a sad comment on the death of youthful rebellion? I dunno. Alls I know is that I knew too many of these dweebs who lambasted the "popular" cliques but were primarily a parallel to them without ever realizing that. Those who thought they were creating their own style by wearing thrift store softball shirts and talking about how good Cinderella was. Uh...rant over. Sorry.
Oh, and I think Iron Butterfly is even dumber than Hawkwind, which is difficult. And I like Hawkwind!
Sun and Steel - Atlantic 1975
Ain't got it, and good luck tracking it down for me.
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