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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Iron Butterfly

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

Review by Gary Hill

Well, say what you will but Iron Butterfly were unique. Their sound is definitely dated today, but still there is a certain charm. It's interesting that despite the classic title track much of the music on this disc is really little more than warped out pop ditties, but some how these guys used distorted guitars and other psychedelic instrumentation to turn them into something more. The end result still has an appeal, even though there are moments where you might feel embarrassed to be listening. Ignore that instinct, sink into the sound and relax. I'd bet you'll enjoy it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Most Anything You Want
A heavy organ sound starts this off. As it bounces into the song proper it takes on more of a bubble gum flowers and beads kind of approach. The backing vocals certainly contribute to this texture. The guitar, however along with the rest of the instrumentation, brings it into a more serious music direction. This is overall a psychedelic pop song, but still the oddly textured jam, rather a combination of proto-metal, progressive rock and psychedelia contributes a different edge. The organ solo that follows it seems to call to mind the work of Ray Manzarek in the Doors. I'm rather partial to the soaring guitar solo late in the piece and the coordinated jamming between the organ and guitar that follows. While this tune doesn't hold up entirely well in today's world, it still has its charm.
Flowers and Beads
Well, I know I mentioned it in the last track, but you just don't get much more hippie-oriented than "Flowers and Beads." This is a bouncy sort of psychedelic tune that, while still rather bubble gum in texture, seems to hold up a little better than the opener to me. It's basically an acid drenched love song. The vocal overkill segment later - with layers upon layers of voices - is actually pretty cool, even if just a bit over the top. The same holds true with the falsetto line that serves (along with organ) as the outro.
My Mirage
Now this is more like it. An organ sound that is a bit like something you might hear from Vanilla Fudge starts this and carries it for a time. Then the cut shifts gears through a rocking transitionary segment before moving to the most hard-edged verse we've heard on the album thus far. Nearly all of the pop music textures are gone here, but this is still an effective cut. While this one is still soaked in psychedelic tones it is a much more substantial piece of music. I'd have to say that with its varying movements and awesome sonic atmospheres that this is one of my favorite cuts on the CD. The keyboard solo is a nice touch and the instrumental buildup coming out of it is nearly prog rock in its execution.
Termination
This one comes in with an even more solid texture. The distorted guitar sound, while dated, is quite tasty. The same is true of the organ fills. The bass line, while a bit hidden, is working magic in the backdrop. The ever-changing musical textures on this one are certainly along the lines of early progressive rock. This is another of the standouts on show here. It rocks out harder than most of the material the band presented fans with on this album. That said, the outro is a very progressive rock oriented, mellow space out segment that even reminds me of early Yes a bit.
Are You Happy?
This one comes in literally pounding, with the drums laying down a frantic beat. The band work this one through several varying hard-edged psychedelic changes through the introduction. As it drops to the verse, though it takes on a more pop oriented texture. Parts of this almost feel like lounge lizard music to me. Still the arrangement has enough meaty segments and there is enough of an edge to this to keep it from feeling overly trite. In some ways this cut feels less dated than a lot of the stuff here. Now, don't take that to mean that it seems contemporary, but just that its easier to forget that this is decades old now. It seems somewhat fresh despite all the '60's psychedelic trappings.
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
And here we have it, the granddaddy of all Iron Butterfly songs. The familiar organ section leads this one off and as the band grind out with the familiar riff we're off. OK, this is the best and worst song on the whole album. I say that it's the best because the riff and song structure seem to be more effective than anything else here. It's a serious psychedelic stoner powerhouse. I say the worst because with it's never ending instrumental jam - and especially the drum solo - it's also incredibly self-indulgent, and (in today's less chemically enhanced world) a bit boring. This might be one instance where the single version of a song is truly superior to the album take. That said, I do like the organ solo section on this jam quite a bit. The thing is, do we really need a five or so minute drum solo here. Now, I have to add that when it begins to come out of that solo and the organ plays over the top - that's magic. So is the chaotic jam that comes in a bit later along with the triumphant return of the song proper. I suppose that without the whole sonic adventure that the power of the closing vocal segments loses something. Still I could do without the drum solo. No matter what you say about the preponderance of percussion, though, this song is a classic and one that belongs in every rock fan's collection - even if just for the shared music vernacular.
 
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