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Iron Butterfly - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida CD (album) cover

IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA

Iron Butterfly

 

Proto-Prog

3.38 | 179 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars On the one hand, it's easy to see why nobody followed the Iron Butterfly, and we had to rely on Led Zeppelin to create metal for us. They (the Butterflies, of course) were a bunch of sloppy musicians who were pretty much locked in the style of really heavy psychedelia. On the other hand...

...the Butterflies were a bunch of talented stoners from Hollywood who had a fairly unique style, and it's a crime that no one followed them! Maybe if they had, we'd be hearing "Flowers and Beads" on the radio instead of a whole lotta "Stairway to Heaven." Okay, that probably would never happen. Ever. But it's fun to dream, right?

This album proves that they were maturing artistically, and no, I don't just mean in the "side long tracks" department. Compare this with their debut album, and you'll notice that Gadda is a lot...heavier. In fact, this is easily the heaviest album of 1968. Which is, uh, AWESOME. But what about that talked about titular track? Well, it exists. And it's AWESOME too! But it's on the second side, which means we have to start with this whole "first side" nonsense; and (for me at least) the line is clearly drawn between the sweet and the sour.

We open with "Most Anything You Want," a surprisingly solid rocker. Dig those fuzzy guitar attacks that are honestly pretty unique, paired with Ingle's stately organ lines in the instrumental break. "Flowers and Beads" is also a very effective piece of psycho pop. Kinda odd following so bleedin' 'eavy with something so...well, flowers and beads. "My Mirage" is a solidly psychotic rocker, with the emphasis on "psycho" rather than "rocker." If anything sells it, it's Ingle's creepy, ethereal vocals and organ.

The final two numbers kinda let me down; "Terminator" has some trippy lyrics to be sure, but why are they sung with such...joy? It's about people being slain by ancient Greek beasts...probably (think "Tales of Brave Ulysses," just upbeat and stupid). "Are You Happy" is certainly driving, and the back and forth riff is interesting, but it doesn't really go anywhere. Not that either of these songs are bad or anything; just kinda dull compared to the tight "Flowers" or the medieval "Most." Or what comes next...

So, the first side is a collection of good, if not necessarily fantastic songs. But clearly the centerpiece for the album, in fact, for the Butterflies' entire career, is the sidelong "Inna-Gadda-da-Vida." And you are a fool if you cannot see how truly great this song is.

Okay, not true. In fact, this is one of the rare cases where I totally agree with the "either love it or hate it" line. I honestly do not see how anyone at all could say that "Gadda" is..."just okay." It's not possible. It's so freaky and all encompassing, it has to be either the greatest song ever recorded, or twenty minutes of your life you'll never get back. Three guesses as to which side I'm on...

The "epic" gets underway with one of rock's most memorable and infamous riffs (please ignore that it sounds exactly like "Sunshine of Your Love"). Don't tell me that organ crescendo doesn't send shivers down your spine...one way or another. What follows is a bout of fairly headbangin' stuff. A trippy organ solo, a freaky guitar solo, a...drum solo? Fear naught! This drum solo is probably the best of its kind ever produced (and I HATE drum solos usually). See, most solos are either "look how hard/fast I can hit the kit" (see live Clive Bunker), or "look how technically skilled I am for five minutes (see live Barriemore Barlow). "Gadda" is neither; Ron Bushy plays a very slow, steady, rhythmic solo that sounds like it should get boring, but remains so unpretentious that it never gets on my nerves at all. Hell, it's even catchy! When was the last time you heard an honestly catchy drum solo? And it lasts, like, seventeen minutes or something!

Okay, not true. Eventually they turn the tune into a "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" organ shuffle, and then eventually we hit the main tune again (I love the organ feedback at the very end). Now, I don't give "Gadda" the nod for best song on the album for sheer infamy; it's a very solid tune that manages to twist and turn enough that it always stays fun. Not to mention that the drumming is smart (or at least solid), the guitar and organ and are interesting, and the bass is actually pretty good (some have suggested that Lee Dorman is the most capable member of the group).

Now, as much as I hate to admit it, in a realistic sort of way, put all this stuff up against prime Deep Purple and it will pretty much crumple up and die, simply because Purple was doing essentially the same thing, only with about an ounce more class and a ton more talent. The Butterflies are probably a more talented band than people realize (uh, on this album at least), but they're still hardly genuises. Actually, they're quite stupid; Ingle might be a solid organist, but he's hardly John Lord, and Erik Braan is certainly a unique guitarist, and perhaps even an underrated guitarist, but he's not Ritchie Blackmore (heh, who is?).

On the other hand, if you put everything aside (and perhaps keep in mind how these tunes are meant to be enjoyed (i.e., under what influence these songs were written/recorded)) and not take the Butterflies nearly as seriously as they take themselves, you will realize that this is catchy, this is heavy, this is cool damn it! Perhaps most amazing of all (even to me at first) was that the album is hardly a bunch of filler surrounding a single "classic." No. As I (hope I) said, the first side has its fair share of good material, so you won't be fast forwarding the album wondering when the hell that damn "Gadda's" gonna come on!

It is, of course, hardly a perfect album. That spot of filler and the lack or virtuoso playing will always hinder that (not to mention there's not an ounce of diversity). But is it an enjoyable album? Of course! Who said bands have to be good at their instruments to be enjoyable? I like Pink Floyd, don't you? Just sit down, shut up, crank the volume to eleven, and hope you don't have anything serious to do for the next half an hour. 'Cause you're gonna be air drumming.

(Now, I have to warn you; if you've never heard "Gadda" before, or if you're someone who is miraculously straddling the fence between love and hate, if you get the Inna-Gadda-da-Vida remaster, by the time you finish listening to it, you WILL love it or hate it one way or another. Guaranteed. There's but two bonus tracks tacked onto the end, and they're both "Gadda." The first bonus track is the live version of "Gadda" (from the album Live, coincidentally). The guitar soloing is different, the organ is not. The drumming is...chaotic, but in a good way. Dig the weirdo screaming in the middle (what's he saying? ...WHO is he?). All in all, not superior or inferior to the album version; on the one hand, I miss the studio's immaculate production, but I love the energy granted on stage. The next track is the single version of "Gadda," which is "Gadda" (duh), but with the various instrumental bits all cut out (again, no duh). Which is fun, of course, but utterly fails to catch the psychotic majesty of the song. So, if you've been listening since track one, that's THREE versions of "Gadda" you've heard, in a row, two of which have been WELL over the length of your standard pop rock song. See what I mean about loving or hating? I can't get enough, but, aside from the cool cover (watch 'em headbang!), there's no real reason to raise the rating.)

The Whistler | 4/5 |

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