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LIGHT AND HEAVY: THE BEST OF IRON BUTTERFLY

Iron Butterfly

Proto-Prog


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Trotsky
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3 stars Despite releasing one of the best-selling albums of the 60s in In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and following it up with another chart hit in Ball, Iron Butterfly's legacy is that of an unfulfilled band. The problem was that having made a great artistic and commercial breakthrough, the band just sat back and slowly imploded, instead of progressing. Aside from personnel problems, part of the problem was that the band's music impetus lay in two different directions. Sure it was all draped in psychedelia, but while these fellows had distinct progressive leanings, Iron Butterfly also had a pop/soul element that has given a lot of their music a dated and cheesy feel (some lame lyrics and Doug Ingle's crooner vocals don't help either!).

This compilation does a fair job of distilling the highlights of the group's first four studio albums (Heavy, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Ball and Metamporhosis) with one totally unforgivable and downright scandalous exception ... the seminal timepiece that is the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida track is included in truncated form ... and by that I mean the pedestrian 3 minute single version instead of the 17 minute album version! Good knows there's enough filler towards the tail end of this compilation that could have been left off to accomodate the proper version of Iron Butterfly's best track.

That faux-pas alone fatally undermines the legitimacy of this compilation, which is otherwise reasonably well chosen, but not many tracks will be of interest to prog fans. A standout from Heavy is the excellent instrumental Iron Butterfly Theme, on which the crucial relationship between Doug Ingle's Gothic organ and the competing fiery acid guitar of Danny Weiss is best established ... interestlingly when Weiss left the band after recording the first album, his replacement Erik Brann bought his guitar and equipment in order to maintain Iron Butterly's sound!

The efferversent organ heavy My Mirage, the urgent "horror movie" curiousity Real Fright and the dreamy rambling Belda Beast are also attention-grabbers. Unfortunately, not every other prog-friendly track from the covered time period (amazingly, it's just 1968 to 1970!) makes it here. The propulsive Are You Happy is omitted, as is Slower Than Guns, but of course nothing compares to the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida fiasco!

Aside from the band's more daring proto-progressive work, there are also some good "straight" rock songs in the form of You Can't Win, Possession, Termination and the super funky Stone Believer. However, it is clear from the generally weak material that concludes this compile that Iron Butterfly were running out of ideas fast ... which seems extradordinary given what they accomplished. In 1970 when most musicians were striking out as progressive artistes, Iron Butterfly appear to have tried to move back to the mainstream (certainly the songs off Metamorphosis are generally tamer than) and why they did so after such success as a cutting edge band is beyond me! ... 50% on the MPV scale

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#72320)
Posted Sunday, March 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
greenback
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4 stars This record gives an excellent overview of what kind of music Iron Butterfly makes: it arguably collects the best tracks of their albums of the 60's and 70's. The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term "Iron Butterfly" is Iron Maiden: however, they have about nothing in common. Iron Butterfly is a spacy/psychedelic rock/hard rock band. Their music is often visceral but remains pretty clean. There are many surprisingly complex progressive passages. There is a permanent & omnipresent psychedelic electric organ that really participates to create the melodies and rhythm involved. The male lead vocals are very good. What is surprising is that Iron Butterfly are very disciplined & structured, despite that the first track "Iron Butterfly Theme" announces the opposite. The strongest point of the album is the galloping bass, like on "Unconscious Power": the melodic bass patterns are often very complex and catchy at the same time, providing a very pleasant smooth sound. The disciplined drums are well played. Many songs are catchy and easy to listen. The electric guitar is neither very razor nor aggressive but its arrangements are excellent. I must admit the music deserves a serious attention due to the early years involved. The tracks do not sound all the same. We feel the band takes maturity as albums go by, filling the music with interesting guitar echoed sound effects.

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#123572)
Posted Sunday, May 27, 2007 | Review Permalink

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