Reportedly an influence when Jimmy Page named Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly fluttered out of San Diego in early 1968 with Heavy, whose tentative blend of psychedelic rock, defined by founding mainstay Doug Ingle’s proto-prog organ, benefited from Gary Weiss’s scorching guitar. After the first line-up splintered, Ingle and drummer Ron Bushy, now joined by guitarist Erik Brann and bassist Lee Dorman, recorded In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, which started innocuously with West Coast rockers and sunshine pop, before sprouting wings on side two’s epic title jam (titled In The Garden Of Eden before a slurred announcement renamed it forever).
Riding a malevolent riff credited with inventing heavy metal, the track endured a gamut of solos but struck a seismic chord when edited into a single, making the album an early mega-seller, eventually shifting 30 million.
January 1969’s Ball focused on shorter songs, straddling acid-rock, spooked proto-prog and ethereal psycho ballads, but only Brann’s textured Belda-Beast added enough weight to prevent Butterfly floating off on its gossamer intricacies.
1970’s church-like Live was that line-up’s swansong, allowing the hit further indulgences. For that same year’s Metamorphosis, Brann was replaced by guitarists Mike Pinera and Larry Reinhardt, who temper Ingle’s operatic bellow with bluesy funk (Shady Lady), anti-war ballads (Soldier In Our Town) and the hardest rock of the band’s brief career on Easy Rider (Let The Wind Pay The Way). Frustratingly, it appears that Iron Butterfly crash landed just as they discovered a fruitful flight path.
All the above are brought together on this Original Album Series release.