Iron Butterfly: Unconscious Power - An Anthology 1967-1971

Unconscious Power - An Anthology 1967-1971 features 85 tracks across seven CDs from the pioneering Iron Butterfly

Iron Butterfly: Unconscious Power - An Anthology 1967-1971
(Image: © Esoteric)

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It’s difficult to overstate just how influential San Diego’s Iron Butterfly were, but this exhaustive collection explains why they deserve to be ranked among the founding fathers of American heavy rock. 

There’s nothing new here, just the first four albums (Heavy and Ball appear twice, in mono and stereo), the live album Live, and four concerts played over two spring 1968 nights at the Fillmore East, originally released in 2011. 

A one-stop musical melting pot, Iron Butterfly embraced prog, acid and 60s R&B, while fashioning something new and vibrant. 

Doug Ingle’s rich voice and swirling, stentorian Vox Continental organ dominated, but around him drummer Ron Bushy, bassist Lee Dorman and a succession of guitarists built a dense sonic attack that took them from the early Manfred Mann inflections of 1968’s Heavy to the more brutal swamp of 1971’s Metamorphosis

The title track to their second album, Ingle’s In-A-Gadda-DaVida (roughly ‘In The Garden Of Eden’) defined them and propelled its parent album to quadruple-platinum status in the US. 

Yet for all its gargantuan riff, Ingle’s Nice-esque keyboards and the sense of apocalyptic doom, it’s the reddest of herrings. On Live it took up all the vinyl album’s second side and lasted for 19 exhilarating minutes, but elsewhere, only Metamorphosis’s Butterfly Bleu went over the 10-minute mark. 

Instead they specialised in short, attention-grabbing slabs of proto heaviness such as In The Time Of Our Lives and Stamped Ideas, which were as thrilling as they were ground-breaking. 

Reassessment is long overdue. This should do the trick.

As well as Classic Rock, John Aizlewood currently writes for The Times, The Radio Times, The Sunday Times, The i Newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and Mojo amongst others.  He’s written four books and appears on television quite often. He once sang with Iron Maiden at a football stadium in Brazil: he wasn’t asked back. He’s still not sure whether Enver Hoxha killed Mehmet Shehu…