Saturday, January 05, 2013

Some Heavy Listening

Today's mail brought my copy of the 180g vinyl LP reissue of Iron Butterfly's first album, Heavy. While it's actually my third-favorite Iron Butterfly album, following the brilliant Ball and the energetic In-a-Gadda-da-Vida, it still has a lot going for it. Doug Ingle is primarily responsible for the album's most appealing qualities: a bold, rhythm-driven sound overlaid by an ethereal, evocative organ tone and a resonant, deep vocal that defines Iron Butterfly as far as I'm concerned.

So why isn't this one my favorite? Well, it has some lead vocals by Darryl DeLoach, whose thin, lackluster style doesn't blend with the Iron Butterfly sound. It also lacks the haunting guitar playing of Erik Brann, Nevertheless, some of the album's tracks, including "Possession," "So-Lo," and "Iron Butterfly Theme," are prime examples of the sound that typified Iron Butterfly later on.

The new vinyl reissue is superlative--timbrous, wide-ranging, and rich in sound, with a very low surface noise level and clean, quiet vinyl.

It also features one of the finest examples of early psychedelic-rock album cover art--a plus that can only be appreciated on the vinyl LP, since the CD is too small to allow one to fully appreciate the art.

Alas, Iron Butterfly in its prime--Lee Dorman, Ron Bushy, Erik Brann, and Doug Ingle--only lasted for two more albums, In-a-Gadda-da-Vida and Ball. After that, Brann and Dorman left, Ingle replaced his signature organ sound for a more generic approach, and the musical style that defined the group gave way to a more standard rock sound. But Heavy is a great portent of wonderful things to come, and it includes a few cuts that are just as memorable today as they were when I bought my first copy of this album back in 1969.

(I already have a 180g reissue of In-a-Gadda-da-Vida; now let's hope that someone decides to reissue the superlative Ball in the same audiophile format! Better still, Rhino or some other label devoted to quality 1960s reissues should assemble a box set that includes outtakes, B-sides, etc.)

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