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Iron Butterfly – Live at the Galaxy, 1967 (2014)

Does it drive anyone else crazy that the band photo on the back of this LP (and on the inner sleeve) is not the lineup featured on the album? It drives me crazy. Is it an example of a record company not giving a crap… or is there some particular reason that the album art doesn’t feature the 5 guys who actually recorded this? ARGH

Photography issues aside, my biggest complaint is that a lot of the songs (especially on side 1) just sound like some crappy garage band practicing. They are loud and sloppy. There are a lot of really rough notes and some very bad guitar solos. Essentially: it’s just noisy.

Ron Bushy is spectacular on the drums throughout, though. The man is a beast. He has an amazing way of using the drums to create an atmosphere and not just keep time.

Aside from the beginnings of “Real Fright” and “So-Lo” I had a hard time hearing Jerry Penrod’s bass, so I can’t really say how it sounds, though it was pretty cool on “Real Fright”. Noteably, it’s interesting to hear both “Real Fright” and “Lonely Boy” from this 1967 concert, because neither was officially released until their third album, “BALL”, from 1969.

My opinion overall is that the band was incredibly lucky when Darryl DeLoach and Danny Weis left because they both contributed the majority of the awful bits on this recording (and on “Evil Temptation” in particular). Thankfully Doug Ingle took over all the vocal duties after “Heavy”, and they found guitarist Erik Brann to lay down “Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida”.

Track by Track:

A1 – “Real Fright” has cool bass, but I can’t get past Darryl DeLoach’s dreadful singing. He honestly sounds like he is trying to mock a particular singing style (crooners maybe?). Or else he just really CAN’T sing AND has a lisp. I really can’t quite make my mind up about it.

A2 – “Possession” is nicely done and captures the really cool vibe of the studio recording. Ron Bushy’s drumming, as always, is awesome.

A3 – “Filled With Fear” just sounds like it would have been a bad trip at the Galaxy Club. It’s very blunt, creepy, and flat. The petulant vocals in the middle, when Doug Ingle sings “I’m filled with fear” sound particularly amateurish.

A4 – “Fields of Sun”, one of my favourite tracks from the “Heavy” album is pretty clumpy here. It feels like the guys are just stomping a 4/4 beat with their feet and and every note MUST be on the beat with no room to breathe. Clompety-clomp-clomp.

A5 and A6 – “It’s Up to You” and “Gloomy Day To Remember” are interesting early Butterfly curiosities that never got the studio treatment, but IMHO they’re pretty disposable and I can understand why they were never brought in for an album.

A7 – I got a kick out of hearing “Evil Temptation” with lyrics, and the band sounds like they’re having a blast. Overall it’s pretty good, but some of the improvised bits comes across as “this sounded better in our heads”. This was the standout track on side 1, for me.

Side 2 was a bit more interesting.

B1 – “So-Lo” sounded really good, and very similar to the version that ended up on “Heavy”, despite Darryl DeLoach’s “singing”. The lead guitar, especially during the bridge, is a little more “country” than what was finally decided on for the album version, which is an interesting contrast.

B2 – “Gentle as It May Seem” was messy, but was a lot of fun and actually sound like some kind of proto-punk rock, albeit 10 years too soon. DeLoach’s calls of “come here woman” sound pretty unconvincing, though.

B3 – “Lonely Boy” is pretty true to the studio version we’re familiar with, though I’m still not sold on Danny Weis’ guitar playing ability. Nevertheless, it still manages to be the only track on this album to feature any applause from the audience!

B4 – “Iron Butterfly Theme”…. FINALLY! I am sold that Danny Weis can play guitar. This sounds fantastic despite being one of the weaker tracks in the set.

B5 – “You Can’t Win” is a strong track and definitely has that unidentifiable Iron Butterfly charm.

On my pressing of the LP, however, there were two places that sound like a digital file was badly synced. There is a moment of silence that shows up in the middle of two songs (“Iron Butterfly Theme” and “You Can’t Win”). When I examined the music digitally after ripping the vinyl (using Audacity), I noticed that by deleting only the silence, the resulting playback was pretty smooth. I don’t think the silence was an artifact that was present on the original master tape.

You know how some songs just run straight into each other on a CD or an LP (for example, the Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper (reprise)” and “A Day in the Life”)? If you make separate MP3s of each song, there is sometimes a momentary pause when you play back the MP3s; it is rare that there is a seamless playback. This is what the silences on this LP sound like, which leads me to believe that the album was probably sourced from a CD or a DAT and that there was no actual mastering for this vinyl release; just a straight digital to vinyl transfer.

In the end, I think the lack of audience enthusiasm kind of sums this recording up, LOL! There isn’t even a smattering of polite applause between any of the songs (bar “Lonely Boy”), and during the first few notes of “Real Fright” someone can clearly be heard yelling at the band to “Go Home” and telling them it’s “terrible”. I am a big fan of their late 60s studio albums though, so thankfully they persisted, haha!

This album is definitely NOT recommended unless you’re a REALLY hardcore fan. I thought I was…but maybe I’m not even hardcore enough for this album. It will likely gather dust in my collection. I can’t really see any circumstances under which I will drag it out for a spin on purpose.

Am I glad I had a chance to hear it? Hell yeah!
Am I excited to own it? Er…no. Not so much.

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