C. J. Walsh
Iron Butterfly Live Fillmore East 1968
Fillmore East 1968 – Rhino Handmade - RHM2 526745
1968 saw the emergence of several US rock groups like Iron Butterfly and Steppenwolf who weren’t the least bit inclined to cover blues standards or in getting their audience dancing. This set of concerts predates by two months the atomic bomb that was In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, an album that would make Atlantic Records chief, Ahmet Ertegun quite pleased and launch a thousand full-throated, guitar bands. Here we have the four sets Iron Butterfly performed as opening act for Traffic and Blue Cheer at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East in NYC, where the IAGDV cover shot was taken.
There are four versions of the Iron Butterfly Theme, which depending on your taste, maybe three too many. Elsewhere, So-Lo offers a welcome down shift and Stamped Ideas shows off some sharp pop smarts. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, a coiled snake of a bad trip set to music gets two distinct airings. The version from disc two is tighter, with more of a raga sound. Doug Ingle’s organ, owing more than a little to Ray Manzarek, coupled with his almost comically animated voice, is still era-defining. The late Eric Brann’s guitar is frenetic and hyperactive throughout both discs, as befits a seventeen year-old prodigy.
Notwithstanding Rhino Handmade’s usual high standards, there are some sound issues, the percussion is dogged by a persistent hum and in several spots there’s a lack of bottom, but all in all, a minor quibble. The personnel and personal challenges the band faced and the back story of the concert is well-documented in liners by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke.
Post IAGDV, It looked as though it would be smooth sailing for Iron Butterfly. But there followed a series of bad breaks; some of their own making (a dearth of worthwhile material on 1969’s followup LP, Ball), some not (missing the chopper to play the Woodstock festival). But on this spring weekend they were in the vanguard; powerful, with a dynamism all their own.
Published in Ugly Things Magazine