While considered as “one hit wonders” often, psychedelic rock band Iron Butterfly have been around on/off for over five decades. Cherry Red Records’ latest release, Unconscious Power, is a box set consisting of the band’s output from 1967 to 1971. While Butterfly were not an entirely consistent band, this is a solid collection of psychedelic rock music
A little history
The history of Iron Butterfly is difficult to write about- consider how the band went through more than 40 line up changes. If anything, the band were formed in 1966 mainly by organist/singer Doug Ingle. The band would go through several line up changes prior to their debut album being released. By that point, the band consisted of Ingle, singer Darryl DeLoach, guitarist Danny Weiss, bassist Jerry Penrod and drummer Ron Bushy.
As per usual with box sets, I’ll be going through this set album by album.
Iron Butterfly’s debut album is a charmingly psychedelic trip- with a mix of soul and pop music. While only a half hour long, Heavy is still a fun album to listen to. As a whole, the songs all fit nicely on this album- with Doug Ingle’s organ playing being a stand out. However comparing this to other psychedelic rock from 1967, Heavy isn’t all that, well,…heavy. This is a little more “light” than “heavy” in terms of psychedelia here. Along with this, a few of the songs are fairly generic sounding. Despite some shortcomings, Heavy is a pleasantly melodic album.
Highlights: Possessions, Unconscious Power, You Can’t Win, So-Lo
When Ingle and Bushy were left the lone remaining members of the band, they brought in guitarist Eric Braunn and bassist Lee Dorman. With this, the band had found its classic line up. In 1968, the band released what might be their best album. From top to bottom, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is a great album. While it only features six songs, the band had found their footing here with an all around psychedelic classic. The 17-year-old Brann was a great addition to the band while Ingle’s organ playing stands out once again.
Highlights: Flowers and Beads, Are You Happy, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Most Anything You Want
Gadda‘s follow up was released in 1969- with the classic line up still intact. Despite this, Ball is a very mediocre album. While the first two albums were solid rock albums, Ball sees the band veering off into more of a lo-fi poppy sound. The results are, for the most part, are pretty boring. Despite its weaknesses, there are a few catchy tunes here- even if they are a little too poppy.
Highlights: In the Times of Our Lives, Lonely Boy, Belda Beast, Her Favorite Style
Braunn’s departure lead to the hiring of two new guitarists- Mike Pinera and Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt. This line-up’s lone album, Metamorphosis, is a blues/soul/funk effort. While better and more inspired than Ball, it’s not up to par with the first two albums. Still, this album has great production work and the band are in fine form. It’s not a particularly memorable album but it’s worth a listen.
Highlights: Stone Believer, New Day, Best Years of Our Lives, Easy Rider
Iron Butterfly would soon split in 1971. Towards the mid 1970s, the band would reunite with Ron Bushy and Erik Braunn at the helm. They would released another two albums- Scorching Beauty and Sun and Steel. Given that these albums were released on MCA (along with the master tapes possibly being lost in the Universal Fire from 2008), they are not included in this box set. As stated before, Iron Butterfly would reunite on/off- sometimes not featuring any of the members from the band’s first run. As of 2020, the band are still together- although Ron Bushy is the lone classic member still involved with the band.
Live (1970) & Fillmore East 1968 (2011)
Along with these four studio albums, there are two live albums- Live and Fillmore East 1968. Live is pretty much a slapped together effort, with most of the audience sounding fake. However, Fillmore East 1968 is surprisingly good. While it is rather lengthy with two discs, the band are on fire here. This was recorded with the classic line up and boy, do they sound great. However, I could’ve done without two performances of several songs. This could’ve easily been consolidated into a single disc live album but for what it is, I like it.
Live rating: 6/10
Fillmore rating: 7/10
As a whole, Unconscious Power is a strong offering from Cherry Red Records. The albums have all been newly remastered and you also have some liner notes to read from- featuring new interviews from Ron Bushy and Mike Pinera. Complete with the sleek box set design, this set should make all psychedelic rock enthusiasts happy.
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.