Even the review in the book skips past Side A, and given the fact that it’s Iron Butterfly and the title of the album, you can’t really blame them – let’s face it, we all know why you’re listening to this. That sprawling, 17 minute beast of a title track has been said to be the “Rock around the Clock” of heavy metal, a standout epic that launched a genre. Not sure I’d agree entirely, but it’s still a damn fine tune.
But before we skip to that last track, there’s a lot of interesting things going on here. That Iron Butterfly sound is familiar throughout, with brutal drum and keyboard mixing with lead guitar to stretch the rock side of psychedelia just a bit more. What’s weird is that the sound gets heavier and more fiery as the album progresses – opener “Most Anything You Want” sounds like a slightly meatier Byrds track, and “Flowers and Beads” is 60s pop. But by the time you move past the slightly trancier “My Mirage”, things start to get interesting.
“Termination” starts off with a riff that almost sounds like funk, and that keyboard sound feels full on and intense, before some spectacular drum moments. And it goes up one more notch for the catchy “Are You Happy?”, which has some musical motifs that remind you of the title track, as well as a blinding drum solo and some impressive guitar work to match it.
Still, there’s no denying that Side 1 is just the support act, and “In a Gadda Da Vida” is a song that is just incredible even 46 years after its first release. Named after the keyboardist’s drunken slurring of the original title “In the Garden of Eden”, this track invites you in from the first opening bars of keyboard and you know that this is 17 minutes that won’t go to waste. You can see the allusions to heavy metal with the lead guitar riff, but the keyboard work and vocals keep this track firmly planted in the sixties. It’s tighter than a lot of extended jams like Love’s “Revelation” off “Da Capo”, and is just as well-known in its full length finery as as an edited-down four minute track, thanks to that gorgeous drum solo, beloved of DJ’s bladders everywhere.
Of course, the seventies were fast approaching and so this kind of sprawling epic that seemed such a novelty would soon become tediously routine. And still, existing in a world where heavy metal and prog rock had yet to be born, this stands out as a monumental classic, and also, trivia fans, the first album ever to go platinum. Well deserved.
Oh, and you didn’t think I wasn’t going to include this did you?