Iron Butterfly - Ball. 1969 USA
Select LP issues: 1969 Atlantic (Japan); 1969 Atco (UK)
Select CD reissues: 1989 Atco; 1999 Collectors' Choice; 2006 Victor (Japan mini-LP); 2015 Real Gone
Iron Butterfly. Sigh. Was there ever a group with more commercial potential, and then just fell off the face of the Earth? Maybe, but this band has to be at least in that conversation. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida wasn't just a good seller, it was a major blockbuster - the album that put album rock on the map. And it was highly influential to boot. One can hear the early Krautrock and UK Vertigo groups taking a page directly from it. They were, in effect, crowned to be America's own Led Zeppelin - a band that opened for them, before ultimately the other way around.
Ball is exactly the type of album that demonstrated why Iron Butterfly weren't meant for the big time. It's just so average. A band caught twixt and between heavy rock, pop rock, and psychedelic with no ambition. All played at 70% of capacity and enthusiasm. There's excellent stuff on here for certain, like 'In the Time of Our Lives', 'Filled With Fear' and 'Belda-Beast', but nothing mind blowing as on In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Doug Ingle was an immense talent. I don't get The Doors comparisons, other than they both had sonorous voices. Ingle was far more rough than Morrison, and had he come along a generation later, would have made for the perfect heavy metal lead singer. His keyboard style was born from the church (his dad's Midwest influence), and he sounds like he's playing a pipe organ sometimes. Ball should have been the album to project Iron Butterfly to the next level of creativity. But they seemed to recoil from the responsibility. 9 songs totaling 33 minutes, some of which are real throwaways. Nothing really memorable. It seems they didn't know their place in history and thus gave it away unceremoniously. And this was the album they did exactly that with. There's another chapter to tell here of course, but that's for my next review.
The Japanese mini-LP on Victor (2006) is highly likely sourced from an earlier CD - probably American. In other words, nothing special. Other than the packaging of course.