This album stands as something of a minor landmark, musically -- as far back as the late '70s, its presence in used record bins attracted a great deal of attention from historically minded collectors, as a genuine live recording of its era, and of a hard rock, heavy metal band, at that. Not too many concert recordings were attempted in hard rock in those days, and even a lot of what was issued in the way of live albums -- John Lennon's Live Peace in Toronto and the Rolling Stones' Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! come to mind -- were done under duress, as an attempt to undermine bootlegs that had shown up. And when one considers that Atlantic Records never even got around to recording the Rascals in concert, the very existence of Iron Butterfly Live can only be regarded something of a gift (though one that a lot of us would gladly trade for a period concert recording of Felix Cavaliere, et. al). As a concert document from the spring of 1969, the album shows off the group's strengths, which mostly take the form of a lot of raw energy and some entertaining keyboard flourishes from Doug Ingle -- lead guitarist Erik Braunn, who was to leave the group less than a year later, doesn't fare quite as well in the mix, which was one of the inherent problems with recording a hard rock band in concert during this era, although one can still make out some of the flashier aspects of his playing. And bassist Lee Dorman gets a great showcase throughout. Not surprisingly, given the nature of concerts and audiences in those days, there's not a lot of subtlety on display, but power and intensity count for something here. Additionally, the album is a document about how the group's second lineup, with Braunn and Dorman, approached material from the first album, such as "You Can't Win"; and it gives us a glimpse of the concert versions of "Filled with Fear," "Soul Experience," and "In the Time of Our Lives" from Ball. There are moments when the group might be aspiring to a Doors-like seriousness on some of this material, though Ingle isn't a good enough singer nor the band sufficiently articulate to bring that off. As for the live "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," it adds just a few flourishes and some longer solos to the studio original, which was a live-in-the-studio performance anyway. The sound is surprisingly good, given the technology in use and the era in which it was recorded.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder