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Wednesday, June 28, 2023


Iron Butterfly


Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab ‎– MFSL 1-368, (2020, Jan.), promo.   

Originally released on ATCO Records – SD 33-250 (1968, June).


Global Appreciation: 9.3

- Music: A 

- Recording: 8.5

- Remastering + Lacquer Cutting: 9.3

- Pressing: 10

- Packaging: standard, non-laminated gatefold

Category: acid rock, psychedelic rock, heavy rock, proto-heavy metal.

Format: Vinyl (180 gram LP at 33 1/3 rpm). 


Doug Ingle – Vox Continental organ, vocals

Erik Brann – lead guitar, vocals (track 4)

Ron Bushy – drums, percussion.

Lee Dormam – bass, backing vocals.

Additional credits:

Produced by Jim Hilton.

Recorded May 1968 at Ultra-Sonic Studios in Hempstead, New York, and Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, California. 

Engineered by Don Casale.

Remastered and lacquer cut by Krieg Wunderlich at Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in Sebastopol, CA.

Plated and Pressed by RTI, CA, USA.

Artwork design by Loring Eutemey.

Photography by Stephen Paley.

Jeff Beck


Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab ‎– MFSL 1-368, (2021, July), promo.   

Originally released on Columbia – SCX 6293 (1968, July).


Global Appreciation: 9.8

- Music: A 

- Recording: 9.5

- Remastering + Lacquer Cutting: 9.8

- Pressing: 10

- Packaging: standard, non-laminated gatefold

Category: blues rock, heavy rock, psychedelic rock.

Format: Vinyl (2x180 gram LPs at 45 rpm). 


Jeff Beck – electric, acoustic, pedal steel guitar, vocals.

Rod Stewart – lead vocals. 

Ron Wood – bass.

Micky Waller – drums.

Additional Personnel:

John Paul Jones – bass, Hammond organ.

Nicky Hopkins – piano

Keith Moon – drums, timpani.

Additional credits:

Arranged by Jeff Beck.

Produced by Mickie Most.

Recorded May 1968 at Abbey Road, Olympic, and De Lane Lea, in London. 

Engineered by Ken Scott.

Remastered and lacquer cut by Krieg Wunderlich and assisted by Rob LoVerde at Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in Sebastopol, CA.

Plated and Pressed by RTI, CA, USA.

Artwork design by Loring Eutemey.

Photography by (front cover) Stephen Goldblatt.

Photography by Don Hunstein.

Evaluated by Claude Lemaire

By 1968, the sweet Summer of Love was long gone, but the strong scent of acid still permeated the air-waves within the burgeoning quickly-evolving rock scene. Unlike nowadays where music trends seem to stretch on for years, back then at the height of rock's creativity, it was way easier to pinpoint key moments in time, paired with seminal releases. Such was the case with Iron Butterfly's second album and Jeff Beck's debut, where suddenly a new word entered the rock lexicon–heavy.   

Certainly the seeds were planted as early as July 1965 when the Yardbirds, which nested under one same roof guitar-gods Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, entered the American charts with the album For Your Love featuring the title-track, followed in November with Having a Rave Up reprising Bo Diddley's 1955 hit "I'm a Man", and Tiny Bradshaw's 1951 jump blues track "The Train Kept A-Rollin'"–later renamed "Stroll On" for the 1966 mystery thriller film Blow-up.

"Train Kept A-Rollin'" left the station once more aboard Aerosmith's second album Get Your Wings in March 1974. Then in December 1966, two British power trios made their first appearance into record stores: Cream–consisting of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker–and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The former made a fresh debut with Fresh Cream while Seattle-born Hendrix accompanied by Brits Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell exploded into a "Purple Haze" in March 1967, codified two months later by their debut Are You Experienced. 

In November, Cream's second album Disraeli Gears featuring "Sunshine of Your Love" and "Tales of Brave Ulysses" cemented the foundation of acid rock, which was basically heavy, distorted, blues-based rock laced with potent psychedelic side effects. 

San Francisco-based power trio Blue Cheer's revolutionary interpretation of "Summertime Blues"–from their debut Vincebus Eruptum in January 1968–was at the time the heaviest rock on the planet, serving as a template for heavy metal. That same month, Iron Butterfly released their debut album entitled Heavy–the first time that term came into prominence. 

Success for the San Diego, California quintet, newly turned quartet, really hit the jackpot in June with the release of their second LP In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, thanks largely to its title track. The album sold in excess of 8 million copies during its first year, going on to sell 30 million over the years! Lasting just over 17 minutes, the song, whose title stems from "In the Garden of Eden", dominated the entire second side–a trend we would soon encounter in 1970s prog, space rock, and Eurodisco. Technically it is not the very first rock song to stretch the time domain–Bob Dylan's "Sad Eye Lady of the Lowlands" from side four of Blonde on Blonde, and the Mothers of Invention's "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" from side four of Freak Out!, both released in June 1966, and around 12 minutes-long, show such precedent. 

But "IAGDV" remains the first commercial track approaching the average-max. length of an LP side. The brief Vox Continental organ intro played by singer Doug Ingle establishes the song's psychedelic credentials. Its hypnotic modal minor-key main riff was definitely heavily-inspired from the aforementioned "Sunshine of Your Love". So much so that it would not have surprised me had Cream challenged them in court for copying their riff as we've witnessed with other formations throughout history. Ron Bushy's famous two-and-a-half-minute drum solo was one of the first recorded on a rock record, but here again they were beaten by drummer Ginger Baker for Cream's "Toad" from Fresh Cream which also inspired drummer Jon Bonham on "Moby Dick" from Led Zeppelin II. We can also perceive in Cozy Powell's 1973 drum solo classic "Dance with the Devil" some of Bushy's work. 

The five songs on side A rarely get any airplay or proper recognition but are nonetheless worth our attention. "Most Anything You Want" starts off the album on a good sixties vibe with vocals riding over a steady beat, and warm fuzzy guitar intertwined with the organ, borrowing a few times from The Doors' "Light My Fire" opening organ riff. "Flowers and Beads" is another example of a track that reflects more the festive 'flowers in your hair' ethos from the preceding summer's innocent 'Cisco times than it does the heavier, darker tone of the title track's . It reminds me of The Turtles' huge hit "Happy Together"–timely with The Doors' release–from January 1967. Again the vocal interplay between BVs and main are at odds with what we are accustomed on "IAGDV". With its churchy organ and drum crescendo intro, "My Mirage" mimics more the psychedelic overtones you would find from The Savage Resurrection. 

Ditto for "Termination". The high octane "Are You Happy" closes the side, and is without doubt the track that rocks the house the most. Its drums, organ, and vocals pounding away, punching all the stops, the kind of heavy metal energy you'd find from Deep Purple circa early-1970s, and for which I would have expected more as the opening track.

While their debut was produced by Charles Greene and Brian Stone, on this one it was Jim Hilton, who the following year, did a last one for their third LP Ball. 

Don Casale engineered the album at Ultra-Sonic Studios in Hempstead, New York in May 1968. Supposedly he asked the group to play so he could set the mics' levels, then hit the 'record' button, during which the band performed "IAGDV" without stopping for 17 minutes. Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, California are also credited.

As with the original pressing, the MoFi jacket is not a gatefold but simply a replica of the regular outer sleeve which they add a pink strip at the top. It comprises inside their usual folded cardboard to add protection to the record housed in their inner HDPE sleeves. The source used was the 1/4" / 15 IPS analog master tape transferred to DSD 256, then to their analog console and lathe. MoFi's Krieg Wunderlich remastered and cut it at 33 1/3 rpm leaving just shy of a half-inch of dead wax on side A and a touch more on side B–logical given the approximate two and a half minutes difference between sides. RTI pressed it on 180g regular formula for release in January 2020, and reissued it on 180g SuperVinyl in November 2021. I got the regular vinyl version only, which means there could exist some minor sonic differences between both pressing formulas.

I don't have the original US pressing, but I do have a first Canadian "yellow and white stripe" ATCO pressing which never sounded very good. Having too much reverb on the vocals and the mix in general, it is quite compressed, middy, lacking low end bottom, and top octave extension and finesse; so much so that it rarely spins on my platter. Definitely not an audiophile demo-disc to put it mildly. 

Unsurprising, the MoFi easily clobbers it with much more bass, warmth, wider soundstage, treble extension and refinement, and greater dynamics. It is evident that there was way less–or perhaps even no–compression on the MoFi, as the vocals and organ now jump in and out from the mix like I've never heard before. Also the reverb is nearly absent, lending the vocals a more natural rawness that on first glance may need some acclimatization to forget what we're used to hearing but it didn't take long that in the end I preferred this presentation. I tend to favor dryer presentations than reverberant ones most of the time, finding them more intimate and immediate-sounding. Both sides were similarly well balanced having crisp fuzzy guitar and organ sounds.

The drums and bass instrument were also good, but being roundish I would have wished for just a sliver more articulation in their attack, but compared with my old Canadian first pressing which was anemic in that area, there is no contest, and I'm guessing MoFi extracted all they could out of a compromised master tape to begin with. The drum solo of the title track was of course more exciting given the better presence of all the toms. Due to its 17 minute duration, a double-45 rpm edition seems practically impossible, as splitting this iconic track on two sides would destroy its unique hypnotic appeal. My pressing was perfectly silent. It may not be the best rock recording out there, but it is certainly the best remastering, cutting, and pressing of this album I've heard. Plus it is now my go-to record to show someone what is the quintessential acid rock song. Sadly it is sold out in both vinyl formulations, but fortunately is still available from many vendors on the web. Well worth it!

Meanwhile, in November 1966, amid strong tensions within the group, Jeff Beck left the Yardbirds to fly on his own. In the spring of 1967, he recruited vocalist Rod Stewart, bassist Ron Wood, and drummer Micky Waller to work on what would become his debut album registered under his own name–rebranding under the 'Jeff Beck Group' name only on the second album, Beck-Ola, a year later. 

Released in July 1968–just a month after Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida–Truth may not have met the same level of sales success as the latter, but the LP proved as pivotal if not more so in the development of heavy rock, and to a certain extent, forecasting elements found in hard rock from the 1970s. As well it had a lasting influence on many of the great guitarists who followed, fashioning their intricate solos, sound, and so on. On their second album, Led Zeppelin's Page and Plant preached about a "Heartbreaker"; well the truth is, Truth was a true groundbreaker serving as a bluesprint for Led Zep's formative years.

In many instances listening to Beck's debut, you're asking yourself 'Is this some lost Zeppelin material that was kept aside?' Except that it's not; in fact it appeared nearly six months prior to Zep's debut. The common thread underlining all of these groups and records was the blues–more specifically electric blues or Chicago blues. Brought to American cities by older black artists, it was reappropriated mostly through the lens of young white British musicians–Hendrix seeming to be the exception here–magnifying the density and distortion of their instruments, and playing in a harder aggressive style.

The album comprises ten tracks with a mixture of originals by Beck and Stewart, blues covers, and traditionals. It starts with a total reworking of the Yardbirds' February 1966 landmark single "Shape of Things", which, with its feedback-fuzzy-distorted Eastern-scaled guitar solo, started the whole psychedelic rock movement, and influenced Hendrix, Clapton, and so many others. 

Here it is transformed into a slower, heavier rock vibe, where right from the get-go we can hear future echoes of Deep Purple's "Highway Star" intro from 1972's Machine Head. 

Rod's raspy voice fits perfectly with Beck's twisting, distortion-driven guitar. Waller pummels the drums with Wood by his side. Buddy Guy's 1961 Chicago blues single "Let Me Love You Baby" gets revamped–dropping the 'Baby'–as simply "Let Me Love You", into a blues rock track with a tambourine that heralds "Heartbreaker" cited earlier. "You Shook Me" is a blues rock cover of a 1962 Muddy Waters, Earl Hooker blues song written by Willie Dixon. Future Led Zep bassist John Paul Jones plays the organ on it. 

Of course Led Zep gave it their own twist on their self-titled debut in January 1969 being heavier and more psychedelic, and much superior in my opinion. Originally a 1927 show tune from the musical Show Boat, "Ol' Man River" is riveting as Rob rests his expressive vocals on Beck's slow motion, deep bass foundation, accompanied by John Paul Jones on Hammond organ, and Keith Moon on tympani. The traditional "Greensleeves" dates back to 1580 and here is kept simple, interpreted by Beck soloing on acoustic guitar while waiting for Most to arrive in the studio. One can ponder if Page didn't borrow a page or two from Beck when he played the acoustic intro to "Stairway to Heaven" from Led Zep's fourth album in 1971. 

"Beck's Bolero" borrows from Ravel's famous Boléro dating back to 1928. Originally recorded in May 1966 as a Beck side project, and released as the B-side of "Hi Ho Silver Lining" in March 1967, it took on greater prominence after its inclusion on Truth. Instrumental, it features Beck, Jimmy Page on twelve-string electric guitar, John Paul Jones on bass, The Who's drummer Keith Moon–who at the time was not in best terms with his bandmates–and Nicky Hopkins on piano. "Blues Deluxe" appears to be a live recording but was in fact done in studio with some minor added "fake audience" effects. 

Producer Mickie Most hoped to turn Beck more into a pop star than a true rock star guitarist, which did not sit well with Beck. It resulted in Most being in the studio mostly only during the mix, while manager, and soon-to-be Led Zep manager, Peter Grant, who supported Beck's creative vision, attended the entire recording sessions. 

Coincident with Iron Butterfly–it was recorded in May 1968 by Ken Scott at Abbey Road, Olympic, and De Lane Lea studios, in London. Keep in mind that Ken Scott is the magnificent engineer behind the incredible-sounding Supertramp 1974 album Crime of the Century.

As well as an insane list of iconic rock and fusion albums spanning more than two decades from the Beatles to Bowie to Lou Reed, to America, to Stanley Clarke, just to name a few. In fact he even co-wrote a book aptly named Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust. As most of the songs were recorded live in the studio, it took roughly a week and a half only to complete! And it shows in spades since you can feel the powerful performance and energy the band delivers. Stewart's vocals were superbly captured with a Neumann KM-54–a cardioid 'pencil' tube condenser mic–surprisingly hand-held as the singer felt more at ease than facing the typical fixed mic. They had to wrap sponge around it to minimize unwanted handling noises.

Whereas the original UK pressing had a regular sleeve; adding their turquoise top strip, MoFi created a nice gatefold jacket. Opening it, printed in B&W, we find on the left side, Beck standing in shirt and suspenders while on the right, the band standing shirtless.

Inside each sleeve opening we find their usual folded cardboard to add protection to the record housed in their inner HDPE sleeves. The source was the 1/4" / 15 IPS analog master tape transferred to DSD 256, then to their analog console and lathe. MoFi's Krieg Wunderlich assisted by Rob LoVerde, remastered and cut it at 45 rpm leaving about a third of the vinyl area reserved for the dead wax on all sides. RTI pressed it on 180g regular formula for release in July 2021. 

And the Grammy Goes To...

I don't have the original UK on Columbia nor any other pressing to compare with. 

What I can confirm is that MoFi's remastering and cutting is as perfect as can be, surpassing most if not all of my top-sounding heavy or hard rock references such as my all time favorite Deep Purple's 1972 Made in Japan on the Gray-Hoffman remastered DCC, Rush's 1976 2112 on the original 'JAMF' Mercury, and most tracks of Led Zep's 1969 II on the first Canadian 'red' Atlantic pressing. 

The tonal balance is spot on with punchy, groovy bass and kick, guitar and vocals at just the right level to get enough presence without assaulting the ears, intimate, wide soundstage, and appropriate dynamics for this rock genre. Very organic, meaty, and analog-sounding. The bass in "Ol' Man River" in the right channel sounds seismic in scale! "Beck's Bolero"–recorded at an earlier date–was the only track that the sound, though far from bad, was not outstanding or on the same level as the rest of the album. Its cymbals were less refined and extended, and the tonal balance was more centered in the mids, and compressed, in the end refraining me from giving a perfect score of 10. Rumour has it, Moon would have knocked off an overhead mic while playing, curtailing the top end, which could explain my sonic comments above. 

Even though this remastering is not a 'One Step', I would assert it still surpasses certain of them, incredible as that may seem. This is the kind of sound one would have wished for Led Zep's self-titled debut instead of the subpar sonics we are stuck with from every pressing of the latter I've heard. In other words, this Truth is simply incredible! Sadly, like the Iron Butterfly release it is sold out, but is still available from many vendors on the web. If you feel forced to choose between 'Butterfly and Beck because of budgetary constraints, I would recommend going with the latter for purely sonic reasons, or musically, if you're more attracted toward blues than acid.

Subsequently, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood joined forces with Faces–formely Small Faces–in 1969. Later Stewart, would go on to have a long and successful solo career while Wood, in 1975, became a Rolling Stones.  

Throughout the 1970s and beyond, Beck chose to explore less commercial jazz rock fusion genres, while Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham–briefly touring as The New Yardbirds–took the "Stairway to Heaven", to become one of the biggest bands the world had ever seen.

Reference List (Singles, albums, and labels): 

The Seeds [GNP Crescendo GNPS 2023]

For Your Love [Epic LN 24167]

Having a Rave Up [Columbia SCXC 28]

"I'm a Man" [Checker 814]

"The Train Kept A-Rollin'" [King Records 4497 (78 rpm) or 45-4497]

Get Your Wings [Columbia KC 32847]

Fresh Cream [DCC Compact Classics LPZ-2015]

"Purple Haze" [Track Record 604001]

Are You Experienced [Experience Hendrix, Legacy 88697 62395 1]

Disraeli Gears [Reaction 594 003 or ATCO Records SD 33-232]

Vincebus Eruptum [Philips PHS 600-264]

Heavy [ATCO Records SD 33-227]

Blonde on Blonde [MoFi MFSL 3-45009]

Freak Out! [Verve Records V6-5005-2]

Led Zeppelin II [Atlantic SD 8236]

"Dance with the Devil" [RAK RAK 164]

"Light My Fire" [DCC Compact Classics LPZ-2046]

"Happy Together" [White Whale WW S-7114]

The Savage Resurrection [Mercury  SR-61156]

Ball [ATCO Records SD 33-280]

Beck-Ola [Columbia SCX 6351]

"Shape of Things" [Columbia DB 7848]

Machine Head [Purple Records TPSA 7504]

"Let Me Love You Baby" [Chess 1784]

"You Shook Me" [Chess 1827]

"Hi Ho Silver Lining" [Columbia DB 8151]

Crime of the Century [MoFi MFSL 1-005]

Made in Japan [DCC Compact Classics LPZ-2052]

2112 [Mercury SRM-1-1079]

Led Zeppelin [Classic Records – Atlantic SD 8216]


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