Mono Mondays: Iron Butterfly, Metamorphosis

Monday, August 18, 2014
Mono Mondays: Iron Butterfly, Metamorphosis

This week’s Mono Monday release is one of the more underrated albums in Iron Butterfly’s back catalog, which is to say that it’s an album that’s not In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

That’s the problem with having a signature album: it doesn’t take long for history to start treating that album as the only thing you ever released that was worth a damn. If you look back, though, you’ll see that Metamorphosis actually featured the second biggest chart hit of Iron Butterfly’s career: “Easy Rider (Let the Wind Pay the Way),” which made it to #66 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Originally released on August 13, 1970, Metamorphosis came on the heels of the possibly misguided decision to release follow two top-10 albums – the aforementioned In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, which came out in 1968, and Ball, which hit stores in ’69 – with a live album. Maybe it was intended as a stop-gap measure between studio albums, maybe it was because the band’s concerts were somewhat legendary and they wanted to try and share the experience with fans who hadn’t yet seen them, but while Live may have made it to #20 on the Billboard Top 200, it also came out only four months before Metamorphosis, which means that it very likely served to dilute the studio album’s sales.

Of course, you could just blame the lesser chart success of Metamorphosis – which only hit #16, a comparative disappointment after the previous two studio albums – on America’s love affair with Iron Butterfly beginning to wane. From a creative standpoint, however, the band was continuing to explore new musical territory, possibly because the band was exploring the abilities of a pair of new members: organist /vocalist Doug Ingle, bassist Lee Dorman, and drummer Ron Bushy had been joined by guitarist / vocalist Mike Pinera (late of Blues Image, the band behind “Ride Captain Ride”) and guitarist Larry Reinhardt. Unfortunately, not long after Metamorphosis hit record store shelves, Ingle departed the band, and if you can’t imagine a lineup of Iron Butterfly without an organist, then you can probably understand why the band opted to break up less than a year later. With that said, however, Iron Butterfly’s lone single without Ingle, “Silly Sally,” is actually a catchy horn-driven track with a strong blues influence. The problem, both then and now, is that it doesn’t sound anything like Iron Butterfly.

If all you know of Iron Butterfly’s back catalog is their biggest hit, then give Metamorphosis a spin. Like the title suggests, the band was going through an evolution at the time. It’s just unfortunate that it was to be the final album in their evolution…well, unless you count the two albums they did for MCA in 1975, but trust us, those efforts are closer to devolution.

(Okay, the MCA albums aren’t that bad – if nothing else, Scorching Beauty does feature “Pearly Gates,” a semi-duet with Jon Anderson – but all you have to do is listen to the title track of Sun and Steel to hear that this last incarnation of the band sounds even less like classic Iron Butterfly than “Silly Sally” does.)