Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

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  • Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second; quiet vinyl too!
  • The title track is clean, open, rich and solid, and the vocals aren’t screechy (for once!)
  • Both sides are smooth, rich and Tubey Magical, which means the album is actually enjoyable
  • 4 1/2 stars Allmusic: “The epitome of heavy psychedelic excess… the group’s definitive album.” 

We’ve heard some awful, awful, just really awful sounding pressings of this album over the course of the last twenty years. If you own the album you know what I’m talking about.

Clean originals that we’d hoped would have the goods rarely lasted more than 30 seconds on our table, they were that bad.

But that was part of the problem – the originals on the plum and gold label tend to be more crude and distorted than the yellow label reissues. That was just dumb “original is better” record collector thinking. If anybody should know better, it’s us.

When we finally got hold of some promising reissues it was only a matter of time before a shootout could be scheduled. In the case of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, finding enough clean copies took us about five years. One of two a year, that’s how many clean copies we can find by going to multiple, high volume, high turnover record stores here in L.A. every week.

Dubby-Da-Vida

The craziest thing we learned in our shootout is that something close to half of all the yellow label, authentic, non-record-club Atco copies we played had clearly been mastered from a dub tape on side two, the side with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

We’re guessing that at some point after 1968, when it came time to recut the record, the cutting master for side two was either damaged or couldn’t be found. Not a problem the label says to itself, we have a safety tape we can copy and use for side two.

Problem solved, except for the fact that on those copies In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida sounds like a cassette playing on a machine with worn out heads. The sound is smeary, veiled, small and recessed — all but unlistenable.

That was a shock, but the other shock we experienced was much more to our liking: hearing that the sound of the best copies is actually surprisingly good.

Psychedelic Rock

What the best sides of this Classic Album have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl domestic pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1968
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now.

Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Most Anything You Want
Flowers and Beads
My Mirage
Termination
Are You Happy

Side Two

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

AMG Review

With its endless, droning minor-key riff and mumbled vocals, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is arguably the most notorious song of the acid rock era. According to legend, the group was so stoned when they recorded the track that they could neither pronounce the title “In the Garden of Eden” or end the track, so it rambles on for a full 17 minutes, which to some listeners sounds like eternity.

But that’s the essence of its appeal — it’s the epitome of heavy psychedelic excess, encapsulating the most indulgent tendencies of the era.