I used to read this metal magazine that was published in Canada called "Metallion". It covered everything from hard rock to thrash metal and was great for featuring homegrown metal bands. There was also a page called "Roots of Metal" that featured bands like The Yardbirds, Ten Years After, Cream, Vanilla Fudge, and Iron Butterfly. I recall one part of the Iron Butterfly article that said after the fantastic success with "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", the same line-up returned to record an album that "sounded like it was recorded between someone's coffee breaks".
As for me, I don't view the album so derisively. "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" had some great moments but there was also the other side of Iron Butterfly, the Butterfly side that was pretty hippy dippy ("Flowers and Beads" anyone?).
"Ball" opens with a stunningly heavy intro complete with harsh power chords, cymbal crashes, and a bizarre dragging/pulsing effect that creates an ominous and forbidding atmosphere. The song itself is a cross between haunting and pretty with inserts of heavier moments, particularly near the song's conclusion. Though not as straightforward as say "Iron Butterfly Theme" or the short version of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", this song shows Iron Butterfly's darker side.
The rest of the album covers a variety of approaches, bringing in some light funk mixed with psychedelia like "Soul Experience", or the tension-filled "Real Fright" with its hurried suspense/spy movie bass line. There's Doug Ingle's balladeer vocal showcase, "Lonely Boy" which will either have you stabbing at the skip button right away or you might appreciate it for the effort. "This Must Be Love" sees a gradual building of psychedelic hard rock guitar, and "Belda Beast" is credited to young Eric Braun who shows of his vocal and guitar talents.
On "Ball" there's also an overall impression that Iron Butterfly was moving into more progressive territory. In particular, I find songs like "Her Favorite Style" and "Filled with Fear" feature an almost classical approach to composition in the way the guitar, bass and keyboard work together. The song structures take the album away from the standard pop song, and for that I actually find this album to be an interesting and enjoyable musical melange of psychedelic adventures. Of course such a mixed bag will have songs that bomb for some people, and I myself don't claim every effort to be a treat. In a way, this album is one of the last of its kind because heavy psych, heavy blues, and hard rock was taking a turn in 1969 and things were getting a whole lot heavier. Still, Braun makes some good use of his fuzz box at times.
Four stars for creativity but three for the overall result.