The Animals – Animal Tracks – EMI (10″ vinyl)

The Animals – Animal Tracks – EMI (1965)/ Abkco (2016) 8499-1 mono 10” 45 rpm vinyl, ***1/2:

Special vinyl EP reissue shows off The Animals’ blues prowess.

(Eric Burdon – vocals; Alan Price – piano, organ; Chas Chandler – bass, vocals; Hilton Valentine – guitar; John Steel – drums)

The British rock scene was formed by American blues. Most (if not all) of these bands began their careers with covers of blues music. The Rolling Stones took their band moniker from a song by the immortal Muddy Waters. Along with The Yardbirds, The Animals were among the finest purveyors of British blues. Formed in Newcastle upon Tyne in the early 1960s, the group was initially known as Alan Price Rhythm And Blues Combo. The original lineup featured Price (piano and organ), Eric Burdon (vocals), Chas Chandler (bass), Hilton Valentine (guitar) and John Steel (drums). The Animals became a renowned act when their organ-laced version of “House Of The Rising Sun” hit No. 1 in the U.S.

Burdon’s gritty vocals complemented Price’s musicality. Like their counterparts, the band continued to record American blues  (“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “Bring It On Home To Me”) and eventually created their own pop-based alchemy of this genre (“It’s My Life”, “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”). Personnel changes (Price became a solo artist and Chandler went on to manage Jimi Hendrix) ensued and The Animals enjoyed a modestly successful run as a rock act. But they never hit the peak triumph of their 1964-1965 run.

In conjunction with Record Store Day, Abkco Records has released a 10” 45 rpm EP titled Animal Tracks (not to be confused with the 1965 album of the same name). [Unusual in that there are a number of 12” 45 rpm vinyls but 10” ones are usually 33 1/3…Ed.] This is the fifth installment of the EP catalog and features four tracks of blues/rhythm and blues covers. It was produced by Mickie Most who helped the group develop their individual style. Side One opens with a rendition of Chuck Berry’s “How You’ve Changed”. This is slower blues with Price on piano. Burdon’s assured vocals are restrained and reflect a slow-burning intensity. The arrangement is minimal and features a piano solo. “I Believe To My Soul” (Ray Charles) has a spooky feel and Burdon cuts loose with increased wailing. Price, who is associated with The Animals for his organ, shines on piano with some jazziness. There are rhythm stops that are catchy.

Side Two injects some jauntiness with a raunchy take on the Shirley & Lee classic, “Let The Good Times Roll”. Price contributes barrelhouse piano riffs and Valentine chips in with discreet guitar licks. But it’s the final song (Big Maceo Merriweather’s eternal standard, “Worried Life Blues”) that captures the magic of The Animals. Switching to organ, Price creates a robust, expanded aural format that fits the group dynamics. Burdon’s deep voice articulates the blues narrative and Valentine’s guitar level is amped up.

The Animal Tracks EP will be attractive to vinyl collectors. It had only been available in the UK and Europe at the 1965 release. The mono sound is excellent at 45 rpm and the mix is vibrant. However, four cuts may not be enough for some listeners.

TrackList:

Side One: How You’ve Changed; I Believe To My Soul

Side Two: Let The Good Times Roll; Worried Life Blues

—Robbie Gerson

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