ABKCO Records releases the first-ever vinyl hits collection by The Animals.
The Animals – Retrospective – ABKCO Records 9973-1 180-gram stereo double vinyl, ****1/2:
(Eric Burdon – lead vocals, and others – complete roster below)
As the 1960’s British Invasion hit the U.S., there was a key ingredient…American blues music. Groups like Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Rolling Stones, Spencer Davis Group and even pop-oriented entities like The Beatles and The Kinks covered blues in their early incarnations. One of these English bands that seemed to embrace this influence was The Animals. Fronted by singer Eric Burdon and with keyboardist Alan Price, singles like “The House Of The Rising Sun”, “Boom Boom”, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” and “See See Rider” launched this band. Whether as The Animals, Eric Burdon & The Animals or Eric Burdon & War, blues music remained a key element of this band. For nearly a decade, they were on the charts.
ABKCO Records has released a 180-gram double vinyl of The Animals greatest hits, titled Retrospective. Side 1 opens with the song that started it all, “House Of The Rising Sun”. Originally a traditional gospel hymn, this arrangement features mournful organ (Alan Price), crisp guitar (Hilton Valentine) and Burdon’s trademark gritty vocals. Next up is a pop composition (“I’m Crying”) by Burdon/Price. This is 1964 England and the band is rocking. With some r & b attitude, The Animals rip through “Gonna Send You Back To Walker”. In a tribute to the inimitable John Lee Hooker, (“Boom Boom”). Burdon captures the boldness of this iconic figure. The instrumentals are tight. They do a sprightly pop-inspired version of Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. This added to the ongoing controversy surrounding rock musicians recording blues and soul music. Side B kicks off with a Sam Cooke classic, “Bring It On Home To Me”. Then, three quintessential Animal singles distill the angry societal disillusionment of this group. “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” (written by the Brill Building team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil) is expressed with menacing undertones that explode into the title chorus. Burdon’s intensity carries this one. Like The Who’s “My Generation”, “It’s My Life” is a rebellious anthem that connected with its youthful audience. Another Brill Building songwriting duo Carole King & Gerry Goffin provide another template for an angry scorned young man on “Don’t Bring Me Down”. Price shines on piano and organ while Chas Chandler (bass) and Valentine build a psychedelic tapestry. Of course, there is another cover, this time a rollicking cover of Ma Rainey’s “See See Rider”. It includes a memorable guitar/organ unison and incendiary vocals.
In 1966, both Price and Chandler were no longer with the band. Here, there seems to be a shift toward commercial rock music. Side C has a Donovan song (“Hey Gyp”) that is the last Animals recording and a Weiss English tune (“Help Me Girl”) that embrace slicker production and contemporary motifs. There are three songs that reflect the collaboration of the new players”When I Was Young” is jagged with a peculiar Middle Eastern flavor. Again the feeling of loss of youthful innocence is framed against a hard-charging rock arrangement. As 1967 rolls around, the commitment to psychedelia is evident on the guitar-hooks and marimba accents of “A Girl Named Sandoz”. The appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival is reflected in the name-dropping memoir, “Monterey”. “San Francisco Nights” is a laid-back hippie reverie, unlike previous material. Side 4 has two standout tracks. “Sky Pilot” is an ultimate anti-war narrative. This seven-and-a-half number became a staple of underground FM radio. There are plenty of assorted studio effects (planes, bagpipes, guitars) set against the plaintive lyrics enveloped in strings and reeds..The “retrospective” concludes with the hypnotic Eric Burdon & War hit “Spill The Wine”. This jazzy stream-of consciousness hit has a Latin-infused resonance that is brilliant and inventive.
ABKCO Records has done a great job in putting together the musical compendium of The Animals. For the most part, these recordings stand the test of time. The Animals – Retrospective should be a part of any vinyl rock library.
The Animals — Retrospective
Side 1: House Of The Rising Sun; I’m Crying; Baby Let Me Take You Home; Gonna Send You Back To Walker; Boom Boom; Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
Side 2: Bring It On Home To Me; We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (U.S. Single); It’s My Life; Don’t Bring Me Down; See See Rider; Inside-Looking Out
Side 3: Hey Gyp; Help Me Girl; When I Was Young; A Girl Named Sandoz; San Franciscan Nights; Monterey
Side 4: Anything; Sky Pilot; White Houses; Spill The Wine.
(Eric Burdon – lead vocals; Byron “Chas” Chandler – bass, vocals; Barry Jenkins – drums; Alan Price – organ, piano, vocals; Dave Rowberry – organ, piano, vocals; John Steel – drums; Hilton Valentine – guitar, vocals; Vic Briggs – guitar, piano, vibes;George Bruno – Hammond organ, piano; Danny McCullough – bass; John Welder – guitar, violin; Thomas “Papa Dee” Allen – percussion; Harold Brown – drums; Morris “B.B.” Dickerson – bass; Lonnie Jordan – organ; Charles Miller – flute; Lee Oskar – harmonica; Howard Scott – guitar plus many others)
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