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Cream of The Crate: Album # 152 - The Animals: The Animals


  • Cream of The Crate: Album # 152 - The Animals: The Animals

    "The Animals was a bunch of egotists." (Eric Burdon)
    No white singer of the British beat boom sounded blacker than the Animals' Eric Burdon, and no English band of the era deserved to sing the blues more."(Rolling Stone)

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    This is album review number one hundred and fifty two in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and CD albums from my collection.

    The series is called Cream of The Crate and each review represents an album that I believe represents significant musical value, either because of its rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of a music or because there is something unique about the music, the group or the particular production. The first fifty reviews were based on vinyl albums from my collection, with the following fifty on CD albums from my collection. Links to all these reviews can be found at the bottom of the page.

    There is absolutely no reason why this weeks group could not have been reviewed in any given previous week except, I just never dug deep enough into my crate. They have been around since the early 1960's and are the best known groups to come out of Newcastle in the UK.

    The group is
    The Animals and this is their first album, self titled - The Animals. The album was released on the vinyl format in 1964 and this is the original English pressing that I am using in this retro-review. Released on the Starline label (a subsidiary of EMI), and it has the identifying code of SRS 5006. The album has 12 tracks many of them going on to be considered as Animal classics.

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    Like many groups from that wonderful period of musical development and adaption, the story of the Animals is a story that most readers should have some grasp on. So if it's going to be retold I think rather than simply draw on my memories and scattered notes in books from my old radio days, maybe I'll reprint the story as properly written and edited and published in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However, their story is long and involved, and in fact some members still work and do shows today.

    As this is a review of their very first album, I will keep the story to that of the 1960's.

    The Animals were part of the budding, homegrown U.K. blues scene of the early Sixties and one of the most noteworthy bands of the British Invasion. Formed in Newcastle-on-Tyne, a port city and coal-mining hub in northeast England, the Animals reflected their upbringing with brawling, blues-based rock and roll. The group derived its inspiration - and much of its early repertoire - from American blues and R&B sources, adapting them to their native British working-class sensibility. Eric Burdon was among the best white R&B singers of the Sixties. His gruff, soulful vocals brought out the anguish in such anthems as “It’s My Life” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” The band’s sound was also heavily defined by Alan Price’s organ playing, which provided dramatic accents and a blues-jazz atmosphere. The other founding members - guitarist Hilton Valentine, bassist Chas Chandler and drummer John Steel – balanced Burdon’s earthiness and Price’s melodic finesse.

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    Just after Burdon joined and they became the Animals

    Originally known as the Alan Price Combo, the group changed its name to the Animals when Burdon joined in 1962. In 1963, they performed a monthlong residency (much like the Beatles did) in Hamburg, Germany. They also served as the U.K. backing band for visiting bluesmen, including John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson. Their career took off with their move to London in January 1964. Less than a year later, on September 5, 1964, “House of the Rising Sun” became the Number One single in America. Their brooding arrangement of “House of the Rising Sun” - a traditional folk song recorded by Josh White and Bob Dylan - became an early milestone in the British Invasion. Despite the song's unconventional lyrics (it was about a house of prostitution in New Orleans), “House of the Rising Sun” topped the American and British charts. In fact, it stayed at Number One in the U.S. for three weeks.

    The Animals followed “House of the Rising Sun” with seven more Top 40 hits (and six more Top 40 hits as Eric Burdon and the Animals), at least four of which – “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (Number 15), “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” (Number 13), “It’s My Life” (Number 23) and “Don’t Bring Me Down” (Number 12) – are bonafide classics of the British Invasion era. The keys to these and other Animals tracks is their passionate intensity and strong sense of identification with working-class travails, which would become hallmarks of such later rock and rollers as Bruce Springsteen and David Johansen – both of whom were professed Animals fans. Basically, the group was steeped in the blues and R&B sounds that filtered over from America. Many of the Animals earliest recordings were solid remakes of favorites by such revered artists as John Lee Hooker (“Boom Boom”), Sam Cooke(“Bring It On Home to Me”), Chuck Berry (“Around and Around”), Ray Charles(“Hallelujah, I Love Her So”) and Bo Diddley (“Road Runner”). At the same time, the Animals had great success interpreting the works of American pop songwriters such as Gerry Goffin and Carole King (“Don’t Bring Me Down”) and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (“We Gotta Get Out of This Place”).

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    The Animals’ original membership released only three albums (The Animals, The Animals On Tour, Animal Tracks) during their 1964-65 heyday. The Best of the Animals was issued in February 1966, as the group was disbanding. This hit-filled collection was one of the stronger LPs of its time, and it reached Number 6 and hung on the charts for over two years. The Animals’ disintegration began with Price’s departure in mid-1965 due to fear of flying and incompatibility with Burdon. Drummer John Steel was the next to leave (in March 1966), and the others followed suit in September. Burdon continued with new recruits, and the reconfigured band - now billed as Eric Burdon and the Animals - enjoyed several late-Sixties hits in a more psychedelic vein, such as “When I Was Young,” “Monterey” and “San Franciscan Nights.” Burdon became an innovative album artist. The double album Love Is, released in 1968, was a landmark of Sixties psychedelia, featuring the guitar work of one Andy Somers (later Andy Summers of the Police). The Animals’ last Top Forty hit was “Sky Pilot (Part One).”

    That original lineup consisted of:
    Eric Burdon (vocals,
    Alan Price(organ and keyboards)
    Hilton Valentine (guitar)
    John Steel (drums)
    and Bryan "Chas" Chandler (bass)

    This was among many changes to the group, in my mind the best line lineup of them all.

    Now to the album, which is self-titled, and is one of two versions - the album under review being the English release. The track line up is different on the US release, which also includes House Of The Rising Sun, their breakthrough single.

    Track Listing:

    Side 1
    1. "Story of Bo Diddley" (Ellas McDaniel) -- 5:40 *
    2. "Bury My Body" (Traditional) -- 2:53 *
    3. "Dimples" (John Lee Hooker) [this is a different version than the one found on The Animals on Tour] -- 3:20 *
    4. "I've Been Around" (Fats Domino) -- 1:40
    5. "I'm in Love Again" (Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew) -- 3:04
    6. "The Girl Can't Help It" (Bobby Troup) -- 2:24

    Side 2
    1. "I'm Mad Again" (John Lee Hooker) -- 4:18
    2. "She Said Yeah" (Larry Williams) -- 2:22 *
    3. "Night Time is the Right Time" (Lew Herman) -- 3:49 *
    4. "Memphis Tennessee" (Chuck Berry) -- 3:08
    5. "Boom Boom" (John Lee Hooker) -- 3:20 *
    6. "Around and Around" (Chuck Berry) -- 2:45

    * Do not appear on the US release

    Well how can you go past the first track on the first album by any group? The Story of Bo Diddley is, just that. The song credits suggest it was written by Bo Diddley (let's face it, the man had an ego as big as his career so why not), but in fact it is an Animals original but it heavily the "Bo Diddley Beat" and the story in simple terms tells both the rise of music from it's humble R& R days (like when Bo developed his beat) and in doing so it makes mention of artists who took up elements of Bo's music, as well as the story of Bo's music development, and more. The track goes on to chronicle the development of the music from when Bo came onto the scene through to the rise of the Beatles and the Stones, and, in finishes with the Animals putting their own 'spin" onto the track when they talk about the time Bo Diddley visited them when they were playing.

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    Eric Burdon

    Look it still sounds fresh today, Burdon's voice hadn't really developed into the more 'gravel" element it would take on, but it is a fine track indeed. One thing it does remind us of, is that one of the reasons other than Burdon's voice, that grabbed the attention of the listener, is the fantastic organ playing of Alan Price.

    Story of Bo Diddley

    Dimples is a classic John Lee Hooker track and is a track that the Animals were playing live well before they were 'discovered" and went into the studio to record this version. Unlike the Story of Bo Diddley which heavily featured the organ, this track showcases the guitar skills of Hilton Valentine. far more uptempo than Hookers' original it was a classic melding of a great blues track with the emerging "British Beat" sound, and the result is a great dance piece that makes use of Eric Burdon's ability to take a "black" number on make it comfortably his own.

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    L to R - John Steel, Eric Burdon, Hilton Valentine, Alan Price and Chas Chandler

    While there is no organ in the track, there is a nice piece of understated piano playing from Alan Price and with some solid bass from Chas Chandler melding beautifully with the drumming of John Steel, it is really evident as to why the Animals were able to carve out a successful niche in British music scene that was literally exploding through our radio's.

    Finally, almost everywhere this track is mentioned post the mid 1960's, it is made clear that it is a different version to that which was released on their 1965 Animals On Tour album. I have both, and this is definitely the better version. There aren't great differences, but this has a better sounding edge to it , it sounds cleaner and just a little more energetic and one more thing, despite the title "Animals On Tour", it is not a live album at all.


    Switching to Side 2 and track 1 is I'm Mad Again, another John Lee Hooker ripper of a track, and, once again the Animals turn a blues classic into a great cross-over into a British R&B style track. First and foremost is the absolute passion that Burdon puts into this track. Of all the great blues covers on this album, this is in my opinion, probably the best. It features the classic Animals guitar sound, the wonderful "Price organ sound" - the trilled notes and power of the sound he got is amazing, and Eric Burdon's delivery is utterly spot on. The simple but effective guitar riff around 2:00 minute mark is the forerunner to the "acid" guitar sound that would be more developed out later in the 60's.

    Hypnotic yet with a most definite blues base, Burdon makes us believe that he has truly suffered and sure is in one hell of a "mad" state of mind. Note the reference to Cassius Clay - made before he became
    Muhammad Ali.
    The track is simply brilliant!

    I had a friend one time, at least I thought he was my friend
    For he came to me, said "I ain't got no place to go"
    I said "take it easy man, you can come home to my house,
    I'll get you a pillow where you can rest your head"
    Took him home with me, let him in my house,
    Let him drive my Cadillac that I could not afford
    When I found out he'd been messin' around with my baby

    You know I'm mad like Al Capone (I'm burnin' up)
    I said I'm mad (I'm burnin' up)
    Like Sonny Liston yeah (I'm burnin' up)
    You know baby I'm mad (I'm burnin' up)
    Like Cassius Clay (I'm burnin' up)
    You know I'm mad (I'm burnin' up) you know I'm mad
    Yeah baby, alright baby (I'm burnin' up)
    I'm mad, come on (I'm burnin' up)

    Took him home with me, introduced him to my baby,
    He began to talk to her, made her think the moon was blue
    You know I think I ought to tell you daddy
    I'm mad, I said I'm mad with you
    I don't know what I'm gonna do to you
    I might drown you, I might shoot you
    I just don't know because I'm mad

    I said I'm mad (I'm burnin' up)
    You know I'm mad (I'm burnin' up)
    I don't have to tell you I'm mad (I'm burnin' up)
    I'm mad with you yeah (I'm burnin' up)
    I said I'm mad (I'm burnin' up)
    Yeah yeah yeah (I'm burnin' up)
    I said I'm mad (I'm burnin' up)
    You know I'm mad, oh baby I'm mad
    Oh I said I'm mad, you know I'm mad, oh baby I'm mad

    I'm Mad Again

    But it wasn't just the traditional blues masters that caught the ear and attention of the Animals, they also were able to adapt the music from the more R&B artists to their developing sound. Track 2 on side 2 is She Said Yeah, a track originally written and performed by Larry Williams of "Boney Moronie", "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" (incidentally a track picked up by the Beatles), and many other great tracks which include She Said Yeah, which was also covered by the Stones. The Larry Williams version has a "big band' sound and is quite laid back yet inviting the audience to dance. the Stones version was the more powerhouse of all the versions, but the Animals found a niche between these two versions.

    Keeping the pace up from the original version, but not quite putting the power into it as per the Stones, this was a very popular club track, as it was nicely uptempo but didn't require a "flat-out" approach to dancing. It isn't at the top of the tracks on the album but it does represent the style and compositions the group picked up to play live, and yet translating into a recording in a fine manner indeed.

    She Said Yeah

    It was so tempting to talk about and play Boom Boom, another John Lee Hooker track, but I moved to the final track, which is a great rendition of a Chuck Berry piece of magic rock and roll - Around And Around. Written by Berry in 1958 it was another track from the US that was picked up by many of the developing British Groups, again including the Stones - it was another classic dance track. The piano playing by Alan Price is indeed, priceless.

    In December of 1964, the MGM movie Get Yourself a College Girl was released with the Animals headlining with the Dave Clark Five. The Animals sang Around and Around, in the movie. The track had such a positive response that even after he broke away from the Animals, Eric Burdon would include it in his live sets. Indeed, all the young groups in the early 60's in Melbourne had a version of this track in their playlist.

    I said the joint was rockin'
    Goin' 'round and 'round
    Oh baby, with that crazy sound
    And they never stopped rockin'
    'Til the moon went down

    You know it sounds so sweet
    I gotta take me a chance
    Rose out of my seat

    You know I had to dance
    Started movin' my feet
    Oh, clappin' my hands

    But they kept on rockin'
    Goin' 'round and 'round
    Oh baby, with that crazy sound
    And they never stopped rockin'
    'Til the moon went down

    And we kept on rockin'
    Goin' 'round and 'round
    Come on baby, with that crazy sound
    And they never stopped rockin'
    Til the moon went down

    Twelve o'clock
    You know the place was packed
    Twelve o'clock
    Said the place was packed
    When the police knocked
    Those doors flew back
    Oh and we kept on rockin'

    Goin' 'round and 'round
    Oh baby, had a crazy sound
    But they never stopped rockin'
    'Til the moon went down

    And we kept on rockin'
    Goin' 'round and 'round
    Oh yeah, with that crazy sound
    And it never stopped rockin'
    'Til the moon went down

    Yea they kept on rockin'
    going round and round
    til the moon went dow

    Around and Around

    This is a fine album indeed. Unlike many albums of the time, it has no "fillers", no second rate tracks just to fill the album up, it is a classic album of a "white boy" and his great group not just covering "black" music, but mutating it into their own certainly if you are looking for an album of Blues or even R&B, then you look at the names of the artists that wrote the tracks and go seek out the originals.

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    So where are they? Well Eric Burdon is still very much alive and working and in 2013 toured with Pat Benatar, incidentally he was ranked 57th in Rolling Stone's list The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Alan Price is still alive and his last release was in 2001 and he currently performs with his band, mostly at his long-established monthly spot at The Bull's Head, Barnes, London. Hilton Valentine lives and works in the US and in 2011 he released a new album titled 'Skiffledog on Coburg Street'. Sadly, Chas
    Chandler died of an aortic aneurysm at Newcastle General Hospital on 17 July 1996 just days after performing his first solo show. he will be remembered not only for his great bass playing in the Animals, but as the man who bought Jimi Hendrix to Britain, and a man who played a large part in the development of Hendrix's first two albums. Finally, John Steel from 1993 to 2001 as the drummer with variations of the Animals line-up. He applied for and was granted custody of the name the Animals, which has set up a situation where he is estranged from other members of the band.

    The Animals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

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    So, if you are a collector or a lover of the early 1960's British music or simply an ardent collector, then this first album - The Animals by the Animals is one you must have. What this album represents is the music that 'we" we were hit with in that first wave of the British Invasion, the music of the group before their wrote their own compositions - it provides us with the music that influenced the Animals, and in turn, influenced us.

    It is available at Discogs from around $25.00 up to $100.00 but there were no copies on Ebay when I checked. Don't forget IF you are going to search it out, that there is the American release by the same name, with a different track listing, so be aware!

    Of course if you are just seeking out the music of the Animals, the CD titled The Absolute Animals 1964 - 1968 is among the best.
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    VIDEOS - There is a nice selection of videos on Youtube, but I have kept to those featuring the original lineup. The best clip of the Animals with House of the Rising Sun (cut-down version) strangely has some irrelevant reference to the Beatles prior to the Animals playing.

    House Of The Rising Sun

    Boom Boom

    We Gotta get Out Of This Place

    I'm Crying

    It's My Life

    If you are interested in checking out the first fifty vinyl albums reviewed, just click here

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    If you are interested in checking out the first fifty (50) CD's reviewed by me, just click here

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    If you are interested in checking out reviews 101 to 150 (Vinyl & CD) as reviewed by me, just click here

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    Past album Reviews - Numbers 151 onward:

    Number 151 - The Shaggs: Philosophy Of The World
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