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Carnival of the Animals
The Most Of The Animals - Animals
Member Name: ladybracknell
The Most Of The Animals - Animals
Date: 02/12/12, updated on 02/12/12 (77 review reads)
Advantages: A trip down Memory Lane for Babyboomers
Disadvantages: Rather uneven in musical quality with some rather clunky guitars in particular
The band began life in the north east in the early Sixties as the Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo and were then joined by Eric Burdon as vocalist after which they became known as the Animals reputedly because of their wild on-stage behaviour. Unlike most of the bands around at that time which were usually made up of lead, rhythm and bass guitar plus drums, the Animals had the added benefit of Alan Price on organ/keyboard and Eric Burdon as their dedicated vocalist/harmonica player. In the mid-Sixties Alan Price went solo and there followed a few band changes but despite those line-up changes, during the remainder of the decade the band had a string of hits before disbanding in 1968. Although they briefly reformed in the Seventies and again in the Eighties, they never quite managed to recapture the excitement of earlier times.
'The Most of the Animals' is a compilation album featuring many of the band's hit songs from the most successful times of their career. It's currently available new on CD for around £5 or slightly less for MP3 download, with used copies going for less than £2.
The album kicks off with the band's biggest hit which made number 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, 'House of the Rising Sun'. This is an American folk ballad and though its origins are uncertain, the first recording was made by a country singer in 1937 with later cover versions by such luminaries as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez but it was the Animals' version which reigned supreme and sealed the band's success.
The twanging guitar intro is distinctive enough that most people could recognise the song from the first few notes. Truth to tell it's a pretty repetitive song but is set apart by the deep, gritty vocals of Eric Burdon and Alan Price's organ solo in the middle.
The tempo increases slightly for 'We Gotta Get Outta This Place' which has a much more bluesy rock sound. The song begins unusually with just the bass guitar punctuated by cymbals before being joined by rest of the band as well as the distinctive and rather raucous vocals of Eric Burdon. This is another heavily American-influenced song demonstrating the direction in which the band looked for inspiration. There is a wonderfully raw and unfinished quality to this song, something prevalent in Sixties bands which gave a far less polished sound but an authenticity which is often sadly missing in these days of manufactured pop bands.
The Animal's version of 'Roadrunner', more famously recorded by Junior Walker and the Allstars, is fast, brash and rocky but it definitely lacks the finesse of Junior Walker's slightly slower dance version which benefitted from a great saxophone accompaniment.
'Let the Good Times Roll' harks back to the early days of rock 'n' roll and the band play this straight with Eric Burdon losing some of the raucous quality and slightly sweetening his tone. An OK song but not really stand out. This is followed by 'Hallelujah, I Just Love Her So' with a rock/jazz syncopation overlaid by the Animals own rock style. 'I'm Going To Change the World' is not the band's finest song which has something of a Mersey sound going on and totally lacks the band's usual grittiness.
The Fats Domino inspired piano introduces one of the standout songs on the album. 'Bring It On It HomeTo Me' is vintage Animals with guitars, drums and the ever-present electric organ blending into the band's own distinctive sound. Eric Burdon's vocals are spot on making this mid-tempo blues/rock song one of the best versions out there.
'Worried Life Blues' begins with an organ intro which sounds almost churchlike before morphing into a more bluesy sound. Although this isn't one of my favourites on the album, the backing is great with some excellent guitar and organ playing. In fact, for me, it's Eric Burdon's voice which lets the song down as it sounds rather too thin for a true blues song. His voice is much more suited to 'Baby Let Me Take You Home', which actually sounds quite dated now.
The mood turns back to a real jazz/blues sound with 'For Miss Caulker' with some excellent jazz piano playing in the intro and Eric Burdon's voice seemingly dropping an octave and taking on a much fuller, deeper tone. The only little thing to spoil this track is the rather amateurish guitar solo in the middle.
Eric Burdon's vocals really take centre stage with 'I Believe to My Soul', a Ray Charles song and a slow blues/rock number which seems to draw its vocal influences not from Ray Charles but fro Elvis's Heartbreak Hotel coupled with touches of Gene Vincent. Again, there is some excellent piano accompaniment which raises the song from the mundane to a higher level. This is followed by another bluesy number, 'How You've Changed'.
Another of the Animals' songs which is immediately recognisable from the intro is 'Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood'. As this CD is a compilation of the original recordings, I can't help but feel that this excellent song would really benefit from a little bit of present day recording magic which could perhaps take away some of the clunkiness and give it a bit more polish. It's a great song nevertheless.
'It's My Life' is one of those songs which has not stood the test of time very well. To modern ears it sounds very clunky and amateurish but, again, that raw quality especially from Eric Burdon's vocals is really what gave this band its distinction.
Despite its rather cheesy title, 'Club A Go Go' is a fun rock 'n' roll number, more up tempo than most on the album which benefits from the Jerry Lee Lewis style piano playing. The piano playing is great, as are Eric Burdon's vocals, the guitars not so much coming across as very pedestrian to say the least.
The album closes with 'I'm Crying' which bears the typical Animals sound garnered largely from the distinctive electric organ accompaniment. This is one of only a couple of fast tempo rock tracks on the album and again the quality is uneven because of the lack of musical talents of some members of the band.
Overall, this album is a great trip down memory lane for Babyboomers but it seems to have missed out some of their canon in favour of less well known songs. I would have liked to have seen their version of 'Paint It Black' included at the very least.
The album certainly highlights the disparity in musical talent between the likes of Eric Burdon, Chas Chandler, the bassist, Alan Price, and his replacements, pitted against the other various guitarists who frequently come across as decidedly amateurish.
The Animals were one of the big groups around in the early to mid-Sixties filling the gap between the melodic Beatles and the totally rock-oriented Rolling Stones but I feel this album would have benefited from some twenty-first century technological tweaking which, although taking away from the original, could have accentuated the positive and eliminated some of those clunky guitars.
Summary: One of the best bands to come out of the Sixties.