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APPENDIX: SOLO PROJECTS
Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of an Animals fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Animals fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.
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Aren't these kids ever unjustly forgotten. Yeah yeah okay, everybody mentions them whenever there's a historical lecture on 'The British Invasion'. Everybody knows they recorded 'The House Of The Risin' Sun'. And some people know WAR, the predominantly black R'n'B/funk combo with which Eric Burdon happened to collaborate for a few years but which has nothing whatsoever to do with the original concept of the Animals. That's about it.What is practically forgotten is that the original and quintessential "Animal Sound" was patented not so much by Eric, but rather by the fantastic organ playing of Alan Price - playing that, for better or for worse, defined its epoch. Along with Rod Argent (although the latter worked in the pop sphere rather than the r'n'b one), Alan was one of the very first pop music figures to lead "Rock" away from trademark guitar cliches into the world of the gloomy Hammond, and on certain - if relatively rare - occasions the Animals, through him, reached to such depths as could never be dreamt of by the early Stones with their exuberant, cockrocking attitude. Not that Hilton Valentine was a particularly bad guitar player, but I do sometimes wonder if perhaps they never really looked for a better one with the precise aim of making Alan's keyboards seem even more jaw-dropping against the background of a simply-competent guitarist. Of course, Eric Burdon's raunchy voice, boasting an unusual amount of wicked, snarling English nastiness, is equally important for the band. In a still much too young, much too inexperienced and timid world of white blues-based music, he was one of the few who was neither afraid to give it his all nor actually devoid of that "all". Endowed with a great roar and never hesitating to put it to good use. Displaying great range and being capable of turning the most generic piece of 12-bar blues into a hellish soap opera. Who could beat the guy? Stupid question. Listen to what I deem his defining moment, the 'come on let's shake it!' part on John Lee Hooker's 'Boom Boom'; who, of the great ones, could ever stand competition? In England, in 1964 at least - no-one. Alas, it is true that the band - and Eric in person - had spent quite a lot of time dirtying their own reputation. The original "Animals" were much too short-lived. Price left by 1965, depriving the band of its key ingredient. Even during the period when he was an active member, the songs they chose to record were mostly covers, since the band lacked competent songwriters: Burdon never even tried to seriously compete with the biggies, and the few originals of his that can be found on the 'classic period' records were rather obvious rip-offs - the most blatant example is 'I'm Going To Change The World', a single B-side that simply steals the guitar riff from the cover on the A side, 'It's My Life'. Then, in 1966, the band collapsed completely, with Eric retaining the name. With that name as his only asset, Burdon formed the so-called 'Eric Burdon & The Animals' and, for no obvious reason, began to model his image as that of a newborn hippie guru. With psychedelia seriously getting to the man's head, illusions and pretensions running wild, and "excess" becoming the norm of day for a while, Eric Burdon & The Animals effectively ceased to generate good sound at all, despite having launched a jam-packed touring and recording schedule. To be fair, some of Eric's songwriting of the period (as witnessed through stuff like 'Sky Pilot' and 'Year Of The Guru') showed potential, although most of it simply drowned in the seas of "artsy" psychedelic and pseudo-psychedelic sludge. In the end, the new "Animals" now remain responsible for some of the most laughably dated music of the Summer of Love era - and manage to cast a completely undeserved shit-shadow on the original band as well. Since then, Burdon's career has been a long and turbulent one. Collaborations with WAR, temporary reunions with the original Animals, solo albums with various backing bands, experimentation with styles and technologies, the man's been busier than an undertaker all his life. Much of what he did was proverbially awful; some, however, bordered on greatness, showing that the distance between the two poles is seriously shorter than one could think. Nevertheless, for me, one thing is certain: no matter what highs and lows there may have been, nothing of that really matters when it comes to hearing, enjoying, reviewing, or even worshipping Burdon's main reason for existence - the original 1964-65 recordings. 'House Of The Rising Sun', 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood', 'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place', lesser known stuff like 'I Believe To My Soul' - all of these tunes and many more deserve to be treasured, and are certainly inexpendable for any admirer of the Sixties, or, in fact, any admirer of stark, visceral, uncompromising British R'n'B. Hey, any R'n'B, for that matter. Fuck racial and territorial borders. All the more pitiful is the fact that, as of now, there's not even a single comprehensive Animals site on the web (at least, none that I could find). A crying shame! What, isn't the huge success of 'House Of The Rising Sun' enough for some veneration at least? Weren't they, like, the first band after the Beatles to enjoy serious success in the American charts? (Or was that the Dave Clark 5? Actually, even the Dave Clark 5 are better represented on the Web today, which is the acme of injustice if injustice ever had an acme). All that remains for me is to proudly dub this little page 'The Animals Preservation Society' and support it by assigning them to Class C, no mean feat for a band whose original compositions can be counted on the fingers of one hand. It is not out of compassion, however, that I am doing this, but out of recognizing that the Animals, in their prime, were just as important for rock music in general as the Stones in those early days. And if the Animals didn't manage to survive the transition, they still should be judged by what they did best rather than by what they did worst. Lineup: Eric Burdon - vocals; Alan Price - keyboards; Chas Chandler - bass guitar; Hilton Valentine - guitars; John Steel - drums. Chas Chandler would later be known as the manager to Jimi Hendrix (and still later, to Slade), which does not say much of his creative talents, of course, but at least means that he was able to recognize talent where he saw it. Of the two others I know absolutely nothing. The drumming was pretty good, and so were the guitar lines, but... nothing fascinating. It's all in the organ, man. However, Alan Price quit in Spring 1965, replaced by Dave Rowberry. John Steel left in February 1966, replaced by Barry Jenkins; the band was laid to rest in mid-1966. Lineup for "Eric Burdon & The Animals" (if anybody's really interested): Eric Burdon - same as above; Vic Briggs - guitar; Barry Jenkins - drums; John Weider - guitars, violin; Danny McCulloch - bass guitar. George Bruno was added on keyboards around mid-68. Briggs left, also around that time, replaced by Andy Summers (yep, that Andy Summers indeed); Bruno replaced by Zoot Money. The replacements never helped things all that much, so by the end of 1968 the band had crash-landed just as well. ATTENTION PLEASE! The biggest problem with the Animals is that, like every more or less notorious British Invasion group, they have a hell of a discography. The UK releases, as usual, had absolutely nothing to do with the US ones. Luckily, the most available product for the Animals on the current market is a 2-CD package called The Complete Animals which compiles everything they recorded on Columbia Records in 1964-65, plus a couple previously unreleased tracks. Thus, you don't have to hunt for the original LPs, none of which are currently in print and probably never will be as long as this superb package is available. The only problem with it is that the tracks aren't arranged chronologically, or that's how it seems to me; at least, there are some obvious incoherences which could easily be corrected with some programming, if only the genuine Animals discography were easy to establish... It more or less follows the order of their UK discography, but not 100% correctly; any further feedback on this problem would be highly appreciated. I'd originally posted my review of the package on this site (as a single album), but then I realized this is not quite correct, as it gives absolutely no hint at the band's development (not that there was much of a one), and in any case it's two or three albums lumped together as one. The right position would be to review the albums separately. So I'm selecting the original American catalog which consists of three non-overlapping records: The Animals (1964), The Animals On Tour (1965), and Animal Tracks (1965). The original British catalog only had two titles - the first and the third one, and the track listings were extremely different; as far as I have been able to understand, the US Animals On Tour more or less corresponds to the UK Animal Tracks, while the US Animal Tracks is essentially a compilation of singles' material from both 1964 and 1965. Anyway, the US catalog is more convenient (just like the US Stones' catalog is more convenient) than the British one simply because American LPs include most of their singles which weren't included on British LPs, so it's simply more full. Also, attention should be paid to the fact that the Animals' LPs were usually released in the States before the corresponding UK releases, due to their early 'British Invasion Heroes' status. Thus, it remains to be proven which catalog is really primary - the British or the American one. All of the Animals' tracks from these three albums are present on the Complete package which is in print and highly recommendable. It also includes some singles and tracks not released in the US which I'll be discussing together with the more or less chronologically corresponding album.
Listenability: 4/5. I
HAD to dock a point for "Eric Burdon & The Animals", as much
as I hated to...
Resonance: 4/5. Resonance was always the key to comprehending Eric - try to stay in this key whenever you listen to any of his projects.
Originality: 2/5. Back in 1964, the Animals actually were quite important: organ-based blues-rock and electric covers of folk songs (three guesses?) were quite novel. This all disappeared a year later, though.
Adequacy: 3/5. I HAD to dock TWO points for "Eric Burdon & The Animals". I hope you'll understand me.
Diversity: 2/5. That is, counting the "New Animals" as well, or else it would have been a 1.
Overall: 3.0 = C on the rating scale.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1964
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11
A little rough around the edges - no truly bad material, really, but some of the covers are kinda primitive. Yet.Best song: THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN
Track listing: 1) The House Of The Rising Sun; 2) The Girl Can't Help It; 3) Blue Feeling; 4) Baby Let Me Take You Home; 5) The Right Time; 6) Talkin' 'Bout You; 7) Around And Around; 8) I'm In Love Again; 9) Gonna Send You Back To Walker; 10) Memphis Tennessee; 11) I'm Mad Again; 12) I've Been Around.
The Beatles had eight originals on their debut record. The Stones had one. The Animals' American debut had none. This wouldn't be so remarkable - lots of British Invasion groups didn't begin seriously writing their own material until the Invasion itself was already over - if this particular debut, despite a frightening lack of "copyright individuality", wasn't so damn good.The British variant did include one 'original' composition - 'The Story Of Bo Diddley', Eric Burdon's humorous history of rock'n'roll from its humble beginnings up to mid-1964, accordingly set to a Diddley beat - but it was left off the American record, either due to its crazy weirdness or to the industry guys being afraid they might get sued for all the copyright infringements, in favour of their first hit single ('The Story' resurfaced later on the US version of Animal Tracks). But hilarious or not, it was still essentially just a novelty thing; the "original" Animals would, as it turned out later, become pretty much the only early Sixties British band of major importance to be known exclusively for covering others' material. Maybe we should look here for the explanation of why the hell is the original Animals discography so muddled up today that you have to fish it out of retro-oriented Internet sites rather than be able to contemplate it all on the racks of your average music store; since the band rarely wrote its own songs, they didn't obviously give much thought to The Album as being more than just a Sum of Its Parts. Not until Burdon turned from greatness to grossness, at least, but I'm running ahead here. Did you let that bother you, anyway? Then you're probably one of those touchy types, always thinking of some reason to dislike something, like Al-Qaeda or the Orthodox Church. Get over it! Because covers or no covers, the Animals have always had a style of their own, and from beginning to end, they put their own unmistakable stamp on each one of these tunes. The stamp in question is shaped like a two-pronged fork, with one prong subtitled "Vocals" and the other one subtitled "Keyboards". Not that I'm denigrating the rhythm section or the guitar player, but they aren't this band's main attraction, although they do fit in perfectly. But - oh no, a bad pun coming up - it's unquestionably Burdon to bear the burden, and Price to share the prize. If you haven't heard 'The House Of The Rising Sun', I can't for the life of me imagine how you even found this site (unless you happened to type in 'I wanna screw Britney Spears' in Google and carefully checked all the links up to 80,000). There certainly had to be a reason this number made them superstars overnight and - for a short while - almost as big as the Beatles in the States. No matter how overplayed and overanalyzed it is, it's still one of the greatest songs of 1964, and it's also the closest the Animals ever came to creating a musical revolution of any kind. Checking my factbook: contrary to legend, they themselves assert that they did not learn the song from Bob Dylan. They picked it up from some half-obscure barroom performer whose name escapes me at the present; but it's not the song's origins that matter so much as is the decision to put it on record, a truly brave and innovative thing for such an early stage of pop music. (Retarded observation: the legend still holds water because at least one other song on the album, 'Baby Let Me Take You Home', they had to learn from Bob Dylan's debut, and where there's one, there can always be to, can't there?) This, in fact, is the first true song in the true folk-rock genre: one full year before the Byrds pioneered it (for anglophiles, more proof that everything truly groundbreaking in the Sixties came from Britain rather than from the States). The melody is folkish, but the arrangement is done in a rip-roarin', energetic rocking version: while the landscape is fully dominated by Price's majestic organ swirls (the tremendous build-up of the tension with each new verse is alone worth my considering Alan as one of the greatest and most understated organ players in the world), the main riff is played on an electric guitar, and the Byrds just gotta make way. You all know the lyrical matter of the song, doncha? Of course, unlike Dylan who never bothered to change the lyrics and sang '...it's been the ruin of many a poor girl/And me oh God I'm one...', Burdon and company shifted them to make the contents more 'metaphorical', eliminating all direct cathouse references, but that only makes the song sound even more profound and thought-provoking, taking on a symbolic meaning that its original authors never intended it to have. There's a distinct artsy, maybe even "progressive" sound to this thing (well, "proto-progressive" at least) - and a spirit of rebelliousness that goes way beyond "protest for the sake of protest" or for the sake of entertaining one's youthful hormones; neither the Beatles nor the Stones ever thought of creating something like that at the moment, and the song's immediate breakthrough to #1 comes off as quite deserved and unsurprising. Not to mention, of course, that the four-minute-plus length of the single was something totally unheard of in rock or pop music at the time, yet they managed it. Unfortunately, no other song on the album ever comes close to the grandeur and brilliancy of 'House' (nor, in fact, does any of the band's later material). Clearly, the LP, in both its British and American forms, was a cash-in, similar to the Kinks' first album: take one big "treasure" and surround it with anything you come up with at the last moment. There's one thing that saves it, though: while the Kinks were an average, sloppy, not too exciting rockabilly cover group (at least by 1964), the Animals were tight, professional, raunchy and, to a certain extent, dangerous: the Newcastle response to the Richmond boys. Plus, with that awesome organ player and that egotistic, self-assured asshole of a lead singer: what else do you need? Thus all the other eleven songs are quite listenable. My favourite numbers are either the fastest ones - crazy, uncompromised boogies - or the slowest ones - moody blues covers (not to be confused with "Moody Blues covers", which actually makes sense since Burdon did have at least one Moody Blues cover later in his career). The first category here includes a superb rendition of Little Richard's 'The Girl Can't Help It', and, of course, Ray Charles' 'Talkin' 'Bout You' - another number that shows the boys not knowing where to stop, so they end up crashing the three-minute barrier and turning the song into 'Shout' halfway through. Seven minutes of gutspinning, energizing fun that never seems repetitive unless you really want to take your pencil, sit down and count the exact number of times that the backing vocals repeat 'talkin' bout you' or 'shout, shout, shout...' and then write a master's thesis on the brain-numbing repetitiveness of the devil's music. Chuck Berry's 'Around And Around' is weaker, mainly because it can't hold up to the far superior version of the Stones (or maybe because I'm a rotten biased guy with a latent homoerotic attraction to Keith Richards), but 'Memphis Tennessee' is still one of my favourite Animals' covers simply because of all them juicy guitar licks that Valentine inserts before each and every new verse. As for the slow, gloomy tunes here, they include John Lee Hooker's 'I'm Mad Again' - one more time, a song that Burdon makes his own by producing a superb, mighty vocal delivery that turns Hooker's melancholic grunt into a schizophrenic roar, plus, of course, 'House Of The Rising Sun' itself. The other stuff is much more lightweight, but never offensive. The silliness of their first single, 'Baby Let Me Take You Home' (a re-working of the traditional 'Baby Let Me Follow You Down') is compensated by the catchiness; 'I've Been Around' has some delightful 'whoa-hoa whoa-hoa whoa-hoas'; 'Gonna Send You Back To Walker' and 'Blue Feeling' boogie along so fine you can't help but tap your foot; and the only true letdown is Herman's 'The Right Time', as it's just a slow, dumb, monotonous and repetitive R'n'B number with an annoying 'ni-i-i-i-ight and day' chorus all the way through. Curiously, five years later the song was reprised by CCR on their Green River LP, where it - no suprise - became a classic example of that band's filler material. (If you have Complete Animals, you'll also get one previously unreleased song from the epoch - 'F-E-E-L', a piece of fast boogie that has more or less the same 'lyrics' as the Stones' 'I'm All Right', but melodically it's just an inferior take on 'Talkin' 'Bout You': Burdon even sings the same accapella scat lines at the beginning. No wonder it's been shelved for so long.)
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1965
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 13
The ultimate British teenage R'n'B experience - no particular edge, but plenty of spirit.Best song: BOOM BOOM
Track listing: 1) Boom Boom; 2) How You've Changed; 3) Mess Around; 4) Bright Lights Big City; 5) I Believe To My Soul; 6) Worried Life Blues; 7) Let The Good Times Roll; 8) I Ain't Got You; 9) Hallelujah I Love Her So; 10) I'm Crying; 11) Dimples; 12) She Said Yeah.
As far out as the Animals could ever get - which, to be perfectly honest, ain't that far compared to quite a few of their luckier brethren. However, I can hardly think of a more entertaining set of songs from the period which would be, well, just that - unengaging, mindless bluesy fun, all played with a lot of conviction and a lot of professionalism and raw talent and, well, pizzazz, even if I'm still not quite certain about that word's meaning. (But I sure like the amount of z's). As has already been mentioned in the intro, this record mostly - though not entirely - corresponds to the British Animal Tracks, meaning that the 'On Tour' moniker is completely misleading, as this ain't a live record by any means. Good pretext, by the way, to take a detour and rant a little about the weirdness of record companies. Did these guys really think that audiences would appreciate a "live" record more than a new studio one? This is at least understood in the infamous case of the Who's Magic Bus: The Who On Tour, which was just a collection of older hits 'disguised' as a pseudo-live record, besides, it was released in 1968, when the live album as a regular form of entertainment had already staked its claim, not to mention the Who being the era's live band par excellence. But The Animals On Tour was a brand new studio record, only a small part of which had previously been issued in the form of singles, and who the hell would fall for a screaming-girls-full live album in 1965? And who the hell wouldn't fall for at least a letter of complaint upon being so shamelessly duped?.. Bizarre.Okay, I'm done. Now looking at the track listing here, you might call me bizarre for choosing this as the Animals' peak - for one thing, there isn't even a single song of the classic 'House' hit-type on here. But consistency's my new spiritual housekeeper, and in the light of consistency I deem the material so much improved that I can't help but proclaim On Tour as the most solid collection of Animals material in existence. The best news is that diet-dumb material like 'Blue Feeling' and 'Gonna Send You Back To Walker' (well, I did enjoy these numbers, but if I had to like everything I ever enjoyed I wouldn't have much left to dislike, if you know what I mean) has been for the most part thrown away and replaced by grittier, more authentic-sounding blues and jazz numbers. There's even not a single straightforward rock'n'roll song - the Chuck Berry covers are also gone. Maybe deep down in my soul I can shed a tear of regret, but then again, perhaps Chuck Berry covers should indeed be better left to the Stones. See, Chuck Berry songs require guitar, and if the Animals do have one weak spot, it's right there in the guitar department. Blues and jazz numbers, on the other hand, are easily pulled through with keyboards, and that's one certain advantage the Animals have over the Dartford boys. Many of the songs on here fall into the "slow, somber, menacing blues" category, ideally fit for Price's slow, somber, menacing piano/organ and Burdon's expressive, constantly shifting vocals. Compared to the American debut, this is actually a new thing - On Tour is thus slower and subtler than its more R'n'B-ish predecessor; you could even say it's deeper, and if you've been blessed with an artsy-fartsy character, you could say it's less reliant on "cheap thrills". Although Brain Salad Surgery this still isn't. However, the album opens on a far more directly aggressive note, with John Lee Hooker's textbook classic 'Boom Boom', reiterating the band's image as a no-nonsense, no-pretentiousness combo who's only too happy to sing the immortal lyrics about 'when you walk that walk and you talk that talk'. The band gels so perfectly during that one it's almost terrifying, but it's still Eric's vocal delivery that thrills me the most after all these years. The one short moment when the entire band kicks into high groove mode after the stop-and-start verses is cool, but it wouldn't be anything special without that breathtaking 'come oooooon, let's shake it!' bawl; and the transition from the chorus to the instrumental jam wouldn't be anywhere near as headspinning without the 'come on come on - all right all right - aaaaaaaaaalright!' passage. So perfectly timed. So flawlessly executed. So calculated and so spontaneous at the same time. And captured in the studio? Hallelujah! If you got a rock'n'roll heart like me, you'll have to undergo a wee bit of adjustment to get used to the slower, more atmospheric numbers after that, but given that they are delivered with equal perfection - they're just different - I do hope you'll manage. 'How You've Changed' and 'Worried Life Blues' display the band as absolute masters of the blues genre. Price's organ, now slow, now fast, now bluesy, now jazzy, hits your conscience just as masterfully as, say, Brian Jones' stinging leads are capable of, and Burdon is not an iota less believable than Ray Charles or Elmore James or whoever wrote the stuff in the first place. There's this weird combination of snarliness and vulnerability in his tone (as opposed to, say, Mick Jagger, who's been way too son-of-a-bitchy for too long in his life to allow himself any vulnerability) that brings him close to the listener - and let's not forget about the technical perfection, either. In an unexpected, but nevertheless absolutely delightful way, the Animals also show themselves lovers of Ye Olde Fashioned Jazz'n'Soul Muzak - paying tribute to Grandpapa Ray Charles by covering both 'I Believe To My Soul' and 'Hallelujah I Love Her So'. The latter is certainly done much better than can be heard on, say, the Beatles' Anthology (and not just because the Beatles track dates from the late Fifties - certainly the Animals would have blown the Fab Four off the stage any day given proper circumstances), and the former might be familiar to you as the very tune from which Bob Dylan borrowed his famous piano chords for 'Ballad Of A Thin Man'. That was just four notes, though; Price does so many more, and oh does he ever. In terms of faster numbers, the boys also engage in "speed jazz" - 'Mess Around', a wonderful little ditty showing Alan Price was certainly no slouch when it came round to substituting mood for speed - but the two standouts for me are their hardcore, desperate performance of the blues classic 'I Ain't Got You' (also done by the Yardbirds in a much inferior version, apart from Clapton's guitar solo, of course), and the Jimmy Reed classic 'Bright Lights Big City', where the dynamic shifts from 'soft/ominously dangerous' to 'all-out rockin' are so clever and overwhelming that I can't help giving it a more or less perfect score. Not that I'm entirely sure, mind you: the quality of the material here is so uniformly 'very good' that I'd be hard pressed to choose a particular favourite. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention that the record features the very first original composition from Mr Burdon - the Animals' third single 'I'm Crying'. While not the most noticeable song on here, it's quite solid and totally fits in with the rest, being based on some kind of cross between the Bo Diddley beat and a standard rockabilly rhythm. The vocal harmonies are rather neat, too. (One side of the Animals that's usually never mentioned is their vocal harmonies - unjustly, because they had the tightest collective vocal punch for an R'n'B band this side of the Atlantic, certainly far tighter than the Stones or the Who could ever aspire to have. It's strange that none of the other band members ever took any shots at "guest" lead vocals - I'm almost certain at least several of these guys had the right chops to do it. But maybe Eric had a black belt in Karate or something, I dunno). If I'm not mistaken, the previously unreleased 'bonus' track 'Don't Want Much' on Complete Animals dates from more or less the same period (I'm only able to deduce this from the album sequencing). If that's indeed so and the song should be grouped with these songs, it's easily the greatest track of the epoch - fast, tight, hilarious and persistent. "Persistent" is the key, actually, because that 'teeny-weeny bit of, teeny-wit bit of your love' line has stuck with me ever since more than any other line in the Animals' catalog. You never can tell with this ridiculous rock stuff, you know.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1965
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 12
More like "Animal Droppings", if you ask me, but hey, I'm always ready to play the part of a coprologist.Best song: DON'T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD
Track listing: 1) We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place; 2) Take It Easy; 3) Bring It On Home To Me; 4) The Story Of Bo Diddley; 5) Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood; 6) I Can't Believe It; 7) Club-A-Gogo; 8) Roberta; 9) Bury My Body; 10) For Miss Caulker.
I don't even need to tell you that this American-only release has nothing to do whatsoever with the original British LP Animal Tracks. The British LP came earlier, had more or less the same tracks as the US album On Tour (see above) and had an album cover featuring the band in military outfits squatting on a railroad track; the same cover was later used for the Complete package which I'm extracting the actual material from. The American album, however, is even more of a mish-mash than ever, sorta like the Stones' December's Children. Together with several more recent tracks, like the hit single 'We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place', it features real oldies, like 'The Story Of Bo Diddley', as well as various tracks from older British LPs that didn't make it onto the American ones, stuff like that. Nevertheless, in light of the overall situation it was a reasonable move for Columbia at the time, as it closed most of the gaps and introduced the American public to many prime songs that they had been deprived of earlier. Besides, it acts like a general overview of the band's career - through all of the stages that really mattered, that is.Here is the chronological order of the songs on this album, as far as I have been able to determine it: 1) 'Take It Easy' (single, B-side of 'I'm Cryin', Sep. '64); 2-3) 'The Story Of Bo Diddley', 'Bury My Body' (British LP Animals, Nov. '64); 4) 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' (single A-side, Jan. '65); 5) 'Club A-Go-Go' (single, B-side of 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood', Jan. '65); 6) 'Bring It On Home To Me' (single A-side, March '65); 7-8) 'Roberta', 'For Miss Caulker' (British LP Animal Tracks, June '65); 9) 'We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place' (single A-side, July '65). One track - 'I Can't Believe It' - seems to be an American-only track, recorded specially for the album towards the end of 1965. Since the record is such a hodge-podge, the quality of the songs is bound to be mixed; yet this is still the original Animals in their prime, and the tunes are much more often solid than not, especially since the majority of them are culled from singles, and you know just how much these trusty 45"s mattered back in those days. Of course, the earliest recordings - 'Take It Easy' and the repetitive gospel fodder of 'Bury My Body' aren't bad but there's nothing special about them either (apart from the insane keyboard break from Alan in the middle of the latter - it's such an anti-climax for me when the song settles back into its predictable, monotonous groove!). However, no Animals collection is complete without the romantic innocence of 'The Story Of Bo Diddley'. Yes, to some extent, it presages Burdon's decline into 'storyteller-itis' on his atrocious hippie records in the Prophet of Rock And Roll age, but this time around there's nothing particularly prophetic or pretentious here, just youthful exuberant stuff. It's interesting to compare the way Burdon narrates the early story of rock'n'roll on this track with the way he does pretty much the exact same thing on 'Winds Of Change' (the song); witness how the intentionally tongue-in-cheek, wildly irreverent, swaggery attitude of the former changes to unreasonably solemn, modern-day Isaiah-like, and unintentionally ridiculous preaching on the latter. Also, from a purely historical point of view, it's useful to see how the whole theory of the birth and growth of rock'n'roll music had already been established as early as late '64: Burdon narrates everything, from Bo Diddley and his peers to the "death" of rock'n'roll from "circumstances beyond our control, such as payola" and the forces that brought it back - "four young guys with mop haircuts" and "a band of guys with long hair down their back" singing, respectively, 'it's been a hard day's night' and 'I wanna be your lover baby'. The Stones reference in particular is quite meaningful, indicating that they were seen as the other major force beside the Beatles even way before 'Satisfaction' got them their official worldwide triumph. Another absolute classic, of course, is their rendition of the soul number 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood': Burdon's vocals are ideally suited for that kind of songs, and it's awesome to hear him combine tenderness, despair and raunchiness when he whines 'oh Lord... please don't let me be mis - understood'. The age of the blue-eyed soul with its technically gifted, but often emotionally bland white singers had not yet dawned upon us, and where Eric lacks in range or loudness, he has to compensate with great acting, and indeed, he is fully believable in this role. Price's organ riff, carrying the tune, also does a great job of building up the ominous mood - as if we really were the witnesses of a life-scale personal drama. No wonder it's arguably the second best known song in their catalog after 'House Of The Rising Sun', which it so closely resembles in terms of mood and atmosphere - same fire, same desperation. A quick runthrough of the rest, in case you're interested. (Well, actually, I feel quite justified here, since this is such a rag-taggy collection and the songs are anything but united by anything resembling a single conception or motive). The So-So: 'Club A-Go-Go' - the B-side to 'Don't Let Me Be...', nowhere near as interesting, technically yet another "generic" R'n'B number, with a melody most probably ripped off some nameless old classic and more autobiographical lyrics; still passionate enough to have your ass kicked, though. Sam Cooke's 'Bring It On Home To Me': rather perfunctory, whatever that might mean in this particular occasion. The Quite Good: 'For Miss Caulker', yet another blues gem in the vein of 'How You've Changed'; haters of unadorned blues aren't welcome by any means, but those who'd kill for more cool Price piano lines will accept it gladly, and I'm exactly one of those dudes. It might be a stretch, yes, but I'm still willing to argue that in those early days, there wasn't one keyboard player in the entire United Kingdom that could as easily compete with all the classic Johnny Johnson and Harry Van Walls fellows in the blues-piano department as Alan could. Maybe when it came to boogie-woogie, he'd be beaten by Ian Stewart, and when it came to artsy-fartsy, by Rod Argent; but blues, pure blues - I dare you to listen to the introduction to 'Miss Caulker' without prejudice and tell me the player is white. Actually, when it comes to boogie, there's always 'Roberta', a fine piece of boogie if there ever was one. Now, the latest track on the record is the band's first single recorded with a new keyboardist, Dave Rowberry, and it shows. Alan Price didn't exactly take away all the keyboards with him when he left, but he might as well have: the sound is no longer organ-dominated, it's rougher and much more guitar-based. The song - 'We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place' - is a classic, of course (what else could you expect from a Mann/Weil-penned hit?), so much so that the title has long since become a cliche, but these are no longer the Animals of old. It's a transitional band - a band that's by now more or less dominated by Burdon, and the songs become more and more politically and socially oriented. Fortunately, the lyrics are still set to music, and good music at that - any band would kill for that bassline. And few bands could replicate that lionine roar that segues into the chorus. Finally, although it doesn't actually make part of the album, I couldn't leave my conscience clear unless I mentioned the fact of the Complete package ending its blistering course with the last Animals' single for Columbia: a cover tune named 'It's My Life', backed with a Burdon original, 'I'm Going To Change The World'. I've already mentioned that Eric shamelessly stole the guitar riff for the 'original' song from the cover tune (not only that, but he didn't even feel guilty about placing both songs on the same single!), but the trick is, I actually like the Burdon original more. Both songs are about the same thing - make way for my civil liberties, motherfucka - but the fire burns brighter within the original, and I have a hard time trying to locate a place where Burdon would sound more genuinely pissed-off than when he belts out the 'you can bet your life, baby bet your life!' conclusion to the chorus. Too bad the song somehow got lost in its B-side status; it's twice as powerful as any major social statement that would come out of the Frisco scene during the entire Summer of Love period and maybe beyond that, too.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1966
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11
Eric is letting the melodies down, but this is not really atrocious... not yet. Cool singing, too.Best song: MAUDIE
Track listing: 1) One Monkey Don't Stop No Show; 2) Maudie; 3) Outcast; 4) Sweet Little Sixteen; 5) You're On My Mind; 6) Clapping; 7) Gin House Blues; 8) Squeeze Her Tease Her; 9) What Am I Living For; 10) I Put A Spell On You; 11) That's All I Am To You; 12) She'll Return It; [BONUS TRACKS:] 13) Inside Looking Out; 14) Don't Bring Me Down; 15) Cheating; 16) Help Me Girl; 17) See See Rider; 18) I Just Wanna Make Love To You; 19) Boom Boom; 20) Big Boss Man; 21) Pretty Thing; 22) Don't Bring Me Down (stereo); 23) See See Rider (stereo); 24) Help Me Girl (stereo); 25) Cheating (stereo).
Discographically speaking, here is where the situation becomes even more confusing and messed up. It's also where I get inconsistent - the version I'm speaking of is the British one, whereas the previous three were American. I have an excuse, though: this is also where we finally get out of the range of the nice 2-CD Columbia set and step onto Decca territory. The actual situation is as follows: the British Animalisms, containing 12 non-single, LP-only cuts, was released simultaneously with the American Animalization, which replaced some of the songs with cuts from contemporary singles. But then, just a few months later, when the group was either already disbanded or on the brink of disbanding, the American company, probably wanting to puzzle people as much as they could, released an album called Animalism (in the singular!) with a special track listing: none of the songs from that album ever made it onto contemporary British albums, being recorded during the band's last American tour. Talk about madness...Anyway, I do not possess the Animalism album, and I presume it's kinda rare, although I'll certainly keep looking. But I do have the Animalisms one, and in a very good European CD edition, too - with bonus tracks including all these classy singles that had been earlier squeezed onto the American correlate. In other words, this CD edition combines the British and American version, which is a very lucky thing for completists. There are also some special stereo versions of four of the singles tracks, but that's not too interesting, as you probably can imagine. To business now. This album is actually an important link for anyone who can't truly understand the huge dropdown from the classic level of 'House Of The Rising Sun' and 'It's My Life' to the garbage of Winds Of Change. On one hand, most of the trademark Animals sound is still there: Eric's raunchy vocals, the band's menacing energy and invigorating rhythmics, and new member Dave Rowberry even gets to shine with a couple organ solos that sound not unlike the classic Price ones, although in general the organ is sorely missed on most of these songs. But Eric is already going in the 'psychedelic/soulful jam' direction he would cherish so much for the next five years; many of the songs don't have stable melodies as such, and often abandon the verse/chorus scheme in favour of random 'sound making'. In less experienced hands, this would prove to be a terrible disaster; fortunately, Burdon is such a great singer, and the band is such an effective unit, that even the most loose 'chants' are still efficient. So I don't even feel much bothered with tracks like the wretched 'One Monkey Don't Stop The Show', a rappy declamation only randomly interrupted by some rudimentary choruses; but Eric's masterful screaming at this point is already professional and not yet over the top, and that makes the experience really fascinating. Same goes for the band's version of 'I Put A Spell On You' (quite unlike the CCR version), and Eric's lively and even creepy interpretation of John Lee Hooker's 'Maudie', my current bet for the best thing on here. By 1966, the Stones weren't too keen on doing blues numbers like these, so maybe it's no exaggeration to call Burdon the King of Brit Blues for 1966. Hmm? Perhaps. But he's still able to do pop as well: 'Outcast' is based on a magnificent, lively guitar riff and features an unforgettable chorus, and hey, it just might be the liveliest song ever written about an outcast. On the other hand, the obvious flaw of the band's new style is that it wears down on you rather quickly. 'You're On My Mind' might be a pretty and even somewhat moving ballad, but there are two or three more ('What Am I Living For', etc.) that use the same atmosphere and melodic patterns but never raise the same emotions just because second time around it ain't so hot. 'Maudie' is great, because it's played tight and tastefully, but 'Gin House Blues' is a mess - slow, sloppy and incoherent. And to crown it all, track number six is just a minute and a half of hand clapping. Also, while I did say that the album is pretty high on energy, only two of the tracks come close to recapturing the real fast youthful ardency of the Animals - the band that used to rip their audiences to shreds, and one of them is a cover of 'Sweet Little Sixteen', too, while one's impression from the terrific rocker 'Squeeze Her - Tease Her' would certainly be spoiled after realizing that it's just a rip-off of 'Talkin' 'Bout You' plus a couple other rockers the band had already performed. I'm also not over my head over the singles. 'Don't Bring Me Down' is supposed to be a minor classic, but apart from the naggin' simplistic four-chord organ riff and the ominous feedback swirls in the background, I don't see what makes it so special or even exceptionally memorable. Personally, I prefer the energy burst of 'Inside Looking Out', a track chock-full of mini- and maxi-climaxes that successfully substitute the lack of a perceivable melody. 'Help Me Girl' is pretty bouncy, too, and also close to the old style. As for their covers of 'C. C. Rider', 'I Just Wanna Make Love To You' (quite unlike the Rolling Stones version), and 'Big Boss Man', well... sometimes I like 'em, sometimes I just prefer to put on something else. In other words, they add nothing special to this world, but they don't trigger no serious ecological catastrophes either. No Burdon fan should be with this album, though, this is one fact that's clear as daytime. And while this is indeed an obvious link between the band's past and the band's future, there is still a very large gap between this and the subsequent disaster. Seems that the acid had really gotten to Burdon's head in less than a year. And by the way, acid seems to have been the real reason of Burdon (and drummer Barry Jenkins') split with the old band - apparently, the guys decided they didn't really want their names associated with Eric's summer-of-love shit. Wise decision; unfortunately, Eric kept the band's name to himself, and that's the main thing - who on Earth remembers the other guys' names anyway?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1967
Record rating = 1
Overall rating = 4
One of the worst records in my collection. It's not music - just stupid preachy poetry set to instrumentation.Best song: SAN FRANCISCAN NIGHTS
Track listing: 1) Winds Of Change; 2) Poem By The Sea; 3) Paint It Black; 4) The Black Plague; 5) Yes I Am Experienced; 6) San Franciscan Nights; 7) Man - Woman; 8) Hotel Hell; 9) Good Times; 10) Anything; 11) It's All Meat.
I always have trouble trying to sit through this one from beginning to end. Finally, this is Eric Burdon's group, it's called 'Eric Burdon & The Animals', and he can do whatever he wants. What he wanted to do was two things: first, he wanted to write songs, second, he wanted the world to see him as a kind of New Prophet for the New Generation. Unfortunately, he failed both here and there. There are ten 'original compositions' on here (I refuse to call most of them 'songs'), and, sure enough, there's a lot of pseudo-philosophy going on, but he didn't even bother to set it to real music. Apparently, Eric wanted to create something more than just music on here - the record cannot be set on the same shelf with such avantgarde curios as Lennon's 'experimental' albums or Zappa's Lumpy Gravy or, in fact, anything. It's music, philosophy, literature and show-biz all in one forty-four minute package; but if this record proves anything, that's just one thing - be yourself and don't pretend to make a bigger fool (or genius, which is more or less the same thing) of yourself than you already are. Particularly applicable to Eric Burdon.As a historical curio, the record is perhaps worth one essential listen, but only an S&M freak with serious self-destructive tendencies would want to hear this twice. The title track, more or less, says it all: it consists of a brief lecture on the history of rock'n'roll, adorned by a background of silly noises and sitar sounds. Imagine that? Sitars wail all over the place, winds howl in the background, and Eric's booming voice that sounds more like Juppiter than Mr Burdon keeps naming all the major rock and proto-rock stars that paved the way to 'changes'. It's nauseating, to say the least, and whoever calls progressive rock 'pretentious' should first listen to this crap to learn what 'pretentious' really is. If this was Eric's idea at what psychedelic music should be, I pity him. From then on we have lecture after lecture, preaching after preaching, and not a single good tune in sight! On the first side, the only one that comes a bit close to being tolerable is the cover of 'Paint It Black' which could even have been good were it not so painfully inferior to the Stones' original. And not just inferior - loathsomely overblown. In the hands of the Stones it's just been a jolly good simple dark tune, while in the context of these novelties it sounds as bad as anything, especially in the middle, where the music dies away completely and we're left on our own with Eric's weepings and wailings. Of course, it ain't nowhere near as bad as the title track or 'Black Plague', which belongs to a historic documentary rather than a rock album. In fact, I do think the number would work well in the context of a movie (I can just imagine Eric's somber description of the plague inserted in some kind of a generic goth horror picture), but what the hell is it doing stuffed in the middle of a 'New Epoch' hippie record? Bummer. And it doesn't get any better than this: the first side closes with 'Yes I Am Experienced', a 'song' obviously intended as an answer to Hendrix's debut album which simply couldn't be anything but parody. It's totally laughable, to the point that sometimes I just can't get rid of visions of a completely boozed out Eric clenching his fists at Jimi and blurbing out 'sshhhoo Jimi, you sshay haf I bin 'sperienced? Well dammit ssho I AM 'sperienced, betcha fuckin' life!' A clear case of self-humiliation and nothing more. The second side is a little bit reassuring, although it does contain the only track that I simply can't listen to at all - one of the worst blurbs of nonsense I ever heard in my life in 'Man - Woman'. Suffice it to say that the 'climactic' moments on this track include Eric shouting out the words 'Man! Woman! Desire! Love!' over a rudimentary drum beat. The closing 'It's All Meat' is not a total duffer, but its ear-destructive gimmicky effects set on the guitars to achieve a state of complete chaos - which it does - don't thrill me all that much. The other four tunes are listenable - more or less; if you try real hard, a few melodic lines can be squeezed out of the hit 'San Francisco Nights', with its hilarious megaphone intro ('this song is dedicated to the people of San Francisco who may not know it but they are beautiful') and a cute little poppy melody. 'Good Times' is also pretty neat; and 'Hotel Hell' has a nice jazzy arrangement and an okayish gloomy, pessimistic atmosphere around it, but overall it's forgettable in any case. I mean, objectively I should have raised the rating a little bit, because these tunes never make me vomit, but the rest brings the record to such unreachable depths of crappiness that only a song of the 'House Of The Rising Sun' level could pull it out a little, and there's none. Don't even think about buying this album - I wouldn't even recommend it for completists; instead, please find some compilation that has 'San Franciscan Nights' on it or something. But if, due to a crazy historical accident, you've had the misfortune of doing so, keep in mind that this has nothing to do with the real Animals. The real Animals perished in 1966; this record is exclusively the product of the twisted, warped mind of Eric Burdon who's happened to acquire a Napoleon complex, unfortunately, at the very beginning of the Summer of Love.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9
The clash of the titans - dreadful arrangements vs. decent songwriting.Best song: SKY PILOT
Track listing: 1) Monterey; 2) Just The Thought; 3) Closer To The Truth; 4) No Self Pity; 5) Oranges And Red Beans; 6) Sky Pilot; 7) We Love You Lil; 8) All Is One; [BONUS TRACKS:] 9) Sky Pilot Part 1; 10) Sky Pilot Part 2; 11) Monterey (single version); 12) Anything (single version); 13) It's All Meat (single version).
But wait! This is different. This gives a little hope. Maybe, having gotten Winds Of Change out of his system, Burdon consequently realised that driving himself up the wall was not the ultimate way of profiting from the Summer of Love enterprise. After all, very few people - almost none, in fact - were systematically renouncing traditional pop music values in favour of rambling poetic declarations set against backgrounds of feedback, white noise, and stoned "ethnic" minimalism. Certainly neither the Who nor Jimi Hendrix nor the Grateful Dead ever did anything of that sort; for them, "opening their minds" hardly equalled the "make nothing but noise, anything but music" mentality.Coincidentally, all three, plus a few other acts of the decade, are namedropped by Eric in 'Monterey', the album's opening single, predictably dedicated to memories of the first big hippie festival. Once again, there's nothing easier than to call it another pathetic cash-in on the ideals of '67, but there's one big difference this time: it actually rocks. Okay, so it sounds stupid. We kinda sorta got used to that coming from the "New (And Freshly Brainwashed) Animals". The whispered "in the beginning!" is stupid. The all-pervading sitar (it actually wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say that sitars and guitars have practically swapped places on this album - there's nowhere you can hide from the friggin' raga!) is stupid. Lines like "The Grateful Dead blew everybody's mind! Jimi Hendrix, baby, believe me, set the world on fire!" are the quintessence of trite, especially when followed by unintentionally caricaturesque 'imitations' of said acts. But none of that is strong enough to detract me from stating the state-able: 'Monterey' is a fairly decent psychedelic rock song. It stomps, it swirls, it's got some good, steady, non-schizophrenic Burdon roar, and maybe a bit of it could even pass for "catchy". And it pretty much sets the template for most of the album, that is, until it enters its final fifteen minutes of gory shit. Track after track I hear actual songs - written, if the liner notes are to be believed, on a collective basis, and, if my intuition is to be credited with anything, over a certain time period, rather than according to the "New Age improv" method. Yes, it is also true that upon being written they are then mercilessly picked up by the feet and dipped head first into the sonic spam of psychedelic cliches, out of which they emerge in a pretty pitiful state. Sitars, feedback, phasing, drunk volume balance, echoes, incoherent overdubbing, it's all there. The one main influence is obvious: Hendrix's wild experimentation on the freshly delivered Axis: Bold As Love. But none of these guys comes within ten miles of Jimi's musicianship level, and did Jimi ever use a sitar? Well, did he? So, basically, it's just song after song with mixed emotions. Much like the guitars aimlessly wobble from speaker to speaker during the instrumental section of 'Closer To The Truth', my soul aimlessly wobbles from sympathy to despisal. The most stable tunes are, maybe not coincidentally, the two that are not sung by Burdon - two psycho-folk ramblings with a strangely lament-like attitude, 'Just The Thought' and 'Orange And Red Beams'. (I suspect that it must be bassist Danny McCulloch taking the lead, since he's the only other guy formally credited for vocals, but don't hold me responsible). 'Beams' ends up on an ugly dissonant note, with exquisitely lame vocal overdubs effectively extinguishing each other's fire, but other than that, they're both very nice and, in a way, really sound like nothing else at the time: trippy, yet personal and intimate, folksy, yet with an individual singer-songwriter touch. Hooks present as well. [Funny trivia note: the original title was indeed 'Orange And Red Beams', but the CD re-issue mistitles the song as 'Oranges And Red Beans' (sic!) - who knows, maybe intentionally so?]. Two other Burdon leads on the first side are tolerable, but marred - 'Closer To The Truth', with its fun nursery-boogie structure, has these unnecessary intro and outro sections where the band seems to be recording themselves onto an old cassette player, and the already mentioned instrumental passage which is just a mock-Hendrix bunch of simplistic riffs tossed from one speaker onto the other. (On the positive side, you could probably claim that the song predicts the whole 'lo-fi' movement by several decades - not that I'm necessarily stunned, mind you). As for 'No Self Pity', it is basically the musical equivalent of Shelob's, uh, Sitar's Lair, the exact location at the center of which lurks the evil Indian beast and spreads its vile, rotten influence over everything else. A side effect of the poison is an unbeatable desire to get all preachy on our asses, and considering that Eric's preachiness is typically represented by lines like 'And no matter how fine you are, there is always somebody finer' (the whole song can be used as a great learning exercise for English students who wanna practise their comparative degree), you might want to stay away from that dark cave. Even more controversial is the second side. On one hand, you have 'Sky Pilot', a song so cool that I still can't bring myself to believe it was actually written by Eric and his pals during that period. Again, this is pure speculation, but it may well be so that Burdon wanted to have a big hit with a radical anti-war song, and in order to do that, he had to give it a somewhat more "commercial" sound than everything else. A big hit it was not, maybe because he couldn't bring himself to a radical sellout anyway, and refused to abridge the seven-minute song, splitting it in two and leaving in the lengthy psychedelic guitar solo and battle noises and plane crashes and stuff (the re-released CD issue tacks both "parts" on as bonus tracks, although there is no difference between the single and LP versions besides the obvious fadeout on the single). Nevertheless, the main melody is top-notch; the anti-war verses are delivered with even more passion than the whole Monterey drama, and the 'how high can you fly, you'll never touch the sky' hook is simply the best pop hook to be featured on a Burdon record, ever. For that little bit, I can even pardon the never-ending, never-well-meaning guitar solo. Although, to be fair, when the guitar solo is finally washed away by all the explosions and the swooshing waves of orchestration on Part II take over, I sort of feel nice and happy all over. On the other hand, you have 'We Love You Lil', a whistled-then-strummed bit of 'Lili Marlene' opening the proceedings and then - whoosh! - the subtlety is all gone and you get another... guitar solo. Let me finally check out that guitarist. Briggs? Right. Vic Briggs. I respect Mr Vic Briggs. He plays better than I ever will (okay, considering that I don't play, that's not much of a compliment). He plays better than most garage players of the Sixties (and Seventies, and beyond) ever did. But he plays the same limited note sequences over and over and over and over again. How would you feel if you were present at a performance of Hamlet and the actor kept forgetting his lines and inserting the same "to be or not be" formula every five minutes? How soon would tragedy become comedy, and comedy become boredom and boredom become rotten tomatoes? I feel an honest desire to strangle this guy by the third minute of the tune, let alone fifth or sixth. There isn't even any subtle crescendo (of the Beatles' 'I Want You' variety), and the guitar parts themselves aren't all that moving (of the Hackett-played 'Firth Of Fifth' variety), just to name a few other "minimalistic repetitive instrumentals" that come to mind. And last, but not least, don't even start me on 'All Is One' - look at that title with bright, deeply penetrating eyes, and you'll probably be able to hear through it and understand all of my intense and arduous feelings without my having to lay them out on web-paper. But still there's hope, however dark it might be at times. It is my firm belief that the "New Animals" wrote dated, trite (message-wise), and, for the most part, ugly "music", but that does not necessarily make it "uninteresting". Even Winds Of Change were interesting, from a certain point of view; interesting in their sheer ugliness. The Twain Shall Meet manage to merge being interesting with - frequently - not being ugly, which, in my eyes, constitutes progress and makes the whole experience "worthwhile", overall, rather than "worthless". And, if anything else, 'Sky Pilot' alone is well worth an extra point, or even a point and a half, or something. The CD that I am reviewing also throws on a bunch of bonus tracks, mostly single versions (the 'Monterey' single version is particularly good because it omits the corny 'in the beginning!' whisper), two of them carried over from Winds Of Change, actually, which makes the CD all the more recommendable because that way you can get a taste of the few inoffensive WoC tracks like 'Anything' and 'It's All Meat' - and relaxedly forget that the offensive ones ever existed in the first place.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9
Look at that photo. They SO forgot the coaldust. Eric! Get yer bloomin' ass to Newcastle this instant! It don' work wi' no coaldust!Best song: YEAR OF THE GURU
Track listing: 1) White Houses; 2) Uppers And Downers; 3) Serenade To A Sweet Lady; 4) The Immigrant Lad; 5) Year Of The Guru; 6) St James Infirmary; 7) New York 1963 - America 1968; [BONUS TRACKS:] 8) River Deep Mountain High (single version); 9) White Houses (single version).
You know, I almost nearly gave this album a higher rating than this one. Almost nearly so. Because there are slow, steady, scattered signs of convalescence on every corner. Creakily and noisily we're moving the patient out of the emergency chambers and relocating him to stationary. He's still susceptible to epileptic fits every now and then but for the most part, we got him under control, doctor. His disease has actually shifted somewhat. Now he's claiming to be a representative of the poor, oppressed classes. He renounces his so-called "hippie sensibilities" of three months ago, insists on wearing cheap low class clothes, and practices Cockney with the help of a little dictionary. His main hobby consists of walking around with dictaphones, thrusting them under the nose of whoever, in his opinion, classifies as "the downtrodden masses" and recording whatever they'd like to complain about. Cutting a long story short, there's still plenty of work for every one of us, doctor, but at least he finally broke his sitar so that the other patients are no longer suffering from so much racket.Of course, three months in between albums is a joke and everyone knows it. As far as musical ideas that may require a certain period for elaboration are concerned, there's only about one side on this LP that is really filled with such ideas, maybe even less. The rest is padding-o-rama galore. But at least the padding is conducted cleverly - so that there is not one track on this album that I could call rotten from top to bottom and backwards. And, most importantly, it's a different kind of padding. Three months, yes, but very obviously something happened in these three months, something that made Eric almost completely renounce 1967-style psychedelia and veer into other directions. Yes, that's right, Every One Of Us is not a psychedelic album, or, more exactly, doesn't pretend to be one, like its older brothers. And it's not just the lack of sitar. It's that Eric has suddenly decided to lock these other directions - primarily Greenwich-influenced folk and James Brown-influenced R'n'B - in such a tight embrace that there is practically no place left for trippiness. In fact, I would be glad if I could call this a "clear-cut case of post-Woodstock disillusionment", except there's one little "but", namely, the fact that Woodstock wouldn't happen until more than a year later. Mid-'68 definitely wasn't a time for people to get disillusioned in the Frisco ideals, unless you were of the Bob Dylan or Kinks variety and never had these illusions in the first place. So either I'm reading this dead wrong or else there was something decisively prophetic about Mr Burdon in the late Sixties. The stingiest part of this "disillusionment" is, of course, 'Year Of The Guru', easily the angriest, hottest chunk of molten metal in the entire "Burdon & The Animals" catalog. First, it is the first (and maybe the last?) time that you get to hear Eric rap his way through a twisted lyrical set. That's novel. Second, the motto for this goes something like "everybody get wilder than wild", and they do: guitars, pianos, even the rhythm section go a hundred percent bonkers and deliver a musical storm that might have even pleased the Stooges. Third, the lyrics - who could expect that? - are mocking the "guru" concept, putting the "spiritual leaders" back in their place and finally concluding that the best way to deal with "guruism" is for you to... become a guru yourself. It is not impossible that Eric had been in contact with John Lennon or some other people disillusioned with the Maharishi during the winter of '68 Indian trip - this would certainly explain the subject matter. But then again it's not that important. What's important is that the song really rocks, and is this band's finest performance as a band. That's about it with the New Age and its implications, though. The rest of the party is dedicated to Burdon professing his love for the common people. The good part of the deal is that he gets to write some melodies. The bad part is that the deal is two-sided: Eric insists on having the common man share his feelings as well. So, like it or not, but you will have to sit through a lengthy conversation of two brawny English dockers on Side A and an equally lengthy monologue of a black former air pilot on Side B. To be honest with you, though, I'd much rather sit through this kind of stuff than yet another homebrewed raga or splurge of man-woman-man-woman shamanism. At least once. Twice, it's not so interesting already, unless you think that a three-minute conversation of two honest-to-goodness English dockers can raise as much emotional excitement as a fine piece o' boogie (well, in a movie maybe, but on a record?...). Then there's that tricky issue of whether it is an adequate move on Burdon's part to think that he has the one true right (or even obligation) to yield talkin' space off his own album to the common man - in mid-1968, how much did he really have in common with said man? I don't have any fixed opinions on this one - but for some reason, I just don't feel too much at ease with this approach. It's not exactly "phoney" in the straightforward sense, but... well, something's not right here, I think. I do, however, declare that I have nothing whatsoever against English dockers. After all, didn't John Lennon barely miss a chance of becoming one? The actual songs to which these pieces are attached, though, aren't half bad. They're lengthy, repetitive, monotonous acoustic ballads that do to some extent work as mantras; the folksy melodies are decent, Eric's singing is meaningful, and the overall atmosphere is convincing. 'The Immigrant Lad' is just Eric and a guitar, with an occasional seagull in the background (quite possibly influenced by Dylan's latest album, which, surprise surprise, also devoted some attention to the immigration issue). 'New York 1963 - America 1968' is far grander in scope. It occupies all of Side B, but it's a little more than merely a way to make up for lack of material. Okay, so there's the air pilot imploring us to get off our big fat you-know-what and move, but before that, in typical Eric fashion, we're treated to a lengthy account of his first acquaintance with America - in solid musical form, with nice guitar backing (I especially like the little tweet-tweedle-tweedle-dee flourishes that Weider - or is it Briggs? - inserts in between the lines) and a silly, but funny chorus that eventually sticks despite the silliness ('And when I got to America, I say it blew my mind'). After the air pilot monologue, however, things get shakier - it's jam time, brothers and sisters, and off we go into territory that would eventually bring Burdon into close contact with WAR. This is no WAR, though, it's a bunch of half-stoned white kids trying to raise funky hell, and if they don't embarrass themselves completely, it's mainly because Eric is occasionally striking out lonely sparks on his own, and the never-ending vocal battle between "freedom! I wanna be free!" and "you will never be free!" is mildly curious. Mildly. Overall, once the final 'it blew my mind...' is over and the acoustic guitar fades away and the air pilot takes centerstage, that's the advisable time to push the stop button. A shame, actually, because Side A is so eerily consistent. Besides 'Year Of The Guru' and the good, dockerless half of 'The Immigrant Lad', there's also the band's blazing cover of 'St James Infirmary'. Now here, comparisons with 'House Of The Rising Sun' are inevitable, because the two melodies are basically the same, and they are meant to be the same - it's as if Eric was desperately looking for a pretext to re-record the song with his new band and the similarities in melodies gave him that pretext. So there's no Alan Price, but there's a terrific "woman tone" guitar solo instead. Okay, maybe it's not really "terrific", but it does come across as such after you've been heated up by Burdon's fire, and the rest of the arrangement is no slouch either - deep, doomy, proto-Zeppelinish bass and the most aggressive celeste part ever heard (at least I think it's a celeste - I'd opt for sitar, but liner notes quite expressly omit the term "sitar" from the instrument list). There's also the short "commercial" single, 'White Houses', the most normal introduction to a Burdon album in two years, actually just a fun little country rocker, hearing which right at the start of the album might temporarily trick you into thinking that the situation is now completely under control. Well, as you can see it certainly isn't, but overall, I'd formulate my general opinion on the album by quoting this wise traditional thought borrowed directly from the album's second, and shortest, track: 'And when they were up, they were up/And when they were down, they were down/And when they were only halfway there, they were neither up nor down'. So, it's up (or down!) to you to decide where they were, but my money's right on the last choice.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10
Whew, at least this sounds more like it. Lengthy funk/soul improvisations, that's what this one is all about.Best song: AS THE YEARS GO PASSING BY
Track listing: 1) River Deep Mountain High; 2) I'm An Animal; 3) I'm Dying Or Am I?; 4) Ring Of Fire; 5) Coloured Rain; 6) To Love Somebody; 7) As The Years Go Passing By; 8) Gemini; 9) The Madman (Running Through The Fields).
After the unimaginable bullshit of Winds, this almost sounds like James Brown in comparison. (I don't like James Brown all that much, so I don't hold responsibility for the compliment). It isn't exactly up to the highest standards, I'll admit, but there are, like, songs on this record. Of course, for some pathetic reason, the album never made the big time (Winds Of Change did, of course), and the band collapsed after its release, but don't let these insignificant historical details bother you.The bad news is that this is a double album, and this is not due to the fact that Eric and company had written an outstanding collection of innumerable songs of the highest quality. Instead, it is due to the fact that Eric had stopped bothering about the length of the songs: most of them go over five minutes, and at least three or four of the nine seem to go on forever. With Winds Of Change in mind, I initially shuddered as I put the CD on, afraid of even thinking what kind of rubbish these 'songs' could contain. Fortunately, I was a little re-assured. Most of these tracks have real melodies, and although Eric still prefers lengthy brooding improvisations over tight rock & pop numbers, he has undergone a radical change of direction. Instead of reciting pseudo-philosophical tracts and engaging in dissonant rap sessions, he seems to have suddenly fallen in love with such respected genres as soul and funk. Which is a fair enough compromise - both of these also tolerate improvisation and ego-expression, but in a good, tolerable way. Indeed, the album can easily be seen as an obvious transition point between Burdon's past and his future in the funky WAR; those who find themselves passionately falling in love with Eric Burdon Declares WAR should definitely check out this record, if only to witness a little less musical talent, but a little more diversity and experimentalism in Eric's approach to the material. The album itself opens with a cover of 'River Deep, Mountain High' that has the greatest amount of funk on the record (including a quote from Sly & The Family Stone when Eric sings 'I want to take you higher'; if only the Sly song wasn't written later), but it's fast and funny, and Eric's vocals seem to take on a new confidence and you seem to feel yourself at home with 'em once again. The middle section is kinda dumb, with all kinds of psychedelic noises and stuff you won't be wanting to hear once again (and the band chanting 'Tina Tina Tina' - what's that a reference to T. Turner or am I just experiencing hearing problems?), but at least the main parts are completely tolerable. Then there's the anthem 'I'm An Animal', one of the best known songs from the album; the title, endlessly reprised on the choruses, can sometimes get on my nerves, but otherwise it's a good-natured, funny, slow, lumbering pop number that really gets me going. The album continues with some shorter throwaways, including the 'hit' single 'Ring Of Fire' (Johnny Cash, eh?) and a fun Britpop-meets-shiny-psychedelia excursion 'I'm Dying Or Am I?', before going off into two endless covers of Traffic's psychedelic 'Coloured Rain' (Lord, what principle did they follow in selecting the songs to cover?) and the Bee Gees' (!!) 'To Love Somebody' where Eric really hits an all-time low with his 'soul' singing. Funk, all right, but Eric as an almost gospel performer? Save me Jesus... Even the female backup vocals sound totally corny. On the other hand, what could you expect of such an idea? The Animals covering the Bee Gees? Whoah, at least it's not the opposite. In any case, the song sounds so dreadfully corny that one must suppose it's probably tongue-in-cheek after all. For me, the real highlight of the album is the moody blues 'As The Years Go Passing By', probably the closest thing to a classic Animals song on the whole record. It starts off slow and cool, before Eric picks up steam (and his vocals are terrific throughout), and then leads off into a ferocious and emotional guitar solo played by new member Andy Summers (yup, the one who later joined Police all right). Excellent blues number, and the only complaint is that it evokes memories of their past days when they used to have Alan Price to emphasize the sound. But whatever memories of the past you may have, they're all effaced with 'Gemini', a crazy, weirdass 'astral rock' tune that sounds more Syd Barrett than Eric Burdon. It's overlong, of course, but it does have its moments, and the bizarre bunch of effects that the band uses is at least creative. Likewise, 'The Madman (Running Through The Fields)' has its moments, especially in the lovely acoustic/flute breaks. Verily and truly, ladies and gentlemen, this is in no way a return to form, but if listening to this record will not convince you of the fact that Eric Burdon is in reality a highly talented guy who was just misled by the Summer Of Love, then nothing will. With a little patience and skill, and lots and lots of editing, this could have even been a... shudder... great record. Funny how the hippie era really took some guys and pushed them on towards new and new great achievements (the Beatles, Cream, Hendrix), while it took other guys and shoved them head first into the dirt. Anyway, like I said, this was the last New Animals record ever: the band collapsed soon afterwards and Eric dropped the psycho schtick and began a successful career with the funk group WAR.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1976
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10
...we used to sell lotsa more records.Best song: hmm, this is hardly an album with competition opportunities
Track listing: 1) Brother Bill (The Last Clean Shirt); 2) It's All Over Now Baby Blue; 3) Fire On The Sun; 4) As The Crow Flies; 5) Please Send Me Someone To Love; 6) Many Rivers To Cross; 7) Just A Little Bit; 8) Riverside Country; 9) Lonely Avenue; 10) The Fool.
Apparently the Byrds should be considered the forefathers of the "Who Gives A Flamin' Fuck About Our Long Awaited Reunion" international movement. The Animals - or, rather, "The Original Animals", as they have been wisely subtitled on the LP so as to distinguish them from "The New Animals", "The Newer Animals", and "Eric Bearded & The 21st Century Mutant Animals" - have to take second prize unless I'm missing some extremely important link. But probably not. In terms of "long awaited", the Animals qualify like no one else: a whole decade has passed since the Newcastle boys last played and recorded together in their purest incarnation. And in terms of the flamin' fuck, let me just tell you that when it comes to determining the issue date of this album, Internet sources are almost equally divided into three fractions - the 1975 one, the 1976 one, and the 1977 one. This particular honour is usually bestowed only upon the most wholesomely forgotten records of the century. (One of the sources explicitly stated that the album peaked on the US charts in August '76 - for modesty and misery reasons, I will be silent about the exact position - so 1976 is probably your best bet).Truth be told, the world hasn't lost much by forgetting about this record's existence. A reunion that took place so early can mean only one thing - the band members, whose solo careers hadn't managed to be commercially and critically successful or hadn't taken off at all, tried reuniting as a last resort for regaining public attention. But in 1976, with musical fashions beginning to change so radically that everything Sixties-related was automatically scoffed at, an Animals reunion album was the last thing the people would want. Okay, so it's not like I'm necessarily with the people on this. I'd rather they wanted an Animals reunion album than a Foreigner debut one. But the timing was rotten indeed. And it was even more rotten in that the main idea underlying this album was to try and recreate the old Animals sound rather than use the band's collective talent to move in different directions. It's a wonder Eric actually agreed with the guys upon that - after a decade of wild (even if mostly unsuccessful) experimentation he'd be going to the basics again? Must have been really desperate. Anyway, what this album is is a ten-song collection, all but one of them covers (in classic Animals style) of blues, R'n'B, folk, and rock'n'roll standards (in classic Animals style). Most of them would have easily fit on any of those early Animals albums, too. Well, so they're generally longer than three minutes, and the production is certainly more sophisticated than it used to be, and they do a Dylan cover which is kinda novel for them, but other than these temporally-determined factors, it's like 1965 all over again. Now, of course, the paradox is that in 1976, it certainly wasn't cool to be 1965. But today (in 2005), 1976 and 1965 are both a matter of long time ago, and with all these dots blurring together on the horizon line, it's possible - in fact, recommendable - to treat BWWSRI as just another album from the Animals. A little bit inferior, perhaps. A bit less raunchy, a bit less raucous, a bit less daring, but still a gas for everybody who likes the Animals doing what the Animals are supposed to do. The only added bonus, surprisingly, is Eric's articulatory prowess. I can't say that the elapsed ten years worked wonders on any of the other band members. Okay, so Price sort of extended his technical inventory, adding a whole array of different keyboards to the trusty old organ/piano combo, and Valentine added quite a bit of fuzz and distortion to his backpack, but you sort of expect these things from everybody equipped with electric instruments. Eric, however, due to first playing with bands where nobody really mattered but him (New Animals), and then with bands where everybody mattered but him so he had to give it his all to matter at least a bit (WAR), has thoroughly matured as a vocalist, and considering that he was no slouch on the old albums either, that just might be reason enough to try and get your hands on this release. Because Burdon is really at his very best throughout. Listen to the Dylan cover, for instance. Without wrecking their brains too much they give 'It's All Over Now Baby Blue' a classy minimalistic sheen - just Eric and Price's stately piano chords (not counting the rhythm section), but it grips me hard cuz Eric is delivering the lyrics at the top of his powers. It's not opera yet, but it's close, and close in a good way. This guy knows that he can really sound convincing - even scarily convincing - when necessary, and when you do 'Baby Blue', you have to sound convincing, because, well, it's one of those songs. When Bob did it, they interpreted it as his saying farewell to his folkie fans. How should we interpret it here? I don't think we should even start. But let me tell you this - I wouldn't mind if they played this particular version at my funeral. Or maybe that's too much to ask. Another outstanding vocal performance awaits on the band's take on 'Many Rivers To Cross'. It's the kind of song the band has never really tried before, but Eric gives it a head-spinning "gospel-folk" interpretation, so head-spinning, in fact, that you're given no time to catch your breath and shout "hey, isn't this a generic pompous bore?" because Burdon will almost certainly outscream you. Just one more obvious case of how a good vocal performance might ruin everything with devastating effect but a great one might really turn the tables. For the record, even Robert Christgau confessed to liking this one, and since we all know it's harder to please that guy than a hardcore Mennonite, that ought to speak volumes. Even on the less anthemic blues and rock'n'roll numbers the vocals still stand out. But there, of course, the primary emphasis is on full band power, and this is where I can only say that it's all sort of okay. It's fun to hear Leiber-Stoller's 'Brother Bill', for instance, but I've heard millions of songs like these. It's nice to hear Eric threateningly growl his way through Jimmy Reed's 'As The Crow Flies', but... uh... well you know, it's a Jimmy Reed blues song. Ya know. 'Please Send Me Someone To Love' is Curtis Mayfield, right? Well, it is somewhat risky to offer your own interpretations of Curtis Mayfield. 'Riverside Country' is... oh, it's an original. Just like in the old days, when they used to take other people's songs, slap on a different set of lyrics and thus happily settle the royalties issue. In the end, the only songs that really stick with me are the band's rowdy version of Shakey Jake's 'Fire On The Sun' (kick ass!) and the quirky ditty about 'The Fool' that closes the album, just because it's one of the catchiest quirky ditties ever written and the only other version of it I've heard so far was Paul McCartney's on the Unplugged version and you know when you put an Animals reunion album on one side of the scale and a McCartney unplugged concert on the other and make both play old country-blues standards, the winner gets selected by a strictly automated process. (Of course, things might get shakier if we see Burdon's take on 'Yesterday', but here's hoping that day never comes). Note the difference between this album and the reunited band's next effort, Ark - no songwriting at all involved here, whereas by 1983 they would already try their hands at adding original ideas. And even the album sleeve is intentionally designed so as to resemble all those decade-old pictures of the band: similar hairstyles, similar smiles, similar poses. If there's anything truly original about BWWSRI, it's that it really is the first serious "exercise in nostalgia", at least a decade before such exercises became the norm. But that's the least important thing about it as well. And the most important thing is that it's just a nice, inoffensive way of spending thirty minutes of your life - typical "overall-rating-of-10 fodder", that is.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1983
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10
Nice collection of synth-pop and other ditties. Filler exists, and this sounds nothing like the Animals of old, though.Best song: MY FAVOURITE ENEMY
Track listing: 1) Loose Change; 2) Love Is For All Time; 3) My Favourite Enemy; 4) Prisoner Of The Light; 5) Being There; 6) Hard Times; 7) The Night; 8) Trying To Get To You; 9) Just Can't Enough; 10) Melt Down; 11) Gotta Get Back To You; 12) Crystal Nights; [BONUS TRACK:] 13) No John No.
The second attempt by the original Animals to come back together was even less commercially and critically successful than the first one but, believe it or not, resulted in a good album. One thing I can't quite understand, though, is what the heck Ark is supposed to do with the Animals. Are you still with me? Good. If you remember it, the Animals were a nice little raunchy R'n'B band that didn't write too much of their own songs, but when they did write something, organist Alan Price and vocalist Eric Burdon would get together and pen something nice and derivative that would later be performed with a flair.Well, the Animals are still the Animals on here, as far as the names go; the music, however, is not. The music here is rather standard early Eighties synth-pop, with a touch of R'n'B influence now and then, but not always. Hilton Valentine is supposed to be playing guitar, and Price is supposed to be playing keyboards, but for some reason I feel neither of the two did too much work on here. Two key figures are present in the mix - additional guitar/synth player Steve Grant, whose chief function is to comb the band in a trendy way, and Eric Burdon, who is in top vocal form and is obviously ready to overshadow all of his former bandmates. Not that he never tried to do the same in the early years. What's so good about the combination? Essentially, you should just forget about any links between this band and the Animals and just take this as a good early Eighties record. Because it IS a good record. Burdon shares the lion's share of songwriting, but amazingly, the best two songs are written by Steve Grant: 'Loose Change' and 'My Favourite Enemy' are fantastiwastic pop rockers, memorable, playful, involving, energetic, catchy to death. Of course, one can't overlook that it's Eric who really makes these tunes: listen to him wailing 'loose change, loose cha-a-a-a-a-nge, all I ever get is loose change', and you'll understand that any other singer would simply ruin the song. 'My Favourite Enemy' is even better, as it slowly effectuates its thrilling crescendo - from a quiet, muffled synthy shuffle to an all out rockin' part, with Burdon roaring out 'baby baby baby baby baby you are my favourite enemy-y-y-y-y...' as if his whole life depended on how loud and painfully sincere-looking he roared that out. Terrific song, unjustly lost in time. The rest of the tunes vary quite a bit. There's an old R'n'B cover ('Trying To Get To You') that doesn't hold a candle to classic Animals material because Price is all but non-existent; too bad - I would love to hear his familiar moody organ on at least a couple occasions. There are a couple more Burdon-penned synth-pop rockers that show he must have been listening to the Cars a lot lately (then again, it might just have been Grant's influence - this entire record sounds like it could have been written by Ric Ocasek. Is this a bad thing? I don't think so). 'Crystal Nights', in particular, has a cool bassline and groovy alternations between danceable verses and disturbing angry choruses, with the hooks well-placed. Too often, though, the band sounds just a bit too generic in their copping that dance-pop sound of the Eighties. The discoish 'Being There', for instance, is not a particularly good tune. 'Prisoner Of The Light' is like an arena-rocker filtered through a synth network, although once again, I'm ready to forgive the simplicity and standardness of the melody due to a beautiful Burdon vocal delivery. Anyway, we've all heard Burdon as a spokesman for the R'n'B generation, for the funk generation, for the psychedelia generation, why not hear him speak for the dance-pop generation? He's not the worst choice. Funny that 'The Night', the album's most well-expressed Eighties tune, all awash in synth riffs, was chosen as the single - whoever did the producers want to entice with a synth-led Animals single, for God's sake? Oh, and 'The Night' is not a bad song, by the way. Like the Bee Gees in a dark dark dark mood. But if you're disappointed, you can stick to 'Love Is For All Time'. It's Burdon's exercise in reggae. I love the song dearly while it's on, I forget everything but the fact that it's reggae when it's over. So many songs in this world share the same fate... then again, so many share a worse fate. Let's drink to the honest simplistic forgettable song like 'Love Is For All Time'. It deserves to be celebrated. There's a bunch of filler tunes towards the end, though, and the CD edition includes a strange bonus track - a ballad/rocker called 'No John No', originally released as the B-side to 'The Night'. It's Price's only composition on the album, and it's kinda weird. It tells about the death of a John. No, not John Lennon. I don't know if it's autobiographic or not. It's just a song about the death of a John. You make your own friggin' conclusions, and I'll make mine: I'm kinda glad Ark is here, because any album with good songs on it, especially with songs like 'My Favourite Enemy', deserves to be in my (and your) collections. But I'm STILL seriously puzzled about the guys having released this under the 'Animals' moniker. Maybe they should have renamed themselves, like 'Synthy Animals' or 'Stinking Animals' to attract contemporary youth. Maybe then the record wouldn't have flopped and wouldn't be almost unavailable. It's nice to know they were able to make this little adaptation, though - most of their contemporaries failed to do likewise. PS. All those praises do not, of course, mean that Ark can serve as an introduction to the Animals. I hope you got that! It's IMPORTANT!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
APPENDIX: SOLO PROJECTS
As you might understand, laying your hands on the Animals' solo projects is an even harder task than assembling all the regular stuff, and so far I have been only relatively lucky. I'm speaking particularly of Eric Burdon, as you understand: the man had a long and laborious career after the New Animals have fallen apart, first joining the funk combo War (I'm looking for more of their collaborative albums, although I have totally no interest otherwise), then going solo with several different backup bands and actually releasing records until the present time, most of which are impossible to find. He's been terribly inconsistent all these years, but, unfortunately, that only means that you can't make out a good judgement about the man until you've heard most of his music. So I'm looking.As for the other 'Animals', most of them had solo careers of their own (except for Chas Chandler, who turned to management business after leaving the band and fostered both Jimi Hendrix and Slade - go figure!), but I doubt whether any of their albums are still available anywhere in this world, and I'm not going to visit the Lord God yet for his control copy. I suppose that you can find some Alan Price records, though, if you look real hard.
Year Of Release: 1970
Overall rating = 10
Fun title, but seems like it's his listeners Eric mostly declares war on; dressing his usual ravings up in blues and funk is rather hard to assimilate.Best song: THE VISION OF RASSAN
Track listing: 1) The Vision Of Rassan; 2) Tobacco Road; 3) Spill The Wine; 4) Blues For Memphis Slim; 5) You're No Stranger.
"WAR" was an all-black combo that nobody in the world ever knew until Eric decided to join forces with them and made them a worldwide sensation over the course of one single year (mind you, I'm not saying that WAR own all of their success to Eric - but it was Eric who put them into orbit, want it or not). In a certain way, both sides benefited from it: the band was able to pull itself out of obscurity, and Eric finally had a skilful instrumental combo playing traditional African music (R'n'B, that is) which seemed to be the ideal counterpoint for his by now traditional lengthy ravings. After all, the main problem for Burdon in the late Sixties was that he never seemed to have any luck with his backing band: the arrangements were thin and far too experimental, and this was in a large part due to the fact that all of these guys simply never knew where they were heading and what exactly they were doing. Now here was a steady, self-assured pack of professionals who could easily back Burdon on anything, on even the most outrageous and avantgarde ideas of his, and do that without losing touch with real music. So was that a dream come true?Well, to an extent, maybe, but not quite. Some reviewers consider this album a classic, some treat it with reverence, but I doubt whether it's really possible to enjoy all of this stuff in its entirety. War are indeed a great band, in that technical sense: two awesome percussionists (Papa Dee Allen and Howard Brown), a nifty guitarist (Howard Scott), nice tinkly organs (Lonnie Jordan), clever sax parts (Charles Miller, who also adds some breathtaking flute solos from time to time), and I'm too tired to name the others. But let us even abstract ourselves from the fact that I'm not the biggest funk and R'n'B fan in the world. Let's face a more important fact - there's hardly even a single song on this album that could make it a classic. The album is dominated by three lengthy sprawls, completely in the vein of Love Is and whatever it would be that Eric would create later on albums like Sun Secrets. This alone should warn you. So there are only two short numbers, and they certainly can't compensate for the great horrors of the sprawls. 'Spill The Wine', actually, is quite decent: lyrically it's just another in an endless row of Eric's daydreams, this time with an area of mysticism around it, but, fortunately, his narrative doesn't go on for centuries, and it's set to a solid musical background, with a nice organ pattern for the chorus and these magnificent flutes showing up occasionally, almost in a Jethro Tull manner. This tune would easily be the best on any of the New Animals albums; unfortunately, the New Animals could hardly have provided the flutes. However, the album closing 'You're No Stranger' is just a throwaway, starting as a minimalistic sound collage and ending as a raw gospelish demo that's nice but just can't be taken seriously. As for what concerns the sprawls... heh heh heh. If they were all bad, I'd have given the album a six or seven. Now listen here: 'Blues For Memphis Slim' is atrocious. Atrocious. I'd rename it 'Blues For Memphis Slum'. Maybe even 'Blues For Memphis Slug'. It creeps along miserably for thirteen minutes with nothing to hold on to - just quiet, modest organ and sax lines, most of them so quiet they can't even be creepy or anything. Moreover, after a short while Eric falls out with his singing and cedes the baton to the instrumentalists who proceed to completely bug you with their rudimentary saxophone and harmonica solos, so much that you can only hope and pray for Eric to resume his singing. One can only wonder why War, presumably all top-notch players, had fallen into such a desperate coma on this track. It's not even bad - it hasn't got an aim, and that's worse. Likewise, the band's rendition of the traditional 'Tobacco Road' tremendously sags in the middle - when Eric replaces the tune with yet another rambling and raving ('I Have A Dream'), this time hardly backed with any music at all. And, to tell you the truth, I'm not a big fan of the 'main part' either: I personally find Jefferson Airplane's version of the song far more involving, with a spooky, desperate atmosphere that isn't at all matched by Eric's wailings, no matter how hard he tries. And the arrangement doesn't even remind me of American R'n'B - it sounds like something that, say, the Yardbirds could have pulled off easily in a twinkle of an eye, and with a couple truly invigorating guitar solos to punch up the spirits as well. Oh, well. At least you can tap your foot to it, and it's also supposed to grow on you, so whatever. Maybe I'm just being crabby. This leaves the opener - the somewhat shorter (7:40, that's short for you!) 'Vision Of Rassan', obviously dedicated to the great saxophonist Roland Kirk. While the song's melody is trivial, to say the least, it has something truly engaging and gripping about it. Maybe it's the bouncy, cheerful piano melody that drags you along. Maybe it's Burdon's slow, measured vocals which - for once - sound really sincere as he deifies Kirk and throws in a panegyric to Charlie Parker as well. Maybe it's the silly beyond recognition refrain - 'make 'em work make 'em work make 'em work - Roland Kirk'. Probably everything taken together; there's something weird going on, and you can't deny it. This, however, should not take the attention away from the fact that I do not see any crucial difference between this album and, say, Love Is. The only difference is that Eric's backing band is this time far more professional. But everything else stays the same, favouring endless streams-of-conscience over actual melodies and mistaking avant-garde and funky excesses for real innovation. And so many things on here drag and drag that in parts, it's even less enjoyable than Love Is - it doesn't rock as well, for instance. Still, I'm not willing to drop the rating for the album to anything lower than a 10 for at least two obvious reasons: (a) it was quite a revolutionary effect, what with a white raving singer fronting a black funk/R'n'B outfit and all, and (b) this musical stylistics ain't exactly my cup of tea, so I could easily overlook some deeply hidden charms. That said, I still insist that their next album was a huge improvement.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1970
Overall rating = 11
Fabulous jamming on here - take some getting used to, of course, but I've rarely seen Eric more energized.Best song: PAINT IT BLACK MEDLEY
Track listing: 1) Paint It Black Medley; 2) Spirit; 3) Beautiful New Born Child; 4) Nights In White Satin I; 5) The Bird & The Squirrel; 6) Nuts, Seeds & Life; 7) Out Of Nowhere; 8) Nights In White Satin II; 9) Sun/Moon; 10) Pretty Colors; 11) Gun; 12) Jimbo; 13) Bare Back Ride; 14) Homecookin'; 15) They Can't Take Away Our Music.
Wow! What a goshdarn improvement! Now wait, I'm not going to disagree with most critics on that one when they say that Black Man's Burdon suffers from excessive length - a double LP which doesn't even fit onto one CD, making it a real pain in the butt for Burdon completists. On the other side, though, the length also helps this album. It is Eric Burdon and War's magnum opus, a record you'll either love or hate but will be forced to pay some respect to in any case, unless you're one of those types that equal respect with love.Basically, the double album format helps the guys make their entire schtick a bit more interesting. Put it this way: Burdon and friends just cannot make short songs. There are a couple four-minute tracks on the second LP, and some of the tracks on the first LP seem to be under three minutes long, but they actually just form a part of a long improvised jam, so it's a false shortness. The whole point, as we know it, is to find the Ultimate Musical Truth by means of lengthy, sensational improvised sessions, and the more sessions there are, the more the chance that some of them will be good. After all, the band's first album was just five songs, want it or not. Here, there are not less than ten or eleven songs, and while there is filler, it's not the point. I mean, it's not the point if there are or there aren't any particularly impressive melodies on the album. Frankly speaking, there are none. It all depends on the level of energy the band and Eric put in their performance, on the instrumentation, on the relative length and subtlety of the dynamics. In general, this album rocks. It's not a hard rock album, of course - actually, the guitars are quite low-key throughout, with the main emphasis traditionally placed on organ, bass, drums, flute and sax, but there's very little of that lethargic sludge that plagued Declares WAR in the first place. Much too often, it's just an extremely cool listening experience - to hear WAR in all of their witty and subtle power and that jerky white guy with his universalist fantasies who's finally found a more than decent musical background to set them to. Describing the songs and jams themselves is a very hard work, because, as I said, they aren't actually based on melodies; they're based on spontaneous inspiration, and sometimes the band falls into a classy groove only to fall out of it after a minute's time. Yet most of the actual grooves are able to take your breath away, if you only take that actual chance. Not that there aren't any stinkers. I was a bit wrong when I said there's no "lethargic sludge" on here - at least one of the tracks, the snail-paced 'Sun/Moon' goes on for ten minutes which is almost ten minutes too long, a basic slow blues number that revels in minimalism but doesn't achieve much with that reveling. Had it been in my power, I'd have cut it off and fit the double album onto one CD (ah well, had it been in my power, Lord knows what other crazy things I could have done!). As for the "potentially offensive" material, I'd have to namecheck the band's cover of 'Nights In White Satin'. Knowing Eric's wild antics, I was a bit prepared for the, ahem, 'slight psycho modification' of the original, but I really wasn't expecting Eric to turn the song into a mocking, almost disrespectful parody. He just brutally rapes the song, annihilating its emotional power through his exaggerated vocal delivery... imagine the Justin Hayward-sung original slowed down fifty times and then re-sped up to its original speed using Windows Media Player or something, and you get the picture. But on second listen, I wasn't that much offended already, and on third listen, I actually was able to have a good laugh. Eric, you old hoot! Tee hee. Whoever said 'Nights In White Satin' was the cornerstone of Pop Sacrality anyway? And you know, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Justin himself could have dug this version. But wait! What's that I hear? 'Nights In White Satin' actually gets interrupted, and in the middle come several superb jams - including a groovy, ominous bass/drums jam on 'Nuts, Seeds & Life' that steals a bit from the bass melody of Led Zep's 'Dazed And Confused' but is otherwise quite independent, and an angry, blazing piece of social mission statement in 'Out Of Nowhere' that beats the shit out of all the similar stuff on Winds Of Change. And then 'Nights' get reprised once again, but who cares? For all I know, I could just shut off that first CD... The primary highlight, of course, is the infamous 'Paint It Black' medley, where 'Paint It Black' itself only occupies about two or three minutes in total, while the rest is... well, the rest is the rest. First, a furious guitar/organ jam. Then 'Paint It Black', punctuated by sharp-hitting saxes. Then a driving, fast, flute/sax-dominated run through 'Laurel & Hardy'. A short, maybe not very interesting, but not offensive, drum solo. A short, catchy, flute-based shuffle that is based on the melody of 'Paint It Black', but presents it in a - howdya say that? - slightly more folkish light. A hilarious spoken dialog (musically backed! musically backed!). More flute jamming, drunken banter and Latin-influenced chanting. A quiet, but energetic blues-rocky rockin' part. A reprise of 'Paint It Black'. And a furious rush-to-the-end climax. Tons of musical ideas and thirteen minutes of unwasted time. Good deal for Mr Burdon. Elsewhere, you get goodies like (in no particular order) the ominous blues-rock masterpiece 'Bare Back Ride', the glorious psychedelic ditty 'Pretty Colors', the gloomy soulful 'Spirit', the party-spirit-like anthemic roll of 'Beautiful New Born Child', the relative catchiness of 'Homecookin', and it is all wrapped up with the best known song off this album, the band's pompous epic 'They Can't Take Away Our Music' whose lyrical matter corresponds to the song title exactly. As much as I usually dislike that kind of epic, it's delivered rather powerfully and in a non-cliched way, plus, it gives some of the actual WAR members the opportunity to take the vocal spotlight - something they'd be doing pretty often from now on, for obvious reasons (see below). Despite the positive, if superficial, descriptions, none of these songs are flawless: some are overlong, some could use a bit more inspiration or creativity, but each and every one of them has at least something going for it, and that's more than I could say about the basics of the New Animals, for instance. In short, energy is still the key word here. If you're looking for energy, baby, this is the place. Forget about the bunnies - Eric Burdon's da man to get you all set up for optimum performance! Don't forget to play this record really really loud, too. The songs themselves aren't heavy, but they presuppose loud playing, and not just because sometimes the sound is so quiet you can't hear anything until you turn the volume all the way up (like at the end of the fascinating 'Jimbo' - sheez, that ending nearly gives me the creeps). You're supposed to have fun to this record. I don't know if anybody ever tried propagating it as a party album, but why not give it a try? It might work. As far as improvisatory masterpieces go (and I'm not that big a fan of improvisation on a studio record, you gotta understand), this one should definitely hold one of the top spots. Unfortunately, its recording and subsequent touring exhausted Eric - in the beginning of 1971 he even collapsed onstage during one of the performances, which eventually led to his quitting the band soon afterwards. WAR went on to sell lots of records and boast international fame for a long time... but that's a different story; we'll just have to wait until I decide to donate the band an entire page of their own, which may not be that soon. Eric, in the meantime, jumped off that bandwagon in a good state of artistic health (having finally understood that excellent musicianship is the key to success), but in a poor state of commercial health - a state that never really improved after that. Too bad.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1976
Overall rating = 9
Crazy for more WAR? Whether you like this or not, I doubt you'll be stimulated into searching even deeper.Best song: LOVE IS ALL AROUND
Track listing: 1) Love Is All Around; 2) Tobacco Road; 3) Home Dream; 4) Magic Mountain; 5) A Day In The Life; 6) Paint It Black Medley.
I may be mistaken here, but I think that by the time the mid-Seventies rolled along, WAR were on a quite high commercial roll, despite Eric having long since abandoned ship (or maybe due to it). So that might be the main reason why the band's management was keen on making these archived outtakes available to the general public, in an epoch when the very notion of an 'archival release' would be generally deemed sort of weird and primarily referring to all those posthumous Hendrix records that cash-hungry people were baking just because he was dead and couldn't communicate too well from heaven. But the other burning question - why is the album cover so frickin' reminiscent of Thick As A Brick? - that one I couldn't answer in a million years.To be honest, the band didn't have that many outtakes in the Burdon era, and if we want to be real strict and selective about it, there is exactly one track which makes the album really worth owning - the one actually named 'Love Is All Around'. Now that's a pretty good song. Somewhere in between giddy pop and simple funk, it's a prime example of how Burdon's anthemic posturing of the late Sixties could be so well apropos, if you follow me, when given a properly soulful and playful backing by a bunch of guys who didn't object to, you know, playing their instruments rather than metaphorically defecating on them a la "New Animals". Perhaps the track could have benefitted a little from some extra 'partying' atmosphere - you know, a few ooh-oohs and backing vocals that wouldn't be afraid to step up to the front from time to time. As it is, they're leaving all the oompah to Eric alone, and that makes playing the track at top volume - as every anthemic, good-time party romp is supposed to be played - pretty much useless, because Eric Burdon is one kind of guy who, I think, is best heard at mid-volume. But other than that, I have no complaints. The vocals are catchy, the basslines are enigmatically frightening, and the short organ and brass bursts are in perfect harmony with each other. This wasn't a single? Odd! Pre tty much everything else displays various degrees of being interesting, but never ends up being satisfying, which is fairly normal for Burdon, I guess, so I'll just try to voice my complaints calmly and plainly without raising hell. The only other reasonably short track - 'Magic Mountain' - is a decent slow funk groove that could have amounted to something great were it found in the hands of, say, Funkadelic, where Eddie Hazel would add a groundbreaking guitar solo and Bernie Worrell would have soaked everything in a fat, thunderous keyboard sound and then there'd be psychedelia and wobbling and phasing and all kinds of whackedness. WAR, on the other hand, play it relatively soft and gimmickless, and it's just one of those cases where I'd welcome gimmicks, because the groove very quickly becomes monotonous - just how much of one simple brass riff repeated over and over again can one stand? The first side is then padded out with a long, long, long blues jam ('Home Dream') that does nothing except making me wish I'd rather have spent all this time listening to Dr. John or somebody else who does generic blues better than WAR do it. These guys are good rhythm-kickers, what's up with this sudden passion for 12-bar? Cut it out! I'd rather take in a version of 'Tobacco Road' that'd be twice as long as this alternate take, which arguably improves on the regular version because the band plays with much more grit, and there's no obnoxious music-less middle section either. The backing vocals suck, but the punch is there all right. Now the second side of this album - again, in classic Burdon f-rustr-ashion - is either a deranged masterpiece or still more waste of tape, or maybe both at the same time. Count me undecided. Sometimes I think Newcastle has sorely missed one more coal miner, and sometimes I think mining coal is so passe anyway. Okay, listen: it's all about Eric attempting to destroy - or reincarnate - the best song on Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I do believe, honestly, that all that time Eric was rummaging through decent songwriting material from his peers, operating on one recurrent thought: we're living in an age of the triumph of irrationality, and the most irrational thing he could do would be to select cover material as thoroughly incompatible with his overall style as possible. Let's face it, we could all see the guy covering 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' or 'I Can See For Miles', but could we see him covering 'Nights In White Satin' or 'A Day In The Life'? One thing is for certain - the final result would look nothing like the original, and whatever you say, at least it'd be a perfect way to spare yourself the cramps of songwriting and do something utterly original in spite of it. Anyway, the cover of 'A Day In The Life' is sort of semi-successful. It dispenses with any kinds of studio trickery (well, I don't think WAR would have found it a good idea to bring in an orchestra and replicate the crescendos - I actually wonder how the heck did they consent to all these mad ideas of Eric's!) in favour of slightly jazzifying the melody, putting all the pomp on the organ swirl, and inserting a lengthy instrumental passage with, yep, guitar solos a-plenty. Actually, I don't mind the solos at all; they recreate the main melody in a very nice psychedelic-jazz fashion. I do mind Eric dispensing with the last verse (does he have a problem with the Albert Hall or what?), and I do mind his completely unexplained substitution of 'English army' for 'Chinese army'. He probably had a reason for that, but I can't figure which one. I also mind his singing, but it's not like it's particularly bad or anything, it's just that John's original was so perfect. In the end, I'm surprised that this WAR version is really able to work on any level, but it is. At least Burdon understands what the song is about; he is still arrogant enough to mess with the lyrics, but he is way past shattering great material into a pile of rubble and dancing fandango on its sorry remains - check the Winds Of Change version of 'Paint It Black' and compare it with the WAR version for proof. Finally, the second chunk of Side B is entirely relegated to a live performance of the 'Paint It Black' medley that is quite expendable in the light of the studio version. Who needs a much lengthier drum solo, I'm askin' you? Who needs a minute worth of warming up? Who really needs live WAR not at their absolute best? Come on now, they aren't even all that tight on here. I don't think Burdon ever needed a tight band, him being so loose himself and all. There's a rave review of a WAR concert on the front cover that says '...with two drummers, two guitars and an organ, the rhythm section sweeps all before it' - where? Okay, I have no objective reason not to believe that Dee Allen, Brown, Jordan, and Scott are all featured on this particular recording, but they sure are giving me plenty of subjective ones to doubt their existence. The sound is friggin' thin, and maybe that was the idea, but I don't like it. Actually, now that I got through some more of the small print on the album cover, I'm starting to get the reason behind this. Look here: "both men (producers Jerry Goldstein and Steve Gold - G. S.) point out two previous WAR/Burdon LPs are both out-of-print since they were both released on a label no longer in the contemporary music business". That was way back in 1976, of course; these days, both Burdon & WAR LPs have been safely guaranteed CD re-issue. But nevertheless, that is probably how Love Is All Around came about, and now that it actually came about, there's no way we could get rid of it or forget it, unless we had a damn good reason to do so. Recommended strictly for completists, that goes without saying; but do be on the lookout for the song 'Love Is All Around' if it ever floats past you on a light morning breeze of P2P, because it's one hell of a good song.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1974
Overall rating = 10
Eric gets significantly mad on here, but, luckily, the presence of old material and the awesome guitarwork compensate for that.Best song: DON'T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD
Track listing: 1) It's My Life; 2) Ring Of Fire; 3) When I Was Young/War Child; 4) The Real Me; 5) Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood/Nina's School; 6) Letter From The Country Farm; 7) Sun Secrets.
While the entire 'New Animals' project didn't really differ much from solo Burdon, Sun Secrets is his first nominal solo album, albeit it's still credited to the 'Eric Burdon Band'. But that's nominal, too. In a certain way, Sun Secrets represents Eric's return to the 'old rockin' form', abandoning all the funk of War with which he'd spent the previous two or three years. And the fact that half of the record consists of re-arranged versions of old Animals' (and old New Animals') material also emphasizes the album's 'nostalgic' values.But no. The sound is actually quite different. First of all, the album is seriously stripped down: Eric's band doesn't even include a keyboard player, being limited to just your simple drums (Alvin Taylor), bass (Randy Rice) and guitars (a strange dude called 'Aalon' in my liner notes; who the hell is that?) combo. Maybe Eric was on a low budget, of course, but a more probable hypothesis is that he was keen on restoring his image as that of a reckless rocker to fit the times. But don't you think that he's going punk or something. Nope. Apart from a couple shorter tracks, the album consists of lengthy 'epics', all based on "Aalon"'s guitar heroics and Eric's improvising fantasies. And, to give the guys their due, this album rocks, and it rocks hard - harder, in fact, than anything I ever heard previously from Eric. The guitars are wonderfully produced, strong, crisp and professional, sometimes amounting to downright ecstatic, and Eric fully compensates for his New Animals crap with blistering vocals - again, some of his best ever. Like I said, the bulk of the album consists of 'renditions of golden oldies for the modern times': anybody even vaguely familiar with the Animals' catalogue will at once recognize 'It's My Life' and 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood', and they also rehash 'Ring Of Fire' and 'When I Was Young' off the New Animals' backpack. Some find the renditions boring and bombastic; I don't give a damn and find them quite entertaining. Sure enough, all of this stuff is transformed into your typical arena-rock fodder, with what might be called 'obnoxiously loud' guitars and a braggard macho vocal tone, and sometimes this even smells of contemporary glam excesses, but who cares when the songs are ultimately so good? Okay, 'When I Was Young' ain't that good, let's admit that; nobody needs yet another reminder of the torments of poor Eric's conscience. But you can't deny that the powerful guitar/vocals break in the middle of the tune is impressive, with Burdon virtually throwing a fit and going totally berserk, leading the tune to an impulsive climax. And the other tunes are all highlights: for instance, Burdon's singing on 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood', while it doesn't exactly overshadow the original, sounds leagues more confident and powerful - years of singing funk haven't passed without a trace. Put together with the powerful guitar break, the song really packs a wallop. Meanwhile, 'It's My Life' manages not to lose any of its power when transformed into a generic Seventies' hard-rock anthem - they even preserve that great riff, remember, the one that Burdon stole for his own 'I'm Goin' To Change The World'? And 'Ring Of Fire' undergoes the most drastic changes - from a sleazy pop tune into a chaotic (but fully controlled) screamfest. The way Eric roars out 'and it BURNS BURNS BURNS' sends shivers down my spine. Anyway, I simply don't understand what's lacking in these performances. The band is energetic - and it's real energy, it's not as if they were just fakin' it; the tunes are good; Eric is, like, a complete animal; and the guitarwork is beyond all praise. I don't even notice that most of these songs go well over six or seven minutes. Anyway, the one significant new composition on here is equally good - it's 'The Real Me' (not to be confused with the same-titled number by the Who), the closest thing to a punk rocker on the record. Eric's echoey vocals are amazing, and 'Aalon' pumps out exactly the kind of riffage that the Clash would be presenting us three years later. There's also a short instrumental album closer (title track), and it's okay, but dismissable. It never spoils the fun, though. So why only a 10? Huh. You probably already guessed if you heard the record before. The thirteen-minute horrorfest 'Letter From The Country Farm' gotta rank as one of the worst rolls of tape ever created by Mr Burdon, and ranks right up there with the worst stuff off of Winds Of Change. In brief, it's just a slow, noodling, monotonous sequence of heavy riffage, over which Burdon recites some - presumably terrifying - stream-of-conscience 'poetry', culminating in a series of gory screamfests: I never took the pain to decipher the lyrics that carefully. Granted, his raunchy vocals on that track are slightly more acceptable than on Winds Of Change, and I actually did enjoy some similar efforts by Lou Reed (obviously a big influence on here), but that's a rather vapid justification. Considering that the only song after 'Letter' is the closing title track which I'm not really a fan of, that stands for sixteen minutes of wasted tape - and that's a hard blow for an album that ain't double. Why the hell did he have to fuck up such an otherwise acceptable record is way beyond me. Anyway, let us be grateful to Mr Burdon, still, for having the patience to actually record thirty minutes worth of solid music. Just remember that Burdon's conception of music was, er, somewhat 'warped' since 1967, to say the least, and I'm glad he eventually managed to come to his senses, even when left alone to construct solo projects like this one.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1975
Overall rating = 12
A unique hard rock sound on here - you really ain't heard nothing like that before.Best song: FUNKY FEVER
Track listing: 1) City Boy; 2) Gotta Get It On; 3) The Man; 4) I'm Lookin' Up; 5) Rainbow; 6) All I Do; 7) Funky Fever; 8) The Way It Should Be; 9) Stop.
Whoah, and the All-Music Guide only gave this album one star. Whatever. I'd bet you anything these guys have never even given it one serious listen. On the other hand, this decision is understandable. See, Eric was really keen on continuing his career in a more hard, gutsy, raunchy direction; but if it's the mid-Seventies we're speaking of, the notion 'hard' immediately brings to mind bands like Aerosmith or AC/DC, or, at the very best, late Led Zep. And Stop sounds like neither. It's therefore easy to just say 'what the fuck?' and dismiss the album by tagging the 'dated' cliche on it. Bullshit.On all the newer CD releases, Stop is paired together with Sun Secrets on one disc (so I haven't been able to find the original cover for it), which makes a totally satisfying buy; the funny thing is that Stop is supposed to have been recorded before Sun Secrets, but delayed due to unknown reasons. The band on here is significantly larger than the basic guitar/bass/drums outfit on Secrets; it includes John Sterling on guitars, Terry Ryan on keyboards and a couple spare drummers and bassists, plus occasional female backup vocals. Said John Sterling actually plays a much larger part in the making of the record than just playing guitars: he produced the record (together with Eric's long-time producer Jerry Goldstein), and wrote or co-wrote most of the tunes. Burdon himself, in fact, gets only three writing co-credits out of nine, but maybe it's only for the better - not that his songs on here are bad, but since the mid-Sixties I've always been suspicious of his songwriting talents, if you get my drift. Anyway, the record is fascinating - to a large extent. Perhaps the most wonderful part about it is how the band really approaches their guitar sound. Most of the time, the guitars are not just delivering typical Seventies' distorted crunch - they're all let through various sound-warping gadgets, and the album is drenched in phasing, wah-wah and other numerous effects I don't even know the names for. In this way, the record really gives the impression of being recorded somewhere on Mars, rather than in some filthy L. A. studio. No, don't worry, it's not the kind of whacko experimentation that ruined Burdon's earlier records; this time, it's all about the music. And here's where we have some more good news - all the tunes on here are short, compact, and utterly listenable. Even when Burdon comes up with a mind-numbing, delirious chaotic pastiche ('Rainbow') built on an endlessly repeating three-note riff, it's still fun: the band's furious energy, the unbelievable sound effects, very much a la Jimi Hendrix, and Alvin Taylor's schizophrenic drumming make the song into a tight, memorable psycho groove. But that's actually the only 'groove' on the album - all the other tracks are songs, with not a single stream-of-conscience disaster in sight. Most of them are well written, too: exciting, catchy riffs abound, and the band truly justifies the album's name - it always knows the perfect time to stop without indulging in lengthy boring jams. Not that I'd mind: Sterling's guitar playing is fully competent, and on many of the tracks he delivers hot steamy solos which showcase him as a worthy disciple of both Clapton and Hendrix; check out the 'weeping' lead work on 'All I Do', for instance, or the strange 'quasi-backwards' tone on 'Funky Fever'. The latter, by the way, is simply outstanding - a terrific aggressive mid-tempo rocker, with Eric screaming his head off about how he's got funky fever for his babe. Sometimes the sound does verge on chaotic, especially on the album opener 'City Boy', initially one more fantastic riffy tune which later develops into a headbanging screamfest. But you gotta understand me, these tunes are so damn short, it's hard to even notice the flaws. On the plus side, there's enough diversity over the course of the record to keep you interested. 'Gotta Get It On', for instance, suddenly transforms into a lounge jazz piano ditty towards the end. 'The Man' is 'graced' by wailing sirens and a strange funky chorus. And 'I'm Looking Up', where Terry Ryan plays a very soothing organ part similar to the great organ melody on CCR's 'Born To Move', gives you time to catch your breath - it's just a catchy little pop roundelay! Maybe only the title track somewhat overstays its welcome. I do like it, actually - it's one of the best 'raw funk' numbers on the whole album, driven forward by a jarring Sterling riff, but at nearly six minutes, it just doesn't feel exactly at home with the other songs, none of which go over four. Ironically, it is the one tune named 'Stop'! Nevertheless, this is but a minor quibble. The major quibble, then, is that the album itself is a bit too short for my tastes - I'd expect at least a couple more tunes, especially since the band was at such a high peak at the moment. As it is, I'm giving the record quite a high rating, I think. It's funny, as the album still gives the feeling of rather 'lightweight' to me, now that I gave it several listens, but I really can't 'wordify' my complaints. On the other hand, I can only praise the record's high points. Catchy? Definitely. Adequate? Totally. Innovative? In certain ways, yes. Entertaining? Absolutely. I dock it one point for being too short, then. Grab it wherever you may find it. Inarguably, one of Burdon's best records.
READER COMMENTS SECTION