Tuesday, 4 September 2018
The Animals - The Animals (UK Version) (1964)
Released October 1964
As with so many of the British "blues explosion" blues rock bands, their first album was pretty much one of covers of old blues and r 'n' b standards - The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Them, John Mayall and The Yardbirds. This, from Newcastle's The Animals was no different. Indeed they are all covers apart from the somewhat odd "The Story Of Bo Diddley" which has singer Eric Burdon telling us all about meeting Bo Diddley and also the story of the developing British blues scene in an American accent, as opposed to his native Geordie. As with all those albums, it is not as good as later work, or indeed as good as the singles that were (as was the tradition at the time) left off the album.
Despite their grinning visages on the cover, it is actually quite a sombre, intense group of covers, exemplified by the mournful "Bury My Body". Musically, it is excellent - full of Alan Price's swirling organ breaks and some great bass and crystal clear percussion. It is not as energetically vibrant as, say, the debut Rolling Stones album or that of Northern Ireland's Them. It does give off a bit of an impression of trying to show everyone that they were the real thing. The Kinks suffered a bit in the same way on their debut too. That said, it is instrumentally extremely sound. They certainly could play. "Dimples" has a great, often-used blues riff and an addictive feel to it. I have to say, though, that the backing vocals on "I've Been Around" are quite bizarre. Price's piano on "I'm In Love Again" is impressive, however.
When they try to have fun on "The Girl Can't Help It" they sound a bit as if they are trying too hard to be light-hearted. The serious mood of singles like the iconic "House Of The Rising Sun", "It's My Life" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" would seem to be far more suited to The Animals than slightly forced "fun" songs. On this album, the sombre, insistent blues of "I'm Mad Again" is far more suitable.
Was there a British blues band that didn't cover "She Said Yeah"? Actually, The Animals, apart from The Stones, were the only ones, it just seemed that way. "Night Time Is The Right Time" is a solid blues, with some again strange, uncredited, backing vocals. "Memphis Tennessee" is a somewhat perfunctory Chuck Berry cover that doesn't really ever take off, for me. Similarly John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" or Berry's "Around And Around" lack just a little something, although it has it be said that the latter is pretty good, with some excellent bass and keyboards.