This article first appeared in Issue 5 of Crawdaddy in Sept. 1966.
The Animals. What can one say about the Animals? Out of sight? That’s old. That they fly? They’ve been flying since they began. That they’re great. This record proves it.
Well, if one were looking for things to say, one could say that the difference between
Tom Wilson producing this album for them and Mickey Most producing the previous ones is the difference between their fine albums of the past and this really tremendous one. In terms of recording, everything is better about this one, especially the recording of vocals and drums. (Wilson, of course, was formerly Dylan’s producer.)
As is well known, in the last year two key positions in the group have been changed. Alan Price, organ-piano, was replaced by Dave Roweberry, and John Steel, drummer, was replaced by Barry Jenkins. On this new album Roweberry proves to be a minus compared to the brilliant Price, and Jenkins’s playing proves to be a big fat plus, compared to the sterile drumming of Steel. In addition, I ?nd Hilton Valentine’s guitar work to be much improved here (check “See See Rider’) as is Chandler’ bass work.
What all of the foregoing adds up to, then, is that all the background and secondary matters have improved since last time around (except the organ work). But, of course, the only real question is, how is Eric? Eric is, of course, in orbit (he’s also the lead vocalist, for those of you who aren’t Animals fans). The whole second side is one uninterrupted symphony of r&b. “Gin House” is the best slow Burdon on record (with the possible exception of “Worried Life”). “Sweet Little Sixteen” is a whole new song as a result of Eric’s vocal, although he gets a big assist here from Jenkins’s drum work. (Jenkins, by the way, steals the show from Eric on “l Put a Spell on You” with a wild Who-like effect on the last chorus.) And there is that “See See Rider,” with the vocal bridge over just the drums that is absurdly great.
On the other hand (also on the other side, side one) is most of their pop material, which is mostly material Eric himself dislikes, but which he does for the sake of keeping the group on the charts. “Don’t Bring Me Down” is a good tune and represents Roweberry’s one really strong showing on the album. The other standout here is “lnside Looking Out,” which is straight Burdon a Ia “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” only it isn’t nearly as effective.
Compared to the previous Animals albums, this is better than any of the others with the possible exception of Animal Tracks. Jenkins’s drumming really makes a difference in the overall sound. The group seems freer now, especially on the uptempo material (check “Sweet Sixteen,” again). And Burdon’s vocals seem to be constantly improving, which is a crucial point. I can think of nothing he has done previously to equal “Gin House” or “Maudie.” It may well be argued that the loss of Price offsets these improvements, and I agree that he is sorely missed here. Still, this album just seems to pack a little more punch than the previous ones.
In any event, the fact is that this album rocks. And when the Animals rock, no one can touch them. My one hope is that MGM has enough material in the can to put out another album as good as this one after they break up.