Fronted by the incredibly powerful lungs of Eric Burdon, the Animals were one of the key players in the extremely influential British Invasion movement. The other members of the Newcastle based band, whose weight was worth gold was well, included lead guitarist Hilton Valentine, bassist Chas Chandler, organist Alan Price and drummer John Steel.
Striking hot in the summer of 1964, the band landed a No. 1 hit with “The House Of The Rising Sun.” Prompted by the spooky, creepy crawly drone of an organ and disturbingly depressing lyrics hinting at the world’s oldest profession, the eerie-toned tune projected quite an unusual presence in contrast to the giddy rhythms and happy harmonies of the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five and the Hollies. Even the Rolling Stones and the Kinks, whose untamed undertakings shocked the public, seemed gracious and polite when pitted against the dark and dirty sound of the Animals.
Although “The House Of The Rising Sun” is the crown jewel here on the band’s debut album, The Animals (MGM Records), a slew of further solid tracks make the platter an inspired and enjoyable effort. Like most groups at the time, the Animals carpeted their repertoire with cover songs, and this disc depends strictly on such. But the band’s passion ran deep and their energy was intense, resulting in interpretations rinsed in their own recognizable fingerprints.
The Animals worshipped at the alter of the blues, and their admiration and knowledge of the genre duly directs the album. A diehard devotion to Fats Domino is offered on spirited renditions of “I’m In Love Again” and “I’ve Been Around,” while Ray Charles is saluted on “Talkin’ About You” and John Lee Hooker’s “I’m Mad Again” is performed with a convincing cockiness. Lively versions of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee” and “Around And Around” are additionally featured on the record.
Also appearing on The Animals are both sides of the band’s first single, which surprisingly failed to scorch the charts. Shades of crackly folk rock are applied to “Baby Let Me Take You Home,” that foreshadowed the explosion that gifted us with the Beau Brummels, the Byrds and the Turtles a year later, and “Gonna Send You Back To Walker” bristles and bubbles to a catchy melody.
Rugged and robust, The Animals is a textbook study of the original wave of English blues rock.
Accessible enough for the kids to digest and menacing and foreign enough to offend the squares, the album launched a million bands and its impact can still be felt today. The Animals were one of the greatest groups in the history of rock and roll, but this record really only scrapes the surface of their talent.