The Animals Box Set: The Mickie Most Years And More
The Animals : The Mickie Most Years And More
The cover photo on their U.S debut album shows a quintet of fresh scrubbed teens in dress shirts and ties looking like ’60s era frat boys. But the disc inside reveals a rough, raw, rootsy sound that originated far from their hometown of Newcastle, England. From their beginning in 1963, The Animals came off more like originators than translators, their rough cut blues sounding more like Delta denizens than English bluesmen wannabees.
ABKO’s 5 Cd, 61 track Box set, The Animals: The Mickie Most years and More, contains the group’s first four American albums: : The Animals, The Animals on Tour, Animal Tracks and Animalization. Also included is the band’s first release, ’63’s I Just Wanna Make Love To You, a four song EP. There’s a T shirt included as well with the four CD covers reproduced on the front.
That EP, recorded just after their first show at Newcastle’s Downbeat club in ’63,covers three blues giants: Willie Dixon’s “I Just Wanna Make Love To You” and “Big Boss Man,” John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” and Bo Diddley’s “Pretty Thing.”
On “Pretty Thing, “Eric Burdon sounds like he’s been up all night drinking busthead whiskey, his voice a shrill whine that cuts through the Diddley jungle tom backbeat like a buzzsaw. On “Big Boss Man” the nasally vocals sound like Jimmy Reed, but the tempo is much faster then Reed’s version. “Boom Boom” will be re-recorded later, showing up on The Animals On Tour in ’65, but remaining basically the same, with a Beatle-esque chorus of “Shake it Baby” inserted between the chugging boom booms.
But the big deal for the band was their breakout single “House of the Rising Sun” from the eponymous debut in ’64, topping both the Billboard pop and British pop charts that year. In the liner notes, Rolling Stone’s David Fricke notes that pianist Alan Price got arranging credit and writer’s rights for his arrangement of the traditional tune. It’s been gender reassigned, reshuffled and punched up with Price’s distinctive organ accompaniment, a sound Ray Manzarek will use to define the Doors as well, even though the organists’ influences differed greatly.
The other stuff here is pretty interesting too. Little Richard’s “The Girl Can’t Help It” is not as hysterically rendered as Richard’s, and Burdon’s accent is more pronounced than usual, giving the jazzy rendition a more proper stiff upper lip British feel. Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around’ was also covered by the Stones that same year, a bit smoother, with Jagger working on his James Brown dance moves to get the girls screaming while Burdon did his own screaming on a faster, rougher version.
The Animals On Tour is a misleading title. No live cuts here, just studio versions culled from sessions in ’64. “Bright Lights” gets a dramatic makeover in the “Rising Sun” mode, with Price’s brooding, throbbing organ as the centerpiece.
1965’s Animal Tracks has some the band’s biggest stuff including “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” But the bonus tracks should get honorable mention as well. The band’s cover of Diddley’s “Roadrunner” with guitarist Hilton Valentine’s twangy barbed wire stretching solos and Burdon’s “Walking the Dog” vocal cadence give it a fresh makeover. “Don’t Want Much” has been covered by everyone from Elvis to Etta to Van, but Burdon holds his own with his spunky rendition.
Price was gone for’ ’66’s Animalization, replaced by Dave Rowberry’s funkier organ and Valentine’s fuzzy reverb drenched Sergio Leone spaghetti western guitar on “Don’t Bring Me Down.” Joe Tex’s “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” is hilarious, Burdon’s soul man persona in need of a bit more depth, but working the schtick as hard as a man of his background can. His take on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” has more soul than Hawkins’ version, but lacks the lunatic creepiness of Screamin’ Jay’s coffin-bursting original.
The only thing that could have made the collection better was a booklet with more detailed info on the sessions. Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke’s liner notes give a tantalizing glimpse into the process with some interview snippets that you wish had been expanded to get a better narrative. But you can always do your own research while you listen. There’s enough fodder here to keep you in the cage with these beasties till the zoo reopens to let Burdon out to do it live on the road once again.
By Grant Britt