The Animals were the most blues-based group of the British Invasion, as their sound rarely strayed from gritty, raw rock reinterpretations of their blues and r&b heroes. The band are primarily remembered today for a few classic singles in the mid-‘60s, as “It’s My Life,” “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” all contained tough playing, good lyrics, and karaoke-worthy choruses. The Animals biggest and best moment was easily “The House Of The Rising Sun,” a gargantuan hit and all time classic whose haunting organ (by Alan Price) and impassioned vocals (by Eric Burdon) brought rock to a previously unequaled level of intensity that both shocked and excited listeners of the day. Price and Burdon were towering talents (Burdon’s tough, powerful voice was one for the ages), and The Animals ranked with The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds as the prime British purveyors of American blues. The Animals lacked the Stones' songwriting abilities, however, and most of these songs work the same narrow terrain and are almost exclusively penned by other hands (John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and Bo Diddley, among others). The Animals couldn't match The Yardbirds guitar-based instrumental virtuosity and pioneering sonic explorations, either, though both bands shared similarly brief primes, as the “classic lineup” of The Animals was only together for a couple of years. The Best Of The Animals is all that most people will need to hear from this historically important band, as it contains 15 well-chosen songs that are all stamped with The Animals trademark intensity. Far from being mere exercises in nostalgia, primitive blues-based rockers such as "Boom Boom," “Talkin’ Bout You,” “I’m In Love Again,” “Bury My Body,” “Gonna Send You Back To Walker,” "The Story Of Bo Diddley,” and "Bring It On Home To Me" can still offer consistent listening pleasure today. Those who want to hear more after listening to The Best Of The Animals should search for The Complete Animals, which focuses on the same prolific time period (the songs recorded for producer Mickie Most in 1964-65) but digs much deeper at 40 songs, including several gems just waiting to be unearthed by the patient listener ("I'm Mad Again," "Girl Can't Help It," "I Believe To My Soul," "How You've Changed," "Bright Lights Big City," "Worried Life Blues"). The sound quality is also far superior and there are a handful of previously unreleased tracks ("Baby What's Wrong," "F-E-E-L," and "Don't Want Much") and rarities (the 7-minute version of "Talkin' 'Bout You," the previously unissued in the U.K. "Blue Feeling"), though the hits-to-miss ratio is decidedly dodgier as quite a few of these songs tend to blend together after a while (on the whole disc one contains more sweaty, energetic fast-paced "rave ups," whereas disc two is a bit more diverse and poppy). Alas, The Complete Animals (a 2-cd set) is only currently available in the U.S. as a pricey import, but it's well worth seeking out. Note: After Price left primarily due to a fear of flying in 1965, replaced by the quite competent Dave Rowberry, the band continued onwards and delivered several of its most notable hits, including "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place," "It's My Life," and "Don't Bring Me Down," the latter unfortunately not included in this mistitled compilation as it was not produced by Most. Later shifting of personnel saw the band rebranded as "Eric Burdon and the Animals," who performed in a less successful psychedelic vein that I nevertheless have a soft spot for as well; most of the best songs from this period are captured on The Best Of Eric Burdon & The Animals, 1966-1968. Burdon later briefly fronted the highly notable funk rock band War ("Spill That Wine" hit #3 on the U.S. charts in 1970), while original Animals bassist Chas Chandler is probably best known for having managed Jimi Hendrix.
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