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Classic of the Week

The Animals: "The Best of the Animals" (1966); MGM

September 02, 1993|BUDDY SEIGAL

A collection of hits and non-hits by the original and greatest incarnation of the group, "The Best of the Animals" demonstrates that this band of gritty Geordies understood the essence of the blues as well as or better than their more celebrated British Invasion contemporaries, the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds.

Eric Burdon, along with Them's Van Morrison, remains among the most gifted and authentic R & B voices ever produced in the U.K. Organist Alan Price washed the Animals' sound with lush instrumental swells, adding an eerie edge.

The only ingredient the Animals lacked was a strong song writer, but the group compensated by waxing energetic covers of songs by John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles, as well as a coterie of Tin Pan Alley writers. "House of the Rising Sun," "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" and "It's My Life" are essential mid-'60s tunes that hold up to anything produced during this particularly fruitful period in rock 'n' roll.

Personnel changes within the Animals and subsequent forays into often cheesy psychedelia only served to put an exclamation point on the timeless quality of these essential, early recordings.

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