In the early '60s the Blues had taken hold of U.K. youth. The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds and Animals were Rockin' up classic Blues songs and exciting audiences. The Animals, got their name when some shocked club patron exclaimed the band looked like "a bunch of animals," followed the Beatles to the U.S. with an updated version of the Blues song "House Of The Rising Sun." The song had been around, in several versions, for decades. Depending on who you believe, either organist Alan Price or the entire group worked up a contemporary arrangement. Regardless, Price got the credit and royalties which may have contributed to his early departure (at the time the group claimed it was for health reasons) and was replaced by Dave Rowberry. The arrangement aside, "House Of The Rising Sun" also found success due to Eric Burdon's strong and passionate vocals. Burdon was one of those guys who swallowed the Blues whole. But the Animals weren't a one man show. Guitarist Hilton Valentine, bassist Chas Chandler, drummer John Steel and either Price or Rowberry provided a tough yet unique sound.
Eric Burdon & The Animals
Eric Burdon - Vocals
Vic Briggs - Guitar/Piano
John Weider -Guitar/Violin
Danny McCulloch - Bass
Barry Jenkins - Drums
Eventually, Chandler left to manage his discovery, Jimi Hendrix. Soon the original band totally splintered. But Burdon was not one to stand still. He formed a new group dubbed Eric Burdon & the Animals, moving from the Blues to psychedelic Rock. They became a chronicler of the times with "Monterey (a song about the Monterey Pop Festival that featured Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, The Who and Eric Burdon & The Animals - among others)," "San Francisco Nights" (the S.F. hippie scene), "Sky Pilot" (an anti-Vietnam War song) and "White Houses" (a comment on social/moral hypocrisy). Eric & The Animals eventually ran out of steam, ideas and causes (in that order). In California, Burdon hooked up with War. However, he seemed more graphed on to the Soul/Funk unit than an actual member. By the early '70s, he bailed on War (citing exhaustion) and later produced solo albums of no consequence.
1964 The Animals (The Animals)
1965 The Animals On Tour (The Animals)
1965 Animal Tracks (The Animals)
1966 Animalisms (The Animals)
1966 Animalization (The Animals)
1967 Eric Is Here (Eric Burdon & The Animals)
1967 Winds Of Change (Eric Burdon & The Animals)
1968 The Twain Shall Meet (Eric Burdon & The Animals)
1968 Every One Of Us (Eric Burdon & The Animals)
1968 Love Is (Eric Burdon & The Animals)
1977 Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted (The Animals)
1983 Ark (The Animals)
The Animals started out as a straight-ahead Blues-Rock group. "House of the Rising Sun" made them famous. But lacking the Beatles' or the Rolling Stones' songwriting skills, the Animals were stuck relying on outside "pop oriented" songwriters or crafting their own Blues derived songs. Using outside songwriters ultimately yielded the best results. "It's My Life," "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" and ""Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" are ferocious Rockers personalized by Eric Burdon's tortured vocals. "Best of the Animals" chronicles this period providing the hits, a couple of Blues covers and Animals' originals.
"Animalization" released just after the "Best of the Animals" is the group's premier effort. "Don't Bring Me Down" is the pop/Rock hit. "See See Rider" and "One Monkey Don't Stop The Show" proves again that they're adept at Blues material. But the driving "Cheating" and the scorching "Inside, Looking Out" are the gems. "Inside, Looking Out" is a prison Blues song transformed into a James Brown style Rocker complete with call and response vocals. There's also a great riff pulsating through it.
After one more album the Animals split. Burdon went solo, briefly with "Eric Is Here." It should have been entitled "Eric Goes Motown." There isn't much to recommend. "Help Me Girl," with horns and strings, is the only memorable song. Burdon even attempts a version of Randy Newman's tongue-in-cheek "Mama Told Me Not To Come" which, bluntly, Three Dog Night did better.
The four Eric Burdon & the Animals records ("Winds of Change," "Twain Shall Meet," "Every One of Us" and "Love Is") are erratic to say the least. "Every One of Us" has the morally strident "White Houses" and the flaky/raving of "Year of the Guru." Both songs have memorable guitar lines. The "Best of Eric Burdon & The Animals" covers this topical period.
After the Animals second demise, Burdon hooked up with War. "Eric Burdon Declares War" has "Spill The Wine" and some interesting jazz jams but a lot of the time Burdon seems in the way. The situation gets worse with the double-album "Black Man's Burdon." "Home Cookin'" is brilliant. The rest is forgettable. Soon Burdon left and War went on to fame and Funk fortune. They probably couldn't have achieved that with him.
Out of respect for Burdon, one of Rock's great voices, there won't be any mention of his '70s solo career.