THE ANIMALS Animalism (Sundazed)

Confusingly almost entirely different to the similarly titled “Animalisms”, issued in the UK the same year (1966) that “Animalism” was released in America, some commentators would claim this to be The Animals’ best album. It’s certainly one of their most interesting,  if only for the covert employment of Frank Zappa on composing, arranging and possibly performing duties.  However, I could only concur with the cover sticker’s hype that it presents “The Animals at their wildest!” if “The House Of The Rising Sun” had been recorded by another band.

Zappa’s touch is evident on opener “All Night Long”, which has something of the “Freak Out!”-era Mothers Of Invention’s psychedelia-wilting caustic attack to it, and to a lesser extent on a doomy, portentous reading of Fred Neil’s “The Other Side Of This Life”. There’s an unintentionally chilling moment during Sam Cooke’s “Shake” when Eric Burdon ad-libs “What about Sammy/Living on in his song/Oh, Otis Redding”, the song being recorded almost exactly midway between the two soul singers’ untimely deaths.

The tragedy of “Animalism”, though, is that it all seems so one-paced, with none of the rave-up dynamics that, for example, The Yardbirds might have brought to this material (and, in the case of “Smoke Stack Lightning”, did). Instead, the likes of the aforementioned Howlin’ Wolf cover and the all-too-aptly-named “Going Down Slow” are fossilized evidence of a kind of R&B that’s several geological ages away from evolving into Led Zeppelin.

“Meticulously mastered from the original MGM Records stereo reels and pressed on High-Definition vinyl”, brags that cover sticker. Whilst Sundazed’s output is hardly audiophile the company can usually be relied upon to put a good-sounding record together, but “Animalism” fumbles even that, with more distortion and surface noise than is usual from their products.