This is their fifth American album, released in November 1966. It has nothing in common with the UK album “Animalisms,” which came out in May 1966 in the UK; instead, most of the tracks for that album had showed up in the US as “Animalization” earlier in the year.
Musically, this is an even deeper dive into rhythm and blues than their previous albums, which is saying something. It opens with a collaboration with Frank Zappa, “All Night Long,” that is just a little discordant for my taste but not a bad song by any means. The entire rest of the album is covers: “Shake,” “The Other Side of This Life,” “Smokestack Lightning,” and more. There’s a version of “Hit The Road Jack” that proclaims that yes, it is possible to do this song differently from Ray Charles and really blues it up. There’s even a Donovan song, “Hey Gyp,” based on a Memphis Minnie tune.
This record, picked up probably around 1979, was my introduction to most of these songs. I was just becoming aware that there was a blues songbook of sorts that all the British acts (and some Americans) relied on and freely covered without shame or hesitation. The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Manfred Mann, The Searchers, even Jefferson Airplane — everyone covered these songs at some point. The idea that you had to produce your own material, and only your own material, in order to be a “legitimate” recording artist, hadn’t really taken hold yet. The idea that everybody should do “Smokestack Lightning” was still firmly in place, and there are at least four or five versions of it in my collection.
Perhaps most importantly, Mickie Most wasn’t producing anymore; he was replaced by Tom Wilson. And although they weren’t credited then, there were apparently members of The Wrecking Crew brought in for “All Night Long” and “The Other Side of This Life,” signaling a very different approach. The album – still very very good – peaked at number 33 on the US charts, and was their last Top 40 album. It wasn’t released in the UK at all.
Really, this is the last album by The Animals, which were down to a core three from the original group. Of course, Eric Burdon was handling vocals. They had Chas Chandler on bass, who would soon be busy discovering Jimi Hendrix. Hilton Valentine, who joined The Alan Price Combo shortly after Burdon did, was still handling guitar. Original drummer John Steel had been replaced by Barry Jenkins. Dave Rowberry had come in to take Price’s place. Perhaps most importantly, Mickie Most wasn’t producing anymore; he had been replaced by Tom Wilson. Although they weren’t credited then, there were apparently members of The Wrecking Crew brought in for “All Night Long” and “The Other Side of This Life,” signaling a very different approach. So where they lost some Brill Building songs, they started picking up session players. A bit of foreshadowing for what came next.
The album – still very very good – peaked at number 33 on the US charts, and was their last Top 40 album. It wasn’t released in the UK at all.
As I said, I got this album about 40 years ago. I have never stopped listening to it.
Remember when record labels would promote the heck out of their other releases? Usually they were just postage stamp versions of the album covers, but in Animalism, MGM’s sleeve features some pretty large format photos of their big stars.