Thursday, January 26, 2023

Review: Vinyl Edition of The Animals' 'Retrospective'

Last spring ABKCO reissued The Animals' first four U.S. LPs with excellent mono sound, and the excellence of most of those albums rebutted any notion that The Animals were never much of an album group. As essential as those LPs are for British blues fanatics, The Animals were mostly a singles group who did their best work when slathering some Newcastle grit and growl over Tin Pan Alley tunes. One of their very best single sides, Atkins and D'Errico's "It's My Life", was not on a proper LP, so the first release of the 2004 compilation Retrospective would be a crucial compliment to those four proper LPs if "It's My Life" was its only track. 

Of course, it is not, and there are a few other genuine essentials you won't find on those four other LPs. A tough cover of Donovan's "Hey Gyp"--a song ripe for electricity ever since Don cut his all-acoustic original--and the lush and haunting "Help Me Girl" are by far the best singles released under the name Eric Burdon & The Animals. After that, Burdon got a little too into his acid, and his new-phase Animals made what may be the most embarrassing records any major group made during the psychedelic era. Some of these sides, such as "When I Was Young" and "Girl Named Sandoz", are at least fierce enough to somewhat redeem Burdon's awful, awful lyrics. When the delivery is drippier, as it is in muck like "San Franciscan Nights" and "Anything", it's time to lift the stylus. However, Retrospective more than makes up for such misguided completism by including one post-Animals recording: Burdon's phenomenally freaky recitation over War's phenomenally funky "Spill the Wine". Goddamn that is a good track!

Spread over two 180 gram discs, Retrospective's vinyl is flat with reasonably well-centered spindle holes, though my copy did have some groove distortion throughout the second half of Side A. Like last spring's mono LPs, the sound is powerful and detailed (and mostly mono too, though most of the psych-era tracks are stereo remixes). The gatefold is nice and heavy with liner notes inside, while the track information is printed on the inner sleeves. 

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