THE ANIMALS: THE ANIMALS ON TOUR (1965)
1) Boom Boom; 2) How You've Changed; 3) Mess Around; 4) Bright Lights Big City; 5) I Believe To My Soul; 6) Worried Life Blues; 7) Let The Good Times Roll; 8) I Ain't Got You; 9) Hallelujah I Love Her So; 10) I'm Crying; 11) Dimples; 12) She Said Yeah.
This is not a live album (for some reason, American companies had a predilection for slapping the On Tour moniker onto British band releases — the Who had a similar trick played on them — as if these words might have had some magical influences on record buyers), but rather a mishmash of studio tracks partially carried over from the British LP Animals and partially previewing the British LP Animal Tracks, not to be confused with the later American LP Animal Tracks (yes, the two sides of the Atlantic are different worlds and people on one side do not have to know anything about the other. And if they want to know, they have to do serious research on it).
There is no single classic track on here that could hold up to the grandeur of 'House Of The Rising Sun' — few songs could — but, overall, it is a definite stylistic improvement over the debut. We can still hear ferocious rock'n'roll — Ray Charles' 'Mess Around' and Larry Williams' 'She Said Yeah' are perfect for the rave crowd, as is the band's first post-'House' single, the Burdon / Price-penned 'I'm Crying' — but it is also much heavier on slow, moody blues and soul numbers, which the band shapes more and more in its own image.
John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed, in particular, are unrecognizable. When Hooker recorded 'Boom Boom' and 'Dimples' in the early Sixties, they were quiet, grim, gloomy, scary tracks: one could just see the hellbound old Negro sitting on the street, creeping out little girls by mumbling 'I like the way you walk, I like the way you talk' under his breath. Under Burdon's heavy hand, both become loud, brawny, and quite unsubtle expressions of drunken lust — there are no nuances or suggestions, it's all hanging out in the open, but there is a place for that, too, especially when he unfurls the battle cry of 'Come on, let's shake it!' and the rest of the band start impersonating a gang of hoodlums sweeping through town.
Jimmy Reed's 'Bright Lights, Big City', on the other hand, which used to be just another one of an innumerable series of totally sound-alike Jimmy Reed songs, is transformed from something plain and unsubtle into a little symphony, with a new quiet mid-section and ad-libbed lyrics in which Eric names all the city perils that conspire to turn his girl loose — 'long Cadillacs... Rolls Royce... men with money... cigarettes... flamenco... scotch... bourbon...'; an exciting rearrangement that further confirms my suspicions about Jimmy Reed as mostly a "songwriting vehicle" for other people to expand on his ideas (or, rather, idea, I'm not sure Jimmy ever had more than one) and build flowery gardens on top of them.
The slower numbers — blues and soul things like 'How You've Changed', 'I Believe To My Soul', and 'Worried Life Blues' — take more time to sink in (and also require inborn tolerance for the 12-bar form), but the Price vs. Burdon contests that are at the center of each are well worth the price of admission. Eric always lets his brawn do most of the talking, but there is always a bit of soul behind it, and his sense of theatricality, as he unfurls the broken-hearted drama before the listener, is unparalleled for 1965, whereas Price is Price, showing himself completely worthy of imitating and expanding on Ray Charles' piano style.
So, while this is not a "true" album in any way, its consistency level is higher than on any other collection of the band's early output. Nevertheless, a thumbs up judgement applied to it individually will be of little practical use, since today it is only available as a scattered sub-set on The Complete Animals; and it does not even have a proper chronological sense, since, in terms of dates of recording, On Tour is all over the place.