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Reissue CDs Weekly: Eric Burdon & The Animals - When I Was Young: The MGM Recordings 1967-1968 | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Eric Burdon & The Animals - When I Was Young: The MGM Recordings 1967-1968

Reissue CDs Weekly: Eric Burdon & The Animals - When I Was Young: The MGM Recordings 1967-1968

Box-set chronicle of the illustrious Tynesider’s astonishing psychedelic odyssey

The psychedelicised Eric Burdon takes it easy in August 1968

The titles conveyed the enthusiasm. “A Girl Named Sandoz”, “Gratefully Dead”, “Monterey”, “San Franciscan Nights” and “Yes, I am Experienced”. LSD, The Grateful Dead, Monterey Pop Festival, San Francisco and Jimi Hendrix. There they were, explicit tags confirming that The Animals’ Eric Burdon had been psychedelicised. Three years on from 1964's “House of the Rising Sun”, he was a changed man.

It wasn’t unusual for British pop. Whole bands and members of outfits who had traded in edgy R&B and blues had tuned in. The Pretty Things did so. Zoot Money turned his Big Roll band into Dantalian’s Chariot. For a while, The Rolling Stones went psychedelic. Manfred Mann freaked out – a bit. The Yardbirds did so too, but more so. Pink Floyd took their name from two blues artists, and early-on covered Slim Harpo and had a song paying tribute to Bo Diddley.

ric Burdon & The Animals When I Was Young The MGM Recordings 1967-1968But chief Animal Eric Burdon was especially enthused by what was in the air and in his head, so moved to the US West Coast. The first album recognising the transformation had words he’d written on its cover. He hadn’t intended them to be foregrounded, but his record label stuck them on the front of October 1967’s Winds of Change. “The new world different from the old, with new jewels to be consumed, new frontiers to be won, and much more love to be given,” he enthused. It went on: “If you feel alone and confused and unhappy disconnected, just know that I love you.” The wind had, indeed, changed.

In her indispensible Rock Encyclopedia, published in 1969, Lillian Roxon said of the new-style Burdon that “Funky Eric was dead as a doornail. To old Eric fans, especially the ones in England, it was a bit of letdown. They missed the rave-ups. The new Eric was too gentle and tranquil and soppy for them.” She was there and knew, and that is how it must have been. But, boy, old Eric fans were missing out.

Burdon had a new version of The Animals – credited as Eric Burdon & The Animals – which released four fantastic, blown-mind albums. They are collected by the new 5-disc box set When I Was Young: The MGM Recordings 1967-1968. Winds of Change is teamed with The Twain Shall Meet (released May 1968), Every One of Us (August 1968) and Love Is (December 1968). The stereo and mono versions of Winds of Change appear, along with non-album alternate versions from singles and 45-only tracks.

All four albums are sincere missives. Each is an unmediated expression of where Burdon was at and essential to any understanding of British psychedelia. Each is also a great listen, although Love Is was a bit flabby as it was a double album.

Eric Burdon & The Animals When I Was Young The MGM Recordings 1967-1968_When I Was Young adWhile the singles “Good Times”, “Monterey”, “Sky Pilot” and “When I Was Young” were wonderful, hearing the whole of Winds of Change confirms the strength of Burdon’s vision. Blues, R&B and soul are still in there, but he and his band brought them into a new, cross-genre music. Love Is included versions of “Ring of Fire” and “River Deep, Mountain High”. The Twain Shall Meet’s formidable “We Love You Lil” is powerfully influenced by San Francisco’s Quicksilver Messenger Service, especially their guitarist John Cipollina.

The shift to a fresh approach had come when the beat boom-era Animals fell apart in September 1966 after an American tour. One section of band were boozers, another was tokers and trippers. The twain would not meet, so the split was inevitable. It was also fostered by money issues. An engaging soul-inclined, stop-gap album was recorded in New York with session players that September and issued as Eric Is Here in March 1967. Really a solo album, it was cheekily credited to Eric Burdon & The Animals.

By the time Eric Is Here came out, Burdon and drummer Barry Jenkins (on board with The Animals from March 1966) were working with new musicians: Vic Briggs (guitar), Danny McCulloch (bass) and John Weider (guitar/violin). In April 1968, Zoot Money (keyboards) joined after which Briggs left. Then, in July 1968, Andy Summers (who had been with Money in the Big Roll Band and Dantalian's Chariot with Money) replaced John Weider. The band packed it in during December 1968 and Burdon’s psychedelic odyssey was over. Despite saying he was going into film, he returned to music in 1969 with Eric Burdon and War.

Dig in. When I Was Young: The MGM Recordings 1967-1968 chronicles two years when Eric Burdon & The Animals were on a head-spinning, unselfconscious trip.

Comments

Andy Summers didn´t replace John Weider. Summers did replace Vic Briggs.

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