Monday, July 2, 2012

Eric Burdon And The Animals - Eric Is Here (1967 uk, classic psych blues rock)

This album made during the transition between the original Animals and the new line-up, the title of Eric Burdon & the Animals is sort of a misnomer. For the most part, the songs were Eric Burdon backed by the Horace Ott Orchestra, to add to the general confusion surrounding this material, some of it seems to have been recorded with the original Animals, or at sessions conducted while they were still together.

The reason Ott was on Eric is Here is that it was released during a gap between the time the original configuration of The Animals broke up and a new one could be put together, hence the stand-in band. It doesn't sound much like either version of the Animals and it is certainly not representative of their image. It does however demonstrate Burdon's vocal range and expression. The opening "In the Night" may be the best song but "Help Me Girl" was actually a top 40 hit in the U.S. In a way most of the songs remind me of several soundtracks from movies made in the sixties. Eric's voice singing orchestrated pop songs this isn't really that bad of an album in a novel sort of way,songs are jazzy, orchestrated pop that contains influence from the Beach Boys primarily Pet Sounds. It also has a soul/ Motown feel to it with a touch of Otis Redding and country Jerry Lee Lewis. Eric's vocals are very impassioned and he sings with conviction in interepting these songs like Billie Holiday (one of his idols) and Frank Sinatra.

Eric is Here (LP) USA 1967 - MGM Records Issued in stereo (SE-4433) and mono (E-4433) versions with minor variation to wording on LP covers. The recordings on this album are credited to Eric Burdon & The Animals. The Animals had however already disintegrated and the new line up (to be known as Eric Burdon & The Animals) had not yet been put together. The tracks were recorded by Eric Burdon with Barry Jenkins on drums and various studio musicians before Weider, Briggs and McCulloch were recruited.

Produced by Tom Wilson. Reached #121 on US charts. Re-relesed in CD format in USA (One Way Records OW31376). The album features the work of various very serious songwriting talent of the day, with Burdon on vocals backed up by the orchestra.
1. In the Night (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart)
2. Mama Told Me Not To Come (Randy Newman)
3. I Think It's Gonna Rain Today (Randy Newman)
4. On This Side of Goodbye (Carole King, Gerry Goffin)
5. That Ain't Where It's At (Martin Siegel)
6. True Love (Comes Only Once In A Lifetime) (Bob Haley, Neval Nader)
7. Help Me Girl (Scott English, Lawrence Weiss)
8. Wait Till Next Year (Randy Newman)
9. Losin' Control (Carl D'Errico, Roger Atkins)
10.It's Not Easy (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil)
11.The Biggest Bundle of Them All (Richie Cordell, Sal Trimachi)
12.It's Been A Long Time Comin' (Joe Brooks, Jimmy Radcliffe)

The Kinks - Present Schoolboys In Disgrace (1976 uk, smart brit rock, 2004 SACD)

If one were to simplify the old guard of British rock & roll by drawing a straight line, left to right, between the angelic Beatles and the demonic Rolling Stones, one would probably place the Who slightly to the left of the Stones and the Kinks a couple of notches to the right of the Beatles but well to the left of Townshend and Company. Ray Davies may display a full share of Dionysian darkness and disorder at times, but his craziness is usually admirable and engaging, and the Kinks, if idiosyncratic, are essentially lovable.

Perhaps never more so than on Schoolboys in Disgrace, probably their best LP since Everybody's in Showbiz and a welcome relief from the ambitious but tired Preservation Act opus. Since Davies seems curiously committed to the concept album (the disappointing Soap Opera was the last), the least one can ask is that he pull it off without having to shore up his exposition by using aesthetically weak material. Schoolboys is a bit thin in spots — "Education" sounds like longwinded filler; "No More Looking Back" is no "Waterloo Sunset" — but it boasts at least one major song ("Headmaster") and several highly enjoyable minor ones, many of them composed and performed in delightful full-throttle, neo-Fifties and Sixties rock & roll styles. The story, according to a red-herring liner note, recounts the formative years of Mr. Flash of Preservation Act fame, ostensibly letting us in on why he became such "a hard and bitter character ... [who] in future ... would always get what he wanted." In actuality, most of the record is lovingly, even sentimentally, nostalgic ("Schooldays were the happiest days of your life/ ... And I'd go back if I could only find a way") and even the bad times don't seem to have left any permanent damage.

The bad times include a (possibly) blameless romantic misadventure with a ravishing Lolita ("It wasn't lust, it wasn't rape/It was just a mistake") and a traumatic caning by the cruel headmaster. "I'm in Disgrace" is a terrific rock & roll song about erotic confusion and shame, and the musically wonderful "Headmaster" rises to true desperation with its final sexual imagery of cane and bare ass: "Don't tell all my friends I bent over/ ... Don't make me take my trousers down." After the beating, however, Schoolboys reverts quickly to its basic comic structure, reestablishing the tone which has been set by such sunny parodies as "Jack the Idiot Dunce" and "The First Time We Fall in Love." Vocally, Davies sounds like he's putting on even the Band in parts of "Schooldays" and "The Last Assembly."

Because it does not really try very hard to hit a seriocomic home run, Schoolboys in Disgrace isn't one of the Kinks' great albums. But the fact that its limited intentions are often exceeded by the sheer talent of its creators happily proves that this band from Muswell Hill is still a vital force in contemporary rock & roll.
by Paul Nelson, March 11, 1976
1. Schooldays - 3:31
2. Jack The Idiot Dunce - 3:19
3. Education - 7:07
4. The First Time We Fall In Love - 4:01
5. I'm In Disgrace - 3:21
6. Headmaster - 4:03
7. The Hard Way - 2:35
8. The Last Assembly - 2:45
9. No More Looking Back - 4:27
10.Finale - 1:02
All songs by Ray Davies

The Kinks
*Ray Davies - Vocals, Guitar, Piano
*Dave Davies - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Mick Avory - Drums
*John Dalton - Bass Guitar
*John Gosling - Keyboards
*John Beecham - Trombone
*Alan Holmes - Saxophones
*Nick Newell - Tenor Saxophone
*Pamela Travis - Background Vocals
*Debbie Doss - Background Vocals
*Shirley Roden - Background Vocals