Revisiting The Insane Awesomeness Of The New Animals' 1969 Opus 'Love Is'!

If you know anything about the Animals, you're probably aware of their magnificently prolific period between 1964-65 when the band enjoyed a run of six consecutive Top 10 UK singles, including the #1 smash "The House Of The Rising Sun", which also topped the charts in the U.S., "I'm Crying", "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", "Bring It On Home To Me", "We Gotta Get Out of This Place", and culminating with the buoyant bravado of "It's My Life".

Every last one of those songs appeared on the band's second U.S. release, The Best of The Animals, which rocketed into the Top 10 in 1966, becoming the band's sole gold record in the States.

Sadly, by September of that same year, the line-up that had stormed the charts had completely disbanded, leaving singer Eric Burdon to attempt to pick up the pieces. By spring of '68, Burdon had recruited Dantalion's Chariot leader Zoot Money as keyboardist. A year later, Money recruited former bandmate Andy Summers to complete what was now billed as Eric Burdon & The New Animals.

The resulting album, Love Is, was an obvious attempt to capitalize on what was then a huge psychedelic rock movement. Sadly, Burdon seemed forever typecast by the press as a blues singer and, thus, the album was largely written off. When Summers' career took a decided upward swing in the '80s as a member of The Police, the Love Is album was mentioned as a sort of curio artifact of Summer's musical past, nothing more, nothing less.

As a fan of the Police at the time, even my respect for the early work of the Animals could not sway me into giving the album a listen. Perhaps if I'd come across the album during my extensive record store digging, I might have picked it up, but I truly never even saw the album.

And then last week, sitting in the New Arrivals bin at my favorite record store, there it was. Priced at a very reasonable $2 - not at all bad for a double-album -  I added it to my haul and proceeded home to give it a proper listen.

Within seconds of putting it on, I immediately regretted not trying harder to find it back in the day.

"River Deep, Mountain High", which opens the album in majestic fashion, actually manages to make one forget all about the Ike & Tina version, at least until Eric and the band begin chanting "Tina, Tina, Tina" in the bridge. Summers' guitar work gives the whole performance a manic intensity that borders on Blue Cheer territory at times.

The musical insanity doesn't stop there. Soon, the band sets its sights on the Johnny Cash hit "Ring Of Fire" and Traffic's "Colored Rain", both given quite unusual readings by the band that are respectful of the original versions while not beholden to them. The latter features a seemingly endless guitar solo by Summers that must be heard to be believed.

Just when you think the album can't get anymore beautifully demented, the band tackles the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" with an intensity that matches Burdon's incendiary vocal performance.

Side Four is truly where the proceedings go completely off the rails with the 17-minute rock opus "Gemini" and a delightful re-cut of Dantalion's Chariot's "Madman Running Through The Fields", which packs a Who-like whallop and ends the album on a decidedly upbeat note.

All in all, a wild musical journey well worth taking.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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