The Animals

The Best of the Animals [MGM]

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When this compilation was released in early 1966, the Animals were already past their best commercial days, though they and MGM Records weren't done with each other -- especially as this LP reached number six on the U.S. charts, the group's highest placement ever for an album in America. Two more hits collections would show up along with three years of releases, both by this group and by lead singer Eric Burdon with a re-configured and reshaped version of the Animals (which is something of a whole other story), over the next three years. In the meantime, there was this 11-song collection which, along with the early live-recorded "Club A-Go-Go" material (issued on various budget labels under numerous titles), kept the original group's reputation alive and, indeed, very high profile well into the '70s, long past the official end of its shelf-life. MGM's Best of the Animals sold well enough to circulate for decades, and offered enough surprises to keep them listening hard and often. The first was at the end of side-one, the unedited four-minute-plus version of "House of the Rising Sun," which was mostly unknown in the U.S.. Then there was the U.S. version of "We've Gotta Get Out of This Place," which, otherwise, disappeared from the group's discography over the next few years -- the American single (which made the Top 20) had been a mistake, involving the use of an unapproved take accidentally sent to MGM by EMI, but most people who heard both felt the U.S. version was a better performance in some respects. And, finally, there was the really cool-looking cover picture (elsewhere on their U.S. releases, the Animals always seemed to be out of luck on the graphics for their albums), which featured new organist Dave Rowberry in place of the departed Alan Price. As it is, these 11 songs comprised one of the most potent hits collections of the British Invasion, and were a pretty powerful statement of this band's music and history, given that it only comprised a portion of about 18 months in their work and output.