Sep 22, 2004 at 12:00 am

Just once, don’t you want to see an Animals compilation that doesn’t start with “House of the Rising Sun” (which is the one cut everybody already owns), and end with ferchrissakes “Spill the Wine” (which isn’t even an Animals song)? Minor cavils aside, though, Eric Burdon and Co.’s premier appearance in the SACD format is a fine affair. It boasts the cleanest versions yet of the band’s most important soul-steeped early material, and it also contains a generous selection from its later “summer-of-love” incarnation. Many of these latter cuts were previously available only on notoriously uneven compilations, in the United States anyway, and Retrospective does a great job of culling gems like “Sky Pilot” and “Help Me Girl” from Burdon and the Animals’ late-1960s releases. In fact, the advantage of Retrospective over the dozen-odd extant Animals collections, leaving aside the audio cleanup, is its highlighting of the major shifts in the band’s sound. When Alan Price relinquishes keyboard duties after “Bring It On Home To Me,” it’s like a limb got lopped off; the band’s evolution from dirty R&B to hipster psychedelia begins shortly thereafter. Of course it all sounds great in SACD, especially given the group’s spotty history with transfer to CD. Suffice to say if you don’t own an Animals compilation, this is the one to get. And even if you do, you’ll likely find yourself more than satisfied with the trade-up.

Eric Waggoner writes about books for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].