Can't judge an album by its cover

Alan Elliott
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The fresh young faces on the cover looked the same, but the songs had changed. And boy did I get sucked in, hook, line and sinker.
'The Animals,' stated the title on the CD. It seemed too good to be true, the songs as listed on the back included all their hits, right from the early ones on through Eric Burdon's later solo stuff. And, appropriate for the bargain bin in which I found it, it came at a price of just over five bucks. A perfect addition to my content of oldies, and the British invasion is right up there among my faves. How could I lose?
I could hardly wait to get the cellophane off and spin this new disc. Oh sure, I could probably do without House of the Rising Sun, their first big hit -- number one for the year of 1964 as I recall. I've heard it so many times, and in fact, it still gets played a lot. Plus it was the showstopper hauled out over the years at campfire singalongs by every beginning guitarist. But it was worth it for all the other great tunes.
Then I spotted the fine print: "Some of the tracks on this album are recordings made by the original artist or one or more members of the original group. This album also includes some live recordings." I didn't like the sound of that, but I clung to the hope that the operative word in the statement would prove to be "some."
It kicked off with Rising Sun, and although it had that similar guitar arpeggio thing and the wailing organ solo, I knew from the beginning it wasn't the original as released.
Oh well, on to better things with the second track, the fabulous Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood. Well, I'm afraid something got misunderstood. Same deal, and what a letdown.
I should have known better, having run into this kind of thing before. All the way back to when I was a kid, my sister and I on a tight budget, we came across a bargain LP in Woolworth's entitled something like Big Party Hits. On the cover was a picture of a willowy, blond go-go dancer in a miniskirt. The contents listed some great top-10 radio fare of the past year. What a find.
But, as it turned out, all the songs were apparently redone by no-name studio musicians. There was an attempt to make them sound like reasonable facsimiles, but … well, you know, it just wasn't the real thing. I played it a couple of times, then relegated it to the bottom of the pile. I took it out occasionally and gazed at the miniskirted dancer and thought, wow, did you ever lead me astray.
Just as with this bogus Animals album. You can envision this kind of thing. A band that was big at one time splits up. Their music comes back in vogue thanks to all us nostalgic baby boomers. Then one of the members revives the act, comes up with a similar name, the New Animals, or Almost Animals, and takes the show on the Holiday Inn lounge circuit. Another member notices the success and follows suit. Pretty soon you have three or four bands claiming to be the real thing.
I listened to the rest of my bargain Animals album. It was the same thing all the way through, different versions of great songs like We Gotta Get Out of This Place, also with the solo Eric Burdon songs: Spill the Wine and San Franciscan Nights. In fact, on a couple of tracks, I began to suspect the singer was an Eric Burdon sound-alike.
Close, but not quite. It's funny how those songs from your youth have burned right onto your brain-cell hard drive. Alter the timbre of one instrument or voice, and you know there's something amiss. Suddenly they lose the power to take you back.
Maybe I'm a bit fussy, but I don't think I can bear to play it again. I don't want to corrupt my memory of the real versions of those songs. I suppose I'll donate the disc to one of the thrift shops in the area. But perhaps, to be fair, I should take a highlighter to the disclaimer on the back.

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