Though Eric Burdon’s voice crowned the Animals’ sound, founding keyboardist Alan Price’s contributions were equally seminal. He brought the group a deep feel for R&B, blues and jazz, organ sounds that provided some of the band’s most memorable hooks, and songwriting chops that paired with Burdon’s. Though his run with the Animals ended in 1965, his solo career took off quickly, with singles and solo albums charting in the UK into the 1970s. This 1974 album came between his critically acclaimed soundtrack for O Lucky Man! and the socially astute Between Today and Yesterday. Incredibly, though the album was fully finished, artistically successful and had obvious commercially potential, it was released only briefly on 8-track tape and then recalled.
No one associated with the album recalls exactly why it was shelved, nor can anyone explain why it’s taken more than forty years to escape the vault. Price is in perfect form throughout, weaving together R&B, blues, soul, jazz, boogie, pop, rock and music hall sounds. It’s not unlike the post-British Invasion reach of Ray Davies and the Kinks, but eschews Davies’ concept album excess. The opening “Smells Like Lemon, Tastes Like Wine” borrows easily from Eric Burdon’s “Spill the Wine” and tinges the song with the rye attitude of Jerry Reed. Price’s extended piano solo on “You Won’t Get Me” is superb, and his organ keys the trad-jazz cross-dressing tale “Willie the Queen,” a song whose momentary Leon Redbone impression is apt.
Price’s songs are imaginative, delving into autobiography, nostalgia, social commentary and historical portraiture, and his voice, which was always worthy of the spotlight, is particularly flexible and compelling here. He sings soulfully, struts to the New Orleans ramble of the title track, and scats as an overdubbed chorus for the homespun story of small pleasures, “Country Life.” His fondness for Randy Newman comes through on the original “And So Goodbye,” and the album’s one cover, “Over and Over Again” is given a broad, circus-styled arrangement. From opening song to closing, this is a fine album, and one of the best in Price’s catalog. That it’s only finding proper release 42 years after the fact is both a shame and a delight. [©2016 Hyperbolium]