"Please Send Me Someone To Love" / The Animals
For Christmas I got one of those turntables that's supposed to convert vinyl to digital tracks (yeah, I know, I got one of those last Christmas, but they swear the technology's different now and it will really work this time). But before I opened that snazzy present, I'd already caved in and ordered a CD version of my old Animals LP Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted, mostly because I just had to have this track.
Now, when I say "old" Animals LP, I don't mean dating back to their first appearance in the early 1960s (I don't count Eric Burdon and the Animals as the same band -- in fact, I only consider them the Animals if Alan Price is on board, and he was the first member of the original band to bail). No, this LP popped up in 1977, when for some reason the original band decided to re-unite. I guess that reunion fizzled, but they tried it again in 1983, when they not only released another album, Ark, but even supported it with a tour. That's when I finally saw them live, here in New York at the Beacon Theater. I remember that night very well; Eric Burdon's singing was awesome, but there wasn't enough of Alan Price in the show for me -- they let him sing a couple songs from O Lucky Man! but otherwise wanted to keep him confined to the keyboards, which had been the problem in the first place. I guess that second reunion was doomed to fail too.
The Animals may have gotten bogged down in ego and politics, but there's no question they were a brilliant band, and this reunion album has some brilliant stuff on it. Now that they weren't anymore hungry young kids being manipulated by cynical pop producers, they could indulge themselves with all the bluesy stuff they'd always loved to perform. This old Percy Mayfield standard dates back to 1950 and has been covered by everyone from Pat Boone and Peggy Lee to the Grateful Dead, but this is the version I know and love the best. I love the drawling tempo they take it at, taking its own sweet time, much lazier than Mayfield's original (Count Basie's version, with Joe Williams on vocals, sounds a lot closer) ; I love how Eric Burdon's voice climbs gradually from growl to howl.
The song starts out almost like a gospel number, some sort of blues benediction -- "Heaven please send to all mankind / Understanding and peace of mind / But if it's not asking too much / Please send me someone to love." Talk about restraint -- almost all of the song follows this same disciplined pattern, nattering on about world peace and harmony, but the singer can't help it, at the end of every chorus he just has to sneak in his own selfish plea. He's trying to focus on the big picture, he really is, and he doesn't want to feel sorry for himself . . . but there's only so much self-restraint a guy can take. "Just because I am in misery / Well I don't beg for no sympathy," he claims, the chords shifting doggedly upward, but eventually he gets carried away; the notes crest over the top, underlaid with an uneasy diminished chord, as he blurts out, "Well if it's not asking too much / Please send me someone to love." It's subtle, but that underlying tension between his high-minded pretense and his real motives charges up this whole song.
Of course Alan Price's electric piano riffs are wonderful; to my ear they make the song. (That middle eight solo is so lovely and laidback -- it's great to see the mature Animals letting themselves be so mellow). But even I will admit that this is a superb Burdon vocal. His confident phrasing just makes you beg for the lyrical pay-off, and he has the guts to lets himself go flat and slide dirtily into those low notes, then do a bravura glissando up to the top of his range. It's the voice of experience, all weathered and assured.
It took ages for this record to be re-issued on CD; even now it's hard to find, and I couldn't even dredge up an on-line sample to link to. Sorry, but you'll just have to take my word for it. Even better, get your own hands on this record -- it's a bittersweet reminder of how good the Animals might have been if their prickly personalities hadn't gotten in the way. Well, at least we've got this latter day bonus -- and now I've got it on CD, I'm a happy camper.