Bursting from Newcastle, via a move to London, onto the international music scene with "House of the Rising Sun," The Animals were one of the hardest-edged of the R&B-based British Invasion-era bands.
The original incarnation of the band began to splinter within a year of that monster hit, with organist Alan Price ejecting right in the middle of a string of pop hits alternating remakes of blues numbers and new songs by American Brill Building writers. The rest of the band would soon follow, reportedly due to a combination of management troubles and discomfort with producer Mickie Most's inarguably successful strategy for their singles releases.
The Animals' anchor, growling vocalist Eric Burdon, regrouped by appending his own moniker to the band's name and turning away from R&B for the most part. The immediate results were the mostly-icky and over-orchestrated transitional album "Eric is Here," which wasn't even released in the U.K. Burdon subsequently solidified a band of "New Animals" and went hippie.
Unlike many beat boom acts, however, Burdon's transition was more intense, as he moved to America and embraced the burgeoning culture full-on. Any remaining R&B true believers probably didn't bother to check out his next album, Winds of Change, after hearing "San Franciscan Nights" on the radio -- if they even recognized that song as The Animals.
Winds of Change is a pretty strange piece of work by any standards. With the band taking over most of the songwriting duties, it's at times spacey (as on the hit and the title track), at times flat-out creepy ("The Black Plague"), at times giggle-inducing ("Man-Woman") and at times rocking as hard as the old days ("It's All Meat"). Burdon really gets his chance to shine here on some ballads of the type that sunk his previous album ("Anything," "Hotel Hell"). The album has inspired some critical trashings over the years, but over time has earned some equally ardent defenders -- it's definitely a love it or hate it affair.
The psych-era Animals would last an even shorter time than the original band, and by the end of the decade Burdon had moved on to Latin rock-funk with War. Despite their success at the time, the "New Animals" albums have been mostly out of print in America ever since. "Winds of Change" is well worth checking out as a far-ranging '60s time capsule. (MGM, 1967; currently only available as an import CD)