Rock legends assess a lesser classic anew to color it brightly.
Least loved, albeit bleakly brilliant, of the classic PINK FLOYD albums, “Animals” has always seemed destined, unlike those records, for a various-artists treatment thanks to its inherent diversity, with each track portraying a different dystopian character from the titular species. This platter didn’t pretend to be as unbreakably solid as its predecessor or as thematically interlinked as the ensemble’s next offering, so inviting an array of progressive rock veterans – and not only ones who pursue such a style – to revisit the British quartet’s 1977 classic feels more natural than hearing some of them and their colleagues on "Still Wish You Were Here" or “Back Against The Wall” trying to put their stamp on what could pass for conceptual unity. There’s no wholeness here, where the players are placed in less comfortable, but creatively challenging, circumstances and given interpretative freedom.
Of course, the brevity of “Pigs On A Wing” wouldn’t allow Nick Van Eede and Jon Davison a lot of space to soar, while Martin Barre and Albert Lee still excel in weaving a web-light, pellucid lace – respectively acoustic and slider-caressed. Yet it’s immensely gratifying to listen to Graham Bonnet who, setting aside his trademark melodious bark to favor the alien for him element, is fathoming the depth of “Dogs” as Vinnie Moore and Jordan Rudess measure, in electric and unplugged ways, the piece’s multiple dimensions with instrumental forays into the gloom. The murk may be rattled by bass rumble that Kasim Sulton provides on this cut and Joe Bouchard on “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” – the numbers bearing the mighty, and highly inventive, beat courtesy of Pat Mastelotto and Billy Cobham – but the latter track, which James LaBrie voices with fantastic flair, has a snazzy, jazzy air about the previously heavy arrangement, thanks to Al Di Meola and Patrick Moraz.
However, if Arthur Brown’s patented theatricality on “Sheep” is hardly surprising, although impressive, Rick Wakeman‘s raging ivories will be difficult to recognize in this setting – spurred by Jan Akkerman’s relentless six-string attack and Carmine Appice‘s thunder that David J.’s groove anchors and pulls towards another world. It’s a frightening Orwellian continuum as tentatively familiar as the songs on “Animals” are, and reimagining them here must inspire the listener to return to the original album to, possibly, perceive the classic from a fresh perspective.