Various Artists - Animals Reimagined

Various Artists – Animals Reimagined

Released some six months after Still Wish You Were Here, Animals Reimagined follows Pink Floyd’s own chronology; in the mid-’70s it was a miracle that the band managed to find an invigorating new turn after releasing such a landmark album. Despite being released in 1977, with punk music well into its stride, Pink Floyd released what could be argued is their most ‘progressive’ album, a concept album with just three long songs and two bookends. Cynical in tone, this concept album satirises socio-political elements of 1970s Britain as well as the rising punk scene and uses the animal concept from George Orwell’s Animal Farm to criticise capitalism instead. While elements of the album are now dated – especially a reference to conservative activist Mary Whitehouse – a lot of it still feels relevant today, and you can feel the resentment brimming in the harsh verses of every song.

The familiar, lilting Pigs on the Wing that kicks off the set is introduced by Martin Barre of Jethro Tull and Nick Van Eede of Cutting Crew. Barre adds a few extra notes to the piece that don’t feel particularly necessary, but do remind us that this is not a straight cover but ‘reimagined’.

Dogs features a more impressive line-up including Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess, UFO’s Vinnie Moore and King Crimson’s Pat Mastelotto on drums. Moore is more than ready to show off his skills at every opportunity in this long, twisting piece, but it’s Rudess who elevates the piece to a new level. I’ve always loved this track, but I tended to find the slow, central keyboard-led instrumental rather monotonous; it’s only with this version, and Rudess’s careful attention to the subtle build-up while creating an effervescent atmosphere, that I finally wrapped my head around how it works. Rudess’s alternate solos work perfectly in this space and sound otherworldly, before bringing us back to earth with a brief piano solo that acts as a prelude to the verse. Fans of Dream Theater will be able to recognise his style. This is an absolutely delightful cover and it’s great to see such a long and complex song get such justice.

Dream Theater fans need not go away yet, as James LaBrie once again takes the helm singing Pigs (Three Different Ones). He is again joined by Patrick Moraz on keyboards, but the rest of the line-up is even more impressive. Getting Billy Cobham to play the part of Nick Mason is like hitting a nail with a nuclear bomb, and Al Di Meola’s outro guitar solo is full of soul. This was always my least favourite track on the original album, as I felt it was flat and uninteresting compared to the other pieces, but the beefed-up sound and sheer talent on display make this version a tastier prospect.

Now, I’m really not sure of all the logistics that go into making these tribute albums, but I’d wager a bet that each of the artists is told to go away and record their parts for their respective songs, and some engineer has to put it all together. I wonder how much the artists compare notes, because for example on Shine On You Crazy Diamond from the previous album, Bootsy Collins and Ian Paice managed to get into a nice groove, so it seems as if they must have collaborated closely.

It’s as if a teacher has split their class into groups and asked the pupils to build a group project. And when that happens, you’ll be able to tell when the group worked together collaboratively and communicated effectively to get the project done and when… they did not. Sheep is this album’s example of a group where one or more children didn’t want to help out and the project turned out a complete disaster.

Things kick off relatively well with a tasteful solo by Rick Wakeman, pre-empting the coming chaos. Carmine Appice comes in a little too heavy on the drums in the intro, but this is immediately forgotten when Arthur Brown starts singing way out of key, absolutely butchering the lyrics. Wakeman switches to an out-of-character, very ’60s-sounding Hammond organ like you’d expect to hear from Iron Butterfly, but Jan Akkerman (yep, the guitarist from Focus) just seems to be doing whatever he wants, not accentuating the notes he needs to accentuate.

After the verses pass, painfully, we reach the extended instrumental which differs so drastically from the album version that I’m led to believe that it’s no ‘reimagining’ but a monumental cock-up. Arthur Brown starts reading the Psalm quote far too early, and then at 5½ minutes, the musicians just stop altogether. Some cacophonic, dissonant noises are recorded, quite a bold departure from the original piece. I honestly wouldn’t mind any of it if it weren’t for what’s about to come. The final verse arrives, Wakeman providing aggressive organ stabs, and Akkerman simply soloing randomly over the top. Brown is, at the very least, passionate in his delivery. But to my dismay, the triumphant guitar riff that dominates the outro of the original version is nowhere to be heard here. It’s one of the best parts of the song and it’s as if Akkerman completely forgot to record it. The song doesn’t feel complete without it. I had to listen to the original Sheep just to feel satiated after that grotesque facsimile.

Yes men Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood (who made his own Pink Floyd tribute albums two decades ago) put a close to this turbulent chapter sweetly enough with the reprise of Pigs on the Wing. However, there’s been another monumental cock-up as Davison is singing the lyrics to Part 1, rather than the antithetical Part 2. Admittedly, this error passed right by me in the wake of the Sheep catastrophe, but on repeated listens this oversight ruins a crucial part of the album’s concept where a positive change has happened in the world of the animals. The fact that no one noticed this error and sought to correct it before the album’s release shows what a slapdash project it must have been.

Animals Reimagined has some great highs and some extreme lows. I will almost certainly never listen to Sheep again; you really ought to check it out if you want to hear just how bad a cover can be. But despite the evidence of a project that was handled with little care, there’s still lots of fun to be had with some of your favourite musicians.

01. Pigs on the Wing 1 (1:53)
– Martin Barre: Guitar
– Nick Van Eede: Vocals
02. Dogs (16:59)
– Kasim Sulton: Bass
– Pat Mastelotto: Drums
– Vinnie Moore: Guitar
– Jordan Rudess: Keyboards
– Graham Bonnet: Vocals
03. Pigs (Three Different Ones) (11:32)
– Joe Bouchard: Bass
– Billy Cobham: Drums
– Al Di Meola: Guitar
– Patrick Moraz: Keyboards
– James LaBrie: Vocals
04. Sheep (10:24)
– David J: Bass
– Carmine Appice: Drums
– Jan Akkerman: Guitar
– Rick Wakeman: Keyboards, Appropriate Software
– Arthur Brown: Vocals
05. Pigs on the Wing 2 (1:38)
– Billy Sherwood: Acoustic Guitar, Effects
– Albert Lee: Acoustic &, Electric Guitars
– Jon Davison: Vocals

Total Time – 42:26

Record Label: Cleopatra Records
Catalogue #: CLO2573
Date of Release: 19th November 2021

Cleopatra Records – Bandcamp