Fans have waited a long time for the ever-fighty and pedantic Pink Floyd to come to a consensus and release the remixed 1977 concept album Animals. When it comes to the Floyd, so often two is too many cooks in the kitchen, but this thing was actually completed in 2018, for goodness sake. And it wasn’t even the music that the band members were bickering about, it was the liner notes.
Anyway, it’s finally being released this week. As with The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, Sgt. Pepper, White Album, Abbey Road and Let It Be — not to mention several recent Band reissues — this is not just a remaster or a sonic upgrade, but a full-on remix. James Guthrie did the work, going back to the original analogue master tapes. His relationship with the band goes back to one year after Animals came out. His first project with Pink Floyd was The Wall. Animals was originally produced by the band themselves, with help from established engineer Brian Humphries. It was the first project the band did at their own, freshly constructed Britannia Row studio in London. It’s the only album the band did there in its entirety.
So these are the tapes Guthrie got to toy with. What he’s come up with, really, is not dramatically different than what was issued originally. And those 2016 remasters you can buy for $28 sound absolutely fantastic. This is a band renowned for releasing sonically excellent albums with great care and thought put into the choices of instrument, position and selection of mics, amounts and types of effects and position and strength of the tracks within the stereo spectrum.
Like Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here, Animals sounded great in the first place. But this is a very different beast, if you’ll pardon the pun. Animals is a rock album. This is Floyd’s “we see you, punk rock” album. Like many of their contemporaries, there is no trace of the disco trend on this record. It is an angry concept album about Britain, politics and the music business. If Wish You Were Here was keyboardist Rick Wright’s greatest moment, then this was guitarist David Gilmour’s. He was never so abrasive before or again.
My deluxe box set is still in the mail, but I gave the downloaded FLAC version a listen on headphones. I’ll take you with me on my first spin. Here we go:
Right off the top, the opening acoustic Pigs On The Wing (Part One) has noticeably fuller vocals, which are more out front.
The centrepiece of the album, certainly for Gilmour, is Dogs, which takes up the remainder of Side 1. Originally titled You Gotta Be Crazy, the song made its debut on the Wish You Were Here tour. The Animals version has a new title to keep with the overall concept, as well as a Roger Waters-sung and written extra. You can immediately feel the percussive acoustic guitars are fuller right from the start. The lead vocal is also slightly right of centre now and more forward in the mix. There seems to be a tad more delay effect on the vocal as well. It isn’t disproportionately out front, though when the band comes in. The big difference here is Nick Mason’s toms — especially the floor tom — are more evident in the mix. The first mini guitar solo soars more than it did, and the new mix allows you to hear the trail-offs — the little confident, cool bluesy flourishes Gilmour does at the end of a bit.
Oh, the hi-hat is nice and crisp and Wright’s thin synth bed is perfectly placed. In the middle of the song we’re treated to the famous barking dogs part — used to great effect in one WKRP In Cincinnati episode. They made my Labradoodle howl. This is also where one of Gilmour’s greatest solos happens — and the new mix really allows you to hear and feel the strike of the pick on the strings. Again, there’s additional delay on the vocals here — both the lead and Gilmour’s own backing vocals. The cool chill-out bit with the echoey dog barking is essentially the same, but with some new panning. The synth bits move slowly from left to right. I look forward to hearing the 5.1 version of this — even just through my vintage quadraphonic setup.
There’s a bit more/different delay on Waters’ vocals at times towards the end of Dogs as well. The final bit of the song seems to have buried the backing vocals a bit, but the main guitar/bass riff is certainly accentuated in this mix.
On to Pigs (Three Different Ones) — whoa! The pig noises are different. Thinner with less effect. The guitar is way more out in the mix and so is Wright’s thin synth. There’s panning on the drum fills I’ve never noticed before and the bassline is much louder and prominent than the original. Roger’s “pig stain on your front chin” vocal part is way more forward and loud. The feel of this is quite dramatically different across the board — the snare is tighter and louder and the effect on the blues guitar licks is slightly different. Oh wow, there’s Gilmour backing vocal — “You’re nearly a laugh but you’re really a cry” — that I’d never noticed before. The pig noises afterward are louder than originally mixed and there’s a brassy bed synth I’ve never noticed before. It’s so damn good this song. Floyd were lots of things, but rarely “cool.” This is so cool.
Again, the instrumental bit before the last verse has new panning on the keyboard refrain. This would sound aces in quad. And, the heavy breathing in there is more prominently mixed now and there are additional repeat-delays on the vocal at the end of lyric lines — not quite like in Us And Them, but you get the idea. Sweet jeebus, the guitar solo at the end of this song is rock and roll … it cross-fades into the sound of sheep. And oh my, the Rhodes. Rest in peace Rick Wright, you beautiful bastard. It sounds so good. As the drums come in, it’s evident there is more attack on the snare and the toms are quite high in the mix. There are also Eno-esque synth flourishes which are much clearer and obvious. I might like the lead vocal to be a tad brighter and slightly more separated. It’s an incredible vocal performance and should stand out more. Certainly Wright’s parts here, and throughout, have been given a nudge across the board.
The spoken-word pseudo Psalm 23 is a touch clearer, courtesy of what sounds as simple as an EQ adjustment. The ending of Sheep is just a perfect performance by everyone and I love there’s no guitar solo over it (there never was). Bookending the album, of course, is Pigs On The Wing (Part 2), which like the first part has noticeably fuller vocals.
Final thoughts — yeah, this is worth getting. It’s the definitive mix. It’s their best record, as far as I’m concerned. Unlike Dark Side Of The Moon, there’s no filler (Any Colour You Like). They should have stuck with the original artwork, though — and used the new cover as a poster instead.
Get it, it’s a 5 out of 5.
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Animals is the 10th studio album by Pink Floyd, originally released in January 1977. It was recorded at the band’s Britannia Row Studios in London throughout 1976 and early 1977, and was produced by the band themselves. The successful album peaked at No. 2 in the U.K. and No. 3 in the U.S., and is considered as one of the band’s best works. The album was recorded by band members David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright.
The Animals 2018 Remix by the band’s longtime engineer and producer James Guthrie will be released on CD, LP (with gatefold artwork), Blu-ray, digital and deluxe gatefold formats. The deluxe gatefold version includes LP, CD, audio Blu-ray, audio DVD and a 32-page book. The Blu-ray and DVD audio include the 2018 remix in Stereo, 5.1 and Surround, plus the original 1977 stereo mix. The booklet features rarely seen behind-the-scenes photographs of the album sleeve shoot along with live images and memorabilia.
Animals is a concept album, focusing on the social-political conditions of mid-1970s Britain, and was a change from the style of the band’s earlier work. The album was developed from a collection of unrelated songs into a concept which describes the apparent social and moral decay of society, likening the human condition to that of animals.
Taking inspiration from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the album depicts the different classes of people as animals with pigs being at the top of the social chain, dropping down to the sheep as the mindless herd following what they are told, with dogs as the business bosses getting fat on the money and power they hold over the other. Although it’s been a long time since 1977, the narrative of the album still resonates today as our social and economical situation mirrors that of the time.
The album’s iconic cover shows an inflatable pig (now known as Algie) floating between two chimneys of the Battersea Power Station, conceived by Waters and designed by long-time collaborator Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis Studios. For this new release, the artwork has been re-designed for the modern era by Storm’s Hipgnosis partner Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell. Taking new shots of the building as it appeared during the recent conversion work, Po experimented with new angles and produce some striking new takes on the classic original. Po elaborates: “With the original 1977 album cover being such an iconic piece of stand-alone art, I had the chance to update it, which was a rather daunting task, but Hipgnosis took the opportunity to re photograph the image to reflect a changing world, and by using modern digital colouring techniques I kept Pink Floyd’s rather bleak message of moral decay using the Orwellian themes of animals, the pig Algie, faithful to the message of the album.”