Jan Hammer: The Animals
Jan Hammer (keyboards)
The First Seven Days (Columbia/Legacy)
Jan Hammer (keyboards),
Steven Kindler (violin), David Earle Johnson (percussion).
Composed by Jan Hammer.
Recorded: Kent, NY, summer 1975
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
"The Animals" is a historically important cut in understanding much of Jan Hammer's playing style from the Mahavishnu Orchestra on. Here is a quote from my book on Mahavishnu: "There had always been a tinge of Indian flavor in the band's music. But the influences of Indian music were really furthered on Mahavishnu's Birds of Fire. Jan Hammer had become very attracted to South Indian classical music. This interest arose from listening to cassette tapes that McLaughlin had given him. At one point, Jan even considered going to Wesleyan University in Connecticut to study Indian percussion. (McLaughlin took vina lessons at the school in 1970.) Hammer was particularly impressed with the vina playing of the Indian virtuoso S. Balachander, the same musician who had made such a great impression on John McLaughlin several years before. He would listen to the bends and slurs that Balachander was able to obtain from the vina and the sounds stayed with him. Jan believes his playing style, principally on the Minimoog from Birds of Fire on, was very much shaped by Balachander. (After he left Mahavishnu, Jan continued on this path and points to the tune 'The Animals' from his album The First Seven Days as the clearest example of his affinity for the Indian master.)"
When you consider the fact that the vina is an Indian stringed instrument you understand how differently Hammer approached his synthesizer from other keyboard players. He came from an entirely different place. "The Animals" is just as Hammer describes Balachander's music. It is a bending and slurring keyboard synthesizer atop quasi-Indian rhythms played by percussionist David Earle Johnson. It was difficult enough in those days just to create these sounds. The overwhelming musicality of the piece is an added bonus and a valuable look into a formative aspect of the style of a great artist.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky