‘House of the Rising Sun’ has a history of a changing tune. The song’s roots date back to 1933. Famous folk singer Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster performed the first known version of the song, also known as ‘Rising Sun Blues’ in bluegrass style.
The sound shifted in 1964 when The Animals recorded their take on the track. The Animals pay tribute to the essence of Bluegrass throughout their rendition. Anyone can pick out the subtle acknowledgment to the Blues. However, they added a spice of rock n’ roll.
When listening to the classic song, the first thing you hear is deep electric bass. The bass resembles the bluesy roots. Eric Burdon, the lead singer of The Animals, keeps the folk twang alive when singing ‘House of the Rising Sun’. Burdon sings with the song with the strong intention of telling a sorrowful story. Everything changes once we’re introduced to the organ and electric guitar. Both instruments transform the intention of the song. The long organ and guitar riffs provide a significant edge to the song, arguably making it rock n’ roll.
Fast forward to 2017. alt-J, an indie rock band from the U.K., produced a cover of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ on their third studio album ‘RELAXER.’ The first time you listen to their version of the classic, you probably won’t believe it’s the same song.
alt-J subtlely paid their respects to The Animals version of ‘House of the Rising Sun’. At the very beginning of the updated cover, there’s a soft interlude of the band just playing the organ. alt-J crafted a sound that’s beautifully thoughtful while still crediting their inspiration.
The indie rock band turns down the edge and turns up the stringed instruments. They’ve taken an incredibly sad story and gave it a little light. You’ll hear how their airy vision draws out a more positive tone, transforming the song in a modern rock way. It’s so captivating, you’ll probably want to listen more than once just to grasp what alt-J’s perspective is on the classic hit.