When I got my hands on the new Eric Burdon album I must admit that I didn’t know what to expect – I certainly did NOT expect an album this angry and this hard hitting or an album that is this strong from a man who turns 72 this year!
The throaty bellow that announced itself with ‘House of the Rising Sun’ in ’63 is still in place, a little less powerful but with all the emotion he is famous for and his phrasing is better than ever.
This is an album of songs. Burdon wrote the majority, in various collaborations, and the album closes on Bo Diddley’s ‘Before You Accuse Me’ but the variety of styles and the themes give evidence that this is a songwriter of experience and rare intellect.
The opener, ‘Water’, is full of disillusionment and Burdon’s voice is immediately apparent – there is a careworn edge to his vocal but the underlying anger comes through strongly and the chilling line “the enemy does not know who the enemy is” seems to sum up his ire. He follows up with ‘Memorial Day’ displaying his feelings about the impacts of the war on terrorism and the mute acceptance of the populace. ‘Devil & Jesus’ is a personal favourite. A gently lollopping pace as he debates the two sides of his emotions and mentality. A fabulous organ sound from Mike Finnigan and Johnny Lee Schell’s guitar are superb. Burdon was one of the acts to perform at Bo Diddley’s memorial concert and ‘Bo Diddlley Special’ captures the music and the soul of that great man. One of the best songs that Diddley never wrote but Burdon delivers a musical eulogy that is damn near perfect. If you didn’t ‘get’ the Bo Diddley sound before you certainly will from this awesome miasma of drums and riffs. ’27 Forever’ is, as you might insinuate, a song about the ’27 Club’ so famous recently with Amy Winehouse’ death but more about the voices calling to those who never joined the club – chilling.
Every song on the album has a place and stands as a fitting example of the music that Burdon has been making for years – often forgotten by his countrymen or written off as ‘The Animals singer’. The best numbers stand on their merits against anything that is being put out today and his version of ‘Before You accuse me ...’ is brilliantly raw but with a New Orleans groove.
Burdon should be raised up as a world heritage treasure although I suspect he might hate the accolade!
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