Eric Burdon – [Album]

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Eric Burdon does not seem to realize the Sixties ended long ago. And that's a good thing. He still believes that music can change the world, and he still sings like that's true.

On 'Til Your River Runs Dry, Burdon tackles a number of political and social issues. The central theme, as indicated by the title, is the water crisis; the growing lack of fresh, clean water for much of the world's population. Although he does present water as both savior, in the opening track, "Water," and destroyer, in "River Is Rising," about Katrina, he also touches on immigration, war, greed, and government oppression. He keeps the spirit of the Sixties alive no matter which turn he makes, both positive (his passion for the issues) and the negative (a certain naivete to the lyrics) and that consistency makes for a great ride; once they're in, Burdon works to make sure that no one falls off or gets bored with this ride. Only occasionally does he descend into pure polemics (as on "Invitation to the White House" where he imagines a meeting with the President, and presents simplistic solutions to the country's problems), a common problem with political songs.

Musically, 'Til Your River Runs Dry could have been recorded in the Sixties as well. Although it does not sound dated, it ignores much of what has happened in music in the last forty years. It is all basic blues rock, recorded with a Cincinnati band called The Greenhornes, which Burdon has been working with for a few years now. The playing is rock solid – supporting Burdon very well – but it never rises to anything exceptional on its own. Only on the final number, a jamming version of Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me," do they really let loose.

Burdon's voice remains strong. It is a little more subdued than it was in his prime. He spends more time crooning than belting here. But he still has the power and emotion to move his listeners.

He addresses all these connections to the past on two songs. "Old Habits Die Hard" presents his reasons: he just can't stop protesting what he sees as unfair, even as the government cracks down harder. "27 Forever," the strongest cut on the album, speaks to those who did not make it out of the Sixties alive (as we were reminded when Amy Winehouse passed away, twenty-seven is the classic age for rock stars to die). "Now I hear a voice from the past/ calling out,” sings Burdon plaintively. “You should have joined us,/ and stayed 27 forever.'" He honestly seems to be pondering whether he would have been better had he passed away with them, partially because the pleasures of youth become much more difficult as one ages. But he is also considering his legacy, or lack of it. If he had died at twenty-seven, he seems to be asking, would he be one of the stars of rock music, instead of a footnote?

'Til The River Runs Dry may be an attempt to counter Burdon's “footnote” legacy; to prove that he is still relevant. If that's the mission, it falls flat. It not only doesn't rise to the level of those idols he refers to, it doesn't even match his own strongest work. On the other hand, maybe he's just trying to show that he is still with us, still going strong. That he is still doing this, because that is what he does. And while he's at it, he is still doing it well.



'Til Your River Runs Dry is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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