Sunday, 27 January 2013

LINK: The Montreal Gazette on Eric Burdon

The unmistakable voice comes in cautiously, a little tentatively, on Water, the opening track of Eric Burdon’s first studio album in seven years. But a mere half minute into the song, the swaggering growl – only slightly diminished by age – peeks over the wall. By the chorus, it’s back – and it will make several appearances over the next 55 minutes.
Burdon, the greatest singer of the mid-1960s British Invasion era, is one of those vocalists whose power, wit and phrasing have always made almost anything he touches worth hearing. This is still the case, as illustrated by Old Habits Die Hard, a boastful roadhouse rocker about what a bad-ass he has always been, and Invitation to the White House, an amusing spoken blues fantasy (perhaps a descendant of I’m Mad Again) in which the president asks Burdon for advice – and he gives it. (“We should make friends with the Canadians/ They got more than just snow,” the Animal-in-chief urges the commander-in-chief, among other pearls of wisdom.)
Eric Burdon cover
If there’s a whiff of disappointment in this long-awaited return, it has to do with the performance of the many supporting musicians, who sound a bit too slick, too professional and too polite when they should be egging Burdon on to greater heights. Johnny Lee Schell’s guitar solo in the otherwise excellent In the Ground, for example, is restrained to a fault, bordering on uneventful. The easy-listening, Spanish-flavoured torch ballad Wait, co-written by Burdon, even comes off as an attempted mainstream hit.
Similarly, a strange sterility and lethargy settle over Bo Diddley Special, in which Burdon completes the trilogy that began with the Animals’ sweat-drenched live cover of Bo Diddley (the song) and continued with The Story of Bo Diddley, the group’s brilliant capsule history of rock n’ roll. Luckily, however, everyone does loosen up a little in the album-closing cover of Diddley’s Before You Accuse Me.
The dryness of the sound is doubly surprising, given that Burdon co-produced the album with drummer Tony Braunagel. It’s entirely possible that the wonderful EP he released last fall with Cincinnati garage rockers the Greenhornes set us up for something a little rawer and uncompromising (although no one was looking for anything as weird as that EP’s Cab Driver, which sounded unsettlingly xenophobic from a man whose politics had never seemed to be in question).
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