Chances are, when Pete Townshend wrote the cogent

phrase, “hope I die before I get old,” he didn’t expect to be

performing it nearly 50 years later!

2013 feels like 1964 all over again. The surviving

members of the Who are back out on the road. The Rolling

Stones are touring to commemorate 50 years together.

Best of all, Eric Burdon has just released a new album.

Burdon got his start as vocalist for the seminal

British Blues band, the Animals.  The Newcastle quintet had

a series of  tough-minded hits like  “House Of The Rising Sun,”

“Don’t  Let Me Be Misunderstood,” and “We Gotta Get Out Of

This Place.”

Other British bands had an affinity for the Blues, but

the Animals had Eric Burdon. His deep, stentorian baritone

growled with authority. More a product of the Mississippi Delta

than the river Thames.

When the Animals splintered apart in the mid-sixties,

Burdon relocated to California and fully embraced the psychedelic

hippie ethos. His chemically enhanced adventures influenced new

songs like “San Franciscan Nights” and “A Girl Named Sandoz.”

“Sky Pilot” was a reflection of Burdon’s vocal opposition to the

Vietnam War.

Burdon closed out the 60s fronting L.A. Soul-Funk

progenitors WAR. Their first single, “Spill The Wine,” shot

to number 3 on the Billboard charts.

Although Burdon has piloted many incarnations of the

Animals through the years, he has primarily been a solo artist.

He has also acted in a variety of films and written two


Of course the Animals were inducted into the

Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994.  In 2012, Burdon was an inspiration

behind Bruce Springsteen’s keynote speech at  the influential

South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas.  Burdon

closed out the year recording a vinyl-only EP with  Ohio

Garage rockers the Greenhornes.

Til Your River Runs Dry is Eric Burdon’s 17th solo

release. The album opens with “Water.” Powered by stinging

guitar chords, a muscular rhythm section and supple Hammond B-3

fills, the tune is an urgent  plea for conservation.

The era of the protest song has long past, but Burdon

is still an instigator for change. Three songs here illustrate that

his passion for social activism remains undiminished.

The soulful “Memorial Day” marries a stutter-step beat

to a lilting, Reggae-fied melody.  The lyrics rail against the futility

of war…  “On Memorial Day, the hippies and the poets and the Spartans

say forget the reasons why we war, this is the season we’ve been

waiting for/Memorial Day, it’s a rich man’s war but the poor will pay.”

The slow simmering gumbo of “River Is Rising”

gives the devastation of Hurricane Katrina a personal spin.

Co-written with New Orleans’ based British musician Jon Cleary,

Burdon recounts the true story of how rescue workers came

upon Rock & Roll legend Fats Domino asleep in his  flooded

Ninth Ward home and nearly mistook him for dead!

A funky funeral dirge, the track is steeped in traditional

New Orleans instrumentation: tuba, muted trumpet and Cleary’s

rollicking piano rolls.

Finally, “Invitation To The White House” masquerades

as a shaggy dog story but is really a pointed commentary on

immigration and our continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The melody is playful and swaggering, but Burdon offers up some

sage advice…  “I said you gotta open those borders, I’m talking the

North and the South, make friends with the Canadians, they got

more than just snow/And there’s a labor force waiting in the land

of Mexico.”

Two songs explore the legacy of Rock & Roll,  “Bo Diddley

Special” and “27 Forever.”  The former is a warm shout-out to Rock

& Roll pioneer, Bo Diddley  (ne’ Ellas  Otha Bates).  Built on a  relax-fit

clave rhythm (that Diddley christened the Bo Diddley beat), and

rattling guitar riffs that uncoil with reptilian grace,  the track is an

elegant homage to one of Rock’s original guitar heroes. Despite the fact

that he was a huge influence on Burdon, they never met face to face.

The latter is a sober meditation on Rock & Roll’s

shocking mortality rate. The lyrics make oblique reference to

the infamous and untimely deaths of contemporaries like Jimi

Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, as well as the more recent

passings of Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain. Burdon also alludes

to his own substance issues. The slow and deliberate melody is

accented by a horn section and slippery guitar riffs.

Burdon steps out of his comfort zone on a couple of tracks.

Not only is “Wait” an  honest-to-goodness love song, it’s also a

languid  Samba anchored by a courtly Spanish guitar solo.

“Old Habits Die Hard” is positively swamp-adelic,

marrying voodoo rhythms and scorching guitar riffs  to lyrics

that revisit Burdon’s colorful past.

Other highlights here include the Bluesy but slightly

mordant “In The Ground,” the backwoods balladry of “Medicine

Man,” and “The Devil And Jesus,” which is a sinewy delight.

The album closes with a trenchant cover of Bo Diddley’s

“Before You Accuse Me.”

Aside from the Bo Diddley  track and Marc Cohn’s

“Medicine Man,” Burdon had a hand in writing every song.

He also co-produced the album with Tony Braunagel.

Musically, Burdon is ably supported by his crack touring band,

Billy Watts on Guitar, Terry Wilson on Bass, Wally Ingram on

percussion, Mike Finnigan on Hammond B3 and Braunagel  on drums.

Til Your River Runs Dry is the triumphant return

of a guy who has never really gone away.  During his brief tenure

with WAR, Eric Burdon caustically referred to himself as “an

over-fed long- haired leaping gnome.”  He got that wrong, in the

History Of Rock & Roll, Eric Burdon is a giant among men.