Eric Burdon makes his intentions on ‘Til Your River Runs Dry clear early on, with the raucous, witheringly honest “Old Habits Die Hard.” Born in troubled times, he goes on to make his share of it, too.
Later, Burdon imagines a presidential visit during “Invitation to the White House” in which he makes a heartfelt demand that the commander in chief spend more time focused on problems at home, rather than fighting foreign wars with unclear objectives. He even makes a scalding pass at that love-gone-wrong classic “Before You Accuse Me.”
All along, Burdon’s backing band — featuring guitarists Johnny Lee Schell and Billy Watts — makes this clanging clatter behind him, like a muscle car roaring to life after too long parked out back. Burdon does his part, too, squalling like a quartet of mile-wide radials.
He’s never sounded more visceral, or more angry, and it’s a wonder to behold.
[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Eric Burdon also has a new recording out with the Greenhornes, a group of garage rockers out of Cincinnati -- and it's just as tough as his memorable old sides with the Animals.]
Not that ‘Til Your River Runs Dry isn’t filled with a sweep of other textures and emotions. In fact, the new album — due January 29, 2013 via ABKCO Records — amounts to a command performance across a stirring variety of styles.
Burdon, for instance, finds the fragile, searching top end of his vocal range for “Devil and Jesus,” a lean rock song with a deep blues theme. “Wait” explores that sense of raw vulnerability even more deeply, as Burdon’s pleading vocal is surrounded by this dusty acoustic lonesomeness. Later, Jon Cleary sits in for a New Orleans-infused tune called “River is Rising,” and a generous, open-hearted take on Marc Cohn’s “Medicine Man.” “In the Ground” plays out like a gospel rave up. He bids a fond farewell to key influence Bo Diddley, complete with a perfectly attenuated shuffle beat courtesy of co-producing drummer Tony Braunagel, and then to all of those doomed rock stars who passed at age 27.
All of that feels like a preamble, though, to those times when Burdon is in a full-throated roar.
Still kicking complete ass at 70, Burdon unleashes a furious string of tough accusations and burning questions throughout tracks like “Memorial Day,” an indictment of the way we forget the sacrifices of others. On “Water,” he lets out a devastating howl in the face of promises not kept — offered under cover of a paean to conservation.
In the end, five decades on from his breakout moment in “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place,” Burdon remains surrounded by damnable fools who just don’t get it, liars who must be exposed, and politicians headed for their comeuppance. He wonders, on “Water” and elsewhere, where it will all end — with a merciful god’s forgiveness, or with a searing rebuke — but, ultimately, nothing can stop his own flinty indictments.
Whatever their fate, it’s clear that Burdon still feels a fiery reading of their wrongs is a good place to start.
Mellowing with age? Try bellowing.