Eric Burdon has been around for longer than even he himself has any right to remember. Now in his seventies, ‘Til Your River Runs Dry is an album by a man who has been there and done it all, although instead of sounding washed out and bitter, based on what he has cooked up for us here, I’d say he has a few more years left in him. And I for one am glad that he has.
In the 1960’s, as lead singer of The Animals, Burdon had a voice that was as powerful as it was emotive. Songs such as “House of the Rising Sun”, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” are testament to his talents, and naturally deserve their place in rock and roll history. However drugs, booze, and a desire to experiment saw Burdon move ever further away into uncharted territory, sometimes successful, sometimes not.
Now for an old geezer, Eric’s voice is in fine form, especially on opener “Water”, a lively rocker on which Burdon sings with both confidence and conviction. The anti-war “Memorial Day” is a scathing assault on those who wage conflict against other nations based on personal vested interests. And when he sings “Memorial Day/It’s the rich man’s war but the poor will pay”, you know he’s singing about the soldiers and their families who are the ones who truly suffer.
“The Devil And Jesus” is a soulful number, with a strong blues-gospel feel, while “Wait” sees Eric exploring his more continental side. He rocks out on “Old Habits Die Hard”, delivering a vocal performance that belies his age, before revelling in the gospel-blues inspired “Bo Diddley Special”, dedicated to the one and only Elias McDaniel, who was such an inspiration not only to Eric but to many other English kids growing up in post war Britain in the 1950’s.
Burdon ruminates and growls his way through “It’s In the Ground”, philosophises on “27 Forever”, a song which is perhaps the brightest gem and the one most personal to Eric’s heart. Here he reflects on youth and age, the friends he lost all those years ago (Jimi Hendrix being the most notable), and how he himself could have been one of them. The lethargic “The River Is Rising” is a bluesy, atmospheric excursion into the swampy waters of the Mississippi, soon followed by the passionate though rather pedestrian “Medicine Man”.
“Invitation to the Whitehouse” borrows heavily from Muddy Waters’ “Hootchie Cootchie Man”, in terms of inspiration, where Burdon imagines himself advising the American president on domestic and foreign policy. Obviously Eric is having fun, espousing his polemical opinions and wishful thinking, attesting to the fact that he has lost none of his views regarding politics.
Burdon fires up on the final track “Before You Accuse Me”, the old blues standard, proving that he can still belt it out just as many men his age are being sent off to nursing homes. All I can say is that perhaps art has a way of keeping one young, invigorates the soul, and replenishes one’s spirit. One thing is certain; Burdon has managed to deliver a modern classic, an album that is as consistent as it is worthy of his years. As Burdon writes in the liner notes: “Fifty years into this career with many highs and as many lows, I offer this to you, my fellow survivors, this is my story, may this journey be relevant to you.” Yes it is Mr. Burdon, Oh yes it is.