There’s something to be said for a musical veteran who carries on with the same fierce tenacity he had in his prime, nearly 50 years ago. Lacking little of the urgency and abandon he demonstrated at the helm of the Animals and alongside War, the man’s riveting, deep-throated vocals remain as darkly dramatic as ever, reflecting the turbulent mindset etched in indelible classics like “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “It’s My Life,” “Sky Pilot” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”
Here, that gritty defiance weighs heavily on such songs as “Devil and Jesus,” “Memorial Day” and “River Is Rising,” proof positive that even at the venerable age of 71, Burdon’s attitude is as unrepentant as ever. Yet, while Burdon himself remains indignant, and indomitable, his tenacious stance is coached in songs that rarely measure up to the classics credited to him early on. There are moments that conjure up some striking imagery – the homage to a Rock ‘n’ Roll icon (“Bo Diddley Special”), a cautionary tale about making a deal with the devil (“27 Forever”), a dream-like narrative reminiscent of War’s “Spill the Wine” (“Invitation to the White House”) and an ode to a troubled healer (“Medicine Man”) – but Burdon ought to cede some of the songwriting duties to others who can do him justice. Commissioning a hired gun like Springsteen or Mellencamp would be a good move, at least in terms of making the music more memorable.
No doubt a truly great album lies within reach, because there’s every reason to believe Burdon has further to go before his own river runs dry.
DOWNLOAD “Invitation to the White House,” “27 Forever,” “Medicine Man” –LEE ZIMMERMAN