A performance by the original Animals was one of the first concerts I ever attended. During 1966 they were touring the United States with Herman’s Hermits but their performance at the Cape Cod A-Go-Go Club was just them and a local band, whose name has completely disappeared from my mind during the intervening 47 years. In fact I had to Google The Animals’ 1966 tour to pinpoint the date, which was August 2, 1966.
The summer of 1966 was my first time living away from home, as I worked in the kitchen of a camp on Cape Cod. It was a summer of work, coming of age, and expanding my musical horizons. I don’t remember a lot about the performance but it had an impact, as all of their early albums adorned my growing music collection and opened my mind to seek music outside the orbit of The Beach Boys and Roy Orbison.
Nearly a half century later I still have a loyalty and affection for the bands of my youth. As with many music lovers they form a connection to a time long past, the memories of which age well if inaccurately at times. I have lost track of Eric Burdon for periods of time but he always seems to resurface.
Time has passed for myself and Eric Burdon. Now in his early 70s, he is one of the grand old men of the original British music invasion and of rock and roll itself. His journey toward the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame began with The Animals who occupied the middle ground between rock and blues. They managed to strike a chord with the music mainstream with such hits as “House of the Rising Sun,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” and “It’s My Life” among others.
The second half of the 1960s found him embracing the California lifestyle and culture with such hits as “San Franciscan Nights,” “Monterey,” and “Sky Pilot.” They may have been a little self-indulgent but they were good vehicles for his gritty vocals.
During the early 1970s he went in a funky direction with the band War and a blues direction on two albums with Jimmy Witherspoon. He has consistently released solo albums for the last 30-plus years, and has now returned with his latest solo effort, ‘Til Your River Runs Dry.
The old dog may not have learned many new tricks but the old ones will do just fine. The tracks run the gamut from rock to blues and everything in between. “Devil and Jesus” and “Water” look back to his blues/fusion work with the Animals. “Memorial Day” would have fit in well with his late 1960s material as he philosophizes about hating war but loving the soldiers who fight them. “Wait” travels in a different direction, as it is a poignant love song. The Bo Diddley/Muddy Waters tune “Before You Accuse Me” finds him exploring his blues roots. No Eric Burdon album would be complete without some pontificating and here it is: his “Invitation to the White House,” in which he preaches to the President about how to improve the country.
The face staring out from the album cover shows the wear of the years. “Old Habits Die Hard” and “In the Ground” find him reflecting on his journey through life. In many ways these two songs form the heart and soul of the album.
His voice may have aged a bit but it is still one of the more distinctive in rock music and the material fits it well.
I am betting that he does not remember very much, if anything, about his performance on Cape Cod almost 47 years ago. The years have passed and I find myself reconnecting with his music again. It is an album that should resonate with any fan of Burdon’s or anyone who just likes good music.