It can't be considered a comeback because he's never really been away and 2004's My Secret Life -- recorded with the same basic band and producer -- already proved there was plenty of gas left in Eric Burdon's seemingly bottomless tank. But Soul of a Man finds the ex-Animals lead singer in fine, even feisty form. Credit should be shared by ...
It can't be considered a comeback because he's never really been away and 2004's My Secret Life -- recorded with the same basic band and producer -- already proved there was plenty of gas left in Eric Burdon's seemingly bottomless tank. But Soul of a Man finds the ex-Animals lead singer in fine, even feisty form. Credit should be shared by producer/drummer Tony Braunagel and a backing band of veterans, led by guitarist Johnny Lee Schell and organist Mike Finnigan, who find the perfect tone to support Burdon's growling vocals. Instead of originals, the singer sticks predominantly to covers, a smart move since his own songs have been at best a mixed bag. But aside from a handful of blues classics such as Howlin' Wolf's "44 Blues," "40 Days" (best known through Muddy Waters version), Mississippi Fred McDowell's "Red Cross Store" and Blind Willie Johnson's title track, these are predominantly obscure tunes that Burdon tears into with a gruff fury belying his age (he was 65 at the time of this recording). He's still proudly strutting about the size of his genitals on "Kingsize Jones" and can even meet classic Bad Company on its old turf in "Devil Run." Without a deft production touch these songs could be embarrassing, but Braunagel keeps the band simmering and Burdon's worst impulses in check. Female backing vocals, horns and percussion fall in line with this funky gospel-laced blues-rock, nailing the ideal tone between a surprising subtlety and Burdon's more typically crusty approach. In this context, "Never Give Up Blues" becomes a rallying cry for a guy who, despite more downs than ups in his post Animals career, has kept releasing new music, mostly to a select hardcore following. He will continue to sing "House of the Rising Sun" nightly, but with albums as strong as this, Burdon is far from washed up and has plenty to be proud of. Aging fans who might have abandoned him due to years of spotty releases will be shocked at how solid this is. Those who are just catching up will find Soul of a Man to be a dynamic new release from an old warhorse who should not be put out to pasture just yet. ~ Hal Horowitz, Rovi