Collaborations between artists have been occurring for forever. In popular music these collaborations can be a guest spot on an album or a song (like many rap artists), an album full of different collaborations (a la Herbie Hancock or Santana), a one off album, or a full blown supergroup. More times than not these collaborations work, at least to a degree, even if the collaborations don’t live up to listener expectations (Blind Faith being the ultimate example of this). For Eric Burdon and The Greenhornes, their collaboration is pretty much perfect, as evidenced by their recently released 4 song EP.
Simply titled, Eric Burdon & The Greenhornes (though there are sites that have the title Apolinere Enameled), the all too brief EP showcases a perfect match between one of the forefather’s of British blues-rock and the Cincinnati group that embodies the essence of Burdon’s early work. For those of you unfamiliar with the two parties, here’s a quick history lesson. Eric Burdon was the lead singer of The Animals, best known for their hits “House of the Rising Sun” and “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.” He then went on to start the band War (originally called Eric Burdon & War), with whom he recorded the hit “Spill the Wine.” (He split with the group long before they recorded their super hit, “Low Rider.”) Since the 1970s, Burdon has reincarnated The Animals several times, and has put out numerous solo albums, but never reaching the success he had in his early career, though still very respected. The Greenhornes are a garage rock band that have been heavily influenced by blues and garage rock artists from the 60s and 70s. While the group has never hit the big time, the groups rhythm section, bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler, are/were members of The Ranconteurs, along with Jack White and Brendan Benson; Lawrence also collaborated with Jack White in the band The Dead Weather.
Essentially, the two entities were meant for each other.
This can be heard in the first minute of the opening track, “Black Dog.” (No, not the Led Zeppelin song.) Burdon’s aggressively bluesy voice is perfectly complimented by the heavy groove laid down by The Greenhornes. Jack Lawrence’s bass lines anchor everything, setting up a dark, yet soulful mood. Craig Fox’s guitar adds some depth to Lawrence’s lines, and Patrick Keeler is as steady as ever on the drums, laying an absolutely rock solid groove. Yet, it is Andrew Higley’s organ that really compliments Burdon’s voice, if only because it evokes the sound of 60s garage rock, where Burdon’s voice first breathed life. The song sounds menacing and could be easily found on an early, proto-metal hard blues album from the late 60s (think Black Sabbath or Deep Purple). This is Eric Burdon’s bread and butter, and there is no denying he’s still on top of his game.
The second track on side A of the EP, “Out Of My Mind,” is not nearly as aggressive as the prior track, but still continues the feeling of being a time warp from the 60s. Once again it is Higley’s keyboards that promote this feeling on this balladesque tune, but this time around he is aided by Fox’s clean guitar sound that promotes a sense of teenage garage band playing a slow dance at a local YMCA gathering. Burdon’s vocal control, both in dynamics and emotion, is sensational. This is particularly the case during the verses when the band drops way down, dynamically, and he takes total control of the song, bringing you in close as he tells his story of woe. It’s just another example of why this man is a legend.
The B-side of the EP consists of two songs, “Can You Win” and “Cab Driver.” The first is a straight ahead blues rocker that once again promotes the feeling of being straight of out the 60s, though more like early Fleetwood Mac or Humble Pie this time around. The Greenhornes own the song and Craig Fox is once again at the forefront. His guitar work, while nothing mind-blowing, is pretty kick-ass, showing that he knows his stuff. “Cab Driver,” is just insane, and silly. Burdon plays an Eastern European man who is telling a personal story, while The Greenhornes play around on a minor key, oompa (polka) groove, backing him up perfectly. Honestly, this track sounds more like a jam that turned into a ditty (it was written all of them, unlike the other tracks), but still shows the talents the five men and the synergy between them.
Which is why I am hoping that this EP is not just a one-off, but a jumping point for future collaboration. If Burdon ever needed a band that understood him musically, The Greenhornes are it, and they could definitely use the boosted exposure to elevate their profile beyond being “that band with two guys from The Ranconteurs.” In my mind it would be a win-win-win situation, because not only would the two parties benefit, but audiences would as well. This album is not groundbreaking, but it’s really good, and the musical talent and energy that springs forth from my speakers tells me that these two musical entities are a good fit for each other. So here’s to hoping for good sales and reviews so we all can benefit from some great music in the future, because there’s always room for more.
Note: This EP is only available on vinyl and digitally. In my opinion, the vinyl sounds better.