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Eric Burdon – Declares “War”

Review: 026
Date: 29 May 01


Rating: 5 Stars

Harold Brown – drums
Dee Allen – conga, percussion
Bee Bee Dickerson – bass, vocal
Howard Scott – guitar, vocal
Lee Oskar – harmonica
Charles Miller – tenor sax, flute
Lonnie Jordan – organ, piano
Eric Burdon – lead vocals

Tracks Listing:
1. The Vision Of Rassan
2. Tobacco Road
3. Spill The Wine
4. Blues For Memphis Slim
5. You’re No Stranger


“We the people have declared war against the people for the right to love each other”.

Personally I prefer the second title, but then record companies can be such picky people.

Eric Burdon and War was one of those unstable combinations that throws out sparks and heat even as it heads toward meltdown. Looking back it seems amazing that the team up of a British Blues / rock singer, a freaked out Danish harmonica player and an L.A. – based R and B / Jazz / Latin sextet came together at all. Their mixture of ethnic background and musical influences created a sound that was as hard to classify as exciting as it was to listen too. Eric Burden and War ran that fine line between genius and total excess as their star blazed a fluorescent trail across the musical stratosphere. 

The brief career only lasted two years and two albums, (1969 – 71) during this brief time together they performed with a sense of daring, risk, imagination, and adventure.

“Eric Burdon declares War” was the first and most successful of the two albums, (the other “Black Man’s Burdon” being released the following year) recorded after nearly a year of touring, the band went in and laid down what they were playing on stage with very little overdubs and plenty of ad-libbing.

The music captures the kinetic inter play between Burdon and his band mates. Their ability to communicate with and improvise off each other gives “Declares War” its power and its glory. The tension between Burdon’s unpredictable nature, War’s polished instrumental skills, and Lee Oskar’s reckless jamming harmonica runs through the music.

Burdon was an artist with a definite message, and working with a multi-racial band was part of his statement. “War” wasn’t a name to be chosen lightly in 1969 (or now come to that) it acknowledged both cultural and artistic conflicts and challenged audiences to deal with such issues, at least that’s my slant looking at the monikers meaning.

The free flowing approach of the album starts immediately with first cut “The Vision Of Rassan” with its name checks to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, this was the bands tribute to jazz reed player Roland Kirk, and wets the musical palate for what is to come.

From there, Burdon leads the band into an expanded exploratory version of Tobacco Road, that had previously been a hit for the Nashville Teens, but not much of their version remains as Burdon uses the lyric as a springboard for an odd erotic sermon, nailed down by War’s tight supporting play.

The albums best known track “Spill The Wine” is a Latin tinged daydream of a song which became a number 3 in the U.S.A and a number one in the rest of the world.

“Mother Earth” an old blues standard gives us the main theme for the 13 minutes of “Blues For Memphis Slim”. As the band coasts along, Burdon expounds upon sex, birth, and morality, stepping aside to allow Charles Miller and then Lee Oskar to strut their stuff.

The albums concludes with the vocal workout “Your No Stranger” a nice return to normality after what has gone before.

The following year the partnership dissolved, fortunately the music they recorded survives, a remarkable combination of divergent ancestries and united talents.


Pawed by Mott The Dog
Remastered by Ella Crew


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