Vinyl Review: Eric Burdon & The Greenhornes

Being known for his harsh, bluesy voice, Eric Burdon has been recognized as one of rock’s greatest vocalists. He rose to popularity in the early 60s with The Animals, known for songs like "Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood" and a popular rendition of "House of the Rising Sun." The Greenhornes, on the other hand, are a psychedelic garage band formed in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio in the mid-90s. 

Eric Burdon and The Greenhornes did one self-titled album together in 2012 that is host to only two songs per side. The album art is interesting in itself. It is a grouping of multiple portraits, seemingly inspired by the primitive art movement. Primitivism was born of the problematic Western ideology that what they consider primitive is more natural, and "of the earth." The art style is borrowed from things like African tribal masks and Freudian psychology. In the case of this album cover, it could be a self-proclamation of "raw" music, or it could be suggestive of a chaotic mental state. Either of those could be a valid explanation.

The album itself runs on 45 rpm as opposed to 33. The album begins with the song "Black Dog," which commences with a drawling, “My name is Winston Churchill, and I’m having a fucking nervous breakdown,” followed by a psychedelic and chaotic guitar interlude. If without realization of the intended speed—and the album is playing at 33 rpm—it sounds very dark, and tumultuous. Considering there is no evidence of which speed to play at on the album cover itself, this may be intentional, and sets the tone for the album which has a dark blues feeling throughout. The song is heavily influenced by blues songs of the past, and one of the lyrics makes reference to "Fixin’ to Die Blues," a song by the legendary Bukka White. Much of the lyrical content is reminiscent of old blues songs, but the music itself has a heavier modern edge. Eric Burdon’s vocals in "Can You Win" are as intense as you’d expect, but the energy of The Greenhornes really comes through on this song. They are very talented, and defy garage band expectations with very clean riffs, where even the chaos sounds intentional. 

What makes this album unique is the fact that it is done in a completely analog studio. The album was produced by Brandon Benson of Readymade Studios. Burdon calls his time in the studio with Benson and The Greenhornes “organic.” It appeals to the roots of all musicians involved, as The Greenhornes started as a garage band, and Eric Burdon is evidently a blues musician of the 60s with analog sensibilities. Upon listening to The Greenhornes album, Gun For You, it seems like they are musically inspired by bands of their caliber from the sixties, yet have vocals and lyrical content that is also very indicative of grunge bands from the 90s. There is no question as to why Eric Burdon would be drawn to The Greenhornes, and they to him.

Although this album is short, the songs definitely pack a punch. It is a gem for hard rock, blues, and psych fans that are looking for an interesting album to put on that is thought-provoking and incredibly groovy. I discovered it when "Out of my Mind" was played on an obscure local radio show, and subsequently found the album in the used section of “Rotate This,” a prominent record store in Toronto. Even though there are few of them, the songs are easy to fall in love with and play on repeat. It even comes with a digital download, if you are into that sort of thing.