Eric Burdon & War: a barrier-breaking collaboration from a trail-blazing era

This Record Store Day box set corrals Eric Burdon & War's three albums on multi-hued vinyl

Eric Burdon & War: The Complete Vinyl Collection cover art
(Image: © Rhino)

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Huddling with the bedraggled few thousand braving rain as Eric Burdon & War made their UK debut at September 1970’s Hyde Park free concert, it soon became apparent that the former Animals powerhouse, rated one of the UK’s finest blues singers, was into something fearlessly unusual for the time in fronting pioneering mixed-race club band War.

After LA producer Jerry Goldsmith facilitated the hook-up for April 1970’s Eric Burdon Declares ‘War’, many regarded War as Burdon’s latest backing band. Yet this was something else as the Geordie dynamo’s voice became another instrument on improvised work-outs around the Nashville Teens’ Tobacco Road and their own Roll On Kirk. The animated Latin vamp of Spill The Wine became a worldwide hit.

December’s Black Man’s Burdon stretched to a double, kicking off with a breakneck Paint It Black before settling into a 90-minute street suite of skin-tight grooves underpinning Burdon’s counterculture rants and reflections. Despite a bizarre Nights In White Satin, closing soul ballad They Can’t Take Away Our Music shows him on incendiary form and War a Latin-jazz-R&B force of nature bound for glory.

After splitting in ’71, Burdon never reached such heights again, while War low-rode to global success that motivated 1976’s Love Is All Around grab-bag of out-takes (including remarkably effective A Day In The Life) and live recordings, the album that completes this Record Store Day set. Such barrier-breaking collaboration would soon be commonplace, but those first two statements still hold their own from that verdantly trail-blazing era. 

Kris Needs

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!