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APPENDIX: JOHN FOGERTY
Disclaimer: this page is not written by from the point of view of a CCR fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective CCR fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.
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Ah, the little silly swamp guys. Nah, forget that. Truth is, they were one of my favourite four bands (fourth, actually, after the Beatles, Stones, and the Jim Morrison fella) for more than three years or so, and even though, once I got tired of 'em, they don't appear on my CD player too often, never mind: I still hold a soft spot for Mr John Fogerty, his magnificent raunchy voice and delicious guitar chops. After all, they seem to have been Paul McCartney's favourite American band, and you can't get away from that, can you?Back in the late Sixties, when they burst out on the scene, CCR certainly constituted a mighty opposition to the predominant directions that unfortunate American rock music had taken: the ultra-professional and rich, but not thoroughly entertaining, blueswailing of the Allman Brothers Band and its peers, on one side, and the acid-dripping psychedelia of the Airplane and its peers, on the other. CCR were neither trippy nor esoteric. They just played on - simple memorable tunes, all built on traditional blues/rockabilly, but somehow they were able to give all these songs a sharp edge that even now jerks me up each time I hear a good ol' Fogerty tune. The main problem with CCR has thus always resided within the question: what did these guys ever bring into rock music? A question which is indeed hard to answer. Creedence Clearwater Revival had always put the main emphasis on the 'retro' character of their music, recreating the ancient boogie-woogie spirit of Chuck Berry and Little Richard with just a few (but significant) updates for the late Sixties' sound. But this music was never particularly innovative or original; even worse, the few times that the band tried to suit the times, it hopelessly lost - just listen to the atrocity of the psychedelic suite 'Rude Awakening # 2', recorded in 1970, when psychedelia was already on its way out, for instance. In this way, it is really hard to rate CCR as a band with a 'distinct original style' or something like that; the band certainly had its distinct original style, but you couldn't really tell what it is in one sentence. Overall, the four-star rating that I give 'em here is justified by a whole bunch of significant advantages. Namely, CCR were a great, but not terribly original band, that fully met all the basic conditions for a good rock'n'roll band, hell - for an outstanding rock'n'roll band. But just a rock'n'roll band, nothing more. The key to the band's secret certainly lies in the giftedness of their leader and main ego - John Fogerty. It's mainly the man's combination of (a) very well-crafted, memorable melodies; (b) captivating and electrifying guitar playing; (c) an amazing singing voice; (d) an unprecedented overload of energy that have allowed CCR to occupy the position they're currently occupying and - I hope - will occupy for as long as the world stands. The rhythm section of the band was quite powerful, too, but let's cut the crap - it's John Fogerty we're interested in primarily. His undoubted giftedness led to an almost unimaginable thing - in their prime, CCR were about the only Sixties' American band whose records were consistent from start to finish and contained next to no filler (I could say the same about the Doors, though, but that's another story). John managed to render even the most generic blues numbers completely enjoyable, and his own material was always penned according to the principle 'no hook - no song'. Despite this, he rarely relied on cliches - CCR's self-penned songs are more often than not original in structure, full of emotional resonance and brilliantly, sharply executed. I think the key to CCR's secret lies in their 'genial simplicity': John and company demonstrated that you could be an exceptionally good blues player without having to turn your six-string into a monstrous riffing machine a la late Sixties hard rock or, even worse, into a complicated solo programming machine. Take, for example, the longest jam they ever did - the brilliant coda to 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine': instead of letting go like some Duane Allman or Clapton (not that I don't like them, they just belong to another story), Fogerty just constructs an utterly simple and memorable composition, based on an endless repetition of a bunch of riffs and short soloing passages; instead of going off into unclear, so-so improvisations, he relies on exact musical phrases and 'looping' extracts. And the result? It's great, I can repeat it in my sleep, and, most important of all, it has a terrific drive which, unfortunately, is lacking on a lot of hardcore blues records. Another thing is that such a 'calculated' character of the songs led to CCR not being such a terrific live band as one would normally imagine; I mean, their shows were quite popular and probably deservedly so, but when the live sound is transferred on record, these renditions always pale in the light of studio recordings. But hey, who cares? Of course, in another life I'd never have given CCR a rating of four; I have to admit that I'm pretty much biased towards the group, having spent a lot of my childhood with its records and admiring pretty much about every note that John Fogerty played on his guitar. However, this feeling is certainly justified. Let me just tell you this, in conclusion: there never has been, and there never will be, a better band for you than CCR if what you want is plain, unadulterated rock'n'roll that doesn't sound at all dated... and doesn't sound at all dirty... and doesn't sound at all cheesy. OK, lineup now: John Fogerty - the singer, lead guitar player and songwriter, well, what can I say? the main Wizard of the band who does most of the job: listen to Mardi Gras to find out what happens when he's not. He's being backed by Tom Fogerty on rhythm guitar, Doug Clifford on drums and Stu Cook on base. They're all cute dudes, but I'm not going to pretend they are great. Indeed, I'm sick of hardcore fans always trying to praise every little wimp in their favourite band for being a great instrumentalist. They do their job nicely, and I like their style. Tom quit in 1971, and they didn't manage to find a replacement, carrying on as a trio through one more unlucky year before realising that nobody wanted them to kick around any more, so they split. After that, John Fogerty started a rather bizarre, hit-and-miss solo career that I took the time to study and review on his solo page. Not that it's brilliant, but if you're wild about CCR, you might move on further...
Listenability: 5/5. Wasn't
John Fogerty one of America's finest songwriters, dammit?
Resonance: 5/5. These guys ROCK, and these guys TUG at your heart. What more is to be desired?
Originality: 2/5. Nobody ever married pop values to roots-rock values THAT successively.
Adequacy: 5/5. Just count out that wretched Mardi Gras, willya?
Diversity: 1/5. All sorts of rootsiness.
Overall: 3.6 = B on the rating scale.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12
Your average New Orleans kinda band. But what a fantastic guitar tone!Best song: SUZIE-Q
Track listing: 1) I Put A Spell On You; 2) The Working Man; 3) Suzie Q; 4) Ninety-Nine And A Half (Just Won't Do); 5) Get Down Woman; 6) Porterville; 7) Gloomy; 8) Walk On The Water.
They burst out on the scene just as they were - loud, gruff, dirty and stinking of swamp mud. Indeed, few of CCR albums can boast a polished production (that's not an accusation), and lots of them sound like they were recorded live in the studio (that's a compliment). As it is, this record does not display us the talents of John the songwriter - most of the songs are covers, and the originals are pretty generic - but it does feature his talents as a singer and guitarist. Side A of this album, with its three cuts, is dang near perfect. The very first cut, the cover of the classic soul number 'I Put A Spell On You', tells you more about the band than you should really know. The terrific instrumental passages in the lengthy solo break were apparently very carefully constructed - I don't feel any elements of improvisation here - but that's only for the better: John really shows himself master of the guitar, brilliantly transforming one riff into another and finally bringing the solo section to a terrific rising climax. That's the style he'd been using ever since: dedicating himself to a careful analysis of the possible instrumental sections on his songs and making them as memorable and 'accessible' as possible. If ever there was something revolutionary in CCR's music making, it was John's approach to his instrumental work - as best evidenced on 'I Put A Spell On You' (and reprised on 'Walk On The Water' at the end of the record).Next comes the 'original' - John's 'Working Man', about the hardship of the working class, but never mind the lyrics: there's one gruff and menacing guitar tone for you! Scary! And the way he soars on that first solo... man, I haven't heard anybody doing the same stuff. He really goes to show you that guitar solos which are carefully thought over can intoxicate people far more successfully than improvised ones. And, as much as I hate to agree with him, I just have no other choice... Of course, you also gotta have talent - and if you have talent, man, it doesn't really matter if you're a great improviser or a great 'musician-mathematician'. The most famous number on here, though, is, of course, 'Suzie-Q'. That one sounds as if the boys have made a bet with somebody they would be able to turn this half-obscure short R'n'B number (see the Stones' version on 12 * 5 for further reference) into a magnificent rock epic. I'm sure they won the bet, 'cause they managed to make all the eight minutes of it as enjoyable as possible: interspersing the lyrics (partly sung through some kind of gadget so as to render these vocals more variegated) with some more inflaming solos, and finally bringing the whole story to yet another breath-taking all-instrument climax! Not to mention the mighty rhythm track, of course. Unfortunately, they couldn't sustain the level of enjoyment throughout the whole record. Sometimes it even seems to me that all the 'primal thrust' that ol' Fogerty had in him at the moment had been thrust into the first side, cuz side B isn't really that strong. Well, for all it's worth, it does feature the terrific album closer 'Walk On The Water' with that strong riff in the middle that kinda reminds me of 'Pinball Wizard' (and pretty strange lyrics for the band, too - Fogerty wasn't too obsessed with mystical ravings or the Messiah thematics, not to my knowledge, at least), and 'Gloomy' is very gloomy, but 'Ninety-Nine And A Half (Just Won't Do)' doesn't hold very well after the far superior 'Working Man', the generic blues cover 'Get Down Woman' has its hooks, but not a lot of these, and worst of all is the stupid pop crap of 'Porterville' with its annoying refrain 'I don't care! I don't care!' Brrr. Really hate that one. Even though it sounds swampy. That said, all the complaints are relative - apart from 'Porterville', none of the songs are bad, and they all have something to grab your attention, be it Fogerty's frantic bellowing on 'Ninety-Nine', the high-pitched, highly expressive guitar wail of 'Get Down Woman' or the backwards soloing on 'Gloomy'. Not to mention, of course, that, paradoxal as it might seem, the song structures on this album are far more twisted and complicated than on many of their subsequent efforts: only 'Working Man', 'Porterville', and 'Get Down Woman' are fully conventional. All the other numbers are 'multi-part', with shifts in tempos, clever gimmicks, and lots of stuff to distinguish the band's style from that of their less intellectually gifted competitors at the time. Even so, in my role of self-proclaimed teacher, I give you one recommendation: never put your best songs on Side A! This way your listeners are gonna first enjoy your crap, and then rest dumbfounded at the better songs. Otherwise, they get all the goodies at once, and have to sit through the inferior material for no purpose special. And this affects your sales, doesn't it? No, really, what fun possibly could I experience from listening to the extended endings of 'Ninety-Nine' and 'Gloomy' if I've already sat through 'Suzie-Q'? Oh, all right, I s'pose they're still fine if taken separately, not on the album basis. Except for 'Porterville', of course, which, for me, points to the worst redneck excesses on Willy And The Poorboys...
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11
A bit too short with some overlong filler, but oh so rough and tough...Best song: PROUD MARY
Track listing: 1) Born On The Bayou; 2) Bootleg; 3) Graveyard Train; 4) Good Golly Miss Molly; 5) Penthouse Pauper; 6) Proud Mary; 7) Keep On Chooglin'.
The band released three albums that year which really makes me wonder if that was necessary. All the three were rather short, and with all the nasty filler hanging around they'd probably do a much better work to reduce the number to two. Or was it Fantasy Records that pressed them so hard on on the wings of their national and world-wide success? In any case, I'm no Superman to bring back the past, so we'll just have to accept things as they are. There are seven songs on here, and two of them are just long extended jams, obviously stretched out in the effort to fill up at least some space. Apparently, John wasn't the speedy songwriter... 'Graveyard Train' is a really slow blues workout, and I mean real slow - sometimes I feel an urgent need to speed it up on a seventy-two; and the harmonica break in the middle just doesn't thrill me as much as it thrill a lot of people. I do appreciate that there are actually two or three overdubbed harmonicas, but whoever is playing them, he's just repeating the same three or four phrases over and over, which makes the monotonousness of the dreary blues riff even sharper and harder to take: if you ask me, the song is nothing but an obvious space-filler. As for the album closer, 'Keep On Chooglin', I know it's considered an absolute anthemic classic and one of Creedence's most appreciated 'dance tunes', but I really can't find any important hooks in that song, except, of course, for the fact that it's quick, energetic and rip-roaring. Then again, so was 'Suzie-Q' (well, it was somewhat slower, but what the hell), and 'Chooglin'' adds little to its legacy. But at least 'Suzie-Q' had a riff, and 'Keep On Chooglin' has none, barring the possibility that its rhythmic structure is just copied from 'Bootleg', with some extentions. I dunno. Keep on chooglin'.The other five songs, however, are prime stuff, and display Fogerty's songwriting and performing talents on a real roll: especially the songwriting, because he's no longer copying blues standards like on 'Working Man', lightweight as it was; he's leaning to diversify the blues and he's stepped onto 'pop-rock' territory as well. Out of these short songs, 'Bootleg' is the most lightweight, but it still chuggles (choogles?) along to a nice squeaky riff and I have nothing against it in particular; the acoustic rhythm playing is excellent and the way it interacts with John's lead lines is extremely memorable. I don't get the lyrics, though - maybe I'm not too smart, but I still don't understand if it's some kind of social commentary or some kind of an absolute imperative. Go see for yourself. The cover of Little Richard's 'Good Golly Miss Molly' is as furious as might be, with John not trying to imitate Mr Pennyman but rather accomodating the song to his own vocal and guitar style: it's naturally far more hard-rocking, and it also initiates a series of fast CCR numbers - the band was too shy to play it real fast on the debut album, but this number gave them further confidence, and it's the natural predecessor to 'Travelin' Band'.. Meanwhile, 'Penthouse Pauper' is another fantastic blues song, with one of the best vocal/guitar interplays I've ever heard: John really throttles his guitar after each line about his possible avatars ('now if I were a bricklayer, I wouldn't build just anything' and so on). For anybody complaining about how stale blues-rock got by that time, the song should be a perfect remedy: these call-and-answer passages truly put Page/Plant to shame, and don't forget they're performed by just one person, too. And Fogerty's guitar minimalism really shines through, as the necessary cathartic effect is reached by some extremely simple guitar phrases. And, of course, everybody knows the two most famous cuts: the opening 'Born On A Bayou' with its magnificent riff (later stolen by AC/DC for 'Hells Bells', which is an interesting, if not completely sincere-looking, hypothesis of mine) depicting New Orleans better than any Laura Bow series game, and the gorgeous 'Proud Mary' where I'd say it's really the vocals that make all the game. Not the silly refrain about rolling it on the river, though. Reminds me of 'Porterville'. But the song is great. Tina Turner had a hit with it but she didn't deserve it. John rules, however. And both of the songs deservedly became centerpieces of their live show: 'Born On The Bayou' usually served as the crowd-pleasing opener and 'Proud Mary' as the crowd-pleasing closer. Or one of the closers. The overall sound of Bayou is a bit more polished and restrained than on the debut album, but it still ain't no Pendulum... have to admit that. They're just learning to produce, and John's guitar sound is generally thicker and more refined, but in general the arrangements are never complex and the songs still sound like they're stripped down to bare bones. Of course, that ain't no big letdown, and some actually prefer that 'bare' sound, but to me it still seems more like the result of extreme haste in recording than an intentional policy: the arrangements of their 1970 albums are far more lush and interesting. Still, Bayou is a very important transitional album between the 'rough' early period of CCR and the hit-full wonders of their mature period, and it's fairly necessary to own the record for the handful of excellent classics it presents us.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 13
A great bunch of short and enthusiastic tracks, but marred with a couple of lamers.Best song: LODI
Track listing: 1) Green River; 2) Commotion; 3) Tombstone Shadow; 4) Wrote A Song For Everyone; 5) Bad Moon Rising; 6) Lodi; 7) Cross-Tie Walker; 8) Sinister Purpose; 9) The Night Time Is The Right Time.
The correction! And what a correction is this! Yup, Green River might seem a bit too short, especially to those who adore the living hell out of it, like me... then again, the previous album was even shorter. And what have we got here? No more lengthy boring jams; almost no covers; and, what's the most important thing, practically no generic 'self-written' songs with different lyrics set to old melodies: John's songwriting talents have matured to the point when he could finally firmly grapple the blues-rock/country blues formula and do something truly creative with it. Considering the speed at which these guys were tossing off albums, it almost seems like Bayou Country was a marking-time album destined to keep the band in front of the public while John was fussin' and wussin' around with his sheetnotes; but from this time on Fogerty was determined to not let his records overflow with filler, whatever it cost him. And for the next year and a half, it cost him virtually nothing.Unfortunately, there is a teeny-weeny bit of filler on this record, which automatically makes it less immaculate than Cosmo's Factory and prevents it from getting a 10 from me. Thus, I've never liked the artificially evil rocker 'Sinister Purpose' - I generally do feel all kinds of creeps coming over me when the guys play something 'evil' ('Run Through The Jungle', eh?), but 'Sinister Purpose' just sounds kinda dumb, probably because the lyrics are stupid: it's actually supposed to be a love song disguised as a musical nightmare, and there are certain macho elements here which do not really fit John's style. And the closing 'The Night Time Is The Right Time' (the only cover, and a stupid one at that) mostly consists of the same line being repeated over and over and over until it makes you sick. The sparkling guitar solo doesn't help either. What might be suitable for a mediocre live show hardly works as a suitable album closer - a strange, almost self-deprecating move, to finish off such a brilliant album on such a dumb note. But if you omit these two stinkers, you get the most fantastic sequence of seven songs ever recorded by the band - cut by cut, they rock harder and more convincingly than anything the band had done before or since. The title track returns us back to the great swampy atmosphere of 'em bayous and voodoos and all that stuff, moreover, it is the most classic example of that fantastic 'echoey' vocal style that CCR is best known for and that has been reproduced by even the most seemingly unsuitable concurrents such as the Hollies (go figure! Yeah, the Hollies did rip off that sound for their early Seventies' 'comeback' on 'Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress' and a couple other songs). The guitar riff used by John on here is an all-time classic one - catchy, bluesy and hard-hitting, and, of course, dark, moody and swampy. The lyrics are also quite swampy, with 'nostalgic' remarks about the bayou lands (I put that in quotes - Fogerty wasn't even 'born on the bayou'!), but of course, unless you're a phonetist, you won't be able to understand a single word without the lyrics sheet. But dammit, I have lived for ten years without a lyrics sheet to the song, and it never spoiled my impression of it... Meanwhile, 'Commotion' is one of their fastest, if not the fastest, pieces of angry boogie, and when those frantic riffs in the end hit you, wow!.. that's fast rock heaven, indeed. There are even elements of a punkish character here, if you can believe it - this is hardly blues at all. A great song for the Clash to cover, don't you think? Huh... 'Tombstone Shadow' represents John's guitar style at its best: simple but tasty angry licks all over the place, plus a great one-note solo in the middle. So you don't have to be an Eric Clapton to play that thing, after all: hey, sometimes one note is all that matters to set a flaming groove. And the first side fizzles out with 'Wrote A Song For Everyone' - a great, although a bit overlong, ballad. I mean, it's a wee bit too slow for me, but even the slowness has a virtue - it gives you full possibility to appreciate the beauty and power of Cosmo's mammoth drumming. It's also moving - a bit of a confessional tune, with Fogerty almost addressing the entire audience, and you can feel scorn and irony as he chants out 'Wrote a song for everyone, and I couldn't even talk to you'. Recapturing the fast, bouncy spirit, 'Bad Moon Rising' totally kicks you in the groove - while the melody is slightly more simplistic than anything else on here, it's also catastrophically infectious and seems to carry you away with it. And 'Lodi' has to be CCR's best philosophical song ever; again, not that it has a great melody, but John brings forth all the talents he can muster in his voice. That's probably why it sounds so unconvincing in concert - because Mr Fogerty just can't reproduce the studio sound. The story tells of a (presumably) folk singer trying his luck in different cities - and ultimately failing. Fate has spared John such a turn of events, but parts of this story are certainly autobiographical, and the convincing power of his voice is amazing - ranging from humble and quiet to all-out screaming, sometimes in prayer, sometimes in desperation, sometimes almost in self-mockery. Yeah, and did I tell you how much I dig 'Cross-Tie Walker'? Not that it has a great melody, too (yeah, I realize nothing on here really matches the hooks of 'Green River' and 'Commotion'), but it's just a good old-fashioned rocker, and it's adorned by some working grooves, like the marvelous descending riff ending in two drum plates crashes after each verse. Danceable, too. So, overall, this is one mighty fine effort. It's all so simple any beginning musician could easily reproduce it with just a couple of efforts, but it's just the kind of absolutely disarming genuine simplicity when you'd like to shout at the top of your lungs: 'HEY! This stuff is GREAT! I wonder why nobody had done it before?' And, of course, you'll never get an answer. Not to mention that not everybody can really feel the power emanating out of here: it takes something in your genes to identify yourself with this kind of music. Luckily for me, this is one kind of music I'll always be happy to identify myself with.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10
A fine enough picture of the American small town society. But it doesn't really work for me, and does it work for the world? Takes time to think.Best song: MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
Track listing: 1) Down On The Corner; 2) It Came Out Of The Sky; 3) Cotton Fields; 4) Poorboy Shuffle; 5) Feelin' Blue; 6) Fortunate Son; 7) Don't Look Now; 8) The Midnight Special; 9) Side O' The Road; 10) Effigy.
Hmm. Well, first of all let me profoundly apologize before the potential flamers and all the American nation in general for not digging this album as much as they do. Maybe it's just because I'm not American. Maybe it's some other reason - we'll see about it below. But, strange enough, out of all the classic CCR albums, this is the one that really doesn't seem to cut it - not for me, at least; and, in fact, I can eagerly call it one of the most unfairly overrated records of all time, looking with disgust at all the saliva that drools from the rabid critics' jaws as soon as they begin gloating over this album's 'epicness' and 'unprecedented imagery'.Overall, this is already a much more 'serious' and even 'conceptual' effort than the previous ones. This is a conceptual album, see? It's that damn sluggish country band named 'Willy And The Poorboys' standing down on the corner and doing all those songs? Now what does that remind me of? Ain't it CCR trying to do their own Sgt Pepper? Could be. But don't get me wrong: I don't have anything against the concept, in fact, it somewhat pleases me that CCR finally managed to come out of the 'simplicity' closet and deliver something that stood a little bit above the usual 'shake your ass and dig that blues' scheme, even if none of the songs taken individually betray the 'conceptual' idea. Then again, it was the same way with Pepper. But on that same individual level, I do have something against many of the songs here. Blame me for whatever you may, but I still think that three albums in one year is a bit too much even for such a talented guy as John, and if Born On The Bayou suffered from space-filling overlong numbers like 'Graveyard Train', and Green River managed to be okay, but short, then Willy is just suffering from way too many underwritten and underdeveloped songs that fall short of the usual CCR quality standard. Nothing vague or ununderstandable - I simply think that there are some poor songs on this album, get it? Okay, there's one great rocker ('It Came Out Of The Sky') which is so damn fast and funny (especially when you take time to get through all the lyrics) you'd never guess why its place is on this record and not elsewhere. It has one great ol' cover - 'Midnight Special'; there's really nothing special about that song but I love it for the tasteful guitar/vocals arrangement and the steady, catchy beat. It has one great country ditty - 'Cotton Fields', done that same year by the Beach Boys with worse results; here it shuffles along with enough conviction and Fogerty's vocals are warm and heartfelt to such a degree that you can easily see him raised on cotton fields just like you could imagine him 'born on the bayou' several months earlier. And, well, I don't usually feel like waking up in the middle of the night with an urgent need to listen to the great American anthem 'Fortunate Son' and 'Don't Look Now', but at least I can think of some reasons for their existence. And the well-deserved hit 'Down On The Corner', introducing the playful 'Willy and the Poorboys' band, is indeed catchy, inviting you to tap your foot, sing along, take up a kazoo or something, well you know, that kind of style. But the other numbers all let me down. 'Feelin' Blue' is so damn looong, they overdid the cool guitar lines on that one; in terms of repetitiveness and overwhelming monotonousness, it is a legitimate successor to 'Graveyard Train', the only good point being that they substitute the rudimentary harmonica lines for rudimentary guitar lines. It could have been a nice passable two-minute groove, but it goes on and on and on with just the same stuff repeated over and over. 'Poorboy Shuffle'? Nah! Why the hell do I need to listen to that stupid harmonica crap, just as repetitive and simplistic? 'Side O' The Road'? An Allman Brothers inspired instrumental jam that once again tries to recapture the atmosphere of 'Graveyard Train'? Nope! Not again. And the closing 'Effigy', well, here's one fucked-up song. Suddenly deviating from the country-rock/pub-rock formula, Creedence seem to be making an important sociopolitical statement, and accompany the ominous prophetical lyrics with a 'wall-of-sound' production: huge pounding drums, fat thick bass and waves upon waves of rambling guitars to imitate a... a 'burning fire' sound? In any case, the final result sounds like a cross between Led Zeppelin and Traffic, and there's nothing particularly good about it; just an experiment that doesn't seem to work. These overblown chords and out-of-tune bass notes give me a splitting headache... I doubt that many American readers will be able to share my negative views on Willy, of course, because generation after generation of critics have proclaimed this record to embody the very spirit of the American South and stuff like that. Which makes me wonder how come these same critics manage to overlook Green River? Because that album embodies that spirit even better, and in addition to that, it's packed with actual and potential hits and has no stupid two-minute harmonica grooves or ultra-repetitive one-riff tunes or overblown political statements. There's just one small 'but': Green River isn't billed as a 'concept' album, and Green River has no 'Fortunate Son' - I suppose the immense critical success of Willy has a lot to do with that song and its 'acute social importance'. Well then, how come it has more social importance than 'Commotion' or 'Lodi'? It's just simplere to take, and soooo redneckish as well... In any case, I see Willy as a clear-cut case of the actual musical value of a record being tremendously overrated in favour of its 'social' value. The band's next album, while nowhere near as 'biting' and far less coherent conceptually, would be a huge improvement.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 14
'Mature' is the word. All of the songs display creativity and richness of sound.Best song: I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE
Track listing: 1) Ramble Tamble; 2) Before You Accuse Me; 3) Travelin' Band; 4) Ooby Dooby; 5) Lookin' Out My Back Door; 6) Run Through The Jungle; 7) Up Around The Bend; 8) My Baby Left Me; 9) Who'll Stop The Rain; 10) I Heard It Through The Grapevine; 11) Long As I Can See The Light.
Hey now! Maybe they didn't like Willy too much themselves, 'cause this hardly sounds like it. This sounds like a well-polished, carefully conceived and produced album specially intended for cutting lots of radio hits - and indeed, more than half of these songs are on the Chronicles collection. Not that I object. There's eleven songs on here, and each and every one is a small bright gem: hooks galore, and the arrangements are diverse and fascinating. Moreover, they sound mature and bearded (actually, they've been bearded before, but this one sounds like they're really bearded... er, long-bearded, if you get my drift).The record's also a bit more serious than most of the previous effort, which does not, however, mean that you will be left without any straightforward boogie woogie numbers: there's three of them here, and all of them are great. Well, I don't care that much for their trusty rendition of Roy Orbison's 'Ooby Dooby' - but that's only because I don't see what it really adds to the original - Fogerty's guitar is as invigorating and mind-blowing as anything, but hell, the guitars on the original were fine, too. So I'd rather prefer their great road anthem 'Travelin' Band', which sounds very close to 'Ooby Dooby' but has a great whiff of originality and genuine CCR spirit around it. The brass section benefits the song greatly, too, and check out Cosmo's drumming, especially at the end of the song - so homely and close sounding, and yet, so wild and frantic. They also do Elvis' 'My Baby Left Me', not overshadowing the original, either, but doing it full justice; and the ol' blues cover 'Before You Accuse Me' distinguishes itself in my memory by possessing one of the most ingenious and memorable solos I ever heard in my entire life: excellently constructed and played with almost a mathematical precision, yet fully adequate and masterful (apparently, they just slightly modified the original, because if you listen closely to Eric Clapton's version of the same number on Unplugged, you'll hear him playing more or less the same way). In any case, on any previous records these four numbers could have been the highlights - but only could be. On Cosmo's Factory they just sound OK. Not supernatural. And why? Because they've clearly outgrown the boogie-woogie phase! Just look at these songs! Have you heard 'em before? You have? No sir you haven't! Go listen to them again! (Drum roll). The beautiful ringin' ballad 'Who'll Stop The Rain' would have easily earned the album at least a solid nine: it has simply no analogs in the band's previous catalog efforts! The heavenly riff ('raining' guitar), Fogerty's inspired, soulful vocals, a delicate, echoey production and Cosmo's bombastic drumrolls over the place make it perhaps the best place to start with CCR if catharsis and utmost emotional uplift is what you're searching for. But if you're in for something spooky, then the scary as hell, menacing rhythms and the even more scarier grungy singing on 'Run Through The Jungle' sends shivers, real shivers, runnng down my back - unlike, say, 'Sinister Purpose' or anything like that. If 'Who'll Stop The Rain' is CCR at their most tear-inducing, then 'Jungle' is CCR at their most terrifying (speak of a 'Gimmie Shelter' for the band). I remember that in my childhood, when I was all over Tolkien, I always used to associate the song with Sauron's forces conming out of the Black Gate of Mordor - a very authentic-looking association, too, if one assumes that the unsettling patches of 'white noise' that open and close the song symbolize the opening and closing of the gates. For something funny and relaxing, check out the song before 'Jungle' - the chuggin' pace of 'Lookin' Out My Back Door' may be famous to you if you're already acquainted with 'Cross-Tie Walker' and 'Don't Look Now', but somehow it manages to be more fresh and energizing than the two of them put together. Maybe it has something to do with the silly lyrics depicting a circus show, or with the muffled guitar strumming that opens the song, or with the unexpected change in tempo at the end... aw hell, you get my drift: there's just so many things happening all over this record that it's impossible to describe it all. My favourite point on here, though, is the fantastic jam on 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' that I already described in the intro paragraph; it proudly takes its place as the most complex and intoxicating instrumental passage the band ever recorded. That's not to say that I shun the main melody of the song or anything: the grim drum/bass battles that separate each verse of the song from the following one are really something. But that jam... man, you gotta hear it to believe it. The Allman Brothers Band can go sulk in the corner - and that's considering that I would never really mind a solid Allman Brothers jam. I suppose I've almost learnt it by heart - I've worn out my old trusty tape to complete exhaustion. Less captivating (but still wonderful) songs include the slightly irritating but hopelessly sticking-into-you riff of 'Up Around The Bend', also something they never did before; and finally, the majestic mingle of saxes and frantic vocals on 'Long As I Can See The Light' is the best end to a CCR record - even though it is slightly reminiscent of 'Wrote A Song For Everyone'. A great record. You'll be hooked from the very first note of it... oops, I forgot. Yeah, I forgot to mention the only real flaw. What a fool of me. 'Ramble Tamble' is a great song by itself, but that sloppy middle instrumental section bores me to death. They were obviously going for imitating some art rock sound or something like that, but they failed miserably. Slow repeated rhythms like that just don't belong on a CCR record. Brr. Really boring stuff, even though it's obvious they're trying hard: on first listen it seems to work, with these distorted chords playing over and over until a soft moody sound comes on and John plays that moody riff in lots of variations. But that's only on first listen. You can't really enjoy it more than once. But forget it. These songs are really fast, well-written, funny and clever. And they don't try to reduce 'em to hard rock like all their contemporaries were eagerly trying to do around 1970. They retain their style and actually embellish it. What a cute thing to do. There's really really nothing innovative about this record. Not a single element, I guess, if you don't count the wonderful magic of turning an eleven-minute jam into a breathtaking piece of music. But this is one of the few cases when I say 'I don't care'. Cosmo's Factory, apart from the miserable elements of pomposity on 'Ramble Tamble', is a rock'n'roll masterpiece from start to finish. You might take it not as an 'innovative' piece but rather as a 'compendium' for everything that the basic rock'n'roll had really had the pleasure to bestow on humanity. Catchy, energetic, varied, emotional, professional, well-produced... not a flaw for miles around. The one rock'n'roll record to buy if you only pan on buying one rock'n'roll record - could well be. But could they keep such a high standard for long? Nah, they couldn't...
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11
A significant change in sound, but this is still quite listenable.Best song: HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE RAIN
Track listing: 1) Pagan Baby; 2) Sailor's Lament; 3) Chameleon; 4) Have You Ever Seen The Rain; 5) (Wish I Could) Hide Away; 6) Born To Move; 7) Hey Tonight; 8) It's Just A Thought; 9) Molina; 10) Rude Awakening Number Two.
Hmm. Well, maybe they didn't like Cosmo's Factory, too, 'cause this hardly sounds like CCR. Oh, okay, a couple of tracks still capture that old simplistic bash-your-head-against-everything atmosphere. Thus, the opening 'Pagan Baby' ends in an ear-splittering guitar marathon, and I do mean it literally: John makes his guitar sound as if he's running a race, jumping over barriers, splashing through puddles, and dropping down dead after arriving at the finish. I like it! I don't even pay attention to the dumb lyrics that are kinda low even for Fogerty's standards, and ol' John never been a terrific lyricist. But that instrumental section is definitely the last of the unforgettable 'CCR Trademark Instrumental Jams'. And meanwhile, 'Hey Tonight' is just another good old-fashioned rocker in the vein of 'Up Around The Bend' (a great raucous crowd-pleaser, I mean - the melody is quite different, of course; Fogerty never liked ripping himself off, at least, not until he quit the band). As for 'Have You Ever Seen The Rain', this one can take its rightful place alongside 'Who'll Stop The Rain' as one of CCR's most gorgeous ballads, even if it's slightly more lightweight. Yet 'lightweight' doesn't mean 'poor' - whereas the sound is slightly less 'epic' than the cathartic power of 'Who'll Stop The Rain', the Pendulum number speaks to the listener on a more humble and close basis, with no pretentions and a certain warmth and depth that can only come from a heart and mind as rich in emotions and expressivity as that of Massa Fogerty's.But the rest of this pie just doesn't smell that much of good old times. In their search for renewal they've hit upon the keyboards and lengthy jazz improvisations (like on the rather lame 'Born To Move'), and even if this by no means sounds like an embarrassment (in fact, whoever plays the keyboards, he does it might fine), it will certainly cause some of the more obstinate shoulders to be shrugged and some obvious questions to be raised. Not to mention that rabid fans of Fogerty's guitar will certainly be offended: only a minor part of these songs, mostly the ones mentioned above, are guitar-heavy, with saxes and organs often replacing guitars as both rhythm and lead instruments. Me, I don't blame nobody for taking a risk and having an experiment - especially if it ain't a blatantly failed one, but I still don't think this album has any serious advantages over anything they did before. By all means, it could have been a very nice swan song for the band. Let's face it - what should a reasonable rock band do when it runs out of steam and can't muster itself in order to jump to the next phase? Right you are - it should be disbanded. CCR weren't, and just you see what kind of disaster followed two years later... But stop it, we're speaking of Pendulum right now. Yeah, these songs are short of spectacular, but they're still nice, like the thoughtful ballad 'Wish I Could Hide Away' which wouldn't sound out of place on a late Dylan album, or the retro pop of the silly, but charming 'Molina', with its wonderful hilarious saxophone solos. And I almost blush to admit it, but I deeply love 'Sailor's Lament'. My musical knowledge is not very deep, but I suppose it doesn't take a genius to guess that the song is based on about two chords in total, and its repetitiveness could almost be called proverbial, and yet deep down my subconscious... well, it does something to my subconscious, because I've always adored it immensely. Genial simplicity, I guess. Not to mention the song's wonderful 'bounciness' - can you really resist it? I certainly cannot. 'Born To Move' is the one song I hate on here because it reminds me of mainstream so-called 'rock and roll' of somewhere around 1960-61. In other words, it simply sucks, with its obvious pedestrian descending riff and corny brass section. Note that I'm not mentioning the lengthy jazz outro, though: that one seems like a completely different piece of work with some clever organwork going on for a lot of time but never really seeming boring. The melancholic, introspective ballad 'It's Just A Thought' could be a good moody album closer; instead, this honour is relegated to 'Molina' and... Oh. Well, that's what really pisses me off about this album. In fact, that's the exact reason I've deprived it of one point. 'Rude Awakening Number Two' is a stupid 'instrumental' that is probably deemed to sound 'psychedelic'. But, first of all, 1970 was a little bit too late for psychedelia - what were these guys doing in 1968? A little late, aren't we? Second, this nasty stuff would probably be panned even in the golden era of psychedelia, and your humble servant would be among the first to throw in his stone. It starts with a nice little guitar workout which sets a slightly sad mood comparable to the one set by 'Stairway To Heaven', but then it quickly degenerates into an uninspired sound collage which is for the most part just pointless heaps of guitar/keyboard noises sometimes punctuated by what sounds like a buzzsaw. You'll either need an ear protector or a programmable CD player so as not to be seriously bothered. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Time to break up in a short while.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 2
Overall rating = 6
A "democratic" album. John must have been totally off his rocker to let the other guys sing.Best song: SOMEDAY NEVER COMES
Track listing: 1) Lookin' For A Reason; 2) Take It Like A Friend; 3) Need Someone To Hold; 4) Tearin' Up The Country; 5) Someday Never Comes; 6) What Are You Gonna Do; 7) Sail Away; 8) Hello Mary Lou; 9) Door To Door; 10) Sweet Hitch-Hiker.
The most weak bunch of country-western songs I ever heard bar one (and it was a Ringo Starr album, too). Tom Fogerty suddenly decided to play the Wise One and left the band, reducing it to a trio. However, instead of trying to tighten up and to toughen down, John suddenly turned the whole band loose, allowing the other members to write and sing their own songs. This way, there's only three Fogerty songs on this album - and they're not that good. Oh well, only one of them isn't that good, which is the opening 'Lookin' For A Reason'. I'm still lookin' for a reason why this pedestrian country shuffle with an absolutely generic melody that has nothing to do with the creative style John had always been applying to most of his 'rootsy' material before, is credited to J. C. Fogerty, because it sounds more like the following songs credited to D. Clifford and S. Cook than like the other two John ditties, which, coincidentally, rank along with his best material.Namely, there's a beautiful nostalgic sad ballad on here ('Someday Never Comes') that always brings me to tears, no, not tears of a relief ('oof, something worthwhile, finally'), but real tears due to emotional catharsis. John really lets loose on the number, and the introspective, deeply intimate lyrics are arguably his all-time best, a far more thorough penetration into human soul than the cliched Southern battle cry of 'I ain't no fortunate son!' or something like that. And another minor highlight on the album is a somewhat more generic rocker ('Sweet Hitch-Hiker') that is nevertheless distinguishable, if only because it's about the only song of here that briefly recaptures the Creedence spirit of old, with its raunchy guitar, Fogerty's classic rasp and an excellent riff carrying the song along. Thus, while neither of the two songs present any musical advances and are in fact a regression from the slightly experimental style of Pendulum, they are still both at least a breath of clean air. Because most of the other stuff is purely unlistenable. Okay, let me correct myself: these songs do not seem to tear my spleen out of my wide open breast, nor do they threaten my personal welfare in general. But if somebody says stuff like 'hey, this sounds good! Just like a good CCR album should sound!', the only thing I'd have to reply would be something like 'yeah, if this sounds like a CCR album ought to sound, them Beetles should better have stayed in their art colleges.' By any standard, and not just by the Creedence one - even by your average country-rock standard, this is a pretty bland collection. All of these songs sound alike, and even the Nashville gang could write better - when they really tried. Not to mention play better; perhaps, if these guys had only managed to bring in the talents of such ace country players like Pete Drake or Sneaky Pete Kleinow, some of the numbers could have been saved. But Stu Cook and Doug Clifford never really tried, and John seems only too happy to tone down his guitar playing and spare us from his hard-hitting solos so as to draw all the attention to these two guys' pathetic stabs at songwriting. 'Tearin' Up The Country', 'Need Someone To Hold', 'Take It Like A Friend' - these songs and all the others belong to a one-star western movie. Not to mention that after being used to John's wonderful voice, the hoarse rasping of Cook and the bland overemoting of Clifford really get on my nerves. And ballads like 'Sail Away' should be forever banned from any record for promoting musical stagnation. And when the band all joins in on their cover of Gene Pitney's 'Hello Mary Lou', where you'd think they'd at least display some real chops and real power, in reality they just... well, they just do it in the most ordinary way possible. Who needs group harmonies from this band when only one person can truly sing? Who needs standard by-the-book country licks when this group's guitar sound was always distinguished by one person's distinct and unimitable playing? Who needs this complete, hideous loss of identity? No wonder the album has been bashed and thrashed around and is still despised by most normal people (including some of the CCR members themselves, as rumour has it). And this is certainly one definite spot where me and the critics shake hands. Throw this stuff in the gutter, especially since the really good stuff has been carefully picked out and placed on Chronicle. Naturally, the guys disbanded the group soon afterwards, but my general belief is that they should have disbanded before this album instead of turning the band into a Nashville filial agency. And another thing: have Stu and Doug been secret Nashville agents all the time and were they just biding their time, waiting for Tom to leave so they could strike their decisive blow? Or maybe they just listened to a bunch of country albums over a glass of gin and became countrymaniacs? Imagine the Rolling Stones suddenly releasing something like a complete album of weak reggae tunes and pretending they'd been singing reggae all their life!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1973
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10
Decent live playing, but where's Tom? Three's not a company!Best song: a hell of a choice!
Track listing: 1) Born On The Bayou; 2) Green River/Suzie Q; 3) It Came Out Of The Sky; 4) Travelin' Band; 5) Fortunate Son; 6) Commotion; 7) Lodi; 8) Bad Moon Rising; 9) Proud Mary; 10) Up Around The Bend; 11) Hey Tonight; 12) Keep On Chooglin'.
CCR were never my favourite live band, because John was mostly keen on reproducing the studio sound on stage, and even if it probably did sound great, the atmosphere just don't make it onto record. In other words, there's nothing these live records add to the already perfect studio recordings. Seeing CCR perform onstage was probably a revelation to fans - nothing could be more exciting than to hear these blazing chords and that magnificent voice "professionally amplified", so to speak; but the atmosphere doesn't really easily transfer on record, as is the usual case with, well, with atmosphere: maybe with bands of the CCR type, bootleg quality recording would actually make more sense than a crisp sound.And moreover, this album was recorded in 1971, right after Tom Fogerty stole their rhythm guitar; as the liner notes proudly proclaim, this is 'CCR's only live trio recording'. As if it were something to be proud about - imagine releasing something with a sticker like 'The Beatles' Only Shitty Live Performance'. John is a musical hero, of course, but it's rather hard to cope as rhythm player, lead player, and only singer at the same time. He is bravely trying to cope with all the three functions, but it still ends up sounding kinda thin and lifeless, formulaic and conventional in comparison with the studio originals. Plus, the guitar tone on about half the tracks sounds awkwardly similar to the one a Pete Townshend guitar would have had after a couple thousand windmills, and every time John cranks up a note you have to wrinkle your face and crumple your ears. Either the mix was so crappy, or it was just a guitar that was badly out of tune or half-broken; the amount of unnecessary fuzz gets extremely high at times. Oh well, at least the song selection is good. 'Born On The Bayou', 'It Came Out Of The Sky', 'Lodi', 'Proud Mary', 'Commotion', 'Hey Tonight' - any needs to complain? Prob'ly not. Some of the songs are medleys ('Green River' includes a couple verses of 'Suzie-Q', and 'Keep On Chooglin' unexpectedly turns into 'Pagan Baby' halfway through), but that's about all the surprises you're gonna get. All of these are played as close to the originals as is possible with just one guitar, but it's also obvious that singing and playing at once is a painful task for Fogerty - sometimes he steps away from the mike and sometimes he just misses notes. That said, it's hard to imagine Fogerty spoiling any of his chef-d'oeuvres in person. Even with one guitar in the band, the material still holds its hands up to the master. Thus, 'Green River' might sound a bit flat and shallow without Tom's thick rhythm playing to back up the brother, but John still burns the house down with his solos, occupying every possible place with that rockin' atmosphere so that you don't even notice the absence of Tom any more. The short improvisation bit at the end of 'Susie-Q' is sheer brilliance, proving that John could improvise a little when necessary. On second thought, I haven't heard any previous live performances from CCR, so that bit might have been actually overrehearsed to death. Another song that suffers nothing is 'It Came Out Of The Sky' - nothing from the lack of a rhythm player, at least, as this is the crucial point at which John's feedback gets totally out of control and the sharp, crystal clear guitar tone of the original becomes simply unreproductible. But I just sit back and let myself be entertained by the Master as he belts out the complicated lyrical lines with all the necessary passion and melodism required. And then the faster numbers keep pouring out - 'Travellin' Band' convinces, 'Fortunate Son' amazes (never been a big fan of the Great Redneck Anthem, but can't deny the sheer musical power of the number), and 'Commotion' stomps like a mad elephant. 'Lodi' is marred by feedback again, but is just as tear-jerkin' as before... aw, man, it's really needless to describe all these tunes. They rule. And a culmination in 'Proud Mary'. Could this be the best tune Creedence ever wrote? While we're on the subject, though, I'd like to say that all the speculations on the 'best-song' topic are completely pointless and don't make any sense at all. None at all. Excpt, of course, when you're talking about shitty bands like Uriah Heep where it takes ages to find at least a single candidate for that nomination. But don't let me digress. Anyway, while it's perfectly possible to dump a bucketload of horsedung at the album and leave it at that (which is precisely the thing the stupid reviewer in question did in his previous two-sentence review of it), all biases aside, this is still a hell of a lot of fun and quite recommended for CCR diehards, even if there's really no need to specially recommend a CCR album to a CCR diehard. It doesn't represent the band at the peak of their live power, but hey, maybe that sticker was right after all - it's interesting to see if CCR could cope as a three-person band or not. With a little bit of feedback editing, Live In Europe would actually boast an excellent live sound, and, like I said, John provides enough of an axeman talent onstage to compensate for lack of rhythm player. Any ultimate proof? THE GODDAMN SUCKERS HAVEN'T SHORTENED THE 'KEEP ON CHOOGLIN' JAM NOT BY A SINGLE BIT. It still goes over twelve minutes, for Chrissake!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
APPENDIX: JOHN FOGERTY
One might suppose that John Fogerty's solo career would prove to be hugely successful, especially given that he was not just the main motivating factor in Creedence Clearwater Revival - basically, he was CCR, with his minimalistic, but tasteful and captivating guitar playing, trademark high-pitched, intoxicating singing, and prolific songwriting that yielded so many smash and unforgettable hits. The situation, however, turns out to have been far, far more complicated than it seems.This might seem a paradox to you, but truly and verily, JF's solo albums mostly demonstrate the limitations of Creedence Clearwater Revival as a band, and its entire style and all and everything that it and its music represented, rather than the limitations of JF himself. As catchy and entertaining as the band's material always seemed to be, it was almost painfully shallow and non-diverse: John had always relied on basic, powerful, riff-driven guitar rock, and having taken the genre to its peak on Cosmo's Factory, there was suddenly nowhere else to go. The band's succeeding experiments with psychedelia on Pendulum and particularly with country on Mardi Gras turned out rotten, so the band's demise was a fully predictable and, moreover, necessary one (God knows to what levels of despicable crap they could have reduced their formula had they carried on after their last studio album). Yes, I love the band dearly and I think I have given it more than its actual due on its own page due to a certain personal bias of mine... but... there's a certain point when everything you do, no matter how well you do it, just gets stale and mostly acts as an incentive to return you to your earlier successes. This breaking point happened in 1972, with the breakup of the band and John's going out on his solo career. Come to think of it, what was a solo John Fogerty to do? His first move was an intelligent one - a full album of blues, country and gospel covers couldn't hurt his reputation at all, particularly since he didn't invite his former pals to sing along on it. It is a natural return to the source, a skillful and tastefully executed tribute, as if to say 'it's not me who started the entire deal'. But most of his succeeding albums add little or nothing to the CCR legacy. At times, it almost seems that Fogerty was unable to try and do something other than writing pale shadows of older CCR standards or even more insipid nostalgic jazz-pop numbers: almost every one of his solo hits has a prototype in the CCR catalog, whether it be the melody or just the general mood and style. Then, after just one big solo LP, he got lost in legal battles over the copyright to his material, which he eventually lost to Saul Zaentz, his former manager (and a classic example of Big Musical Business Bastard, along with Allen Klein and Shel Talmy). And then there was his unexpected rebound in the mid-Eighties, when he suddenly began a short-lived series of experiments with contemporary sound; but it ended as suddenly as it started with a collapse into generic Eighties' banality on Eye Of The Zombie. After this, John completely disappeared into the shadows again, re-emerging only at the tail end of the Nineties with another album over which I'm so stumped that I'm still not sure whether I should call it 'the great lost CCR classic' or 'another dull rehashing of past glories'. Basically, it's all a celebration of nostalgia, of course, even if it's essentially a good one. One could argue, of course, and try and dig deeper, pointing out the many subtle ways in which the man was developing through the years, drawing on country, jazz, synth-pop and even heavy metal influences. Sure, he did all that, but then again, AC/DC did change their sound a little bit from some albums to some others. It's all highly relative, and Fogerty's creative development from 1972 to 1997, as compared to many, if not most, other artists reviewed on this site, can only be called "near-complete creative stagnation". Then again, I never did expect any major breakouts for him - if he didn't make any during his best years in CCR, how could he have progressed as a solo artist? There is one ultimate truth about John Fogerty, though. No matter how derivative, conservative, or unimaginative his work might look, it is nearly always a lot of fun. It's always danceable, rarely offensive and certainly boasts a lot of hooks - just like in the old days. Diehard fans of CCR will certainly want to add John Fogerty and Blue Moon Swamp to their collection, and country/gospel lovers would be proud of Blue Ridge Rangers. Yes, the man is limited, and yes, most of the songs that are gonna be reviewed below are pedestrian. But that don't really mean I can't luv him, like the dirty old rock'n'roll bastard he really is. Always was, actually. That said, John's solo career doesn't equal more than an overall rating of one in my book. It was too short - five albums, at least one of which sucked mercilessly. It didn't make much of an impact on the neighbouring musical world. And, of course, the rootsy genre to which John stuck all the time, has its own understandable limitations. You can't live all life long rewriting the same record - even if you're a prime melodist.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1973
Overall rating = 11
Tasty country and gospel covers, all done with gusto in that famous Fogerty style...Best song: CALIFORNIA BLUES
Track listing: 1) Blue Ridge Mountain Blues; 2) Somewhere Listening (For My Name); 3) You're The Reason; 4) Jambalaya; 5) She Thinks I Still Care; 6) California Blues; 7) Workin' On A Building; 8) Please Help Me I'm Falling; 9) Have Thine Own Way Lord; 10) I Ain't Never; 11) Hearts Of Stone; 12) Today I Started Loving You Again.
As bad as CCR's Mardi Gras, driven by Stu Cook's and Doug Clifford's tasteless country excourses, was, this cute little record fully redeems it. Like I said in the introduction, this kind of album might have been the most reasonable move by John at the most reasonable time - a return to the basic roots of his music at a time when his own songwriting was stagnated. It doesn't matter that the record was overlooked (and, come to think of it, no way this kind of music could have been commercially successful in 1973, the year when prog-rock, glam and heavy metal ruled supreme even in the minds of conservative Americans); it still stands up to time.Why, would you ask? Why would a record with twelve covers of little-known country and gospel songs get such a load of respect in my humble eyes so as to deserve a claim for 'best JF solo album'? Well, if you'd like an objective and well-assessed answer, I'd purely say that this is the only full-fledged album on which JF is not trying to milk the old milkless line of CCR. No, he is not trying to find a new creative style, he's picking up an old one. But he demonstrates himself an absolute master of the genre. His voice is still in top form (it would start deteriorating in the Eighties); his playing is still precise, moving and memorable; and the arrangements that he gives these songs are groovy. I mean, I certainly am not a fan of country, not to mention gospel music that usually gives me the shivers. In the hands (and throat) of John, however, these songs cease to be pure country or gospel. But they're not CCR songs, either. Let me just show you, okay? We start with 'Blue Ridge Mountain Blues', a fast, jolly country tune that I really enjoy. Fact is, I said I'm not a fan of country, but I do like some fast country when it's played with gusto (not to mention some specific fast country chef-d'oeuvres like Dylan's 'Turkey Chase'), and this one certainly is. Away with all the crap like Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, long live real country entertainment. Then the mid-tempo gospel 'Somewhere Listening (For My Name)', the track that's mostly notorious for outstanding vocal work. Yeah, you gotta learn to appreciate that 'SOMEWHEEEEERE - SOMEWHEEEEERE!!' scream, brothers and sisters, this is one of the last times that John lays his vocal cords bare before you. 'You're The Reason' is one of the more forgettable numbers, a slow, pedal-steel driven love ditty, but 'Jambalaya' (perhaps the only well-known standard, due to its early adoption by rock'n'rollers) is played perfectly - not a guitar lick out of place, not a climactic point missed. And, after another so-so tune ('She Thinks I Still Care'), the real and obvious highlight - 'California Blues'. God only knows why this is the obvious highlight for me, but I'm gonna guess it has something to do with the magic of John's voice as he tells you that he's a-leavin' you Mamaaaaa... 'cause you know you don't treat me right'. Yep. The brass solo on the song sounds so damn corny, too, almost like a parody - hilarious as hell. Then the second side starts out with another frenetic vocal workout on the stupid 'Working On The Building'. I hate generic gospel music (when it's not done by the Rolling Stones or T. Rex, of course). I regard the whole of this genre as a banal popularization of Christian faith for rednecks and brainless family men. But what kind of magic is this? Gospel as interpreted by John Fogerty appears to acquire an almost ironic, not to say 'comical' appeal. Come to think of it - could such a good lad as John take such a dumb song as 'Working On The Building' seriously? Certainly not. And it's all the more fun how he strains his voice on the choruses, 'working on the building' indeed. He even took the pain to overdub his voice a couple dozen times, creating a funny 'crowd effect' in the intro. There are a couple more weak selections on the second side, like the mellow 'Today I Started Loving You Again' and the deadly dull 'Have Thine Own Way Lord' where John almost falls asleep at the end of each line. It's the same country style that the Byrds were popularizing on their Sweetheart Of The Rodeo album, which, quite coincidentally, I consider to be one of the dullest pieces of plastic in my collection (okay, so it's tasteful and well-played, but that doesn't mean all of these tunes don't have a serious lethargic potential). But the fast 'Hearts Of Stone', and the steady, beaty, catchy 'I Ain't Never' do redeem it, and the effect ain't spoiled at all. After all, it's only my taste - maybe other respected gentlemen would prefer just the opposite selections. What is particularly noticeable is the 'guitar economy' policy that John takes on the album (and he's stuck to it ever since, with not more than a couple of exceptions, so this is important). While most of our CCR favourites are usually guitar fiestas, and John's soloing is what often makes the song, on Blue Ridge Rangers you won't notice the guitar very much. Just like Clapton a year later, Fogerty decided to relinquish his image as a guitar god - the few guitar solos on here are rather generic, and the riffing is standard country/R'n'B riffing. (Can't complain about the banjo, though - quite a lot of banjo on this album, although I'm not sure as to who is playing it.) But don't let it bother you - somehow the album is enjoyable still. Indeed, this is the only image, besides the standard CCR one, that John was successful in establishing for himself, and in among John's five solo studio albums, certainly a unique one. Nobody loves it, of course, and nobody needs it, if you ask my motivated opinion, but if you have a chance to take a listen, don't miss it... you might like it, actually...
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1975
Overall rating = 10
A jazzy reincarnation of the CCR sound, a little too un-Fogerty like for me.Best song: ROCKING ALL OVER THE WORLD
Track listing: 1) Rocking All Over The World; 2) You Rascal You; 3) The Wall; 4) Traveling High; 5) Lonely Teardrops; 6) Almost Saturday Night; 7) Where The River Flows; 8) Sea Cruise; 9) Dream Song; 10) Flying Away.
Now you wouldn't think John would be so stupid as to root himself in that Rangers sound forever, would you? Mind you, this guy had no serious plans to establish himself as a serious country star. Best or worst, Rangers is still a groove album, because John was always a rocker at heart, and this self-titled album of his proves it - at least, taken to some extent. Since the original release of Rangers did not feature John's name on the cover, eventually being credited to 'Blue Ridge Rangers', it seems that this is offered to us as the true debut album. And what, prithee, is the album's quality, you might ask? Well......actually, it's as if Mardi Gras and Blue Ridge Rangers never happened. Instead, the album's a logical successor to... Pendulum! Remember that underrated, but still not great CCR album on which the band started floating in the jazz-pop direction? Well it's here alright! This is almost exactly a serious, intentional re-creation of the same sound that caused certain CCR fans to alienate themselves while others just shrugged their shoulders saying 'it's not exactly rock'n'roll but I still like it'. Unfortunately, few songs are able to match that album's quality: the slow, contemplative numbers are usually shallow, and the fast numbers are at the worst senseless and at the best (and most often) so grossly derivative that it almost makes me wonder - was John's wagon really at such a dead end that he had to recycle old numbers? I'm serious! Just listen to 'Almost Saturday Night' and tell me that it isn't a blatant rip-off of 'Hey Tonight'! It even starts out with the same riff, and the song virtually does nothing but evoke a nostalgia for that classic. Not that it's bad - the melody is decent, but it's worse, and John's vocals are marred by stupid back-ups. Who needs an inferior re-write of 'Hey Tonight?' Moreover, who needs an inferior re-write of 'Run Through The Jungle' ('The Wall')? But the weirdest thing, of course, is 'Sea Cruise' (one of the few old covers on the record) that sounds just a little too Little Richard-ish for me. No, I have nothing against Little Richard, and I don't even have anything against John Fogerty doing Little Richard - the CCR cover of 'Good Golly Miss Molly' is amazing. But this number lacks a lot in the guitar department - John almost goes for a note-for-note, instrument-for-instrument emulation of that lounge Fifties' sound, and why? is the obvious question. Now don't be surprised that these same songs that I just mentioned are actually among the best on the album. Rip-offs, for sure, and not clever rip-offs (which means that they're not even masked as 'original' ones), that goes without saying. But they're at least entertaining rip-offs, and, indeed, the fact that they are derivative is the only serious argument against 'em. People who've never heard a CCR original might even be enthralled by any of them, but we who heard better, well, we might just skip 'em. Or, well, maybe not. A couple more relatively low points include the jazzy 'Lonely Teardrops' and the minimalistic, almost ridiculously simple-structured 'Dream Song' whose verses all end with the line 'well it's your song and it's your dream' or vice versa. Still, don't get me wrong: I do enjoy all of these tunes. God knows how they would have sounded had they been put to the disposition of other performers (Traffic, for instance!!!); John manages to make even the worst material inoffensive and actually attractive. I guess it all has to do with the same minimalistic effort - the songs are so simple that they're catchy, and it's the kind of beautiful simplicity that is not banal but quite captivating. And the voice - well, never forget the voice, because sometimes your vocals are all that matter. I guess that the vocal department is, for instance, the very point that makes me suspicious in regard to some of the Byrds' work (yeah, I know they're famous for their harmonies, but they're all oh so painfully undistinctive and imageless), so this is where Master John takes over completely. It was 1975, mind you, so he was still in full force. As is demonstrated actually on the best tune - the restrainless Rock And Roll anthem 'Rocking All Over The World' which is unarguably the best start to a Fogerty solo record. Funny how all the rock'n'roll anthems suit their masters, eh? 'It's Only Rock'n'Roll' was Mick Jagger's explanation of his chosen image, like, you know, 'I'm actually a serious guy but this stuff is just as okay', 'Long Live Rock' was Pete Townshend's justification of the genre's universal potential ('be it dead or alive'), and John Fogerty's anthem is just a crazy, mindless, beer-smellin', foot-stompin' bash-a-thon that serves exactly the same purpose as did 'Rock Around The Clock': c'mon baby, let's have a good time and forget everything else. Only it rocks out with much more power, and, again, the voice, ooh, the voice... All in all, forget my complaints. If you're looking for bad songs, this is not the right place - go check out Eye Of The Zombie instead. I like this album as much as anybody, and it might be an excellent choice for you if you're sick and tired of having to put on Green River for the ten thousandth time. On an objective level, it's totally unessential and will certainly go down with the course of history, but at least its review will stay on this here site so you won't forget it.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1985
Overall rating = 10
John's most experimental and successful solo cut, but again, this is more of a nostalgia for CCR.Best song: VANZ KANT DANZ (no, this is not a joke)
Track listing: 1) The Old Man Down The Road; 2) Rock And Roll Girls; 3) Big Train (From Memphis); 4) I Saw It On TV; 5) Mr Greed; 6) Searchlight; 7) Centerfield; 8) I Can't Help Myself; 9) Vanz Kant Danz.
Ten years gone, and John decided to get on the road once again. As far as I know, he'd spent these ten years in battles over the legal rights to his songs (which he ultimately lost), but finally decided to get on with something better and more eternal, like penning some new material. Now the quality of this material is quite weird: I'd even say the album is 'polarized'. When you put it on and it starts with 'The Old Man Down The Road', you get the feeling that John finally abandoned all the efforts to go and find his own new image - the first half of the record sounds like a one hundred percent CCR rip-off. However, the further you go, the more you get dragged on to new territory, and the final songs sound nothing like CCR at all. Seriously, 'Big Train (From Memphis)' and 'Vanz Kant Dance' sound like they belong to two different artists: the album covers much more ground than any CCR album did (which was not that much anyway).Whether it covers this ground in a 'good' way is another matter, though. Again, the usual protest against the album would be in that it rarely presents us with any glimpse of new creative ideas, but that's understood. If you set your expectations to that level, though, you will be pleasantly surprised: there's quite a lot of guitar on here, and most of the tracks are just basic rock, without any jazz or country/gospel excourses. Not to mention that the album spawned the famous hit single (title track) that serves as a beloved anthem for quite a few baseball lovers. Me, I never played baseball (maybe that's because I'm not American), and I could never even understand the rules, but what the hell? It's a good song. 'Look at me, I can be centerfield'. Doesn't hold a candle to your standard average CCR rocker, of course, but rather nice still. If only John would bother to throw in one of his trademark guitar solos, but guess I'm asking for too much... I also guess the main problem with most of this album is that it's much more CCR-like than John Fogerty. The record opens with 'The Old Man Down The Road', a surprisingly eerie number that sounds like a fully operational clone of 'Run Through The Jungle' (indeed, the funny thing is that John was sued for plagiarizing himself but acquitted on the ground that there could be no such thing as plagiarizing oneself). Apart from that, it introduces that facet of John that was quite well-known in his CCR period but lost in the Seventies: the 'angry' Fogerty. Whether he really got angry over his copyright struggles or he just thought he'd like to do something different (aka something long forgotten), I don't know, but sounds interesting to me. Other 'angry' songs on here include 'Mr Greed', a foam-at-the-mouth raving on exactly the same subject, and the 'Feelin' Blue'-style 'Searchlight' (I call it 'Feelin' Blue'-style exactly because the annoying refrain 'need a searchlight' pisses me off in the same way as the refrain 'feelin' blue blue blue blue blue-oo'). There are also a couple lighter songs, like the dumbass anthem 'Rock And Roll Girls' (forgettable, but cute) and the already mentioned 'Big Train (From Memphis)' (a rip-off of 'Cross-Tie Walker', it even borrows the same descending riff). Finally, 'I Saw It On T.V.' is a sad-complaint style song that sounds like a clone of 'Lodi' until the final closing chords which are taken from 'Who'll Stop The Rain', so that's where the truth lies. Really, John! It's not that the decade in which all of these songs were written is completely unguessable: many of the drums' parts are electronically enhanced (no drum machines, though), and some production techniques, including deep echoes on John's voice and guitar playing, are also somewhat modernistic. But on one hand, the echoes are probably supposed to carefully mask the beginning changes in John's vocal cords - his voice had already started to deteriorate, albeit very slowly. Notice that he very rarely screams his head off on here, with 'Mr Greed' and 'Searchlight' as the only exceptions? Hardly a coincidence. On the other hand, for 1985 the production gimmicks are still pretty moderate; any other artist would dive straight into the world of hi-tech synths, drum machines and crappy metallic solos. John was smarter, though... and only followed suite a year later. That said, I'd like to state that I was totally taken aback by the album closer with the ridiculous title 'Vanz Kant Danz' (actually, 'Zaentz Can't Dance But He'll Steal Your Money' - the song was eventually directed against Fogerty's greedy old manager Saul Zaentz again). At first, I thought it to be nothing more than a silly disco throwaway with stupid lyrics about a dancing pig who's clearing your pockets in the process. However, as I listened to the album more and more, I found the song, with its strange repetitive choruses almost magically entrancing, up to the point of being the best song on the whole album. Call me crazy, but that's my humble opinion. At least the fact is that it's certainly John's most successful 'experiment' ever: this is obviously not the proven CCR formula, but it works: apart from the murky electronic drum 'solo', there ain't a dull moment in it. In all, Centerfield is certainly John's finest moment bar Blue Ridge Rangers, and since that first record was a specific one that isn't due to satisfy everybody's tastes, feel free to stick here. The songs are solid and memorable (what else could they be if you already know them by heart from the 1969-70 albums?), and the experiments are groovy and sure to raise an eyebrow or two. What a pity that John couldn't hold on to it for too long.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1986
Overall rating = 5
Oo-wee, this is John Fogerty giving in to modern technology. Ugly and brainless, that's what it is.Best song: SAIL AWAY
Track listing: 1) Going Back Home; 2) Eye Of The Zombie; 3) Headlines; 4) Knockin' On Your Door; 5) Change In The Weather; 6) Violence Is Golden; 7) Wasn't That A Woman; 8) Soda Pop; 9) Sail Away.
Yuck! Yes, brothers and sisters, this record had the misfortune to be my first John Fogerty album. I remember taping it for quite a lot of cash in a half-illegal way back in 1987 or so when the Iron Curtain still existed and you couldn't yet pick it up backed with Centerfield on a pirated edition for approximately half a dollar both. Those were the days... anyway, this is not a treatise on Soviet relations with the West, so I think I'll just limit myself to saying this album turned me off John completely and convinced me of his total inability as a solo performer. Time has proved that I was wrong, but this album still gotta be his worst try ever, and it's no wonder that it caused his departure from the musical scene for another decade.What's so wrong, anyway? Well, once again it's the same principle: John was trying to push away his CCR legacy that suddenly served him such a good (bad?) service on Centerfield. I fully understand the man - one has to create and not to stagnate. Unfortunately, 1986 was not a good period to create - actually, IMHO it was the worst year in rock music par excellence. (If you doubt it, go take a look at all the 1986 records reviewed on this site). So John followed the treacherous steps of Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and the Stones into the disgusting world of modern technologies and mindless dance rhythms. The title track on the album, for instance, takes the eerie mood of 'Old Man Down The Road' and combines it with electronic drums, quasi-disco beats and lack of audible guitar sound so that the final product is simply horrendous - I would not even recommend it for a respectable horror movie. Aw what the hell, I wouldn't even recommend it for a non-respectable one. Heck, where John was once able to create some of the most genuinely scary songs for a rootsy rock'n'roll band ('Run Through The Jungle' still gives me the creeps), he is now resorting to primitive, pedestrian horror flick mysticism backed with drum machines? By the way, take a look at the front cover and tell me it's not repugnant. Goodness gracious, John, what the need for falling into banality when nobody asked you for it? Did he really think the world fell so low as to buy this product? What was the matter? And the rest of the tracks are almost as rotten. Everywhere John Fogerty takes a conscious step not to be John Fogerty - starting from the opening instrumental 'Going Back Home' that consists mostly of shrill guitar lines layed over a female chorus singing strange gospel lines (boring as hell, too - John was never a successful master of 'atmospheric sound texture'), and ending with the murky disco chant 'Soda Pop'. Fogerty singing disco? Okay, so many old artists embraced disco, and some of them did have some success with the genre (the Stones, for instance, heck, even the Bee Gees were good at it); but this is poorly produced, sounds ruffed and... heck, I always thought that disco is in its essence very slick music, and if you're doing a disco number you are going to comb it to the extreme - every instrument, every note must be solidly in place with nothing sticking out. 'Soda Pop' is just chaotic. John also makes the album sound as aggressive as possible - nearly all of the lyrics deal with some kind of social perversion, bashing the press on 'Headlines', the evil ways of the world on 'Violence Is Golden', and he even goes macho on 'Wasn't That A Woman'. In all, he could have hardly made a worse move than releasing this album at that time, just because it's almost as impossible to associate John with such music as, say, Frank Sinatra. Verily, there's practically nothing to redeem this un-Fogerty record, except for one good song that he did have taste enough to put as the album closer: 'Sail Away' (not to be confounded with the Stu Cook song on Mardi Gras) is a gentle, sad and moving ballad with reggaeish influences; maybe the latter is the reason it keeps reminding me of 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door'. Actually, that's no surprise: both the melody and the lyrical matter of the two are very similar. And even if the song could hardly be ranked among John's best creations, for an album that starts with 'Eye Of The Zombie' that's a darn good ending. I certainly could do with a less technophilian arrangement (the stupid robotic synths opening the song are absolutely unnecessary), but it still stands out several heads above all the other material on here. Okay, if we want to be completely sincere, 'Headlines' isn't that bad a song, too, but still, I've heard better. 'Change In The Weather' is tolerable, too, mainly because it's more guitar-based and with even a faint wiff of the CCR sound - heck, the jam at the end is obviously structured so as to remind one of 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' (Fogerty even plays some guitar lines that are very similar to the passages on that classic). But the main melody is being based on a generic riff that doesn't hold a candle to the moody tension of 'Grapevine', and I don't at all feel that the song actually deserves its near seven-minute length. Although, to be frank, I would rather have it last for forty minutes than listening to all the rest of the stuff on here. Overall, there is a general consensus even among Fogerty fans that the record is undeniably weak - weak, weak and weak again. 'Soda pop, soda pop, everybody want to make it to the top'. That's just the problem: John went out on a limb to make it to the top again, but instead hit a low bottom. What a nasty confusion, gentlemen, let this be a lesson to you all.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1997
Overall rating = 10
An album that screams 'retro!!' on every track, but it's probably the best choice that John could ever come up with.Best song: A HUNDRED AND TEN IN THE SHADE
Track listing: 1) Southern Streamline; 2) Hot Rod Heart; 3) Blueboy; 4) A Hundred And Ten In The Shade; 5) Rattlesnake Highway; 6) Bring It Down To Jelly Roll; 7) Walking In A Hurricane; 8) Swamp River Days; 9) Rambunctious Boy; 10) Joy Of My Life; 11) Blue Moon Nights; 12) Bad Bad Boy.
Well, after having taken some time off John suddenly decided that the world needed another Fogerty record, and how could he refuse the world? However, after bombing with Eye he apparently took a lot of care not to sound 'modern' anymore. In order to prevent all possibilities of failure, he shut off all experimentation tendencies and released an album that was as nostalgic as it could be. Just examining the album title (and cover) with care shows us the essence: 'blue' reminds one of Blue Ridge Rangers (so the album is going to be rooted in the deep past), 'moon' immediately evokes 'Bad Moon Rising' (so it's going to be fast, groovy and unpretentious), while 'swamp' is a clear symbol of 'Born On The Bayou' (so it's gonna stick to the CCR legacy). And so it is.The album is truly and verily likeable, but it shares the same problems as John Fogerty and Centerfield - that is, likeability sacrifices originality. But what the hell? Who cares in 1997? We live in a dirty, corrupted, commercialized world, and every record such as this must be treated as a drop of fresh water from your native spring that you know all about but which you never actually use until somebody or something reminds you of it - like John with Blue Moon Swamp. I even wanted to give it a lower rating, but I changed my mind - anyway, why is it that a John Fogerty record should be original? Maybe, on the other hand, that's what we need a John Fogerty for - to remind us of our past and inject these sprays of fresh swamp water? Maybe that's why he is still making records? The songs themselves, taken individually, aren't really that fascinating. Essentially, it's just a collection of carefully played and produced R'n'B/country numbers, all of them self-penned but that's not saying much (we all know what a 'self-penned' Fogerty song really represents). However, they always make for good background music, and after a while, when you get used to them, you might even want to put this record on more often than you do at the present. There are even a few highlights, like the tasty, pretty ballad 'Joy Of My Life', dedicated to John's wife, and a slow, lazy, but curiously menacing number called 'A Hundred And Ten In The Shade', and it sounds like it. No, I don't mean John is smoking: it's just that the song is so lazy and moody that.. well, you just gotta hear it, whatever. Paired with chug-a-lug boogie-woogie like 'Bring It Down To Jellie Roll' and 'Swamp River Days', the songs offer a good enough nostalgic panorama, so one might say John really hit the mark here. The funny thing is that once he finally abandoned all of his attempts to not sound like CCR, he suddenly ceased sounding like CCR. Sure, the lyrical matters are the same, and the melodies are essentially CCR-ish, but the effect is not. Neither is it the generic roots-rock effect of Blue Ridge Rangers - the songs are self-penned, after all. Maybe it has something to do with the degeneration of his voice: the record is much less vocally attractive than any previous record with Fogerty on it, so the effort is mostly placed on playing. On the other hand, there's very little guitar heroics as well. It's just a plain, quiet little record of a plain, quiet little man that sits there in the corner making up his simple unpretentious songs and not really paying attention to whether anybody likes 'em or not. But he's careful and intelligent enough to spice these little boogie-woogie retreads with a sufficient number of hooks and attention-drawing moments, such as the weird distorted guitar tone on 'Rattlesnake Highway' or the hilarious low voices growling backup vocals on 'Hundred And Ten In The Shade'. And he even tops the record off with an almost funky, strangely sung tune ('Bad Bad Boy') that sounds un-Fogerty but ain't offensive in the least. On the whole, the record, together with the ensuing live album, could prove to be a decent testament to John's career - after all, wouldn't it be uncomfy if Eye Of The Zombie had turned out to be his last creation? Nobody will ever recognize it as a classic and, frankly speaking, the songs just ain't that spectacular so as to lay claim to that, but nobody really needs to. I'm gonna keep it anyway, so don't bug me!
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1998
Overall rating = 9
A good, but certainly not spectacular live album. Again, there's nothing but nostalgia to support you, but nostalgia ain't a bad thing after all...Best song: ???
Track listing: 1) Born On The Bayou; 2) Green River; 3) Susie Q; 4) I Put A Spell On You; 5) Who'll Stop The Rain; 6) Premonition; 7) Almost Saturday Night; 8) Rocking All Over The World; 9) Joy Of My Life; 10) Down On The Corner; 11) Centerfield; 12) Swamp River Days; 13) Hot Rod Heart; 14) The Old Man Down The Road; 15) Bad Moon Rising; 16) Fortunate Son; 17) Proud Mary; 18) Travelin' Band.
The reason for this album's existence manages to escape me somehow, so I'm just gonna keep my mouth shut over that one (who wants to be a penthouse pauper, after all? Let John get his due) and let's move on to the basics. A live album taken from John's 1997/8 tour promoting Blue Moon Swamp, it is split into two more or less equal parts - the CCR classics you all know by heart and the obscure rarities nobody knows because John didn't have Stu or Doug behind his shoulders to support him on these ones. Most of them are wisely sandwiched in the middle, between the opening and the closing CCR mini-sets, which, of course, shows what part of his back catalogue John really cares for most of all. We're with you, John!The CCR tunes are OK, I guess: some of them even sound better than on the Tom Fogerty-less Live In Europe because John has a separate rhythm guitarist to support him ('Green River', for instance, kicks all sorts of, er, buns). The album opener is 'Born On The Bayou'; this probably means that John still regards himself as the legal inheritor for CCR (it was the band's standard set opener); notice, by the way, the funny introduction with swamp sounds and frog croakings. I wonder if they did that before or it was just a funny modernistic gag? Whatever the answer, John's remarks on the stage really pass me by: he isn't a very good showman, and apart from a romantic excourse over the creation of 'Joy Of My Life', most of his comments sound annoyingly dumb ('if some of you are called Suzie, you'll know this song'). Luckily he isn't very talkative, instead putting back his soul into his guitar. In fact, this is the only Fogerty solo album where he sounds like a guitar god again - due to his investment in the old classics. CCR theorists would be particularly interested in hearing the 'new way' John plays some of the classic solos on 'Suzie Q' and 'I Put A Spell On You': personally, I think that he plays them in a different way because he's forgotten how to play them in the old one rather than because he just wants to 'renew' them, but that's my own hostile opinion and you may think different. And anyway, that's not a complaint: I'm really glad that I don't have to sit through dull note-for-note copies of CCR classics, at least not in some cases. While 'Who'll Stop The Rain', 'Down On The Corner', and the closing 'Proud Mary' and 'Travelin' Band' don't really sound much different from the originals, 'Suzie-Q' is vastly 'improved' upon, with the length shortened and the solos re-arranged and re-ordered, and 'I Put A Spell On You' proves undeniably that John is still the great master of souls that he used to be. Duh. No, really, I mean it. I was kinda afraid about his voice - after all, it has deteriorated over the years, and there's no use trying to deny the fact. But only very, very slightly - he can't reach all those gut-spinning high notes he used to reach in the past. He tries, though, and must be given credit for that; nothing in the old man's articulation seems too strained or hoarse. Brian Johnson he's not. The solo stuff includes selections from all of JF's albums bar Eye Of The Zombie (good lad) and Blue Ridge Rangers; the latter is understandable since that one was really a 'side project', and none of the songs were written by John himself. The other selections are fine enough, but add absolutely nothing to the originals: just for you to be notified, there's 'Rocking All Over The World' and 'Almost Saturday Night' from JF and the title track and 'Old Man Down The Road' from Centerfield. No surprises. Now if he only played 'Vanz Kant Danz' instead!!!... Imagine all the confusion! Still, whatever - 'Rocking All Over The World' is a great number, and it really shines even in the context of all those royal CCR numbers. 'Centerfield', unfortunately, does not (the lyrical matter is way, way, way, way too dumb - come on, the swampy alligatorish dude singing praise to baseball? How defyingly unromantic!), but I guess those VH-1 people watching the show just couldn't get away without getting a tip like that. Aw, whatever. Put me in the coach, I'm ready to play. Today. Look at me. Can I be centerfield? Without a doubt. There are also three songs from the last album, although, IMHO, not the optimum choices ('Hot Rod Heart'??!!! Man! Whatever for? Why not 'Rattlesnake Highway' instead?), but they're also played according to record. And finally, just for completists who wouldn't want to shed tears over the fact that the album adds nothing essential to their collection, there's a new song - the title track, an unmemorable rocker with a melody that resembles the most forgettable melodies off Centerfield and a lyrical matter that's suspiciciously close to the main themes of Eye Of The Zombie. Get it if you're not afraid. Although there's really nothing to be afraid of - there's just nothing that you haven't heard previously.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 2004
Overall rating = 10
I don't even have the heart to trash this - would be too easy. So I'll enjoy it instead.Best song: DEJA VU (ALL OVER AGAIN)
Track listing: 1) Deja Vu (All Over Again); 2) Sugar-Sugar (In My Life); 3) She's Got Baggage; 4) Radar; 5) Honey Do; 6) Nobody's Here Anymore; 7) I Will Walk With You; 8) Rhubarb Pie; 9) Wicked Old Witch; 10) In The Garden.
Most of the negative sentiments that I've seen expressed about John's latest offering seem to be wound up around the following - fairly justified - question: "It took him SEVEN years to put out THIS????..." And if we follow that line of reasoning, then yes, it's easy to understand why Amazon.com has offered around a hundred used copies of the record within less than a month of its release. Truth be told, this record could have been conceived, written, arranged, mixed, recorded, distributed, bought up, listened to, panned, trashed, re-sold, recycled, and completely forgotten within a measly 24-hour period. Granted, its distribution and promotion probably included even less effort than its creation. I'm not even sure that all Creedence fans today are aware of its existence.However, the catch is that the record doesn't announce itself as anything other than what it actually offers. In other words, no, John Fogerty hasn't been spending the last seven years of his life straining, grunting, puffing, and panting in order to finally hook up to his former muse. He's just been living, like he's been living from 1986 to 1997. And when he finally got the urge to go into the studio, well, he just sort of went into the studio and... well, you know, did what people are supposed to be doing in the studio, unless they model their life after Syd Barrett and the like. The result is an album that truly matches its title. Each and every one of these songs is supposed to trigger some reminiscence, being either a re-write of an old Creedence hit or an old Fogerty solo tune or, more rarely, a stylization of/tribute to some other respectable artist. Sadly, you have to discover it - through oblique hints like the album title or your own musical knowledge; maybe if the idea were more openly and overtly declared on the album cover, people would approach the final product with the proper kind of expectations. On the other hand, Fogerty isn't exactly the most original old codger in the world; he's well known for rewriting his own compositions (remember the old "self-plagiarizing" trial), which simply makes Deja Vu sort of a culmination of the process. This is why, although I had practically every song ringing in my head within like two listens, I can't bring myself to rate this higher than a 10; this would simply be unfair towards an album that openly doesn't strive for more. Panning it, however, isn't an option either, because how can you pan something that has no bad songs on it? (Except for one, which I'll be arriving at in a minute). Not to mention that this is, after all, a record by one of the most charismatic American performers ever, honestly reflecting just another stage in his life: the quiet, wisened-up stage of a nearly-sixty-year-old. So quiet, in fact, that even Blue Moon Swamp, "toothless" as it was, sounds as aggressive as Slayer next to Deja Vu. Oh, okay, just one more analogy and I'll shut up with words in bold font: in a certain way, this is John's Double Fantasy, even if the songs are nowhere near as exciting as Lennon's (well, on the other hand, they're Yoko-free, too). If you need extra proof, just look at the inner sleeve photo, with Fogerty in his cap and short pants leading the little blonde-haired wonder girl by the hand - isn't this sort of the same ideal as harboured by Lennon in 1980? Well, let's just hope nothing bad happens this December. (Knock knock on wood. Knock knock). The title track already sets the scene. Its simple, unadorned acoustic melody is not very hook-ish, and yet at the same time it can't help but remind you of CCR's golden past, 'Lodi' and 'Who'll Stop The Rain' at the same time. But it's more than just an unfortunate coincidence: the resemblance is deliberate. John is clearly singing about the Iraq War, drawing an analogy between today's bloodshed and Vietnam - which, fittingly enough, was the metaphorical subject of 'Who'll Stop The Rain', wasn't it? Thus the 'old ghosts rising' in his lyrics get extra support from the musical ghosts rising as well, and as simple and straightforward as it is, it actually gives the song extra creepiness, reinforcing the idea that none of the thirty-more-year old problems have really been resolved. We're still killing for nothing - and we're still sort of singing the same old songs about it. Unfortunately, the only other "critical" song on the album seriously undermines the powerful impact of 'Deja Vu'. It's one thing to draw analogies between the past and the present and quite another thing to be "out of" the present for good, which is exactly what John does on 'Nobody's Here Anymore', a lame, superficial complaint about today's generation Pepsi. Stephen Stills actually did a moderately better job about it with his 'Seen Enough' five years earlier; at the very least, he was clever enough to put his whining about all the braindead kids in a larger context (not to mention making the song interesting from a sheerly musical point of view). Fogerty, however, just attacks the youngsters bluntly, with no traces of a deeper - or broader - look, accusing them of precisely the same that his teachers and parents must have been accusing him fifty years ago. Well, any song, I guess, that begins with the lines "He's got the latest software/He's got the latest hardware too", is bound to suck ass. The sad news is that 'Nobody's Here Anymore' wastes the talents of not one, but two capable artists - Fogerty recruits none other than Mark Knopfler to play second lead guitar! A guitar duet between Knopfler and Fogerty; imagine that! The potential is enormous. Alas, the two guys should probably have fixed their meeting, say, twenty-five years ago. Today, there's no chance for profit whatsoever. Fogerty just sort of retreats in the background (running ahead, I'd like to notice that when it comes to lead guitar, he's always retreating on the album, as if he really hadn't played that instrument for the entire duration of these seven years), and Knopfler just plays withered excerpts from the old trademark by-the-book Dire-Straits-licensed chords; in fact, his entire part sounds like an amateur's version of Mark's part from 'Sultans Of Swing'. The only consideration to console ourselves with is that here, too, the lyrics adequately match the music - albeit in the suckiness department. But this sad misfortune aside, the rest of the album is okay. You get some very very generic, but funny rockabilly ('Honey Do'), with Fogerty ironically, but firmly complaining about woman's negative agriculture-related influence on man. You get some very very generic, but funny bluegrass ('Rhubarb Pie'), with Fogerty metaphorically, but smuttily begging for the thing one usually begs for from women in terms of traditional bake items. You get some very very generic, but funny swamp rock ('Wicked Old Witch'), with Fogerty spookily, but not too seriously threatening the common man with the involvement of female incarnations of the Devil's servants (sidenote: the instrumental section for this song is almost note-for-note lifted off 'Green River', while the general mood closely follows the one of 'Run Through The Jungle' and 'The Old Man Down The Road'). And you get some very very generic, but funny retro-New Wave pop ('Radar'), which is sort of an urbanistic version of 'Honey Do' for those who like their music urbanized instead of countrified. Hmm, maybe sweet family life does have its drawbacks? Only two of the tracks offer an element of surprise. One is 'She's Got Baggage', Fogerty's tribute to the Ramones, only too fitting seeing as how they have been saying hello to St Peter in such a quick succession over the past few years, but a little startling nevertheless because who would have known John was a fan?.. Well, then again, why not? He gets the essence of their music fairly well, copying the patented chuggin' from 'Beat On The Brat', rapping 'hey Joe say it ain't so' a la "hey ho let's go" and even quoting 'We're a happy family!' at the end. Funny. The second is the album's only "ambitious" number, 'In The Garden' - a massive heavy stomper with ridiculously simplistic sci-fi lyrics that sounds more like Hawkwind than anything remotely associated with John Fogerty so far. Well, he did have a couple similar numbers on Eye Of The Zombie, but this one, free from the clutches of mid-Eighties production, is notably better, although still a very strange choice to end the record with. I'll be the first to admit that, if not this album in particular, then Fogerty's current approach to music-making in general, is definitely disappointing. Surely if the man wishes to go back into the studio, he can do better than giving us such an obvious toss-off, especially given the generally high level of "veteran rocker" output in the early 21st century. But on the other hand, if I have to hear a toss-off record, I'd much rather hear it from somebody like John Fogerty rather than from Jethro Tull (whose idea of a toss-off record normally consists of unmemorable, monotonous guitar/flute noodling over heavy metal production values) or even from Paul McCartney (whose idea of a toss-off record is lightweight fluff pop with no hooks). After all, it's one thing to have a deja vu, bringing back memories of the noble past, and quite another thing to have a self-parody, which this record is definitely not.
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