Back to the Swamp
I'll admit up front that I've long been a fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Fogerty's solo material; ironically, I'm probably more critical than others when Fogerty releases something new. I figure I've earned the right.
For instance, while Blue Moon Swamp won me over instantly and completely in 1997, his last studio release, 2004's Déjà vu All Over Again, did absolutely nothing for me - the songs just didn't pop. It was like Fogerty doing a soulless impersonation of himself. Then came the brand-new album Revival and I stepped in cautiously, not expecting much. Well, I believe Mr. Fogerty has won again.
While there's a bit too much self-reference here for my taste (heck, even the album title refers to the band that made him famous), it's also not terribly surprising that Fogerty is reaching back to his past. For one thing, this is his first release on Fantasy Records (now under new ownership) since his CCR days; but it's also true that this album shows Fogerty at his most thoughtful and outspoken in years.
Songs like "Long Dark Night" and "I Can't Take it No More" cry out against the war in Iraq and the Bush administration in general, holding nothing back. The former even goes so far as to name names and pull no punches atop a dirty, bluesy approach just for emphasis, while the latter uses a rocking "Traveling Band" motif to pull off the deed. Although it would be easy to criticize that this is merely Fogerty bitching about the same things he bitched about in 1969, at least he's still paying attention and willing to speak his piece.
"Gunslinger" is a similar, if more metaphorical, airing of Fogerty's grievances. The album isn't just about bitching, though - Fogerty fills the gaps with some chunky rock, some country twang and more, all of it solid even if it isn't breaking new ground. (I mean, let's face it, what else is Fogerty going to do with that unmistakable raspy voice of his? Rap?)
While "Summer of Love," a look back at San Francisco's summer of 1967, is a throwaway on the surface, the Hendrix-esque guitars and other subtle musical references from the late 1960s show us that John is merely having some fun and that saves it from merely being shtick. And while "Natural Thing" is a fairly simple reminder that, um, everyone needs love, the upbeat approach, Hammond organ and swamp guitar make for four minutes of toe-tapping fun.
And "It Ain't Right" takes a heavily reverbed guitar sound (like something from an early Sun Studios recording) and scolds the Britney Spearses and Paris Hiltons of the world for acting like sluts in public. Probably the weakest track of the bunch is "Creedence Song," and I say that mostly because, like with the album title, it just seems too self-referential and unnecessary. (It's a personal pet peeve, OK? Bear with me.)
But, like the rest of this stuff, if you don't buy into the lyric, just shut it out and embrace the fun that the music provides. Fogerty is in fine voice and has a tight, talented band around him, with Louisville's own Kenny Aronoff setting the pace behind the drums and special guest Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) adding keys.
Damned if the old man doesn't still know how to do it. Why he doesn't do it more consistently is anyone's guess, but he's sure as heck doing it now. Perhaps the album title actually speaks more to his musical spirit than to his former band. If that's the case, then I'd like to be among the first to say, "Welcome back."
Fogerty performs at the Louisville Palace on December 3. Find out more at www.johnfogerty.com.