3.5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson
Like Larry Holmes down for a count of 9 ½, John Fogerty has slowly climbed back to his feet, cleared his head and fought back like a champ. He took it on the chin for years after Creedence Clearwater Revival’s break up in 1972, weathered the catty remarks of his bandmates (especially the sour grapes criticism from his late brother, Tom), and then battling his own record company for control over his own songs. In a bizarre twist of litigious misfortune, Fogerty was sued by Fantasy Records for plagiarizing his own material. Fogerty may have been Creedence’s lead singer, main writer, and lead guitarist, but he was a world class yutz when it came to business, signing the group to an outrageous deal that promised they’d produce two albums per year. David Geffen bailed Fogerty out of that ludicrous contract, but when Fogerty recorded “The Old Man Down The Road” for the “Centerfield” album, Fantasy’s owner, Saul Zaentz, sued him, claiming Fogerty stolen the melody from Creedence’s “Run Through The Jungle.” Zaentz expected to get paid for the privilege of letting Fogerty sponge from himself. (He might have won if he claimed Fogerty copped the tune from “Green River” instead.) He sued Fogerty again when the guitarist wrote “Zanz Can’t Dance” and “Mr. Greed” for the “Eye of the Zombie” album, claiming the sarcastic cuts were about him, and therefore, slanderous. The lawsuit left a bad taste in Fogerty’s wallet and he refused to play any Creedence songs in concerts if Zaentz stood a chance to make a penny. It wasn’t until 1987, when Fogerty was performing at a benefit and Bob Dylan told him that if he didn’t perform “Proud Mary” people would think Tina Turner had written it, that Fogerty finally acquiesced. Nearly two decades after they were filed, the lawsuits were finally dismissed. Now, for the first time in 30 years, Fogerty is back on Fantasy Records, and as the title suggests, he’s reclaimed his identity and his music.
Most of Fogerty’s solo releases have at least one studley stand out track. “Centerfield”’s best catch was “Rock N’ Roll Girls.” The walking dead “Eye of the Zombie,” had “Change In The Weather,” while the Grammy winning “Blue Moon Swamp” boasted the steamy “110 In The Shade.” “Revival” may not have that singular track that will make you want to give up your McMansion for a houseboat on the bayou, but it’s one of Fogerty’s more consistent albums, and it’ll tantalize your mojo with bits of the old Creedence charm. Two frank and biting assessments of the Bush administration, “It Ain’t Right,” and “I Can’t Take It No More” may not be award winners, but serve notice that instead of trying to hit a homerun, Fogerty is paying attention to the overall quality of his game.
In the official press statement about the album Fogerty said, “It’s just seemed like all the records I have made since Creedence Clearwater Revival have been pushed off center. I felt like I was dancing around the outskirts of what is my true center. With this album I really wanted to stay on the mark, right in the middle, right where rock and roll is. I wanted this to be easier, a lot more fun than some of the past records have been.”
There’s no doubt Fogerty has tapped into his Creedence roots and he certainly sounds like he’s having fun. His guitar work is polished and jumps out of the speakers like a fat bayou bullfrog hittin’ up a juicy fly.
The first cut, “Don’t You Wish It Was True” starts off with simple Hank Williams strumming that’ll remind you of Fogerty’s stint in The Blue Ridge Rangers. It slowly builds up to a mid-tempo sleepy rocker with John in relaxed voice, sounding like he’s sitting on the front porch singin’ to his kinfolk: “But if tomorrow everybody was your friend, happiness would never end, Lord don’t you wish it was true.” Fogerty’s fade out line is “What a beautiful day,” and even if you’re listening to this in the pouring rain (as I was), you’ll agree.
The lyrics to “Gunslinger” establish a theme that runs the length and breadth of the CD -- John’s a little fed up with Bush Junior’s overall Iraq ineptitude. Many of us are, but not everyone can put it so tunefully: “I think we need a gunslinger, someone tough to tame this town. I think we need a gunslinger. There’ll be justice all around.” The laid back packaging sounds like Fogerty’s been listening to John Mellencamp and takin’ notes. It’s no surprise Fogerty’s picked up on Mr. Middle America’s ability to deliver a topical heartland zinger – the drummer is Kenny Aronoff, Mellencamp’s stick man.
Another jab at George Bush? Yes, “Long Dark Night” is a venom-injected “Run Through The Jungle,” with a puff or two of harp to sharpen its sarcastic edge: “Be a long dark night before this thang is done.” Fogerty’s playing is bursting with intoxicating riffs, and you gotta love his riding Bush like an obstinate bronco, but this is one where Johnny’s perturbed attitude gets in the way of a the listener having a good time.
“I Can’t Take It No More” owes a great deal vocally to Little Richard and musically to Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plan Pour Moi.” It’s Fogerty’s third and best poke at Bush, the detainees, and the war. “I bet you never saw the old school yard, I bet you never saw the National Guard. Your daddy wrote a check and there you are, another fortunate son.” “I Can’t Take It No More” is a finger pointing tirade that’ll make Junior wish he’d been
“It Ain’t Right” is a slammin’, no prisoners country boogie that mixes the wit of “Yakety Yak” with the pace of “Travelin’ Band”: “Another long weekend with your friends. I thought that party would ever end. Well after your rehab you’re gone again. It ain’t right. It ain’t right .Honey such as waste of life.” You listenin’ Brittany? Lindsay? It ain’t right that this song is so short. It’s one Fogerty’s more accurate derisive commentaries on today’s slipshod celebrity life style.
“Creedence Song” takes the stomp from “Suzy Q” splicing it together with excellent pickin’ straight out of Tony Joe White’s swamp guitar book. It’s not really about the group; it’s more about Saturday night dances down home: “Say you can’t go wrong if you play a little creedence song.” It’s cute and catchy. Hopefully Tony Joe is more forgiving than Saul Zaentz.
Wait a minute…There’s something unnatural about “Natural Thing.” Okay Tony Joe, you might want to call your lawyer after all. “Natural Thing” has got more “Polk Salad Annie” in it than any of Tony Joe’s songs on his last album. Fogerty wisely doesn’t copy Tony Joe’s style for the whole song, ditching the swampy stomping beat at mid point for a more revved up electric sound. You’d think after all those court battles, John would steer away from controversy. Hopefully when Tony Joe gets an earful of this he and John will remain friends, rather than becoming plaintiffs
Fogerty drifts into JJ Cale territory with “River Is Waiting.” The guitar swings like Cale’s “Crazy Mama.” Fogerty puts a little charge in his voice, and adds some Booker T organ by Tom Petty keys man Benmont Tench to give it a sanctified flair. It’s stuck in the same gear, but flows easily, like a lazy stream headin’ out of the muddy Mississippi.
On an album of inspired tunes, even the clunkers merit a spin. The majority of Fogerty’s best songs have been mid-or up tempo rockers. When he ventures into the land of ballads, as in “Broken Down Cowboy,” his horse often comes up lame. “Broke Down Cowboy” is a slow paced story about a dirt between his fangers type, a hard livin,’ hard lovin’ loser: “He’ll string you along, sing you a lovin’ song, but you’ll wind up alone.” A little too yippy-yi-o-ki-yay for my taste.
“Summer of Love” doesn’t have much to do with psychedelia. It’s got a modern more arrangement, grafting Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend” to Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” Slapping the two styles together is like asking Salvador Dali to spray paint a Hummel. Fogerty is well outside of his element, despite the very Claptonesque soloing.
“Somebody Help Me” continues the pattern of excellent, economical guitar work, but it’s mucked up by Fogerty’s zombie-like whispered vocal in the middle eight.
More cowbell! Fuzzed out guitar (again not a Fogerty staple) populates “Long Shot”: “Ain’t no doctor and I ain’t no noyce (nurse) ain’t no aristocrat, nothing could be worse.” Amen, John, but it’s a long shot listeners will be interested in this one. It’s very middle of the road and not too interesting.
It’s a long shot Junior will invite John Fogerty to the White House as long he’s sitting in the high chair, but “Revival” will get even the most broken down cowboy through any long dark night. It’s a natural thing you’ll have a good ‘ol time listenin’ to that Creedence song.