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Music Review: John Fogerty – Centerfield (25th Anniversary Edition)

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As these sort of classic rock album upgrades go, the 25th Anniversary edition of John Fogerty's 1985 "comeback" album Centerfield isn't really that big of a deal — at least not in terms of any added razzle-dazzle.

Outside of two bonus tracks — the B-side covers of Rockin' Sydney's Zydeco hit "My Toot Toot" (with Sydney himself on accordion) and "I Confess" by Bay Area gospel group The Four Rivers — there aren't really any extras to speak of. It does come with a fairly standard CD booklet with newly written liner notes, and the album has been given the now standard remastered treatment for classic reissues of this type.

But this is hardly the sort of deluxe package you might expect for an artist of John Fogerty's pedigree and influence. The remastering job is mostly kept simple. There is none of the sort of massive digging through the vaults for bonus live material or alternate takes which normally serve to expand such an original classic out to a double-disc version (or more).

But perhaps this is for the best. Fogerty's genius has always been with his unique gift for keeping things at their simplest and most basic anyway. Anything more than an upgrade here might have been considered excessive. Besides, the original Centerfield album sounds so good even now, who can really complain?

At the time of Centerfield's original 1985 release, John Fogerty had been out of the music game for ten years, and hadn't had a hit to speak of since his glory days with Creedence Clearwater Revival. As lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for CCR, Fogerty racked up an astonishing string of hit singles and albums over a roughly four year period from 1968-72.

Fogerty's absence from the spotlight in the years since, came at least partially as a result of legal and personal wrangling with both his former CCR bandmates (including his brother Tom) and his former label, Fantasy Records and its owner Saul Zaentz.

Fogerty has since mended fences with Fantasy (which was taken over by Concord Records in 2004 after being sold by Zaentz), but remains estranged from the surviving members of Creedence (Stu Cook and Doug Clifford), who continue to perform Fogerty's songs as Creedence Clearwater Revisited on the oldies circuit. Tom Fogerty died in 1990.

Regarded as his comeback at the time, 1985's Centerfield surprised everyone — including his new label Warner Bros. — by going straight to number one on Billboard and spawning three hit singles in "Rock & Roll Girls," "The Old Man Down The Road," and the title track.

In retrospect, the success of the album should have been a surprise to no one. Fogerty's string of hits with Creedence had never stopped being played on oldies, classic rock, top forty, and even some country stations. And Centerfield picks things up right where those old hits left off.

The first single, "Old Man Down The Road," is in fact such a dead-ringer for Creedence's "Run Through The Jungle" (not to mention using a guitar riff straight off of "Green River," another big CCR hit), that it prompted an unauthorized use lawsuit from former Fantasy owner Saul Zaentz (who still owned the rights to Fogerty's songs). Fogerty eventually won that suit, but lost another over the use of one of Centerfield's other songs, "Zanz Can't Dance" (which he later had to change to "Vanz Can't Dance" to appease its original target, Saul Zaentz).

But what Centerfield is most remembered for today is the title track, a song which has become as synonymous with baseball as "Take Me Out To The Ball Game." John Fogerty is in fact about to become the only musician to be honored by both the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and Baseball's Hall of Fame, when the song "Centerfield" is inducted in Cooperstown, New York, by the latter this month.

Like his great work with Creedence, Fogerty's songs on Centerfield combine his twangy guitar sound and high pitched vocal wail, with the potent blend of country, rockabilly, and thick-as-gumbo Louisiana blues that has earned his unique sound the well deserved label of "swamp rock."

No razzle-dazzle here, and you know what? That's just fine. Fogerty's sound is as American as Mom, apple pie, rock and roll, and yes, baseball. This album remains one of the best reminders why.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • http://www.kitotoole.com Kit O’Toole

    Ah yes, Centerfield–an album I remember well from my youth. As you astutely point out, it’s the simplicity–the power of straightforward rock and roll–that gives the album a timeless quality. Now I’m just trying to deal with the fact that it’s 25 years old!

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    The thing is, the songs on this album have aged far better than a lot of other music from around the same time (remember Kajagoogoo? how about Loverboy?).

    Fogerty’s music sounds as good now as it did then…he has aged like vintage wine that way. We should all be so lucky…

    Thanks for commenting!

    -Glen

  • Charles Ferreira

    The first best album after CCR split, and his best since Cosmo`s Factory CCR album, another very best album from john fogerty is BLUE MOON SWAMP a swamp rock roots music and his best album ever