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Music Review: John Fogerty – Revival

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John Fogerty is a national treasure.

Yet, even though John Fogerty’s legacy as one of the greatest songwriters in all of rock history is assured, it seems like it has been far too long since he truly hit one out of the park. In fact, you could probably go as far back as the baseball themed Centerfield to find Fogerty’s last truly enduring record. The title track of course lives on in ball parks everywhere as something of an unofficial theme song for America’s favorite pasttime.

Fogerty has certainly had his share of decent enough songs in the years since though. The politically on-point song “Deja Vu All Over Again,” from his last solo album in 2004 comes immediately to mind — even if it is essentially a rewrite of his old Creedence Clearwater Revival hit “Who’ll Stop The Rain.” But for the last time Fogerty put together a truly memorable string of great songs, you’d probably have to go back as far as, well Creedence.

With his return to Fantasy Records — the label on which all those great Creedence records were originally released, and the label with which he was embroiled in a bitter legal battle for many years over those same songs — Fogerty appears to be ready for a return to the major leagues.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about Revival, his new album for Fantasy, is the fact that Fogerty also seems ready to re-embrace his past with Creedence. Even the album title seems to indicate that Fogerty has come to terms with the songs he refused to play onstage for many years. On one of this album’s best songs, Fogerty even urges the listener that “you can’t go wrong if you play a little bit of that Creedence song,” as his instantly recognizable swampy guitar sound brings the point home. The song is aptly named as it rocks exactly the way a Creedence song should.

On this album Fogerty expertly brings together each and every element that has made his best songs such an integral part of the American musical landscape for decades now. On “Broken Down Cowboy,” Fogerty gives his subject just enough of that country
twang to make it believable. On “River Is Waiting,” Fogerty even pulls out a relaxed sounding sort of jazz shuffle, but adds guitar flourishes that at times mine the blues territory of someone like B.B. King. Not exactly the sort of swampy river song you’d most often associate with Fogerty, but effective nonetheless.

But it is when Fogerty cuts loose with rockers like “Long Dark Night,” that you remember just how underrated a guitarist he really is. Fogerty has never been of those guys mentioned in the same breath as the Eric Claptons of the world. Rightfully, he is more often recognized as a songwriter. Yet his guitar sound ranks as one of a very small handful that can be instantly recognized — sometimes within a single note.

There is just something about Fogerty’s playing that is hard to put into any sort of category. His best guitar solos come in short blasts that rip through the air like gunfire, and always leave you wanting more. The tone is strictly dirty cajun gumbo. Yet the delivery is all clean and economical. Not a single note is played that isn’t absolutely necessary. Fogerty’s playing here, as with so many of his best songs from “Suzie Q” to Creedence’s great cover version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” is simply in a category all its own.

On the song “Summer Of Love,” Fogerty rips another one of those trademark solos, but adds an appropriately fuzzed out twist of psychedelia to it.

The other thing about Revival that makes it Fogerty’s best album in years, is the voice. We’ve covered the guitar and the songwriting here — and there’s not a bad song on this album. But Fogerty’s voice sounds as strong here as it has in years. On the rockers like “Summer Of Love” and “Long Shot,” you are reminded once again that Fogerty’s is one of the great rock voices ever — it’s right up there with somebody like John Lennon.

What is easy to forget however, is that the same guy who sang screaming rockers like “Sweet Hitch Hiker” with Creedence, or “Summer Of Love” on this album, also has a sense of twang that could put more than a few country singers to shame. Here on “Don’t You Wish It Was True,” Fogerty seems to be summoning the ghosts of both Hank Williams and Buddy Holly. If there is any justice, this song should be on every country station in America, and more than a few rock stations as well.

Although he never really went away, with Revival John Fogerty seems ready to reassert himself into the mainstream of American popular music with his best overall collection of new songs in at least a couple of decades. Like the song “Centerfield” says, put him in coach! He really is ready to play. And with an album that should make more than a few year-end top ten lists, Fogerty may have just hit that home run here.

John Fogerty’s Revival will be available in record stores October 2.

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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://daslob.blogspot.com/ Pico

    I thought Deja Vu was pretty good; maybe not his best, but certainly good enough to remind you how diversely talented Fogerty really is. If Revival is even better, than I’m going to want to pick this one up for sure. And you are spot on about his guitar playing.

    Good write-up, Glen.

  • Phil Allitt

    Thanks for the balanced review of Fogerty’s forthcoming album. I thought that, title track aside, “Deja Vu” was the second worst album of his career (Eye of the Zombie being the absolute nadir)-
    But from the two songs Ive already heard “Revival” does seem promising.
    Memo to Fantasy: Now that John is back with the label and happier about his past- how about a cd appearance for those 3 hard to find non album singles John released in 1973-4?

  • JC Mosquito

    How old is John Fogerty? If his album is as good as you say it is, he might be eligible for the “Greatest Comeback in RnR History” award.

  • Jerry

    Yes, nice write-up. You definitely capture the qualities that make a CCR/Fogerty song unique! Even though I stopped listening to any other rock years ago, Fogerty’s still my favorite. I sure wish he’d let bygones be bygones and reunite with Cook and Clifford. It’s too late to have brother Tom there. The world’s so full of bad news, it would sure please many of us baby-boomers to have CCR back… Clearly John was the biggest part of them, but having the original group back would make it just truly come full-circle again and be more “organic.” BTW, Fogerty is now 62, born in May of 1945. IMO “DejaVu” was unusually “light” and “happy” for Fogerty (except for the title song) but actually I thought it had several very refreshing, sweet songs, including “I Will walk With You” (Fogerty’s called this the favorite he’s ever written) and Sugar Sugar (In My Life.)
    To me, the test of a great song is if after you listen, it still plays in your mind. And several from DejaVu sure do in mine!

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

    Skeet,

    However old Fogerty is — which is 62 according to commenter #4 (insert “John Fogey” jokes here), if I looked or sounded as good as he does here at even half his age, you’d best be signing me to a seven figure record contract, pronto.

    Phil,

    There was one song on “Zombie” I realy liked, which was “Change In The Weather,” even though I admit it owed more than a little to Creedence’s version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”

    Pico,

    You will LOVE the guitar work on this record. Nobody gets a tone quite like Fogerty.

    Jerry,

    I wouldn’t hold my breath on that CCR reunion, but then again I never thought he’d resign with Fantasy in a million years.

    Thanx for the comments all.

    -Glen

  • http://daslob.blogspot.com/ Pico

    Oh yeah, speaking of Deja Vu, I converted “Honey Do” into a ringtone. It only plays on my phone when my wife is calling *grin*

  • MikeT.

    Glen… just discovered your site by Googling Fogerty’s new CD, Revival. Great review, thanks! I heard a piece of a song on a AAA station and was caught off-guard. The voice sounded like John’s – pretty unmistakable that, but I wasn’t sure until I heard the guitar riff. No one sounds like that but John Fogerty, for sure; understated, swampy, and tasty. I can’t wait to get this CD! – mt

  • Jerry

    Glen, I don’t know if you’re still checking in, but I wonder if you continue to listen to the new Fogerty CD and assuming so, if it’s still rewarding after repeated plays. In other words, is your enthusiasm as strong now? Can you tell us the length of it? I know that one criticism of Deja Vu (All Over Again) was the short length of about 34 minutes- but then it had only ten songs. FWIW, I still think Deja Vu was a fun listen, although the last two tracks were pretty forgetable IMO.
    Your review remains my favorite preview of the disc! I’m looking forward to October 2nd…

    Thanks, Jerry

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

    Hey Jerry,

    To answer your question, yes I’m still listening to it and if anything the songs grow on you with repeated listenings.

    Really hooky stuff here, and the guitar is just killer. As to the length, I haven’t clocked it myself but I’d say its definitely a bit longer than “Deja Vu,” but it’s so good you don’t really notice. This and the new Springsteen album are gonna be on my changer for quite awhile I think.

    Thanx for the comment.

    -Glen

  • Hotrod

    Just like in the days when he spoke out loud and clear about the wrong direction this country was taking. Revival speaks out LOUD AND CLEAR.

    I doubt it will get much air time in this country unfortunatly.

  • Parker

    I picked up Revival on its release day and it is every bit as great as indicated, but has everyone forgotten the cd prior to “Deja Vu”? “Blue Moon Swamp” was a fantastic album that captured the CCR spirit and IMO ranks up there along side Centerfield and the latest release.

  • Skip Hering

    I received John Fogerty’s REVIVAL for my birthday. It’s no secret I’m a big fan.

    I think it’s great and among his best. Fogerty and I are about the same age. I loved his music from the beginning and I appreciate it even more now. I hope younger people will have the opportunity to hear it. John’s “tell it like it is” lyrics are as timely today as they were way back when…