The great, ageless roots rocker John Fogerty — singer, songwriter, lead guitarist and producer of Creedence Clearwater Revival — is back with his most iconic album since the days of Creedence, as accessible as Centerfield but much more timely and pointed. On this one Fogerty makes it clear he has Something to Say.
Déjà Vu All Over Again, the album, opens with “Déjà Vu (All Over Again),” the song, an acoustic guitar and backbeat folk-rocker evocative sonically and thematically of his anti-Vietnam War classic “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” holding the current troubled times up to the mirror of our Southeast Asian adventure and finding disconcerting similarities:
“One by one I see the old ghosts rising
Stumblin’ cross Big Muddy
Where the light gets dim
Day after day another Momma’s crying
She’s lost her precious child
To a war that has no end”
Once again, Fogerty wants the rain stopped. Though undeniably political and topical, Fogerty is the kind of artist who paints a picture universal enough to touch pro- and anti-war partisans alike: who cannot feel a parent’s anguish at the loss of a child? Who doesn’t feel the stab in their secret heart of war without a clear path to resolution?
After this cautionary rumination, Fogerty moves into a sprightly, infectious pop-rocker that draws equally from Southern soul and country to create an absolutely irresistible confection, “Sugar, Sugar,” balancing the encroaching shadow of “Déjà Vu” with sweet light.
Fogerty and band — Kenny Aronoff on drums, Paul Bushnell bass — rip through riff-rocker “She’s Got Baggage,” and frankly, at his age who doesn’t? not that you could tell from the youthful energy of the song or Fogerty’s undiminished, inimitable voice. “Radar” returns Fogerty to his psychic ancestral home, the swampy South, for an organ and chanted singalong number worthy of the Sir Douglas Quintet.
Few rockers do country better than Fogerty, and “Honey Do” is up to his best standards, ruefully, but with obvious contentment and satisfaction, addressing the velvet thumb under which every happily married man has labored since before humans lost their body fur.
“Nobody’s Here Anymore” shimmers with some exemplary signature Mark Knopfler guitar work — Creedence meets Dire Straits — the sound may be of a “Sultans of Swing” past, but the theme couldn’t be more contemporary: the artificial electronic connectivity of the Internet, cell phones and iPods replacing real human contact, the illusion of interaction as a substitute for the real thing.
“Nobody’s here any more
Nobody’s minding the store
They’ve all gone
to another dimension
Nobody here anymore”
“I Wanna Walk With You” is as timeless as “Nobody’s Here Anymore” is timely: a gnetle bluegrass-inflected love song to, I assume, the young daughter pictured on the back cover (“I will walk with you/Together we will share/Jelly beans and pink ice cream/A Christmas teddy bear”) with Jerry Douglas on dobro, Bob Applebaum and Michael DeTemple on mandolins. By the end of the song, I challenge any man who has ever held his little girl to not shed one, at least inward, tear (between this and a similarly-themed, not-yet-released Sam Bisbee song I just heard, I’ll never stop blubbering).
“In the Garden” wraps things up with heavy, drum-pounding, guitar-slinging, Are You Experienced style. Fogerty exhibits the energy of youth, the wisdom of age and the judgment to know the difference on this great, revitalizing album.