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.