John Fogerty – [Album]

Saturday, 15 June 2013

John Fogerty has re-recorded a number of his biggest hits, with some of today’s biggest superstars, and I have to ask “Why?” Is he trying to cash in? Just having fun? Or can he not write a good song anymore?

Fogerty was, of course, the leader of Creedence Clearwater Revival, one of the most popular bands from the late Sixties. They are still hugely popular, at least among the classic rock crowd; at least half the songs on this album continue to receive regular airplay in their original versions. So it’s not like he’s helping a new generation of music fans discover music which had faded into oblivion; although, with partners such as Jennifer Hudson, Foo Fighters, Kid Rock and Brad Paisley, maybe the intent is to get his music played somewhere other than classic rock radio.

The above all needs to be said for the sake of stating the obvious but, as I listen to this, there is another piece of Fogerty’s history I can’t help thinking about. He is, to my knowledge, the only musician who has ever been sued for plagiarizing himself. In 1980, in order to free himself from a record contract, Fogerty singed over the songwriting rights for all of Creedence’s songs to Fantasy Records, the band's old label (Don’t you just love the music business?). In 1985, Fantasy claimed his hit “Old Man Down the Road” was just a rewrite of “Run Through the Jungle.” Fogerty won that case, but it was another twenty years before he got the rights to his own songs back. That may all be irrelevant in this context, but it's hard not to feel like Fogerty is reclaiming his old musical legacy here – in a way. So who can begrudge him if he wants to invite some other musicians over, and revive some of those songs?

A less charitable (much less charitable) interpretation might be that he needs these old songs because he just can’t write music like them anymore. There are two new songs on this CD, “Mystic Highway” and “Train of Fools” (neither of which feature guest stars). They are decent songs, but lack the punch of the CCR tunes.

Also, as the lawsuit indicates, he has always mined a very similar vein for his songs. That point is made explicitly by the sequencing on the CD, which places “Someday Never Comes,” with the opening line, “First thing I remember…” with “Who Will Stop the Rain,” which starts, “Long as I remember…” And yes, both lines have the exact same melody.

But all of this intellectual discussion avoids the real question: do these versions work? Is this album worth listening to? Well, yes and no. Some of these versions match, or even surpass, the originals, but a lot don’t add anything. Foo Fighters add a new level of aggression to “Fortunate Son” and Bob Seger performs “Who Will Stop the Rain” like it was written for him. My Morning Jacket manage to fuzz up “Long As I Can See the Light” until it almost sounds like something fresh. Perhaps the best version here is Brad Paisley’s way rocked up version of “Hot Rod Heart” (which supports my theory that the only place to hear old time rock n’ roll on the radio these days is on a country station).  But Kid Rock adds nothing to “Born on the Bayou” and the same holds for the Zac Brown Band on “Bad Moon Rising.” And I’m sorry, but you don’t come close to Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary,” Jennifer Hudson.

So my suggestion, and this is surprising – as I am almost always in favor of whole albums over individual songs – is to not bother with this CD, just go to iTunes and select the songs you like best. There are some gems here, but not an entire album’s worth.



Wrote A Song For Everyone
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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