John Fogerty returns with a timely, adult album
In 1970, as the Vietnam War raged, Creedence Clearwater Revival released "Who'll Stop the Rain." The song, a jangling protest lament by the band's leader and guitarist, John Fogerty, struck a somber chord in a jagged time. It took on current events and defied the musical status quo. The single, which appeared on the July 1970-released album Cosmo's Factory, quickly became part of the relatively short-lived but long-standing legacy of the band, active from 1968-'72.
Singer/songwriter Fogerty was always slightly out of step with trends, yet he accurately chronicled the folly of the periods. As psychedelia, hard rock and gooey AM pop permeated the landscape, Fogerty looked back to his roots and heroes. It wasn't uncommon to hear traces of gritty Texas soul, Tennessee twang, swampy Louisiana blues and rootsy bar band rock on each CCR album. The group was formed near San Francisco, yet had little in common with the trippy excesses of the pervasive Haight-Ashbury district and other hippie fashion quirks that birthed the kaleidoscopic age of Aquarius.
Like a displaced refugee from somewhere between Memphis and New Orleans, Fogerty deflected the transient trends and reflected his staunchly blue-collar mind-set. The formula paid off in the unique and catchy sound of Fogerty's gravelly vocals, and the ragged-but-right music of Creedence rode high on the charts for four successful years. Internal and external squabbles finally dissolved the band, and Fogerty has released solo albums sporadically since then. (Bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford went on to form the ultimate CCR cover band, Creedence Clearwater Revisited.)
Fogerty's new album, Deja Vu All Over Again, released in September, is probably the most consistent work of his post-CCR career. It's an album of grown-up songs, all delivered with the playful innocence and social consciousness of an observational rocker. It's a no-frills affair. Though it's on Geffen Records, the whole album has the low-key feel of an indie project. From the songwriting and production to package design, it's all Fogerty's baby.
The centerpiece is the title cut, lifted from baseball icon Yogi Berra's treasure trove of malapropisms. It's an appropriate follow-up to "Who'll Stop the Rain." Here is Fogerty, 34 years older and wiser, questioning the authority responsible for the newest, seemingly endless war. He calmly makes his case, but Fogerty's stoic rage is palpable as he deftly compares the current war causalities to the ones listed on the memorial wall.
Further reflecting CCR's Cosmo's Factory, Fogerty's center is still home, just as it was on that album's closing tune, "Long as I Can See the Light." Here, the light is his family. The album has the same sort of warm, good-natured vibe that has become the stock and trade of John Hiatt or, more recently, Graham Parker. He's joined by a few friends who add a classy sheen to the proceedings. Mark Knopfler duets with Fogerty on the modern technology rant "Nobody's Here Anymore." Fogerty and the former Dire Straits guitarist share lead guitar duties that are cleverly mixed and evenly divided on the opposing channels. In-demand Nashville picker Jerry Douglas shows up on a few tracks as well, adding rustic and down-home bluegrass touches to the overall contemporary sound. The only time Fogerty reverts directly back to his trademark swamp-rock sound is on the throwaway "Wicked Old Witch," which owes as much to Shel Silverstein as CCR.
On Deja Vu, Fogerty proves that growing older doesn't mean compromising ideals or quality. This time out, he neither disappoints, as on 1986's Eye of the Zombie, or tries too hard, as on the schizophrenic 1985's Centerfield. Overall, the record is a pleasingly affectionate ode to settling down but staying alive and aware.
John Fogerty plays the Tabernacle, Wed., Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m. $29.50-$39.50. For more info, call 404-659-9022 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.