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John Fogerty

+ {The Blue Ridge Rangers}

Anyone around at the turn of the 70s, or, indeed, had access to their parents’ music LPs, will recall CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL, and the rasping sandpaper vox of acclaimed frontman, JOHN FOGERTY. If one needed confirmation of his life-affirming dexterity and country cool, then one just has to freshen-up on re-vamps of all his best compositions on 2013’s Top 3 collaboration exercise, WROTE A SONG FOR EVERYONE {*6}. Aptly-titled and more or less embracing a raft of work from his CCR heyday and a few solo pieces, the star-studded set was evidence indeed that timeless tunes such as `Fortunate Son’ (here, with FOO FIGHTERS), `Born On The Bayou’ (with KID ROCK), `Who’ll Stop The Rain’ (with BOB SEGER) and `Bad Moon Rising’ (alongside the Zac Brown Band), represent as much of today’s bands/artists as the post-psychedelic rock era.
Born May 25, 1945, Berkeley, California, John and his older brother Tom had struggled for the first part of the 60s; combos Tommy Fogerty & The Blue Velvets and The Golliwogs, hopelessly enamoured by the British Invasion. Formed in El Cerrito, California, in 1967, CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL blossomed almost immediately when their rendition of DALE HAWKINS’ `Suzie Q’ almost gate-crashed the Top 10. Himself, influenced by LITTLE RICHARD and Southern roots music, John and CCR swamped the charts, with not only great LPs, but million-selling treasures such as `Proud Mary’, `Bad Moon Rising’, `Green River’, `Down On The Corner’, `Travelin’ Band’, `Up Around The Bend’, `Lookin’ Out My Back Door’ and `Have You Ever Seen The Rain’ (some of which incidentally are also features on the aforementioned “Wrote A Song” joint set).
Inevitably came the burn-out, and when brother TOM FOGERTY bailed out in ’71, the remaining trio of John, bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford found it tough to compete when watered-down individual compositions were served up to their masters at Fantasy Records; the “Mardi Gras” set in ’72 was a poor reflection on such a once-powerful band.
While Tom enjoyed a bit of an initial purple patch in his subsequent solo career, lonesome cowboy JOHN FOGERTY donned his Stetson and took on the exhausting one-man-band role of THE BLUE RIDGE RANGERS (1973) {*6}. Also self-produced but not self-penned, that was down to good ole Nashville boys, this was a collection of purist country, the most recognisable and engaging songs of our fathers were Top 20 hit `Jambalaya (On The Bayou)’, `Please Help Me, I’m Falling’, `She Thinks I Still Care’ and `Today I Starting Loving You Again’. This record was a long way away – and only two years! – from CCR’s final Top 10 smash, `Sweet Hitch-Hiker’.
Once again, proving his worth as player of every instrument involved, the long-awaited eponymous LP, JOHN FOGERTY (1975) {*7}, was just the ticket to re-ignite non-C&W fans of his halcyon CCR days. Although still taking in covers, albeit in an R&B vein (Sam Theard’s `You Rascal You’, JACKIE WILSON’s `Lonely Teardrops’ and Huey “Piano” Smith’s `Sea Cruise’), it was FOGERTY’s compositions that shone out. While uninformed ‘Quo fans might lay claim to `Rockin’ All Over The World’, it was this JF song and a further hit, `Almost Saturday Night’, that proved John’s raspy voice and his earlier songwriting sharpness had never blunted; third set, “Hoodoo” was shelved.
Retreating to a farm for a life of rural bliss with his family, it was around a decade before a fresh FOGERTY returned with CENTERFIELD (1985) {*8}. Selling over two million copies, the chart-topping comeback album was highlighted by a trio of major “heartland rock” hits, `The Old Man Down The Road’, `Rock And Roll Girls’ and the title track; `I Saw It On T.V’, `Searchlight’ and `I Can’t Help Myself’ might well’ve struck gold also. Introspective in its recollection of his childhood and his disputes with Fantasy boss, Saul Zaentz, bitterness between the two parties surfaced on the track, `Mr. Greed’. But it was not the latter song – or indeed `Vanz Kant Dance’, which was originally entitled “Zaentz Can’t Dance” – that saw a lawsuit, but the aforementioned `Old Man…’, which Saul claimed copied CCR hit, `Run Through The Jungle’. It all led to FOGERTY gaining a place in the history books for possibly being the only artist ever to be sued for plagiarising his own material.
Probably rush-released to cover any impending finances needed for legal costs, the glossy EYE OF THE ZOMBIE (1986) {*4} was a rather average and synthetic effort. Despite hitting both the US and UK Top 50, the nine rock’n’roll tracks were stuck in a time-warp, most of them twisted and centered on the evils of the world; examples `Violence Is Golden’, the very “Bright Lights, Big City” `Headlines’ and the title track. Sadly, his brother Tom died of AIDS on September 6, 1990, apparently from a blood transfusion given to him when he was treated for back problems.
As a pattern of inactivity emerged as John was conspicuous by his absence once again (11 years), the long-time-comin’ BLUE MOON SWAMP (1997) {*7} reunited the man with his rootsy-flavoured back-porch rock’n’roll. Simple and direct, the Top 40 set combined his best elements from his CCR and “Centerfield” days. Although not immediate hits (chart or otherwise), the unfussed FOGERTY strolled up to the mark on `Blueboy’, `Hot Rod Heart’, `Bring It Down To Jelly Roll’, `Walking In A Hurricane’ and `Rambunctious Boy’.
A CCR album at heart, bookended as it was by several of their classic usual suspects, the live PREMONITION (1998) {*7} couldn’t fail to generate interest from ageing FOGERTY fans awaiting some sort of resurrection. The NEIL YOUNG-esque title track was another highlight, next to the likes of his best-of solo works that steered toward the straight-laced rather than anything controversial.
If the title of DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN (2004) {*6}, laid FOGERTY wide open for quips on his musical conservatism, the title track itself was actually one of his finest, most sharply observed (and yes, most CREEDENCE-like) in years, an inevitable comment on Iraq from a songwriter old enough to remember Vietnam. And amid the usual quota of generation-yawning missteps (witness the DIRE STRAITS-grumpiness of `Nobody’s Here Anymore’), there was enough homespun rock’n’roll to make the album worthwhile for CCR diehards; check out the opening title track, `Honey Do’, `Radar’ and `In The Garden’.
Recorded a year later, THE LONG ROAD HOME: IN CONCERT (2006) {*7}, saw FOGERTY make a belated peace with Fantasy Records (Saul was now a movie mogul), as the label drew a line from his Bayou beginnings right through to “Déjà Vu…”, illuminating the defiantly unpretentious, common-man dignity at the heart of his writing. On the back of a similarly-titled and definitive compilation album, this double-disc CD/DVD couldn’t fail to please fans awaiting the man’s next venture. Despite being the driving force behind a band that had influenced artists as diverse as JOHN MELLENCAMP, TOM PETTY and The GEORGIA SATELLITES, it seemed increasingly unlikely that FOGERTY was going to come up with something that did his legend justice.
Then came REVIVAL (2007) {*7}, another Top 20 album that echoed his CCR days of yore, even going down to the fact that it was issued on Concord Records, who’d, ironically, just bought over Fantasy. Fusing elements of his old heroes LITTLE RICHARD and MERLE HAGGARD, nostalgia was the order of the day here as John shuffled his blue suede “ranger” shoes on gems such as `Gunslinger’, `Broken Down Cowboy’, `Long Dark Night’, `It Ain’t Right’ and `Creedence Song’.
Duly taking a rest from songwriting duties, THE BLUE RIDGE RANGERS: RIDES AGAIN (2009) {*6} sequel, was an unexpected revival of sorts, given that it’d been 36 years since its predecessor. Now looking his age at 64, FOGERTY was content to mellow-out via other artists’ material. DELANEY & BONNIE’s `Never Ending Song Of Love’, RICK NELSON’s `Garden Party’ (featuring EAGLES: Henley and Schmit), JOHN DENVER’s `Back Home Again’ and The EVERLY BROTHERS’ `When Will I Be Loved’ (with a certain SPRINGSTEEN in his steps), songs, here, were more recognisable to un-paid-up members of the Grand Ole Opry club.
Pencilled in since 2012, the aforementioned “Wrote A Song For Everyone” (the title taken from yet another classic CCR track), was finally delivered to roots fans that were still “rockin’ all over the world” – everyone from the previously named “rawk” artists to country’s BRAD PAISLEY, ALAN JACKSON, MIRANDA LAMBERT and Nicole Kidman’s hubby KEITH URBAN, were testimony to FOGERTY’s clout and er, credence.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD / rev-up MCS May2013

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