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What Have You Done For Us Lately, John Fogerty?

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John Fogerty

John Fogerty. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Brian Ives
Brian Ives
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In What Have You Done For Us Lately?, we examine the recent output by legendary artists. Sure, we’re happy when they return with a new album… but really, just how happy are we? We’ll gauge their output since 2000 (or, for less prolific artists, their last five albums), take a hard look and see how their recent material has held up… and maybe help you to find a few gems that you overlooked.

For a guy who has twice waited a decade between albums, John Fogerty has been remarkably prolific (by his standards, at least) in recent years. And for a guy who, at one point, swore off performing the music he wrote for his former band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, he seems pretty comfortable playing those old classics again. His new album (out this week), Wrote A Song For Everyone, sees him revisiting his back catalog with the help of an A-list of collaborators including Foo Fighters, Alan Jackson, Jennifer Hudson and My Morning Jacket. And his latest look backwards has been well received, receiving a perfect five-star review from Rolling Stone. Fogerty first started revisiting his past in 1997, singing his CCR classics alongside newer songs in concert. Considering that, let’s have a look at his recorded output since ’97, when a certain new album seemed to rejuvenate and reinvigorate him.

Blue Moon Swamp  – 1997

John Fogerty Blue Moon Swamp

Coming 11 years after the disappointing Eye Of The Zombie, this album marked Fogerty’s return to music world, and his reclamation of his crown as the king 0f swampy garage rock. All the glory extended to his tour, which saw him play a good amount of Creedence classics. Most of all, the album reminded anyone who was paying attention that this legendary songwriter still had a lot to say. “Joy Of My Life,” written for his wife Julie, is one of his loveliest ballads. “One Hundred And Ten In The Shade,” featuring the Fairfield Four, showed Fogerty moving into Southern gothic gospel. “Hot Rod Heart,” too, was the latest on a long list of Fogerty rockers.

Critical Response: Favorable. Rolling Stone gave it four out of five stars, calling it “a remarkably vibrant batch of songs,” and called “One Hundred And Ten In The Shade” Fogerty’s “single best song since CCR fell apart” — no small claim, given the hits on 1985′s Centerfield.
What stuck: “Hot Rod Heart” appears on his new album as a duet with Brad Paisley, and “Joy Of My Life” has made his setlists often over the years.

Deja Vu (All Over Again) - 2004

John Fogerty

While Fogerty said during press interviews for Blue Moon Swamp that he wouldn’t have any more long hiatuses between albums, this one came seven years after Blue Moon Swamp. More stylistically diverse than its predecessor, the album got the most attention based for its title track, which harkened back to Creedence’s classics like “Fortunate Son”; in it, he compares Iraq to Vietnam, and wonders how many American lives needed to be wasted on an overseas conflict.

Critical Response:  Less ecstatic than Blue Moon Swamp, but not bad: Rolling Stone noted its short length at 34 minutes, saying “John Fogerty may leave you wanting more, that doesn’t mean you’re not satisfied.”
What Stuck: Mainly the title track.

Revival - 2007

John Fogerty

In which he really reclaimed his past. First, there’s the name of the album. Second, the album cover is a tribute to his first post-CCR album, Blue Ridge Rangers. And third, he had signed to Fantasy Records, the label that signed CCR and that Fogerty famously battled in court for years (former head honcho and Fogerty arch-enemy Saul Zaentz had since left the label). There’s even a song called “Creedence Song”! That said, Revival is probably Fogerty’s most satisfying post-Creedence album. “Don’t You Wish It Were True” could have been recorded in ’69 and “Summer Of Love” pays tribute to the ’60s. But it’s not all a ’60s flashback: “I Can’t Take It No More” is a Ramones-style punk blast that takes aim at the Bush administration (Fogerty name-checks his own CCR classic, calling Bush a “Fortunate Son”).

Critical Response: Pretty positive. Rolling Stone gave it three and a half stars, while Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+.
What stuck: Unfortunately, he doesn’t play much of the album in concert anymore, although “Gunslinger” still makes the setlists.

The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again - 2009

John Fogerty

This album serves a follow-up to Fogerty’s first post-CCR LP, 1973′s The Blue Ridge Rangers, which saw him playing all the instruments on an album of classic country covers. This time, he used other musicians but stuck with covers, including Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party” and the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved?” backed by a crack band including longtime drummer Kenny Aronoff and guitarist Buddy Miller.

Critical Response: Warm. Rolling Stone gave it three and a half stars. Many wondered why Fogerty didn’t write more new songs.
What Stuck: It was a fun exercise, but if fans want to hear Fogerty do covers, they’ll probably call out stuff he covered while in CCR: “I Put A Spell On You,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Midnight Special” or “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”

The Final Verdict: Fogerty’s songs in recent years didn’t shake the world the way Creedence songs did, nor did they burn up the charts a la his Centerfield hits. But Fogerty has often discussed not wanting to end up like his idol, Elvis Presley, playing only hits for a Vegas audience. While his shows lean heavily on CCR-era tunes, many of his recent solo albums hold up remarkably well, and reward repeated listens. After two albums of older material (there are two new songs on his latest album), we’re hoping that he writes some new songs for his next one.

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