TERRY GROSS, host:
When John Fogerty released the first "Blue Ridge Rangers" album in 1973, it was his first solo album after parting with Creedence Clearwater Revival. He played all the instruments himself and covered other people's songs, since at the time he was embroiled in a legal battle over the publishing rights to his Creedence Clearwater compositions. Now Fogerty has released "The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again." He's collaborating with other musicians, but again on a collection of cover recordings.
Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.
(Soundbite of song, "Change in the Weather")
Mr. JOHN FOGERTY (Musician): (Singing) Change in the weather, change in the weather, somethin's happenin' here...
KEN TUCKER: In 1973, John Fogerty's "Blue Ridge Rangers" album was at once his first collection of cover songs and the most freeze-dried music Fogerty has ever made. Always a studio perfectionist, Fogerty used the occasion to take the idea of a solo album literally. Freed from the humans known as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fogerty got perfectionism out of his system. One beneficial result is that now, 36 years later, he's turned the Blue Ridge Rangers into a free-form, shifting group of studio musicians, and his pleasure in collaboration is palpable.
(Soundbite of song, "Never Ending Song Of Love")
Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) I've got a never ending love for you. From now on that's all I wanna do. From the first time we met I knew I'd have a never ending love for you. I have got a never ending love for you. From now on that's all I want to do. From the first time we met I knew, I'd have a never ending love for you.
TUCKER: One thing this new collection proves is that for as much of a classic-rock artist as he's been pigeonholed, a big part of Fogerty's heart and mind resides in country music. This was always true to some extent. On Creedence albums ranging from Bayou Country to Cosmo's Factory, he's often phrased lyrics like a country singer. And here, on songs made famous by country singers as different as Buck Owens and Ray Price, Fogerty sings with a new expansiveness. His standard scratchy bark is loosened, lubricated by relaxing into the loping melodies he's selected.
(Soundbite of song, "I'll Be There")
Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) Well, there ain't no chains strong enough to hold me, ain't no breeze big enough to slow me, never have seen a river that's too wide. There ain't no jail tight enough to lock me, there ain't no man big enough to stop me. I'll be there if you ever want me by your side.
TUCKER: Fogerty is an open-minded musician. He doesn't hold mere prettiness or sentimentality against what he deems a good song. He hears past the cultural baggage a hit may carry. Thus he approaches John Denver's "Back Home Again" or Pat Boone's 1961 number one hit "Moody River" with an aim to juice up the music, scraping away its status as an oldie.
(Soundbite of song, "Moody River")
Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) Moody river, more deadly than the vainest knife. Moody river, your muddy water took my baby's life. Last Saturday evening came to the old oak tree, it stands beside the river where you were to meet me. On the ground your glove I found, with a note addressed to me. It read, dear love, I've done you wrong, now I must set you free.
TUCKER: Among the honorary Blue Ridge Rangers riding along with Fogerty are drummer Kenny Aronoff and the guitarist Buddy Miller, whom Fogerty credits with bringing the Ray Price hit "Fallin' Fallin' Fallin'" to his attention. It turns out to be one of the high points of the album, in Fogerty's arrangement a tight little piece of rocking western swing.
(Soundbite of song, "Fallin' Fallin' Fallin'")
Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) My heart is breaking darling and many tears are falling, falling, falling, falling just for you. My eyes are burning darling while my heart is sad and yearning, yearning, yearning, burning just for you. Oh you didn't have to go and leave me all alone. I'm sure you think that breaking hearts is fun. But someday you may find out when your new love is gone that deep down in your heart I'm still the one. I need you with me…
TUCKER: It's also nice to hear Fogerty and Bruce Springsteen - providing a hoarse, high harmony — take back the Phil Everly song "When Will I Be Loved" from the squishy 1974 hit record Linda Ronstadt made out of it. Fogerty returns to the song the Everly Brothers' sense of urgency and even heedless desperation.
(Soundbite of song, "When Will I Be Loved")
Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) I've been cheated, been mistreated. When will I be loved? I've been pushed down, I've been pushed round. When will I be loved?
TUCKER: Ultimately, "Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again" is John Fogerty's version of a party album. And for all its smiley cheerfulness, it centers around its creator's intensity. That maybe because for a once-and-future control freak, Fogerty derives pleasure from bearing down hard on light music. He demonstrates that pleasure can bear the weight of discipline and history.
(Soundbite of song, "When Will I Be Loved")
Mr. FOGERTY: (Singing) When I found a new girl that I want for mine, she always breaks my heart in two, it happens every time. I've been cheated, been mistreated. When will I be loved? When will I be loved? Tell me, when will I be loved? Tell me, when will I be loved?
GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed John Fogerty's new CD, "The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again."
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