John Fogerty Previews New Album Featuring Foo Fighters, Miranda Lambert, Kid Rock (Video)
John Fogerty had for years taken the notion of a "solo" album literally -- sequestering himself in a studio and playing all the instruments. But those days, it seems, are long over.
“The real way to make music is with other people,” said the former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman on Thursday at a listening party for his upcoming collection of collaborations, Wrote a Song for Everyone. “Sharing it by yourself really sucks; you need to share it with others.
Featuring big-name acts updating CCR classics, along with a couple from his solo career and two new songs, the album is a solid addition to an accomplished career. And it's no wonder -- just take a look at the guest list: Bob Seger, Kid Rock, Foo Fighters, My Morning Jacket, Jennifer Hudson, Allen Toussaint, Dawes and Zac Brown Band.
Fogerty also produced the album, a process he called chaotic but rewarding. “I hate to give anyone credit,” said Fogerty, who famously engaged in some high-profile battles with industry suits, “but I kinda learned what record company people feel like when they have to deal with artists.”
The project immediately brings to mind Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee, last year’s surprise hit in which the pop/R&B crooner enlisted country acts to reinterpret his songs. But despite the presence of such big-name country singers as Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert on Wrote a Song, it hews more closely to See My Friends, the strong 2011 collaboration disc from Ray Davies -- a fellow ’60s iconoclast who still sounds great in his 60s.
The reminiscences, anecdotes and insights Fogerty offered Thursday were those of a man who’s finally comfortable in his own skin. After rocketing to worldwide fame with Creedence in the late-’60s then suffering through its bitter breakup in 1972, Fogerty has had a post-CCR career marked by wild highs and soul-crushing lows. His story is less a rock renaissance than a metamorphosis: The dark times aren’t even a dot in his rearview these days. It’s obvious in the exuberance of his live shows of the past decade and the songs that cracked through speakers on Revival, the 2007 album that’s arguably the best of his 40-year solo career.
As he’s done onstage and in interviews for many years, he talked often and reverentially Thursday about Julie, his wife of more than two decades, and children, two of whom helped him rework “Lodi” on the new record. And the joy of his life comes across on Wrote a Song for Everyone, through which a palpable happiness permeates, somehow even on such bleak songs as the title track -- a real standout -- and “Someday Never Comes.”
His reinvigoration becomes apparent with the album’s opening cut, a rip-snorting take on “Fortunate Son” he recorded with Foo Fighters (Fogerty appears on the Dave Grohl-directed documentary Sound City and has been touring with supergroup Sound City Players, which also includes Stevie Nicks and Rick Springfield). Although its lyrics remain sadly resonant in 2013, the 1969 classic shakes off its bitterness with a fiery arrangement. It has a collar-grab punch and guitar slap that backs up its middle-finger-to-entitlement themes but reeks of garage-generated rock ’n’ roll joy. “I’m really knocked out with it,” Fogerty said afterward.
Another highlight is the heartfelt take on “Who’ll Stop the Rain.” As interviewer David Wild noted before the track was played, it features perhaps Seger's best vocal of the past 20 years, accompanied by a “Night Moves”-like acoustic guitar and flecked with piano licks. Expect Jim Ladd -- who was in the audience Thursday -- to play that one on his SiriusXM show.
Speaking of radio, country programmers take note: Fogerty could have a hit on his hands with the down-home bliss that Zac Brown Band brings to “Bad Moon Rising.” As Fogerty noted, its original arrangement didn’t exactly match the foreboding lyrics, but this new one takes the Vietnam-era classic to uncharted territory: chicken-scratch guitar, muted harmonica, violin and keyboard fills, a clip-clop break that feed into a country breakdown -- all leading up to a complete spin on the final verse.
Then there’s the reworked “Wrote a Song for Everyone.” Lambert’s smoky vocal is stirring, but the original’s melancholy is shattered in a most unexpected way. Fogerty said he was searching for something to add after the song’s second verse. It was Lambert who suggested the left turn: “Face-melting guitar solo!”
“I looked at her, and that probably wasn’t what I was thinking about,” Fogerty said. “But I wasn’t gonna let her down and put some lame guitar part on it.” It was then he thought about a certain Rage Against the Machine guitarist who’s done a lot of work with Fogerty pal Bruce Springsteen lately. “I thought, ‘I’ll do a solo like Tom Morello.’ And that lasted about half a nanosecond. Then I said, ‘Let’s get Tom Morello.”
The resulting solo is wild -- sometimes recalling his knob-twisting Rage, sometimes not. The song is a gem, but that solo is likely to spook country radio, even if Morello’s in-your-face politics don’t.
Make no mistake; Wrote a Song for Everyone is a guitar record; nearly every track has some extra ax work. The prime example is “Hot Rod Heart,” a lesser-known track from Fogerty’s 1997 second-comeback album Blue Moon Swamp. The new version features Paisley engaging in a climatic battle with Fogerty, who called him “probably one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived.” (Never one to table a superlative, Fogerty later said of Jackson’s agreeing to do “Have You Ever Seen the Rain, “It’s like having Lincoln on your record.”)
He said Paisley picked the song -- seems that was the case with just about all the guests on the record -- and then challenged, “I wanna have a shootout, a guitar duel on Main Street.” Fogerty humbly complied, and the two trade licks for several minutes. The resulting “Hot Rod Heart” undeniably improves on the original, which always threatened to be tougher than it was. It also drew the biggest crowd response Thursday.
Another highlight of the album is “Almost Saturday Night,” the shoulda-been hit newly fueled by Urban’s banjo and guitar. Fogerty noted that he wrote it when he was enduring a divorce, the Creedence split and the beginning of his legal woes with Saul Zaentz and Fantasy Records. But the lyrics belie the circumstances: “Gonna push the clouds away/Let the music have its way/Let it steal my heart away.” “It was a really dark time for me,” he said, “and yet I wrote this really cheerful song right in the middle of it.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer punctuated Thursday’s event with a bracing coda: a stark, urgent, voice-and-electric-guitar reading of “Fortunate Son."
Wrote a Song for Everyone -- named by Julie Fogerty after the wildly underappeciated song on Creedence’s 1969 LP Green River -- will be the singer-songwriter-guitarist’s debut album for Vanguard Record and his first since 2009’s The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again, a covers set that included collaborations with Springsteen and the Eagles’ Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit. Announced nearly a year ago, Wrote a Song initially was planned for a fall 2012 release but was pushed back to give Fogerty more time to bring everything together. It’s now due May 28, his 68th birthday.
Here's the track list, with collaborators. Watch a trailer for the new album below:
1. Fortunate Son (with Foo Fighters)
2. Almost Saturday Night (with Keith Urban)
3. Lodi (with Shane Fogerty and Tyler Fogerty)
4. Mystic Highway (new John Fogerty solo)
5. Wrote a Song for Everyone (with Miranda Lambert and Tom Morello)
6. Bad Moon Rising (with Zac Brown Band)
7. Long As I Can See the Light (with My Morning Jacket)
8. Born on the Bayou (with Kid Rock)
9. Train of Fools (new John Fogerty solo)
10. Someday Never Comes (with Dawes)
11. Who'll Stop the Rain (with Bob Seger)
12. Hot Rod Heart (with Brad Paisley)
13. Have You Ever Seen the Rain? (with Alan Jackson)
14. Proud Mary (with Jennifer Hudson feat. Allen Toussaint and the Rebirth Brass Band)