CCR Review: COSMO’S FACTORY at 50

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Earlier this year, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Cosmo’s Factory celebrated 50 years of existence. Considered by many to be the group’s magnum opus, Cosmo’s features nearly every positive element the band had to offer, all polished into a fine, commercial package. 

You can get an idea of how I’m going to rule here by going to this post from February, but if you’re interested in a full track-by-track breakdown, keep scrolling!

Side A:

1. “Ramble Tamble”

Possibly the best album opener in CCR’s catalog, “Ramble Tamble” begins as something of a sequel to “Commotion” from the band’s Green River album. Like the latter track, RT opens with a harder-edged rock intro before shifting to a neo-rockabilly feel. Also like “Commotion,” “Ramble Tamble” laments the socio-political climate of the period with lines such as “There’s garbage on the sidewalk / Highways in the back yard / Police on the corner / Mortgage on the car.” Both songs are even in the key of D.

However, after two blistering verses bookended by a brisk refrain, “Ramble Tamble” begins switching gears, gradually slowing to a stop over the course of 20 seconds. The respite is short-lived, though, as the band immediately returns, changing time, tempo, and, effectively, keys, beginning an Am, C, G, D chord progression.

Over the next four minutes, the experimental instrumentation incrementally builds in layers, intensity, and speed, culminating in an anthemic “wall of sound.” Clearly, the intent is to create a psychedelic jam-band feel, but this is no jam. No, this is master producer Fogerty meticulously directing the band to create one of their best works.

Then, around the 5:30 mark, just as quickly as it began, the epic experiment ends, and the rockabilly returns for Fogerty to wrap up the lyrics with a shot at the Nixon administration:

They’re selling independence
Actors in the White House
Acid in digestion
Mortgage on my life

The song is unquestionably one of the band’s best.

#3 – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Cuts

2. “Before You Accuse Me”

Keeping their tradition of including a handful of covers in their projects, the group proceeds with a rendition of Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me.” It may not be as inventive as their interpretations of other classics like “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Midnight Special,” but it’s a competent rendering featuring that unmistakeable Creedence sound.

3. “Travelin’ Band”

Speaking of “Good Golly Miss Molly,” the band was sued over the next track for its similarity to the Little Richard hit. Although eventually settled out of court, the lawsuit was ludicrous, as “Travelin’ Band” only sounds like “Miss Molly” in the way all  ’50s-style rock ’n’ roll songs do. The music is a spectacular homage to that era, while the lyrics chronicle touring musicians’ life on the road. TB is also one of six songs from Cosmo’s to hit the Billboard Top 5.

4. “Ooby Dooby”

A cover of a song originally released by Roy Orbison, “Ooby Dooby” is essentially the original version with John singing—which, for a CCR and Roy fanatic like me, is a winning combo.

5. “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”

Another Billboard hit, “Lookin’ Out My Backdoor” is perhaps the apex of Creedence’s country/folk/rock sound. The laid-back feel and Dr. Seuss-inspired lyrics make for a happy, toe-tapping sing-a-long.

6. “Run Through the Jungle”

A metaphorical commentary on the Vietnam War, “Run Through the Jungle” presents a darker, harder side of the CCR swamp sound—and yields another deserving Billboard hit.

Side B:

1. “Up Around the Bend”

Side B kicks off with hit #4. Opening with one of Fogerty’s most recognizable licks, “Up Around the Bend” is an iconic ‘70s rock song, and with its head-bobbing groove and lyrics about traveling, it’s the quintessential “driving song.” I may not own a convertible, but if I did, “Up Around the Bend” would be at the top of my open-road playlist every summer.

2. “My Baby Left Me”

The band’s rendition of this Billy Crudup R&B tune is more than fine but also the weakest track on the record. Personally, I would have preferred another Crudup tune, “That’s All Right,” which is essentially “My Baby Left Me” with different lyrics.

3. “Who’ll Stop the Rain”

Cosmo’s fifth hit single, “Who’ll Stop the Rain” is not only perhaps the most recognizable song from the album but possibly the greatest ballad of a generation. Inspired by CCR’s not-so-spectacular Woodstock experience, the song incorporates many cultural themes of the day through the use of vivid imagery and sets them atop a melancholy, country/rock tune, with folk sensibilities. 

4. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”

While a slimmed-down edition would earn CCR a final hit 4 years after their breakup, the 11-minute jam cut of “Grapevine” included here showcases the exceptional musicianship of the group. For my money, their rendition is the best version of the song ever produced, Marvin Gaye’s included. 

5. “Long As I Can See the Light”

As perfect as “Ramble Tamble” was as the album opener, “Long As I Can See the Light” is equally exceptional as the closer. A slow-blues tune, ”Light” evokes images of weariness, restlessness, longing, loneliness, and wandering. Yet it’s ultimately an uplifting song about homecoming. There’s a distinct gospel and spiritual feel to the entire affair, and the song’s “candle in the widow” could easily be construed as the Light on the other side of this world. 

(On a side note, it’s my favorite song of all time.)

The album may not be as coherent as, say, Willy and the Poor Boys, but the individual tracks are so good, coherency is rendered irrelevant.

Conclusion:

Packing in a fantastic selection of covers and peak quality originals, Cosmo’s Factory is not only Creedence’s best album but one of the greatest albums ever produced by anyone.

Rating:  10/10

*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form! – Cole

Review: Creedence Clearwater Revival – PENDULUM (50th Anniversary)

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*A version of this review originally appeared on Southern Senses 12/07/15.


 

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Pendulum, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s sixth album and the last to feature all four members of the group. The record, which followed the band’s most successful effort, Cosmos’s Factory (released earlier the same year), was seen as a comparative failure at the time by both critics and fans. In retrospect, however, the album has been viewed more favorably as demonstrative evidence that the group was capable of far more than 2 and 1/2 minute hit singles. 

Side A: 

1. “Pagan Baby”

The album kicks off in classic CCR fashion: hard-hitting swamp rock driven by Fogerty’s signature guitar licks and vocal howling. What separates this track from previous efforts is the upward tempo shift a little over 1/3 of the way through, followed by an extended jam segment. Although the tune is many of the band’s strengths in a nutshell, the track is not indicative of the rest of the album…for better and worse. 

2. “Sailor’s Lament”

About as odd of a tonal shift as could be, track 2 is a quirky little ditty with folk-influenced lyrics and soul sensibilities. The entire band delivering hi-pitched backing vocals throughout the track is a bit weird, but effective. The track benefits from the introduction of Stu Cook’s funky-ish bass and Fogerty’s saxophone section. This is the track the signals the listener: This is not a typical Creedence record. 

3. “Chameleon” 

Another interesting choice for the band, “Chameleon” is a straight-forward, up-tempo Motown, tune replete with a boisterous horn section. It’s reminiscent of “Call It Pretending,” a largely unknown tune from the group which was both the last single to be released under the “Golliwogs” moniker and the first to be released under CCR. This track continues to show that the band (particularly J. Fogerty) is not confined to a particular genre. 

4. “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” 

Indisputably the best track on the record, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” is another enduring Fogerty classic which has withstood the test of time. From its signature bass line to its unforgettable lyric hook, everything about this song is magnificent. The lyrics are a metaphor discussing (and dare I say “prophesying”) the pending demise of the band. A sad fact, but one which makes the track that much more poignant. Another element that I’ve rarely heard discussed is the elevation that Fogerty’s organ work adds to the second half of the track. (Spoiler Alert: The instrument becomes more prominent as the record continues.) Despite being the best song here, it’s also probably the most “safe” tune, as it hearkens back to the softer pop/rock side the group displayed in past endeavors. 

5. “Wish I Could Hideaway” 

Possibly the saddest song Fogerty has ever written, “Wish I Could Hideaway” metaphorically chronicles the breakdown of John’s relationship with brother and bandmate, Tom. The lyrics are set atop a dark, haunting chord-progression, expertly delivered by John on organ. The lines “What’s there to say? / We’re all bound for the graveyard / Ooh I wish you well” are particularly powerful, considering the brothers’ ultimate lack of reconciliation.

Side B: 

1. “Born to Move” 

Side B kicks off with my second favorite track from the record, “Born to Move.” The track is a severely underrated dance jam, with more of Fogerty’s spectacular organ and horn work and Cook’s funk-bass. It’s clear here that Fogerty is taking his organ cues from then-ultra-hip band and friends Booker T. and MGs. 

2. “Hey Tonight” 

The the second half of the album’s double-A-sided single (w/“Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” ), “Hey Tonight” is also the only other well-known song from Pendulum. There are elements of classic CCR here, including a signature intro, but there is something undeniably “‘70s” about the track that denies it the timeless quality of most of the band’s hits. 

3. “It’s Just a Thought”

My third favorite track from the record, “It’s Just a Thought” is perhaps the oddest bird out of the record’s many odd birds. Here, Fogerty waxes poetic about the fleeting nature and general incomprehensibility of life. It’s a melancholy, mid-tempo tune driven by more funky-sounding bass and organ work. 

4. “Molina” 

For years, the only CCR song I claimed to not like on any level; however, I eventually came around. Yes, I like “Molina” too. It’s a throw-back, ‘50s rock ’n’ roller replete with more great sax work from Fogerty. Still, it isn’t as fun or inventive as other throwbacks like “Travelin’ Band” and “It Came Out of the Sky.” 

5. “Rude Awakening #2” 

Probably the most maligned John Fogerty composition in CCR’s catalog, “Rude Awakening #2” is a rare instrumental from the group. It starts off beautifully, takes a very dark and engaging turn, gets a little too weird, then finally derails into near-unlistenable audio garbage somewhere around the 4:20 mark. Like much of the album, “Rude Awakening” seems to be an attempt by Fogerty to silence critics who claimed that the group was a “singles band,” incapable of producing a “rock album” and jam tracks. Until about 3 and a half minutes in, the track sounds like something Led Zeppelin would’ve produced around the same time, though with Zeppelin, Robert Plant would likely have been singing, and later, screaming, words over the music. And perhaps that’s what this track needed: Fogerty howling. Maybe that and the last three minutes scrapped or replaced with something listenable. 

Overall, the album isn’t the group’s best effort, but it is definitely their most original and well-produced. I would’ve loved to have heard a follow-up with more organ and sax from J. Fogerty, more funky bass sounds from Cook, and more jam tunes that showcased the excellent musicianship of the group. But unfortunately, the record’s relative failure was the tipping point of increasing tension in the band. Tom Fogerty left CCR within a month after the album’s release, and the fractured collaborative effort of the remaining trio yielded the band’s swan song (“swan album”?), the universally panned Mardi Gras. 

Final verdict: A record which highlighted the best of the band’s established attributes while demonstrating their capability of much more, Pendulum stands as a must-listen for all CCR and John Fogerty fans, fifty years later. 

Rating: 9/10


*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form! – Cole

Every John Fogerty Studio Album Ranked

Today, John Fogerty dropped the expanded edition of his live-from-quarantine family band project, Fogerty’s Factory, and to celebrate, I’m counting down all ten JF studio albums from worst to best.

10. Eye of the Zombie (1986) – 2/10


 

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Coming off the smash success of Centerfield, Fogerty went all-in on exploring ’80s studio sounds, and…the results were less than stellar. The songs sound like over-produced ’80s fare, but not quite mainstream enough to be successful as such.

The singular exception is “Change in the Weather,” a less produced, swampy tune that hearkens back to John’s CCR days. But even this tune is hampered by production trends of the period and, thus, doesn’t quite live up to its older brothers.

9. Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again (2009) – 4/10


 

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Thirty-six years after his original one-man country band experiment, Fogerty returned with a hotly anticipated sequel. Unfortunately, Rides Again fails to hit most of the marks that made the first outing so interesting.

Whereas the original Rangers featured a prime-voiced Fogerty belting out unique renditions of classic country/western tunes (while also playing every single instrument on the record), the follow-up finds the mellower, more nasally elder John crooning mostly safe covers with an ace backing band (including the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, and Timothy B. Schmidt.)

That doesn’t sound too bad on paper, but in practice, the result is far less satisfying. (A notable exception on the project is a rawer, more Creedenc-y remake of the aforementioned “Change in the Weather.”)

8. Revival (2007) – 5/10


 

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Returning to Fantasy Records in 2005, Fogerty appeared poised to embrace his Creedence past with the seasoned sensibilities of a sage veteran and deliver a truly special project. I feel I’m in a minority here, but I think Revival fell far short of its potential.

Although it garnered Fogerty a Grammy nod for Best Rock Album, for me, the effort was less an homage to, or continuation of, John’s glory days, than a repetition of much better work that had gone before. The country/folk tunes “Don’t You Wish It Were True” and “Broken Down Cowboy” are probably the best songs on the record, primarily because the older Fogerty’s voice and songwriting fit better with the genre. 

Lyrically, the project is bogged down by heavy-handed, now incredibly dated political commentary, mostly directed at then-president George W. Bush. Fogerty has always been political, of course, but the beauty of politically charged classics like “Fortunate Son,” “Run Through the Jungle,” and “Ramble Tamble” is in the timelessness.

Even though the U.S. military draft has been inactive for some time now, “Fortunate Son” still plays well on the radio. Conversely, Revival lyrics that name drop Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney already have the majority of the post-millennial generation scratching their heads and saying, “Who?” (If any of that generation is actually listening, that is.)

7. Deja Vu (All Over Again) (2004) – 6/10


 

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Fogerty’s first album of new material since the Grammy-winning Blue Moon Swamp was a decidedly mixed bag. As with most of John’s later material, the album’s strength lies in softer, “folkier” material like the Roger Miller-esque “Honey Do,” the sweetly sentimental “I Will Walk with You,” and the rare Fogerty love song “Sugar, Sugar (In My Life),” probably the best song on the record. (It’s certainly the catchiest and my personal favorite.)

Other tunes don’t fare so well. The title track, for instance, sounds like a musical rehash of “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” while lyrics equating Vietnam with Iraq ring hollow. Meanwhile, Fogerty’s attempts at punk (“She’s Got Baggage”) and hard rock (“In the Garden”) fall flat.

6. Wrote a Song for Everyone (2013) – 6/10


 

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The star-studded duet album. It’s certainly…interesting to hear legends and hot modern artists collaborate with Fogerty on unique versions of some of the Master Swamper’s best songs, though the tunes featuring country artists land the best—no surprise considering Fogerty’s gravitation toward country in his later years.

The best songs on the record, however, aren’t the duet remakes; they’re the two new original solo tracks, “Mystic Highway” and “Train of Fools.” Both tunes are catchy and unmistakably Fogerty, with “Mystic” channeling a country/folk sound somewhere between Willy and the Poor Boys and Blue Moon Swamp and “Train” leaning into the patented CCR swamp vibe. Here’s hoping John uses these two tunes as a template for the next album.

5. Hoodoo (1976) – 7/10


 

Having never been officially released (thus, no cover banner), Hoodoo is the stuff of legends. I’ve reviewed the record at length before, but in short, it isn’t as bad as John and the Asylum Records people thought at the time.

Basically, many of the best songs on the record sounded outdated for 1976, and the tunes that tried to channel then-current music trends mostly didn’t work. Still, there are some spectacular tracks on the record (“Evil Thing,” “Telephone,” and “Leave My Woman Alone”), and it’s the last time Fogerty can be heard sounding like his old Creedence self.

4. Blue Ridge Rangers (1973) – 8/10


 

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 As strange as a post-CCR, pseudonymous, one-man-band, country/western cover project sounds, Blue Ridge Rangers is actually a fine record.

John’s choice of covers is ever interesting, and while some tracks are competent, reverent renditions of old favorites, Fogerty shines the most with clever, blues- and rock-infused arrangements of classics like Hank Williams’s “Jambalaya” and gospel standard “Working on a Building.”

3. Centerfield (1985) – 9/10


 

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Considering songs like “Old Man Down the Road” and the title track, it’s no wonder Fogerty’s iconic comeback record is also his most popular solo LP. Honestly, though, I’m not personally a huge fan of the record.

I have an aversion to ’80s music in general, and Centerfield is steeped in musical trends of the decade. Even the “Green River”-esque  “Old Man” is, in my eyes, held back by an electronic drum sound. Still, with Centerfield, Fogerty achieved something he never had before nor ever has since:

He successfully adapted his classic music sensibilities to a newer commercial era.

And for that feat, Centerfield sits at #3.

2. Blue Moon Swamp (1997) – 9/10


 

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The Grammy-winning second comeback album.

I reviewed BMS in greater depth several years ago, but for this list, I’ll simply say that Fogerty managed to create a post-CCR blend of country, folk, rock, and blues that felt simultaneously familiar and original. There are some lesser tracks, but the standouts more than make up for the deficiencies. 

1. John Fogerty (1975) – 10/10


 

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Another record I’ve touched on before, John’s eponymous sophomore effort tops the list because…well, it’s the most “CCR” album in Fogerty’s solo catalog. John’s voice is at its howilin’ prime, and his guitar work ain’t far behind.

Any song on here could’ve easily been on a Creedence record. Originals like “Rockin’ All Over the World” and “Almost Saturday Night” are as singularly iconic as any of Fogerty’s CCR work, and the cover choices are excellent.

Sure, in 1975, the project was considered “dated” and was essentially a flop. But good music is good music regardless of perception, and I remain optimistic that, one day, JF will be widely recognized as a woefully underrated work.

Bonus Album: Premonition (1998) – 9/10

Recorded in front of a live studio audience, Premonition was on the borderline of being numbered in the main list. Why? Although I was unable to verify the claims, it’s been alleged that Fogerty engaged in some post-production studio overdubbing, which would explain why the album was not originally marketed as a “live” release.

Whether truly live or studio-finagled, Fogerty’s mature renditions of classics and under-the-radar tunes are masterful, and his performances of a few BMS tunes may be better here than on studio cuts, particularly the kicked-up “Joy of My Life.”

*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form!

Review: Four Way Stop – LANDMARK LIVE SESSIONS (2020)

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After a stellar first appearance on the Landmark Live concert series, Mississippi band Four Way Stop returned to the platform with a mission: record and release a live EP.

Culled from some four hours of live-tracked music, the Landmark Live Sessions features renditions of some of the band’s most popular tunes.

From Zeppelin and Crowes covers to signature originals, this debut release features the best of the group’s “classically soaked” brand of rock.

1. “Wicked Woman”

The band kicks off the record with “Wicked Woman,” an original penned by singers/guitarists Ryan Purser and Kyle Graves. The song is a swaggering rocker about a femme fatale and reminiscent of the work of another current throw-back band, Greta Van Fleet. Unlike GVF, however, “Wicked Woman” sounds less like a Zeppelin rip-off and more like a Zeppelin homage with a signature stamp—much like Four Way Stop as a whole.

2. “Whole Lotta Love”

The group keeps the energy high with a reverent version of Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” There isn’t necessarily anything that sets this version apart from the original, but, from Purser’s Plant-esque wailing to drummer Wyatt Brady’s hammering licks, FWS’s execution is masterful.

3. “Caliente/Blueberry Jam”

Next, the band switches gears a bit with an original instrumental jam, probably the best track on the EP. The “Caliente” portion, written by bassist/keyboardist Joe Cranfield, is a keys-based romp with a Latin groove. Graves overlays smooth jazz-tinned licks until the song begins transitioning to Graves’s own “Blueberry” section. The transition plays like the jazzier side of the Allmans, perfectly segueing into the slow, blues-rock closing segment, which sees Graves slaying on axe.

The song is a masterpiece of musicianship, but with one curious element: Cranfield’s keys drop out on the transition. It’s unclear what the creative intent was there, but, for me, it’s a notable distraction. Regardless, it’s a minor flaw in an otherwise spectacular track.

4. “Morning Song”

Penned and sung by Graves, “Morning Song” is another “Van Fleet-ian” tune, but Graves’s lower, more country-rock voice lends enough differentiation to the track to separate it from similar ilk. 

Aside from a few pitch problems on the vocals, the track is another solid offering and sports the best lyrics on the record:

Hey, darling, wanna be my lover? 
How can I be another?  
Come show me some mercy. 
Take me where I can dance in the streets.
Forget reserved seats. 
Let’s write a new story. 
 

It’s a standard flirty theme, but the “streets/seats” bit is a creative metaphor which, to my knowledge, is wholly unique to this song.

5. “Everlong”

A Foo Fighters cover, “Everlong” is distinguished by Purser’s “Southern grunge” vocalizing and Brady’s channeling of his inner-Dave Grohl on kit.

6. “Hard to Handle”

Technically an Otis Redding song, Four Way Stop’s version is clearly based on The Black Crowes’ hit cover, with vocalist Graves doing his best Chris Robinson. It’s a great sound for Graves, and the song’s sassy, country/blues/rock vibe serves as the perfect closer to the project.

As a whole, there’s only one criticism I’d lob at the record, and it’s probably just me. I watched the performances when they were originally streamed and, from the audience perspective, Purser is on the left, Graves right. On the EP mix, the two band members’ guitars are directionally inverted, with Purser’s on the right and Graves left. Meaning, if this mixed audio were synced over the original performance video, the audience would be hearing the instruments coming from opposite directions from their physical location. 

Yeah, no such video exists that I know of, and even if it did, most people wouldn’t notice or care. It’s simply unclear why the record was mixed from a stage perspective, and, for me, the decision is a bit bothersome.

I know. I wax critical over minutia.

Bottom line:

With a perfect tracklist, exemplary musicianship, and a fitting raw sound, Landmark Live Sessions marks a strong debut for a rising, retro rock band.

Rating: 9/10


 

Four Way Stop
is
Ryan Purser – Vocals/Rhythm Guitar
Kyle Graves – Vocals/Lead Guitar
Joe Cranfield – Bass/Keys
Wyatt Brady – Drums
 
Recorded by Topher Brown at Landmark Live
Mixed by Brennan White at The Fairview Sound
 
Cover art by Autumn Hendrix
From original photography by Lizzy Tate
 

*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form!

Book Review: KING’S FOLLY (KINSMAN CHRONICLES Book 1) – Jill Williamson (2016)

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Written as a clean alternative to modern fantasies such as A Song of Fire and Ice, King’s Folly serves as an outstanding inaugural installment to the epic Kinsman Chronicles saga. Though it’s targeted to a Christian audience, the book never shies away from mature themes; instead, it opts to present adult content delicately, refraining from graphic descriptions and never glorifying immoral behavior. 

The ensemble cast of characters is expansive but perfectly balanced, and, whether dealing in physical landscapes, intra-kingdom politics, or fractious religious sects, the world-building is exemplary. Williamson also draws from other genres, including western and spy thriller, deftly blending a variety of elements with standard high fantasy tropes. 

For me, the only weak point of the entire affair is the frequent occurrences of one character recounting to another character events which the reader has already witnessed unfold. These instances seem to be presented to further flesh out character dynamics through a question-and-answer-flow dialog. Sometimes, it works; other times, it feels repetitive and slows down the narrative pacing. Still, this is a minor criticism and not a grievous enough offense to detract from the novel’s overall excellence. In fact, it may just be a personal problem on my part!

With all the black magic, palace intrigue, and shocking plot twists, King’s Folly is ready-made for a live-action TV adaptation—which, unfortunately, will probably never happen due to the Kinsman saga’s status as “Christian fantasy” (though not a single reader nor Hollywood executive bats an eye at Lord of the Rings or Narnia, two blatantly religious fantasies from unabashedly Christian authors). It’s a true shame, because Williamson’s book is seriously that good.

Rating: 10/10

 


(This review originally appeared on this site as part of Cole Powell’s 2019 Reading List feature.)

Mini Book Review: BLEAK HOUSE – Charles Dickens (1852)

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A bit of a departure for Dickens, Bleak House sports two distinct narrators and narration styles: a third-person omniscient, presenting the story in present tense, and a first-person limited, recounting portions of the tale in past tense. 

Surprisingly, Dickens delivers a far more engaging narrative using the latter voice, a young woman named Esther Summerson, bringing a genuine feminine touch and an almost Austenian quality to the work. The style feels natural, and, unlike many other instances in Dickens’s novels, the primary female protagonist seems like a “real woman.“

By contrast, the omniscient third person, while not that far from Dickens’s usual style, reads unusually overly descriptive and dull (though the acerbic tone employed throughout, intended to skewer the British court system and politics of the time, is good for a few laughs). These tendencies of excess and drollness, however, eventually bleed into Esther’s narrative, resulting in a climax and epilogue, which should have taken no more than fifty pages, ballooning to three times that number. 

It’s a fine novel, but far from the upper echelon of Dickensian canon. 

Rating: 8/10


 

(This review originally published on this site as part of Cole Powell’s 2019 Reading List.)


 

Southern Senses Archive: John Fogerty – BLUE MOON SWAMP (1997) Review

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Original version published 09/14/15 on Southern Senses


 

Having successfully revived (pardon the pun…or don’t) his career numerous times throughout the decades, former Creedence frontman John Fogerty could rightly be known in the industry as “The King of Comebacks.” But perhaps no single career revival (punnier) has served as more of a reminder of Fogerty’s greatness, nor has stood the test of time as well, as Blue Moon Swamp. The album is a country and rock blend at its finest—a mesh which Fogerty helped bring to the forefront of popular music almost three decades earlier. After it’s original release in 1997, the record was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album, and here’s why:

01. “Southern Streamline”

If you want to appeal to a Southern audience, sing about a train. The lighthearted romance theme coupled with the “peppy” side of Fogerty’s signature CCR sensibilities makes the track one of the best upbeat songs Fogerty has penned this side of “Bad Moon Rising.”

03. “Blueboy”

A signature opening lick (something which set most of Fogerty’s CCR tunes apart from the proverbial “pack”) is gloriously present in “Blueboy.” Lyrically, the song paints a scene of by-gone, simpler times when country folk gathered in town on Saturday to watch a local boy play his guitar.

04. “A Hundred and Ten in the Shade”

One of the best tracks on the record, “A Hundred and Ten in the Shade” is a blues-based tune permeated by Fogerty’s patented swamp rock sound. The addition of The Fairfield Four on vocals gives a fitting spiritual quality to the “fingers-to-the-bone” work depicted in Fogerty’s lyrical lamentations.

06. “Bring It Down to Jelly Roll”

As a songwriter, I don’t think I would ever use the word tandem “jelly roll” in my tunes. Offhand, it seems “Jelly Roll” is the name of a club or joint, and Fogerty is telling the listener to “bring it down to Jelly Roll” for a one of a kind good time. Still, I’ve never heard of Fogerty addressing the meaning directly, but according to the internet consensus (Isn’t that all that matters in these days?), the tune is a tribute to New Orleans jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton. Regardless, “Jelly Roll” the song is a rockin’, Southern-dripping track reminiscent of the Stones’ “Honkey Tonk Women” and has remained one of my favorite BMS tracks from first listen.

09. “Rambunctious Boy”

Beginning with bluegrass-themed, a cappella harmony featuring The Lonesome River Band, followed by a short burst of mandolin, “Rambunctious Boy” is prime example of Fogerty excellence. The track ultimately feels like something The Eagles would have been proud to have produced.

10. “Joy of My Life”

“Joy of My Life” is Fogerty’s favorite track from the record, and incidentally, it’s mine too. A beautiful love song Fogerty penned for his wife Julie, “Joy of My Life” is by far the sweetest, most romantic thing Fogerty has ever produced and is only enhanced by Fogerty’s wonderfully appealing dobro licks. I contend that had this song been released by any major, mainstream, male country music artist at any point in the last 20 years, it would have been a mammoth hit.

11. “Blue Moon Nights”

Rounding out the Blue Moon Swamp Top Tracks is the almost-title track “Blue Moon Nights.” “BMN” is a happy little ditty that, though much more stripped than most of its brethren, ultimately serves as one of the best reminders of Fogerty’s rockabilly roots and why, after nearly 50 years, Fogerty has remained an American music staple.

Album Rating: 9/10 (Original: 4/5)

 

Sub Categories: Rock, Country, Country/Rock, Americana, Roots Rock, Swamp Rock, Blues Rock

Review: Landmark Live Concert Series – Four Way Stop

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Four Way Stop. L-R: Ryan Purser, Wyatt Brady, Kyle Graves, Joe Cranfield. Photography by Lizzy Tate.

Last night in Jackson, MS, Landmark Live’s Streaming Concert Series featured up-and-coming rock group Four Way Stop, and I am pleased to report the band delivered.

 
The Mississippi-based quartet kicked off the night with a reverent cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” Although lead singer Ryan Purser seemed to hold back a bit on the opener, he spent the rest of the evening belting out the high notes to more complex Zeppelin covers, as well as the likes of Greta Van Fleet’s “Highway Tune” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” 
 
Lead guitarist/secondary vocalist Kyle Graves added a nice juxtaposition to Purser’s wailing with vocal stylings reminiscent of Chris Robinson, most noticeably on the band’s version of “Hard to Handle.”
 
Meanwhile, drummer Wyatt Brady didn’t miss a single beat on even the most percussively difficult tunes, and multi-instrumentalist Joe Cranfield effortlessly switched from bass to keys, creating a pleasantly unexpected differentiation to the set’s flow.
 
Based on the Zep covers and similar ilk, as well as the two originals the band performed (including a jaw-dropping extended instrumental), FWS is obviously shooting for a throw-back hard rock sound. But, in addition to the aforementioned “Hard to Handle,” the group slid in a few spectacular versions of country-blues rock tracks, including Allman’s “Midnight Rider,” Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See,” CCR’s “Keep on Chooglin’,” and a rocked out version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” (The last of which Graves stole from me, but whatever. Really, it’s fine. Seriously. Peachy! You’re welcome, Kyle! Also, you’re dead to me.)
 
The country-blues stuff coupled with the alternating lead vocalists creates a strong Eagles vibes, and what self-respecting, classic-inspired rock act wouldn’t want to be described as a Zeppelin-meets-Eagles hybrid? Well, there probably are some, but I don’t think these guys will take offense.
 
The main criticism of the affair would be the occasional pitchy-ness of both singers, although I’ve rarely heard an act, indie or major (myself included!), make it through a night pitch perfect. The vocals were also buried in the music early in the evening, but the mic volumes were raised as the show progressed, no doubt owed to expert noodling by MC/engineer Topher Brown, a Mississippi legend in his own right.
 
In short, the concert was a resounding success, providing an antidote for COVID-19 Quarantine Blues and showcasing an exceptional young band, well-worth keeping an eye on.

Links:
 
Four Way Stop – Instagram  | Facebook
 
Landmark Live Facebook


5 Favorite Albums


The post title speaks for itself, so without further ado, here are my five favorite albums as of February 2020:

 
5. John Fogerty (1975) – John Fogerty 

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As a solo artist, John Fogerty never sounded as much like CCR as he did on his eponymous sophomore record. 
 
Uptempo anthem “Rockin’ All Over the World” and swampy “The Wall” both sound like they could’ve been from one of Creedence’s ’69 or ’70 masterpieces. Meanwhile, “Travelin’ High” plays like a funkier sequel to “Travelin’ Band,” and “Where the River Flows,” though not Fogerty’s most ground-breaking writing, is a fine country/rock ballad. Also as with CCR records, the cover selections here are excellent, featuring Fogerty belting out his own renditions of “You Rascal You,” “Lonely Teardrops,” and “Sea Cruise.” 
 
Unfortunately, the self-titled release was also the last time on an official album that Fogerty’s vocals were unmistakably recognizable as belonging to “the Creedence guy.” But that status as the last bastion of Fogerty’s classic sound is probably the biggest draw for me.
 
4. Get Born (2003) – Jet

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The Aussie rock ’n’ roller’s debut is a classic rock fan’s dream. 
 
From harder-edged Chuck Berrian sounds (“Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”), to pop/rock ballads seemingly ripped straight from The Beatles’ catalog (“Look What You’ve Done”), to Dylanesque country/folk ballads (“Move On”), the album sported one catchy, memorable, and listenable tune after another during a time when such a combination was scarce to come by. (Not that it’s any less rare now.) 
 
Though some may find the songs too derivative (or down right thieved), or point out that others had already done it better, I found Jet’s “new old music” on Get Born to be a breath of fresh air in the 2000s—and I still do today.
 
[Language warning on a couple of tracks.]
 
3. Redux (2019) – Me!

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Now, I know what you’re thinking—narcissism, shameless, cheap self-promotion—but bare with me. 
 
When I first started writing songs, I thought all of them were great just because they were songs. It wasn’t long before I realized that wasn’t the case, and I started making a concerted effort to detach myself from the perspective of creator and view the work from other vantage points. During the writing process, I began casting my eye as a music critic, attempting to determine the quality of creative choices while crafting the music. Then, after the songs were completed, I assumed the perspective of a music fan, asking the simple question, “If this were somebody else’s music, would I like it?” Although it’s been 6-9 years since their original composition, in the case of the Redux songs, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” 
 
I still like them. No, I love them, and that isn’t something I can say about every song I’ve produced. The tracks combine many of the elements I like most about music (piano pop/rock, acoustic folk, blues, ‘90s alternative), and, sonically, the Redux mixes/masters are the best the tunes have sounded. 
 
(And now for a true display of shameless, cheap promotion, check out these sweet liner notes for more album info!)
 
2. Abbey Road (1969) – The Beatles


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Though Let It Be was post-produced and released later, Abbey Road is truly The Beatles’ last record. And what a record it is! 
 
From classics “Come Together,” “Something,” and “Here Comes the Sun,” to an 8-song medley on the flip side, preceded by the haunting, 3-part. 9-vocal harmony track, “Because,” there isn’t a skipper in the bunch. The album also contains my favorite Beatles song of all time, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” I know many hated the track (John Lennon included!), but lyrics about a serial killer set to a peppy, vaudevillian jaunt? Now, who wouldn’t love that? Ok. Well. I still like it and think it’s genius. 
 
In short, I’m not sure there could’ve been a better swan song, or swan album, for the legendary group than Abbey Road. 
 
1. Cosmo’s Factory (1970) – Creedence Clearwater Revival


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My favorite album of all time by my favorite band of all time, containing my favorite song of all time.
 
For me, Cosmo’s Factory is the cream of the crop. In addition to the six—yes, SIX—Billboard Top 10 hits on the record (“Travelin’ Band,” Who’ll Stop the Rain,” Up Around the Bend,” “Run Through the Jungle,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” and my afore-referenced all-time favorite, “Long As I Can See the Light”), Cosmo’s also sports the original rockabilly/progressive-ish rock hybrid “Ramble Tamble” and an 11-minute jam version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” 
 
What else do I need to say? Cosmo’s is simply the best of the best. 
 
Honorable Mention:
 

I had quite a difficult time deciding between John Fogerty and The Beatles’ White Album for the #5 slot. Though Fogerty won out, if I had to choose only one of the two albums to listen to exclusively forever, I would sorely miss “Rocky Raccoon.”


 

 

January 2020 Watchlist

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Though there are a few excepted instances, I spent most of January’s limited viewing time strolling through the Disney+ library, watching both newer releases I had yet to see and revisiting some old favorites.
 
Aladdin (2019) – 5/10
 
An unnecessary rewrite of the original script results in an overly complicated plot, overly lengthy run time, and, ultimately, yet another superfluous live-action remake of a Disney animated heavyweight.
 
Amy (1981) – 7/10
 
While a competently produced period drama, Amy would’ve worked better either produced “as is” in the ’60s or with a better cast and crew in the 2000s.
 
Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) – 10/10
 
A witty, charming Irish fantasy, featuring spectacular special effects, a serious, frightening climax, and a pre-James Bond Sean Connery.
 
Dumbo (2019) – 7/10
 
Though there’s still little point to its existence, the filmmakers’ decision to adapt the original in the first 45 minutes of this rendition, then play the remainder as a sequel story, lifts the film above its live-action remake brethren; Dumbo is also the best and brightest flick director Tim Burton has produced in years.
 
It Happened to Jane (1959) – 7/10
 
This minor Doris Day rom-com with an anti-corporate message is elevated by it’s ever-likable leads, Day and Jack Lemon.
 
Joker (2019) – 9/10
 
Despite mass reports to the contrary, Joker is not extraordinarily violent, disturbing, or a groundbreaking piece of comic book cinema; it is, however, a well-crafted psychological thriller, featuring a mesmerizing performance from Joaquin Phoenix and a few iconic comic book names tacked on for good measure. [Language, Graphic Violence, Adult Content]
 
Lady and the Tramp (2019) – 2/10
 
The 2019 Disney+ equivalent of a ’90s ABC Wonderful World of Disney film, except not even that good; the worst and most pointless live-action remake Disney has produced to date.
 
The Lion King (2019) – 6/10
 
Although this pseudo-live-action version is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the original, it lacks the wonder of that original animated classic, feeling instead like a rote, bland re-tread.
 
The Love Bug (1968) – 9/10
 
The endearing classic that started it all, The Love Bug isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but it is a quintessential example of imaginative, Disney family fun.
 
Moon (2009) – 10/10
 
Steeped in 2001 second act vibes and boasting incredible acting from Sam Rockwell, Moon is one of the best sci-fi flicks of the 21st century so far. [Language]
 
Mr. Holmes (2015) – 9/10
 
An engagingly unique Sherlock Holmes tale, crafted with BBC/Masterpiece period drama sensibilities.
 
 
Venom (2018) – 7/10
 
Despite its glaring flaws, including a few tasteless bits and a reality-abandoning third act, Venom sports an early- to mid-200os CBM sensibility that, by this point in genre history, rings as charmingly retro-chic instead of gratingly outdated. [Language]