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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
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