Thursday, April 22, 2010

John Fogerty hit post-CCR peak with 'Blue Moon Swamp'

John Fogerty's career after Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up may be the most fascinating of any artist who was in a big-name band. In only four years, he wrote more than a dozen bonafide rock and roll classics. CCR released all seven of its albums between 1968 and 1972, and more of the same was expected of him when the band broke up.

However, it did not work out that way. He released two albums and had a third withdrawn from release in the first few years of his solo career. The creative juices were not flowing for a variety of reasons, so it would not be until 1985 that he released his next album. Centerfield has been his most commercially successful solo album, hitting the top of the album chart and going platinum in '85. Still, after the release of the disappointing Eye of the Zombie the following year, he again disappeared for a decade.

As early as 1993, there was word of him working on an album but the years went by with no release. Finally, in 1997, he released Blue Moon Swamp, which is his most artistically satisfying solo album to date.

The song 'A Hundred and Ten in the Shade' may be the best song Fogerty has ever written. Delivered with a slow and swampy sound, its lyrics communicate the isolation and despair a poor person would feel when living in the hot and humid South. Accompanied by The Fairfield Four, it is one of the rare moments when excellent lyrics blend perfectly with its musical arrangement.

Other songs like 'Southern Streamline' and 'Rambunctious Boy' rock joyfully, while 'Swamp River Days' shows how fun reminiscing about the past can be. 'Joy of My Life' is the most straightforward love song Fogerty has ever written, and he plays some tasty dobro on it.

The album won Fogerty his first Grammy, which was for Best Rock Album. However, from a commercial standpoint, it barely made the top 40, but did go gold. Fogerty found himself in the same peculiar position other rockers of his generation face. While 'classic rock' radio stations happily play the old hits, they often will not play newer releases by the same artists. Plus, stations with a format that plays new releases often will not play the older rockers, preferring to play younger artists in the same age range as their listeners.

The bottom line is Blue Moon Swamp is the best solo album from one of the most important musicians of the rock and roll era. It is a 'must have' for any collection.

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