Friday, May 25, 2018
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CD reviews: Just when we could use his hard edge, John Fogerty's new disc lets us down

John Fogerty's first release since 1997 starts with such promise that it ultimately leads to a serious letdown over the course of its 10 tunes. The title track kicks the disc off with an eloquent anti-war anthem, the kind of song that pushed Fogerty to prominence in the '60s and '70s in Creedence Clearwater Revival as a chronicler of tense times on such tracks as "Who'll Stop the Rain," "Fortunate Son," and "Bad Moon Rising."

The bass line consciously echoes "Who'll Stop the Rain" as the singer watches the news reports out of Iraq and can't help but think back on Vietnam. The message isn't heavy-handed, but there's a sense of purpose that can't be denied.

As soon as it ends, the disappointment begins. The trifling "Sugar, Sugar (In My Life)" is just as lightweight as its title suggests, bouncing along on a gentle beat and innocuous lyrics. He follows it up with a couple of forgettable rockers about difficult women and "Honey Do" a silly tune about household chores.

It's nice that Fogerty has found domestic happiness - he includes a lovely folk ballad to his young daughter - but unfortunately he's gone bucolic right when the kind of mainstream rock he specializes in calls for a harder edge.


On his first new CD in eight years, Donovan, with Danny Thompson on bass, Jim Keltner on drums, and producer John Chelew on keyboards, opts for a quite contemporary jazz air on the opening "Love Floats" and adds a taste of blues to "Poorman's Sunshine." The arrangements have a loose immediacy, and perhaps following the disc's title, much of "Beat Caf" has a retro feel to it, such as the acoustic guitar-focused "Whirlwind." But sometimes Donovan goes too far, as on "The Question," with a chanted intro and an awful spoken vocal, or a reading of Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" set to a smoky jazz accompaniment.


Disney has culled a kingdom of young voices for a fresh, albeit predictably upbeat message of how to seize the day, break away from the pack, and exude a youthful zest for life with a new Kelly Clarkston-Avril Lavigne number, a rocker by Lindsay Lohan, and a soft-and-mellow song by Jesse McCartney of the series Summerland. But it's the carefully crafted way of reintroducing listeners to the delicate, graceful voice of Julie Andrews that makes the most lasting impression. Her duet with Raven has a hint of her bygone greatness as her voice gingerly moves from monologue to an all-too-brief melody.


With a tight trio highlighting pianist Jason Moran and drummer Jack DeJonette, clarinetist Byron stretches music like "Somebody Loves Me" and "I Want to be Happy" into unusual rhythmic and harmonic patterns which expand upon the more simplistic swing of the 1940s. Besides his infatuation with the Lester Young material, Byron also drops four originals into the mix that illustrate the breadth of his interests and the range of his playing skill.


You recognize Jackson's warm, mellow baritone immediately, whether he's singing a signature ballad or a honky tonk high-stepper. "What I Do" is filled with a dozen country classics, many destined to climb the charts, with "Too Much Of A Good Thing" already leading the way. A couple of guest artists get some meaty roles as background vocalists, especially Richard Sterban on the rollicking "Burnin' The Honky Tonks Down." Jackson rarely strays far from his strengths, and this package is no exception. It's solid and dependable - just what his fans expect and buy.


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