One of last year’s top sellers was “Tuskegee,” a collection of Lionel Richie’s greatest hits newly recorded by the ex-Commodore with a passel of top country music artists, including Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Shania Twain and Blake Shelton.
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Can John Fogerty duplicate that success with “Wrote A Song For Everyone,” his new set out today (May 28) that pairs him with everyone from The Foo Fighters to Kid Rock, Miranda Lambert and My Morning Jacket on remakes his best-loved Creedence Clearwater Revival tunes? In a word, no... but that’s not because it’s not a strong project or Fogerty’s classic don’t still hold up (they do), it’s because Mercury Nashville, which put out “Tuskegee,” worked that album like crazy to the country community and even though radio didn’t embrace it, fans did. That album spoke with one voice: “Wrote A Song For Everyone,” with its much more diverse casting, pitches a wider net, but not as deep a one.
An extremely gracious host (and producer, in this case), Fogerty lets his guests take the first verse of every song and then joins in. Plus, the guests had free rein to reinvent the song as he or she chose, which leads to some interesting choices.
While most of them stay fairly true to original, Bob Seger turns “Who Will Stop the Rain” into piano-based blend of “Rain” and his own “Against The Wind”; Dawes fans not familiar with “Someday Never Comes” can be forgiven for thinking it’s a Dawes original, Taylor Goldsmith so makes it his own. The most interesting digression is a rollicking “Proud Mary” with Jennifer Hudson, doing her best Tina Turner; Allen Toussaint and Rebirth Brass Band, who take take the song down to the Cajun bayou. Speaking of bayous, Kid Rock’s “Born On The Bayou” starts strong, but gets cut off at the knees by a weak “born on the bayou” spoken backing vocal.
There’s a surfeit of country artists on the set —Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band, Brad Paisley, and Alan Jackson — for good reason: CCR and Fogerty’s songs have always had a fair amount of swampy country swagger to them and these pairings bring out that natural bent. No more so than on “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”: Between the addition of Jackson’s twang and up-front fiddles, the song replaces the tension in the original (some say it was about Vietnam, others say it was about CCR’s impending split) and turn it into a wistful exercise.
Part of the fun of a record like this is to pair Fogerty with some other notable guitar slingers and listen to the shoot out at the Fogerty corral: If you’re looking for that, listen to Fogerty and Brad Paisley go at it on “Hot Rod Heart.” The rest of the tune is rather toothless, but the conversations their guitars have is delightful. Similarly, Fogerty and Keith Urban share some moments on a banjo-flecked “Almost Saturday Night” that will make you wish Alabama had been on the track.
The best-in-show honors go to album opener “Fortunate Son” with the Foo Fighters. The Foos rip through the song at warp speed with relish, including Grohl’s raspy vocals.
The set also includes two new tracks, which Fogerty performs without special guests: “Mystic Highway” is a loping, shuffling look at the path, real and spiritual, that his life has taken him down, while menacing-sounding “Train of Fools,” what seems to be a veiled political tune about those who have deceived us over and over.
Albums like this are always a grab to introduce new, younger fans to a veteran artist’s canon. As these ventures go, “Wrote A Song For Everyone” should score Fogerty some new fans, but its greatest appeal will come from the converted who will enjoy hearing some of their favorite tunes dolled up in new clothes.