Recordings

Blue Moon Swamp--created by a man who sounds as though he has spent decades in a vacuum, listening only to the echoes of his own greatness and nothing else--is indeed a capital-P perfect John Fogerty recording. It reverberates with eerie "Born on the Bayou" echoes and throbs with wide-grinned "Centerfield" joy; it sweats Mississippi mud and gulps Kentucky whiskey--but in the end, it merely recalls greatness without quite achieving it. Blue Moon Swamp is a rock 'n' roll recording made behind museum glass.

Perhaps to play Blue Moon Swamp with the expectations brought on by 11 years of waiting and nearly 30 years of listening is to be set up for disappointment; when "Southern Streamline" kicks off with the insistent "Bad Moon Rising" riff, you're at once thrilled by the familiarity . . . and saddened as well; you traveled down this road long ago, before they built shiny high-rises on top of the swampland. Fogerty has become so much a part of history he can't see the cliches for the hype, and so, to the melody of "California Sun," he writes of driving on "wheels on fire" as he blazes down the desert road in a convertible at midnight; he sings of men sweating in the cotton patch, where it's "A Hundred and Ten in the Shade"; he rides down a "Rattlesnake Highway" on a worn-out blues riff and a half-empty tank of gas; fronting a Farfisa organ and slide gee-tar, he even advises you "take it to the river" down in the "honey-dripping" South, where the mythical Jelly Roll will ease your suffering. And to top it off, Fogerty's voice has itself become a memento, a tattered and yellowing relic bolstered by weird echoes and other inappropriate effects--so much so you barely recognize him through the fog.

Fogerty has become "art-rock," by critic Chuck Eddy's definition--meaning, Eddy writes of Bruce Springsteen in his new The Accidental Evolution of Rock 'n' Roll, "his muse can't be separated from his ego; he's too palpably concerned with how he'll be remembered in the history books." Fogerty has become the history book itself, and history books don't make for perfect rock 'n' roll records.

--Robert Wilonsky

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