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John Fogerty recruits guest -- including Bob Seger and Kid Rock -- to freshen his classic songs
AUSTIN, Texas -- There was a time, John Fogerty says, when he "would turn off the radio if I heard one of my songs" form his time leading Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Now, however, the comprise the basis of his new album, "Wrote a Song For Everyone."
The 14-song set, due out Tuesday, May 28 (see review, page XX), finds the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer re-creating a dozen of his CCR favorites with a cast of collaborators that includes Detroit rockers Bob Seger and Kid Rock as well as Foo Fighters, Keith Urban, the Zac Brown Band, Miranda Lambert, Alan Jackson, Jennifer Hudson and others. It was the brainchild of Fogerty's wife and manager Julie, but he says he require much persuasion.
"I just lit up," says Fogerty -- who turns 68 on album's release day -- while relaxing in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel during this year's South By Southwest Music + Media Conference, where he played shows both own his own and with Foo Fighter frontman Dave Grohl's Sound City Players. "I thought, 'Wow...!' I just jumped into it like a kid in a candy store."
Fogerty's onetime estrangement from the material -- iconic rock hits such as "Proud Mary," "Born on the Bayou," "Bad Moon Rising" and many others -- had nothing to do with the music itself but rather stemmed from behind-the-scenes rancor. A schism with both his former CCR bandmates (including his late brother Tom Fogerty) and particularly the late Fantasy Records chief Saul Zaentz -- who in 1985 sued Fogerty unsuccessfully for recording a song, "The Old Man Down the Road," that sounded too much like a CCR tune -- rendered the repertoire "too painful" for him to hear or perform. But he gradually overcame that, helped in no small part by his wife's counsel and by the sale of Fantasy to Concord Records in 2004, which quickly engaged Fogerty in productive "peace talks."
But while he recorded a number of the CCR songs on his 1998 live album "Premonition," Fogerty says he was open to doing something even fresher with them.
"Those songs...have been part of me like a shirt, forever," he explains. "So for this (album) I wanted to encourage all these artists to have their own idea about how (the songs) should go. "I felt like, 'Why do I want to go do 'Lodi' like I recorded it 40-something years ago? What's the point. I want somebody to give me something different, something fresh, something new.'
"So we pretty much stuck to that idea."
For his guest list, Fogerty chose "people whose records I buy...and they tend to be people who also play and are songwriters as well as great singers." He also made a determination early on that he "was going to be present at each location. This wasn't going to be done by mail or technology. I was going to be there the old-fashioned way" -- no matter how that impacted the logistics of getting everything done."
And, he acknowledges with a laugh and a glance at some of his record company staffers sitting nearby, "There have been a few deadlines for this record that I've blown right through. But I had the time to get it right, to go back if I had to and say 'This isn't how it should be' and get everybody back in the studio and finally wrassle that thing to the ground and make it the way I wanted it to be."
Each track had its own adventure, of course. Fogerty -- who also wrote a pair of original songs for the project -- was at Blackbird Studios in Nashville with Seger working up an arrangement for "Who'll Stop the Rain" when he was caught by something he heard Seger doing while preparing for the recording. "I'd gone back to working being a producer, during to get the drum sound or something, and Bob's over in the corner by himself, with his guitar, singing, 'Long as I remember...,' and I go, 'Whoa!' Just that voice of his, I said, 'We've got to have that on the record.'
"I had to do a little bit of salesmanship to sell Bob on the idea that just him and his guitar was a good idea; we all have insecurities, y'know? He was like, 'Gee, do you think that will hold up?' 'Yeah, Bob, it's gonna hold up. Don't worry about it."
Kid Rock, meanwhile, was the only album guest who Fogerty didn't work with face to face. Hearing about the project from Seger, Rock simply sent a recording of "Born on the Bayou" -- which premiered during CBS's Super Bowl XLVII broadcast on Feb. 3 -- to Fogerty with the message, "It's all done, John!"
"He made it really edgy and he sang great," Fogerty recalls, "and I'm sure it fit the attitude of who he is. But I thought it would be really cool to take it back to the swamp.
"So I got out my old Rickenbacker (guitar) and found a good old amp that's got the same sort of vibrato on it that the old record had, and then I had Kenny Aronoff play live drums to mix with the (loops), so you go on a journey that's touching on some familiar and some new territory -- which is exactly what I wanted."
After a run of TV appearances -- including "The Voice" and two nights on "The Late Show with David Letterman" -- last week, Fogerty will play a special birthday/release day concert on Tuesday in Los Angeles and is looking forward to playing more dates later this year. Meanwhile, he's working on an autobiography that he expects to have an overwhelmingly positive spin on his career.
"I've had a remarkable life in music," Fogerty says. "I started as a child who knew his field of joy almost from the time he could move, and that was music. And everybody noticed; everyone around me noticed, 'Wow, he's musical. Look, he's dancing,' and I was still in diapers.
"Since then it's been a journey, and I just want to tell that story...of the original joy of a child discovering music and being just...If i can ever convey how that feels, I think it's something worth talking about."
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