John Fogerty

Deja Vu All Over Again

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John Fogerty is many things, but predictable is not one of them. His solo career has proceeded in fits and starts, with waits as long as a decade separating solo albums, and when the records did arrive, they could be as brilliant as Centerfield or as bewilderingly misdirected as Eye of the Zombie. There was no telling what a new Fogerty record would bring, but perhaps the strangest thing about his sixth studio album, 2004's Deja Vu All Over Again, is that it's the closest thing to an average, by-the-books John Fogerty album that he's released in his solo career. Unlike its immediate predecessor, the Southern-obsessed Blue Moon Swamp, there is no unifying lyrical or musical theme, nor was it released with the comeback fanfare of that 1997 affair. Instead, Deja Vu slipped into stores in September of 2004, and its sound was as low-key as its release. Fogerty handled the arrangements and production, and while it was recorded in a professional studio in L.A. with studio veterans like drummer Kenny Aronoff and mixed by Bob Clearmountain, the album retains a homemade feel, largely because the songs are so simple and modest. Deja Vu has a little bit of everything that fits into Fogerty's signature style -- revamped rockabilly ("Honey Do," "Rhubarb Pie"), swamp rock ("Wicked Old Witch"), old-fashioned rock & roll ("Sugar-Sugar (In My Life)"), choogling minor-key jams ("In the Garden"), sweet country-tinged acoustic tunes ("I Will Walk With You"), even a protest song in the vein of "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" (the title track, a truly effective effort in drawing parallels between Vietnam and the Iraq war). While the sound on these is a little too polished, these are enjoyable songs which are somewhat undercut by a handful of cuts that recall the flailing cluelessness of Eye of the Zombie: the empty hard rocker "She's Got Baggage," the odd disco/new wave vibe of "Radar," and "Nobody's Here Anymore," where Fogerty sounds like an old fogy as he despairs about disconnected computer geeks with "a stash of Twinkies" and a bored kid in a classroom "listenin' to the rock star on a CD," when he'd be more likely to listen to rap on his iPod. These songs amount to minor bumps on a record that's otherwise pretty smooth sailing -- a relaxed, friendly collection of songs that reside comfortably within Fogerty's signature sound. At its core, it's more of a collection of songs than a unified album, and these songs are enjoyable, but modest. Apart from the title track, there are no major statements here, but there's enough craft and spirit to ensure that most Fogerty fans are bound to find several songs to actively enjoy on Deja Vu All Over Again.

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