The Very Best of Tom Fogerty is a solid collection of the older Fogerty brother's solo sides, cut from the time after his departure from Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1971 up to his final release, Sidekicks (1993). Listening to this album does present the listener with a conundrum, however, because it's a better collection than most would predict it would be, but it's unexpectedly strong on all kinds of levels that demand attention and some thought. On the one hand, those who dismiss Tom Fogerty as a middling "brother act" will find their perceptions changed by the 18 songs here. The songs are mostly very good and a few are great -- from "Goodbye Media Man" (his one charting single) through "Lady of Fatima" and "Joyful Resurrection," right to "Sloop John B" from his final album, everything here is worthwhile listening; indeed, only "Give Me Another Trojan Song" (which does, in fairness, have a certain goofy charm) and "What Did I Know," off of the Myopia album, show a slackening of freshness and inspiration, and might have been left off in favor of other material. And it should be said that, among the originals here, apart from "Joyful Resurrection," which featured all the members of CCR, little is as effortlessly radio friendly and polished as the best work of Tom's more famous younger sibling John Fogerty. But much of the content has a peculiarly rootsy, very personal honesty and soulfulness; and in that sense, it reaches the individual listener on much the same level as such celebrated John Fogerty numbers as "Lodi," "Green River," "Who'll Stop the Rain," etc., if not quite so universally or memorably.
That is, there's little here that one visualizes ever sweeping the airwaves and getting millions of people humming, or even tens of thousands in an arena singing along to -- though, as Tom's chronic back problem kept him off the road, we'll never know how some of his better songs might've gone over in a concert setting; but many listeners will find themselves embracing a lot of it, especially later numbers like "Champagne Love" (co-written with CCR's Doug Clifford) and "Trisha Suzanne," much like John's work once it's off the airwaves and circulating inside of your head. As the nature of this CD hints, perhaps that's how Tom Fogerty would have made his way and spread his music in a kinder reality, in small concert venues, a few hundred listeners at a time, who could appreciate rock & roll with a country flavor and a personal edge. There's even a nice reading of "Mystery Train" to punch up the basic rock & roll side of this CD; and Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia completists, as well as CCR collectors, will have to have it. If you've only heard of Tom Fogerty's solo work, here's a great place to actually hear the best of it. And anyone looking for an unexpectedly strong extension/offshoot of the CCR legacy, on something more than the singalong level (which Creedence Clearwater Revisited serves) can start right here, and they'll likely find more to enjoy than they thought likely or possible.