By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Blue Moon Swamp
Warner Brothers Records
Neither John Fogerty nor Paul McCartney need prove anything. Fogerty may well have invented roots-rock, and McCartney has proven himself a pop classicist; new releases from both reveal their makers as masters. Unfortunately, both efforts miss a vital emotional component, falling far short of the artists' best work. What made McCartney's first few albums on his own so arresting was his struggle to get out from under the shadow of the Beatles; what made Fogerty's 1985 release Centerfield so great was the thrill of his recapture of his music. All of that is gone now, leaving us with only the vaguely antiseptic smell of perfection.
Flaming Pie is the less disappointing of the pair, perhaps only because McCartney pretty much let us know what to expect from him with "Silly Love Songs" and hasn't challenged our expectations since. Producer Jeff Lynne continues the Wilbury-ification of the universe unabated, bestowing upon Pie all the requisite trademarks: the pastoral declaration of love, the orchestral "Eleanor Rigby" touches, and the mellow soul-man reverie. The raving rocker, however, once a fairly reliable standby, now sounds downright silly: on "Really Love You," country squire Paul's rambunctiousness sounds so contrived and exaggerated that it's hard not to imagine him as a 10-year-old in his Underoos, singing into a tennis racket as he jumps up and down on his mattress.
Blue Moon Swamp is much more of a let-down, for Fogerty has issued no disclaimers during his career. Even 1986's Eye of the Zombie (underappreciated but still not as good as Centerfield) had interesting numbers, and that album's "Change in the Weather"--animated by Reagan-era revulsion--is one of his best. Much has been made of his learning to play slide and Dobro in preparation for Swamp, but unfortunately--regardless of training--the songs on it are as stylized and cleanly delivered as if they had been written for a Chevy truck commercial.
There isn't a single cliche that Fogerty doesn't run down and kill with his bare hands. The songs on Swamp are full of big wheels rollin', the sun goin' down, rattlesnake highways, ghost riders, and everything else, save Pogo Possum in a flat-bottomed boat. There's nothing really wrong with either of these albums, except that they advance too well the observation that having nothing to prove and something to say aren't necessarily the same.
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