Disc Reviews

Rock & roll hall-of-famers Neil Young, John Fogerty and Mick Jagger serve up new albums this week.

fogerty disk 88 224 (photo credit: )
fogerty disk 88 224
(photo credit: )
JOHN FOGERTY Revival (Helicon) NEIL YOUNG Chrome Dreams II (Hatav Hashmini) MICK JAGGER The Very Best of (Hatav Hashmini) THREE ROCK & roll hall-of-famers serve up new albums this week: Neil Young and John Fogerty, who stubbornly and proudly refuse to cater to changing times and tastes, and Mick Jagger, whose solo career retrospective is all about keeping up with young guys. Ever since returning from self-imposed exile with 1985's Centerfield, former Creedence Clearwater Revival creative force John Fogerty has treated his career like a hobby. With nothing left to prove, he sporadically releases new albums that, while full of warmth and coziness, have generally paled in comparison to the giant shadow he cast. Revival has been touted as a Creedence homecoming, but it seems like Fogerty's in the guesthouse most of the time. The album sounds like a collection of somewhat moldy Creedence outtakes that didn't make the grade the first time around. It's strange, because Fogerty's heart is certainly in the right place, full of fury over the Iraq war and full of wistfulness over simpler times. He's got a crack band too, featuring former John Mellencamp drummer Kenny Aronof. But their energy is muted by a kind of hollow production; the guitars are too clean, the drum devoid of thunder. Despite Fogerty's trademark rasp and endearingly unique pronunciations of certain words ("noice" instead of "nurse"), he seems kind of detached from his own songs. Fogerty relies too heavily on well-established genres from the '50s and '60s, and sometimes falls into the 'oldies' arena a little too easily, as if he's afraid to push himself. Diatribes against the Bush administration - "Long Dark Night" and "I Can't Take it No More" - rely heavily on blues and rock standard riffs, and share little of the passion that similar Creedence songs like "Fortunate Son" emit. However, Revival is certainly likable, with the good time "Don't You Wish It Was True" and the straight-ahead pop rock "Gunslinger" and "Longshot". Like most rockers somewhat past their prime, Fogerty sounds most convincing on the quieter tunes, like the gentle, rolling "River is Waiting" and the country lament "Broken Down Cowboy. " Revival is surely worthwhile, for the chance to hear a bona fide legend toy with his past, and for the joy he still brings to his music. But if you're expecting a second coming of CCR, best to stay down on the bayou. NEIL YOUNG just continues on his merry way, prolifically releasing albums almost annually that are, as ever, full of the idiosyncrasies and nuances that have made him one of rock's most instantly identifiable artists. Chrome Dreams II is, as I understand it, the sequel to a "legendary" unreleased album (ala The Beach Boys' Smile) from the mid-70s. What it sounds like, though, is another Young potpourri of styles: plodding country shuffles ("Beautiful Bluebird," "Boxcar"), Crazy Horse-style guitar burners ("Spirit Road," "No Hidden Path"), some goofy garage rock ("Dirty Old Man") and lilting ballads ("Shining Light," "The Way"). Young, whose last album, Living With War, focused on American involvement in Iraq (like Fogerty's Revival and Bruce Springsteen's Magic), keeps out of politics on Chrome Dreams II. Most lyrics return to the country simplicity and musings on mortality rustled up by his first post-brain aneurysm album, Prairie Wind. At this point in his career, you're either going along with Neil for the ride, or you've gotten off the bandwagon a while ago. His voice is still sweet and pretty, or whiny and grating depending on what you think. He no longer puts a lot of effort into his lyrics or the arrangements, and like Fogerty, the days of him writing a classic song seem to be gone. But he can still be captivating over the course of an entire album, and as he enters his sixties, that's more than enough to wish for. IT'S HARD to believe that Mick Jagger has a greatest hits album out. Why, I remember when he was just the lead singer of that band The Rolling Stones. Jagger's solo career has been much maligned, but in many ways, it's been more interesting than the Stones output of the last couple decades. Beginning with his first official solo effort, 1985's She's The Boss, Jagger has defiantly distanced himself from the Stones sound, and embraced modernism with all its synths, sleek arrangements and background singers. Songs like "Just Another Night" and "Let's Work" are curiously engaging, in a freakish sort of way, as if contemplating an alternate universe featuring Jagger as a pop star. More conventionally enticing are the Stones-like ballad "Don't Tear Me Up" from 1993's Wandering Spirit, the rousing duet with Bono, "Joy", and the beautifully done 1993 country ballad "Evening Gown." But the real finds of the compilation are the 37-year-old rendition of "Memo From Turner" from the soundtrack to Performance, the previously unreleased smoking version of "Checkin' Up on My Baby" by Sonny Boy Williamson, and the joyous "Don't Look Back" with Peter Tosh. It's proof beyond questioning that if the Stones ever break up, Jagger won't need to go on the dole.