It's tough to listen to John Fogerty's Wrote a Song for Everyone and not feel conflicted.
This newly recorded sampler of gems from one of rock 'n' roll's most prestigious back catalogs has a few country collaborations full of compromise — specifically a sense of stylistic pandering that presumes that Fogerty's great music from his years fronting Creedence Clearwater Revival (along with a few solo-era nuggets) was either too complex or outdated for contemporary audiences.
Thankfully, those moments are few on this album, in which Fogerty plays alongside contemporary artists. Still, such dumbing down almost makes one want to dismiss Wrote a Song for Everyone outright.
But then out blasts the Fourth of July by way of a hot-wired revision of Fortunate Sun, still the most socially strident and culturally attuned entry in the Creedence files. With Foo Fighters supplying the musical ammo, this fearsome new version sounds huge, noisy and, best of all, vital.
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Later, we discover the gospel/blues-imbued Long as I Can See the Light, the final tune from the landmark 1970 Creedence album Cosmo's Factory. Here, assisted by Kentucky's own My Morning Jacket, Fogerty turns the song into a psychedelic incantation that retains the patient, soulful framework of the original.
Curiously, Wrote a Song for Everyone is not purely a recitation of hits. One of the more intriguing outside picks is enlisting indie folk-pop fave Dawes to resurrect and reinvent Someday Never Comes, a forgotten work from Creedence's last and worst album, 1972's Mardi Gras. The song itself is a life lesson that mirrors fatherly advice given to a child ("someday you'll understand") against the sobering reality played out in the title. The tasteful Dawes support provides a similarly youthful counterpoint to Fogerty's now-sage singing.
Strangely, only one of Fogerty's contemporaries steps up to the mike. It's Bob Seger, who provides a vocal as deep and effortless in tone as it is world-weary in temperament on a gorgeously slowed down Who'll Stop the Rain. There is also an appealing mesh-up of the two most popular versions of Proud Mary — the 1968 Creedence original and 1971's Ike and Tina Turner R&B rave-up. With master New Orleans craftsman Allen Toussaint in charge and Jennifer Hudson on supplementary vocal sass, the resulting version is a Cajun joyride that dissolves into a second-line street parade.
All that will make you overlook the stagnant Nashville input of Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, and an especially cloying Kid Rock. But even their contributions emphasize the wide demographic reach of Fogerty's music. And in that sits a hopeful analogy. When you write songs for everyone as enchanting as those that have come from Fogerty's pen, chances are good everyone will listen.