The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again
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The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again
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2009 release from the Rock legend and former leader of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Thirty six years after the release of his first solo album (Blue Ridge Rangers), Fogerty returns to his Country roots with this album featuring guest appearances from Bruce Springsteen and Don Henley. 12 tracks featuring Fogerty's unique covers of 10 of his favorite songs plus two self-penned tracks. Rather than the one-man-band affair of the original Blue Ridge Rangers album, the new set features an all-star cast of players including Kenny Aronoff, Buddy Miller, Greg Leisz, Hunter Perrin, Jason Mowery, Chris Chaney, Jay Bellerose, Dennis Crouch, Jodie Kennedy, Herb Pedersen and Oren Waters.
About the Artist
What happens when one American legend takes on 12 American classics? If that legend is John Fogerty, the simple answer is musical magic. On The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again, Fogerty reinvents such treasures as the Everly Bros.' "When Will I Be Loved" (a stunning duet with fellow Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Bruce Springsteen), Rick Nelson's "Garden Party" and John Denver's "Back Home Again" with uncommon grace and unbridled zest.
As longtime Fogerty fans will recall, the Blue Ridge Rangers made their first appearance in 1973 when the Grammy® winner released an album of classic covers (including "Jambalaya" and "She Still Thinks I Care") under that moniker. The name was deceptive: the Rangers were Fogerty and Fogerty alone. He played all the instruments including drums.
The thought of revisiting the Blue Ridge Rangers as a vehicle to create another set of beloved covers has never been far from Fogerty's mind. "I thought about it at least once a month," he says. "I told myself if I ever get to do this again, I'm going to have real guys playing; I'd find the best guys I could and have fun and so that's what happened this time."
Indeed, on The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again, Fogerty surrounds himself with such top-flight musicians as Buddy Miller (guitar), Greg Leisz (pedal and lap steel, mandolin and dobro), Jason Mowery (fiddle, mandolin and dobro) and Kenny Aronoff (drums). They circle and entwine each other in joyous musical call and responses (complete with hooting and hollering), weaving in and out of each song. Call it a country record if you must, but it's really the sound of America. And the sound of Fogerty: real instruments, real talent. No artifice.
Fogerty, who arranged and produced the set, encouraged his fellow musicians to bring their own ideas to the songs. The album's great live feel comes from the fact that the basic tracks were recorded in three or four takes over a seven-day period. Then, the players hung out in the studio during each other's overdubs, egging on their compatriots. "It seemed to be a very rewarding way to make music," Fogerty says. "I really believed in the songs and the vibe. There was not really a preconceived notion. There [was] an openness, but the thing has to ring true to how I feel."
Nowhere is that openness more evident than on 1964's "Haunted House." Fogerty & Co. take what many considered a novelty song made famous by Jumpin' Gene Simmons about an alien and turn it into a full-on rave-up. "It was my idea that I wanted it to basically be a country jam," he says. "It was a vehicle to have the musicians trade verses. This was important to me; to hear that fun."
And therein lies another key to the album's unforced grace. When recording cover songs, it may be tempting to labor over whether to remain faithful to the original or to morph the song into a new creation, Fogerty discarded any such worries and simply went with his gut. "If when I get done with a particular song and I don't have any more questions, I'm pretty sure it's done," he plainly says.
While it may seem odd this member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and author of such iconic tunes as "Proud Mary," "Bad Moon Rising," "Born on the Bayou," "Fortunate Son" and "Who'll Stop the Rain," would turn to tunes penned by others, remember that he is also a great lover of music. (The lone Fogerty composition on the set is the swampy "Change in the Weather," originally on 1986's Eye of the Zombie.)
Many of the songs have been Fogerty favorites for decades and have, as he puts it, "become part of my DNA." Some selections, such as "When Will I Be Loved" and "Moody River," go back to his adolescence. Many, such as John Prine's "Paradise" and John Denver's "Back Home Again," are from revered contemporaries. "I Don't Care (Just As Long As You Love Me)" is a salute to one of his musical heroes, Buck Owens, and his groundbreaking guitarist and Buckaroos' leader Don Rich.
Others were last minute additions. Miller brought "Fallin', Fallin', Fallin'" to Fogerty's attention while the band was in the studio in Los Angeles. "I'm not sure if I've ever heard that one before," Fogerty says, "but it was delightful and was a good vehicle to bring the band together with that sort of western swing."
The criterion for inclusion on the album was a deceptively simple one: "If I'm allowed to just get up with a bunch of people in a country bar somewhere, these are the songs I'll do," Fogerty says. "There was some talk in the beginning about having some [theme]; personally, I wasn't buying into that. To me, the common thread is really about presenting a certain feeling about music." Otherwise, he says, the pressure of fitting tunes into a preselected theme weighs down the process "like bowling balls in your knapsack."
The song most likely to surprise listeners is a remake of Pat Boone's last No. 1 in 1961, the unlikely murder ballad "Moody River." "I can imagine Pete Seeger singing it. There are so many things to sink your teeth into," Fogerty says. "By the way, Pat sings his butt off. I think our version is far more eerie sounding than Pat was allowed to do.
"Garden Party," a song by another former teen idol, holds special significance for Fogerty, who inducted Nelson, who died in 1985, into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Like Nelson, Fogerty has remained true to himself and his music, even when doing so was extremely painful. "I'm the guy who didn't sing his own songs for 25 years because, basically, those songs had been taken away from me and also used in ways I really disagreed with," Fogerty says, referring to his decades-long battle with Saul Zaentz over his publishing. "Therefore, I could really identify with a guy saying, 'If memories were all I sang, I'd rather drive a truck.'"
The Eagles' Don Henley, a fan of the first Blue Ridge Rangers album, and Timothy B. Schmit provide sumptuous harmonies on "Garden Party." "The Eagles were born to sing those parts," Fogerty says. "We were all fans."
The most personal song for Fogerty is Denver's "Back Home Again." The message of returning to a loved one's arms after a journey "involves [my wife] Julie and my emotions towards her," he says. Plus, he's a tremendous Denver fan. Fogerty vividly recalls halting an interview during the 1985's Farm Aid to hear Denver perform. However, Denver's angelic voice haunted him when he thought about cutting the track: that is until Julie convinced him to try. "I thought I didn't have a prayer of doing it justice, but Julie really kept insisting; she kept empowering me and enabling me.I was terrified of it. I don't sound like John Denver. Somehow I found another way to sound alright."
The album closes with Fogerty and Springsteen's yearning take on "When Will I Be Loved," marking the first time the two legends and longtime admirers of each other have recorded together.
"I've wanted to do something with Bruce forever, probably 20-some odd years," Fogerty says of his tour mate on the Vote for Change outing. Fogerty traveled to Springsteen's New Jersey home to record the Boss's part. "The hardest part was it was in a very high range for Bruce's voice, but he got it done. He didn't complain; he didn't wimp out. It sounds great. It was remarkable how much of a chance he would take."
But in the end, as Fogerty notes, whether he was recording with Springsteen or the Eagles or with the band, when it came to making The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again, "I just sing my own style." And no one does that better than John Fogerty.
Top Customer Reviews
Many folks forget that when the original album was released in 1973, it was not a John Fogerty album. The band was "The Blue Ridge Rangers"(no reference to Fogerty at all), the songs were all covers, and CCR was nowhere to be found. It was not promoted as a Fogerty project. I won't go into the well-known contract hassles and history of Fogerty, Fantasy and CCR, or why this was so. It really doesn't matter here. What does matter is that the original album was a brilliant effort entirely crafted by John Fogerty and it was clearly a love letter to the music that inspired him. Yet, when it was released, he was completely absent despite the fact that the record yielded two hit singles. No glory, no spotlight, nothing. The cover showed the band in silhouette standing on a ridge with the sun setting behind them. To make such an obviously personal record, a record that required an extraordinary effort in engineering and recording talent and technique, and then release it under the name of a fictitious band is hard to imagine even today.
What a record that first Blue Ridge Rangers album was. When I hear the loose gospel harmonies, accompanied by a tentatively rattling tamborine, at the beginning of "Workin' On A Building" I get goosebumps. This was not the era of ProTools and digital recording. This was John Fogerty going into the studio with tape and reel and creating an aural movie. All by himself he became a gospel choir, riffing and rolling, clapping and stomping. You close your eyes and you are in the dream. There is John, sweat and passion, harmonizing and jamming with himself on the resonator slide. It is an absolute masterpiece. Listen to John drag the beat in "Blue Yodel #4," listen to the Dixieland breakdown in the solo. Listen to the pedal steel and piano intro to "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" and you are belly-up-to-the bar in a dusty roadhouse calling for a cold beer and a shot. The original album is literally a one-man history lesson in American roots music, from string band, to gospel, to blues, to country.
The new album, on the other hand, seems more like Fogerty has gone into a studio with other musicians that he respects and said, "I really enjoy these songs and think I can add something to them." You hear the band go to work, and good work it is. However, it is a very different effort than the original Blue Ridge Rangers recording. It is a pleasure to listen to, and it is clear that Fogerty has a fondness for the music and the original artists he covers here. What is missing is the passionate genius of the original. Frankly, that would have been too much to ask. It is unfair to expect "Rides Again" to take us back to 1973. Fogerty has changed and so have we as an audience. The window that he opened for his fans on the musical influnces that infused CCR created a wonder in the early 1970's that we cannot expect today. Today, roots albums have been done, and done again. To some extent, we have become jaded. We expect too much
Taken for what it is, "Rides Again" is an excellent album of great songs performed by one of American music's true genius synthesists. Let's enjoy it for what it is, not what it cannot be.
These tunes of Fogerty's are some of the ones I love. The biggest and best surprise to me is Ricky Nelson's old 'Garden Party'-I have loved that song forever and John F says he can relate to it- he and Ricky were very smart men. Fogerty chose Don Henley to help him with this one- play it over and over. 'Never Ending Song Of Love' an old timer incarnate! 'Back Home Again' didn't we all love John Denver at one time? Ray Price, 'I'll Be There If Ever You Need Me'-ya gotta love it- what a tune. 'Change In The Weather' is an original of John Fogerty's. I know you're gonna be shocked by this one' Moody River' originally sung by Pat Boone- it is marvelous!!! 'Heaven's Just A Sin Away' by the Kendalls- whoopee! And, to top this marvelous CD off, Bruce Springsteen joins John Fogerty with the Everly Brothers 'When Will I Be Loved'- never, ever heard it any better, never eva!
LA Times says "By nearly any measure, Fogerty belongs on the A list of rock musicians who matter. As Credence's chief songwriter, lead singer and guitarist, he created a remarkably deep body of work in an astonishingly short period from the 1968 release of the band's debut album through the group's 1972 swan song." Couldn't have said it any better myself!
This is a mix of country, folk, rock n'roll and one of the best CDs I have heard in a long time. Can't wait to tell my best friend, so we can listen to it together!
Highly Recommended. prisrob 09-08-09
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The Blue Ridge Rangers
Fogerty, one of the U.S.'s under-appreciated artists, is a man in his 60s, who somehow, has a remarkable voice that keeps improving.
The professionalism of the band and Fogerty's painstaking arrangements and album production, makes it a joy to listen to.
Fogerty's choice of country/rock/folksy songs are impeccable.
That band is sensational. The pedal steel guitar, goes right through my heard. the country fiddler is perfect. Fogerty's acoustic guitar playing is fantastic, as the album is obviously a labor of love for John.
The harmonies with Eagles Henly and Schmidt sound GREAT on Garden Party!! What great lyrics the late Rick Nelson wrote in that classic.
The album is all about the music, not ego and it is a joy to hear a pro's pro doing it right. Fogerty's singing, arrangements and production really allows the listener to hear and feel the lyrics as almost all of the songs are covers of classics.
If I were to compare the sound to anything, I would compare it to the early Poco albums, which was a combination of musicians, some of who stayed with Poco, some went to form The Eagles and then there was Loggins and Messina, for where Jim Messina went.
Relax, kick back, and listen on a really good audio system. Please, not on a crappy Ipod, making these classic's MP3's.
If portable, PLEASE getg a Cowon, which makes the Ipod sound like a tinny toy. The Cowon's have FLAC(losless) and OGG (the best lossy format available), native to them.
Keep it going John.