Fogerty’s New LP Is An Album For Everyone

Courtesy:  Vanguard Records

Courtesy: Vanguard Records

John Fogerty’s first full length studio release in over six years isn’t exactly a new album.  But it is still a fun collection of songs, nonetheless.  Wrote a Song For Everyone takes fourteen of Fogerty’s most famous and beloved songs and updates them for a new generation.  It goes without saying that the classics collected for this compilation didn’t necessarily need an update.  But the updates do admittedly give listeners a new take on the classics.  It’s actually a good thing.  And that will be discussed later.  The song selection itself is just part of what makes this collection of classics a hit in and of itself.  Fogerty was joined by some of the biggest names in the music industry in re-recording the songs for this work.  And some of the names included on the “guest list” might surprise some listeners.  That’s one more reason for fans to pick up this record.  The compilation’s bonus booklet is the extra spice that makes Wrote a Song For Everyone quite the musical dish.  The bonus booklet includes a back story on each of the songs included on the record.  Together with the guest appearances and the song choices themselves, it all combines to make this compilation one that music lovers of ages will love no less with each listen.

The songs collected for Wrote a Song For Everyone are some of John Fogerty’s best known and beloved songs.  The natural reaction to these songs by those more familiar with them is to question if they really needed an update.  The end result after having listened through the compilation is one of pleasant surprise.  Listeners that are more familiar with the original songs will agree that needed or not, these updates are fun new takes on Fogerty’s classics.  It all starts with an update of what is perhaps his most beloved songs, ‘Fortunate Son.’  Fogerty is joined by Dave Grohl and his band mates in Foo Fighters on this update, with Fogerty and Grohl sharing vocal duties on the song.  It’s a great way to open the compilation because it largely sticks to Fogerty’s original song.  At the same time, it gives the song new life because it amps up the song and keeps it fresh for a whole new generation that can relate to it just as easily as that generation that originally related to it.  Fogerty is joined later by Zac Brown Band on the update of another of his hits in ‘Bad Moon Rising.’  The band’s update on this song is just as fun as Fogerty’s original take on the song.  Unlike the update of ‘Fortunate Son’, the update of ‘Bad Moon Rising’ doesn’t stick strictly to the original song.  That aside, it’s still a pretty interesting take on the song.  Brown and his band mates put their own signature semi-tropical spin on the song.  There’s even a little guitar solo added to the song on this take.  It’s another of the compilation’s pieces that fans of the original song will enjoy just as much as younger listeners.  Fogerty’s new take on ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ is one of the most interesting on this new release.  He is joined by fellow veteran rocker Bob Seeger on the song.  The pair took the original mid-tempo country-rock piece and gave it more of a pure country vibe.  It comes across as being more reserved on this take than on the original.  That’s not a bad thing, either.  It is just a new and equally enjoyable take on the song.  It’s just one of many more songs from this compilation from which listeners have to choose as their favorite.  Also included on this record are updates of ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain’, ‘Born on the Bayou’, and ‘Hot Rod Heat’ just to name a few.  Again whether one is familiar with these songs or not, they all comprise a record that Fogerty fans of all ages will enjoy.

Fogerty fans of all ages will enjoy this compilation primarily because of the songs that comprise the record.  The songs themselves aren’t all that listeners will appreciate.  The record’s “guest list” is another of its selling points.  As already noted, Fogerty is joined by the likes of Zac Brown Band, Bob Seeger, and Foo Fighters on some of the record’s updates.  Also along for the ride are: Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), and Kid Rock.  Even former American Idol contestant and award-winning singer Jennifer Hudson makes an appearance among many others.  On the surface, one might look at the record’s “guest list” and shrug, asking why any of this is significant.  It’s significant in that it shows the influence that John Fogerty has had on both his fellow veteran musicians and even younger musicians.  It’s an example of actions speaking louder than words.  And it’s a statement that speaks very loudly with this release.

The sequencing and “guest list” chosen for Wrote a Song For Everyone both are critical factors in the album’s success.  They both play important roles in the album’s overall presentation.  Just as important is the album’s bonus booklet.  The booklet included with the album is such an important addition to the overall presentation because it offers a back story to each song.  Those stories come from Fogerty’s own words, too.  Many audiences will be amazed to learn that ‘Fortunate Son’ was written as a result of his own time serving in the Army Reserve during Vietnam.  He writes in the song’s liner notes, that ‘Fortunate Son’ was the result of his person feelings about states using the term ‘Favorite Son’ for their politicians.  He explains in the liner notes that he took that term and changed it to “Fortunate Son” to reflect his negative thoughts on the original term.  Just as interesting to learn is that he felt so strongly about what was going on at the time and ended up writing the song in just twenty minutes.  This after he and the band had originally rehearsed the song without any lyrics at all.  His story behind ‘Bad Moon Rising’ is just as eye and ear opening as it is being read.  He explains how the song originally was the result of a famous movie titled The Devil and Daniel Webster.  He expands on this, explaining how the movie got him to thinking about the impact that music can have on people, and how that links back to the song.  His anecdote is one that will move any fan.  His somewhat cryptic explanation of ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ is sure to get fans discussing, too.  He closes his explanation stating that the song is about “seeking the truth.”  He links this to his experience at the very first Woodstock festival.  Those that know the history of the original Woodstock will perhaps understand this better than anyone, especially if said individuals were actually there in person.  It’s just one more story that makes the album’s booklet more a bonus for fans than just a bunch of liner notes.  And together with everything already mentioned, it makes this record even more worth picking up whether for one’s own self or as a gift this holiday season.  It is available now in stores and online.

John Fogerty recently wrapped up a massive tour in support of his new album.  Fans can check in for more tour dates and news from John Fogerty online at http://www.johnfogerty.com and http://www.facebook.com/johnfogerty.  Fans can also get his album online via either site.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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Love For Levon Could Be The Year’s Best Live Recording

Courtesy:  Time Life Entertainment/StarVista

Courtesy: Time Life Entertainment/StarVista

Drummer Levon Helm was no ordinary drummer.  He was a musician.  He was a musician among musicians and a musician of the people.  When he finally lost his battle with throat cancer in 2012, the world knew that it had lost not just a man but a legend.  It was Helm that made Midnight Rambles so famous.  And it was those concerts and Helms’ own music that made him the beloved figure that he is today even though he remains only in spirit.  Now thanks to Time Life and StarVista, fans of Helm and his music get to experience one of the greatest tributes to his legacy in the newly released concert, Love For Levon: A Benefit To Save The Barn.

Love For Levon: A Benefit To Save The Barn was released this past March.  It was released in five different formats: Double-Disc CD, Double-Disc CD/Double-Disc DVD, Double-Disc CD/Double-Disc Blu-ray, Double-Disc DVD, and Double Disc Blu-ray.  Regardless of whether audiences pick up the solo DVD or Blu-ray sets or the deluxe sets including both the CD and DVD or CD and Blu-ray, they will be getting in this concert what is among the year’s best live recordings.  It is more than deserving of that honor first and foremost because of the variety of options from which audiences can choose in experiencing this concert.  It is also more than deserving of the honor of being on the list of the year’s top live recordings thanks to its production values.  The all-star line-up and equally extensive set list adds even more reason to praise the performance.  The packaging for the deluxe sets is another interesting addition to the overall presentation that is worthy of note, too.  All assembled together, it makes this recording one that any fan of Americana and music lover in general will find entertaining each time they turn it on.

The very first thing to note about Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save The Barn is the variety of platforms on which it is available.  It is available in two deluxe packages that include both a double-disc CD portion and double-disc video portion.  Those that have HDTVs and Blu-ray players are offered the set with a double-Blu-ray video portion.  Those with DVD players are offered the deluxe package that includes the video recording on DVD along with the double-disc CD accompaniment.  There are also the stand alone DVD and Blu-ray sets as well as a stand-alone double-disc CD set from which audiences can choose.  This vast amount of options may not seem like much to some.  But the reality is that it plays a much bigger role in the overall presentation of this set than some might believe.  Depending on one’s budget or perhaps access to one format or another, Time Life Entertainment has given audiences as many possibilities as possible to be able to enjoy this performance.  Generally when it comes to live recordings, it seems the standard is to present the recording either on one format or another and leave it at that.  Time Life Entertainment has done the exact opposite.  It has offered this iconic performance in every format possible, save for digital.  Though, that will likely come.  For this alone, the people at Time Life Entertainment are to be highly commended.

The multi-format packaging for Love For Levon (as it will be simply known from here on out) is a major positive to the overall positive outlook on this concert.  Moving forward, one must also take into account its production values in determining its success or failure.  Obviously, the good people at Time Life Entertainment maintained the mantra that failure is not an option even with the recording’s production values.  The audio and video were expertly mixed.  Audiences will notice this both on the DVD and Blu-ray presentations as well as on the CD presentation.  This is a factor that is just as important as the number of formats from which audiences to have choose in experiencing the concert.  It is just as important because without proper mixing, there is no reason to buy the recording on any platform.  There are live recordings out there that leave audiences wondering what those behind the boards and cameras were thinking and were they awake at their posts.  Obviously, those behind the board s and cameras were well awake at this concert.  It looks and sounds excellent all the way around.  Even the lighting on stage itself was just right.  When blues great Mavis Staples takes the stage to sing ‘Move Along Train’ every note from Ms. Staples and the backing musicians is crystal clear. This expert mixing is handled throughout the near three-hour long concert.

Having taken into account the production values of Love for Levon, the next logical step is to take a slightly broader examination in looking at the show’s set list and its equally vast array of performers.  These too, are boons to this recording.  Mavis Staples is just one of the many superstars that made appearances for the benefit.  Also on hand were the likes of: Jakob Dylan, John Mayer, Roger Waters, Eric Church, My Morning Jacket, Dierks Bentley, Ray LaMontagne, and a whole who’s who of music past and present.  That so many artists from so many different corners of the music world came together for this performance shows the impact that Levon Helm had in his life and still has even though he remains only in spirit.  While the conglomeration of artists was in itself quite impressive, one must agree that the performance’s set list was just as incredible.  The bluesy feel of ‘Trouble in Mind’ and ‘Move Along Train’ is just a pair of the highlights from the performance.  ‘Little Birds’ and ‘Listening to Levon’ are just impressive in their more subdued, emotional tones.  These are just a handful of the songs that audiences will enjoy throughout the course of what is one of the year’s must have live recordings.  During the concert, the performers and their songs will send audiences on an emotional and musical journey that they will not forget.  It is a journey that after it’s over, audiences know they will want to take again.

So much work went into bringing Love for Levon to the masses.  The performances in this recording are outstanding, as are the performers and the songs.  The show’s production values are well above par.  And that Time Life Entertainment and StarVista have given audiences so many options from which to choose in deciding on how to best take in the concert sweetens the deal even more.  There is one final piece to the puzzle that makes this recording one of the year’s best live recordings, if not the best of the year.  That piece of the puzzle is the packaging.  This critic had the honor of receiving a screener of the deluxe double-disc CD/double-disc DVD set for review.  The packaging for this deluxe is impressive in its own right.  All four discs in the set are placed into their own mini-sleeve so to speak within the larger package that also includes a bonus booklet.  The bonus booklet includes very moving tributes written by Charles McCardell and Keith Wortman.  Wortman writes so eloquently of Helm in his addition to the included booklet, “In this age of artificially constructed music, Levon was the genuine article…in how he played, sang, and carried himself.”  He goes on to include a quote by Bruce Springsteen about Helm that is just as touching.  McCardell adds his own touch, expressing the joyous air that filled the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ, where the tribute concert was held.  His writing that, “From the energy generated in the building, it’s hard to tell who was more excited—the audience or the performers.”  Home audiences will see exactly what McCardell means when they watch this concert.  That single note echoes everything that has already been noted here.  And it can all be experienced now.  The concert is available now.  It can be ordered direct online via the Time Life Entertainment website at http://timelife.com/products/love-for-levon or via Amazon.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.