Tribute albums can be the saddest damn things. Music executives shamelessly trying to squeeze every last gold nugget out of beautiful music. Aging rock stars with plastic faces struggling to hit notes they once reached with ease. Flat duets with a new top ten sensation.
Tribute albums reek of the cheap perfume of sloppy nostalgia and human desperation.
It’s with this in mind that I gave a listen to John Fogerty’s new effort, Wrote a Song for Everyone, and from the moment the phat drumbeat of “Fortunate Son” dropped in, I knew I was listening to something special.
In my first two listens, this album continually gave me chills.
These songs are not flaccid covers of great songs. They are brimming with new energy. The songs move from rock to country to R&B with a natural ease and authenticity.
In an interview on WTF with Marc Maron, Fogerty explains that this project was his wife’s idea. She suggested that he ask his favorite musicians from the New Guard to collaborate with him on an album. So he contacted the musicians he admires and asked them to come up with their own takes on his classics. The mutual respect that exists on Wrote a Song for Everyone between the songs’ creator and the new musicians is what makes the entire project sizzle with vitality.
The Foo Fighters, in true Foo Fighter form, blow “Fortunate Son” out of this universe with their rock and roll ferocity. To hear Dave Grohl and John Fogerty trade verses of this Vietnam-era rager is a gift from the rock and roll gods.
Somehow the transition from the rock and roll force of “Fortunate Son” to the banjo opening of “Almost Saturday Night” feels perfect. Keith Urban sounds great here. (Did I just compliment Keith Urban? Why, yes, I guess I did.) This song could be a number one country hit now. A country hit I would actually listen to.
Album highlight: My Morning Jacket’s take on “Long As I Can See the Light.” This song has always moved me. In high school, it was one of the first songs whose lyrics I payed special attention to. That first image, “Put a candle in the window.” Shit. On Wrote a Song, the song has such reverent restraint for the first two minutes, then MMJ open things up, moving towards a scorching solo that embodies the yearning, the beautiful desperation at the song’s heart. It sounds like Jim James and John Fogerty are trading solos at the end. Come on! Could you think of a better collaboration?
Other standouts: Tom Morello’s solo on “Wrote a Song for Everyone,” Zac Brown Band’s lively “Bad Moon Rising,” Dawes on “Someday Never Comes,” and the one and only Bob Seger on “Who’ll Stop the Rain.”
Do you like CCR? Trick question, of course you do. If Fogerty’s songs have ever moved you, like I mean ever, then you have to, I repeat, have to listen to this album. In an age where you can access every song ever recorded using a device that fits in your hand, you have no excuse not to listen.
Get in your car. Roll down your window. Turn the radio loud. Let the beauty of Wrote a Song for Everyone pour over your soul. Because that’s what I plan on doing all summer.
(Click to listen through Spotify. Do it!)