For a singer who provided some of the most impassioned and memorable antiwar music of the Vietnam era, the current situation in Iraq is proving all too familiar. John Fogerty, the leader of Creedence Clearwater Revival and songwriter of "Fortunate Son," "Who'll Stop the Rain" and "Bad Moon Rising," is back with his first album in seven years and, notably, a despairing antiwar plaint. The title track, "Deja Vu (All Over Again)," is a sad and searing observation on wars that began four decades apart:
Day by day I hear the voices rising
Started with a whisper like it did before
Day by day we count the dead and dying
Ship the bodies home while the networks all keep score.
In interviews, Fogerty has insisted that this is not a political song and that what he's trying to do is capture the feeling of loss and anguish that accompanies this latest war. Consider it mission accomplished. Where his antiwar songs with Creedence were fiercely energetic and brimming with resentment and even outrage, this new effort is somber and sober, a shadow of the Creedence leader's former self. When it comes to antiwar songs the second time around, Fogerty sounds more resigned and depressed than anything else.
Despite the moving title track, this is in no way simply a record about the war. As he did with Creedence, Fogerty mixes serious songs with lighter-hearted fare. After all, the blistering "Fortunate Son" was on the same album as the brilliant and joyous romp "Down on the Corner." There isn't another song quite as good as that one on this record, but "Sugar-Sugar (In My Life)" is a pleasurable bite of raw, rootsy pop, and a ditty for his young daughter, "I Will Walk With You," is as sweet and lovely as lullabies come.
Fogerty stabs at other styles as well. On "She's Got Baggage," he sounds like Loudon Wainwright fronting the Ramones. That's quite a combo. And Mark Knopfler's inimitable guitar work on "Nobody's Here Anymore" makes a song about disconnectedness sound even more otherworldly (not to mention exactly like a Dire Straits song).
A few songs fall flat, particularly the closer "In the Garden," a flash of retro-psychedelia that would have sounded dated even in 1969. There's also a bit of put-upon-husband crankiness that makes "Radar" and "Honey Do" sound like Fogerty might not be the most helpful guy around the house. Or at least that he likes to complain a lot. On the latter he sings:
Well, the weekend's here
And it's time to relax
Kick up my feet in the shade out back
But I musta been thinking
About some other guy
'Cause here comes The Warden
With a look in her eye.
Missteps aside, this is a record Fogerty fans will enjoy. And if the title track proves too despairing to handle, the 59-year-old singer offers an unlikely antidote in the seemingly simple, even silly "Rhubarb Pie." A bluesy country shuffle, it is a testament to living life to the fullest, even if that just means what you're going to eat for dessert:
Rhubarb pie, rhubarb pie
It might rain tomorrow
Better get some before I die.
Words to live by, indeed.