Every once in a while, I will be reviewing a release from my childhood or musical past that made an influence on me. Some of these will be well known, and others may have been passed by under the radar. Most will not be in the hard rock/metal genre. You can see reviews in that genre written by me in the Retro Review section on the webpage Sleazeroxx.com
I knew of the band Creedence Clearwater Revival due to the songs that they recorded being played on the local oldies radio station. Even in my early teen years, I listened to plenty of the early ‘50s and ‘60s music, especially since I was a huge fan of The Beach Boys. Although I remember the talents of John Fogerty’s work with CCR, when his album Centerfield came out in 1985, I didn’t listen to most of his solo work until I was in a band in the mid 1990s.
My one guitar player loved Fogerty’s work, and although I had a copy of the 1985 release on cassette, I never listened to the album, besides the few times I wanted to listen to the title track, an ode about baseball. That guitar player got me listening to Fogerty’s third solo album, along with 1997’s Full Moon Swamp. Throughout the years, I started learning more about how the music business treated Fogerty, with the various lawsuits from his label to other former CCR members, to the fact that he lost most of the rights to his penned songs. Reading his autobiography also opened my eyes to some of the things he had gone through. Besides the great hits he had with CCR ( a band that never had a #1 U.S. single believe it or not), I still think his finest solo work is Centerfield.
The release starts off with the bluesy/swamp track “The Old Man Down The Road.” During one lawsuit that he was thrown into, his former label stated that the song sounded too much like his CCR work. I remember the music video when it came out, from my early exposure to MTV, and my local music video show from Akron/Canton Ohio Channel 23 on Billy Soule’s video show (I’m almost certain it was played on his show-he was great!). The video basically follows the guitar chord hooked at one end into a speaker all the way throughout the road until you see Fogerty playing at the end of the song, with the chord plugged into his guitar. I remember thinking it was an odd video at the time because you never saw the main artist until the end (although dressed as a different character, he is in the beginning). The song ended up being a big hit for him , hitting #10 on the Billboard charts and #1 on the Top Rock charts.
The second track is one of my favorites on the whole album. “Rock and Roll Girls” hit #20 for Fogerty, and is a nice pop/rock song. The song has a strumming guitar riff to it, along with talking about the innocence of the times, especially girls who are sitting at home listening to their radios while gossiping about guys and love. There is a small yodeling part in the song which mixes his love of classic country and blended it into a rock song. The saxophone drives the song as well, making it a pop song.
“Big Train (From Memphis)” has a Johnny Cash style feel to it, with the rockabilly style that influenced John with his love of Ricky Nelson and Cash. I could picture Marty Stuart recording this song when he was having a great run on the country charts in the 1990s.
“I Saw It On TV” is my second favorite song off the album. The song details how the age of television influenced the world with events being shown on it, much like Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga” celebrated the rise and fall of radio. This song is probably the most mellow of the tracks, and references The Beatles, Davey Crockett, Howdy Doody, JFK, and other names in history. This is one wonderfully written track.
“Mr. Greed” and “Searchlight” have a big time ‘80s sound to each of the song, with the drum programming on the songs, along with the themes of greed and the mean, wealthy rich people, associated with the big greed of the 1980s. The guitar work in these songs are nice, and since Fogerty played almost all the instruments himself, it shows how skilled he is with his variety of talents.
The title track became a legend on its own, being played at every baseball stadium ever since. The fact that it was a B-Side to a single and not a hit, gives the song more history to it. The song , much like “I Saw It On TV” gives a historical snippet to baseball’s great players like Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, and Willie Mayes. The fact that it is still being played on sports shows, and in stadiums and arenas (even the opening click tracks when a player walks to the plate), shows his songwriting talents . It was also a song I would sing when I was standing in centerfield in my little league baseball days, because no one ever hit the ball that far to me anyway, so I had to pass the time by singing songs in the outfield.
“Can’t Help Myself” and “Zanz Kant Danz” end the album. The last song is a reference to the Fantasy record label owner, and was changed on the future pressings on the albums.
To me, there is only one major bad song on the release (the last one), and even though I was not a fan of the whole album when it came out, I can respect plenty from this album, which is Fogerty’s best solo album as a whole. 35 years later, it is still an enjoyable listen.
Track List: 1. The Old Man Down The Road 2. Rock and Roll Girls 3. Big Train (From Memphis) 4. I Saw It On TV 5. Mr. Greed 6. Searchlight 7. Centerfield 8. Can’t Help Myself 9. Zanz Kant Danz