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Hoodoo Original Album Cover"HOODOO" - The Album
From John Fogerty
That Never Was

 

 

Reviewed by Graham Niven

 

"Hoodoo" is the album from John Fogerty that never was. Some background information to show how this situation occured is in order. When Creedence Clearwater Revival split up in 1972, John Fogerty began recording a solo album of covers of some of his favorite tunes. Thinking at the time that releasing the album under his own name would cause people to not judge the album on its own merit, Fogerty released the album under the alias of The Blue Ridge Rangers. The only place on the album Fogerty's name appeared was in the small print on the back as "Arranged and produced by John Fogerty".

 

While the "Rangers" album was and is a "cult" classic, it was overlooked for the most part by the general public. Despite wide airplay of a couple of singles from the album ("Jambalaya", "Hearts Of Stone") Fogerty's first solo effort while still at Fantasy Records did not garner the sales or audience expected. Fogerty released two more singles while at Fantasy. "You Don't Owe Me" b/w "Back In The Hills" were original Fogerty tunes, released under the Blue Ridge Rangers name. "You Don't Owe Me" received some airplay in the USA. Radio station programmers had a hard time classifying these tunes; were they country, or rockabilly, or what? Fogerty's next release, the first time John Fogerty was listed as the artist instead of "The Blue Ridge Rangers" was another original, "Comin' Down The Road" b/w a hot instrumental tune, "Richochet". The quality of the pressing of this Fantasy single was awful, the sound was so bad radio stations refused to play it. This crippled any chances that the catchy "Comin' Down The Road" might have had, and this fact did not go unnoticed by Fogerty.

 

At this point, burdened and frustrated with Fantasy Records over royalties, contract hassles, and musical stagnation, Fogerty simply stopped making records. Warner Brothers honcho David Geffen contacted Fogerty, and made a deal to get him released from his Fantasy contracts. Geffen signed Fogerty to the Elektra/Asylum label of Warner. The first result was the 1975 LP, simply titled 'John Fogerty'. This album can best be described a flawed record from a great artist. There are several songs that almost cross the line into the area of Fogerty at his best, most notably "Dream/Song", a loping "Lodi" style tune which easily tops all the other songs on the LP. Fogerty's weakness on this album is twofold. His drumming and bass playing are just not strong enough, the drumming in particular is timid. This initial solo effort by Fogerty after leaving Fantasy is nontheless an enjoyable mish mosh of styles, led by Fogerty's incredible vocals.

 

In mid 1976, Fogerty had enough material for a followup record to his self-titled 1975 release. The 1975 album drew mixed reviews from fans and critics, and was not a big seller. Early in 1976 Fogerty released a single, "You Got The Magic" (b/w "Evil Thing"). "You Got The Magic" got moderate airplay in the US during the "disco duck" era. These two songs, plus seven others were to collectively be the "Hoodoo" album.

 

"You Got The Magic", despite critical acclaim and widespread radio airplay, was not a success. Fogerty's own admission of a lack of musical confidence convinced Warner Brothers Records boss Joe Smith to have a talk with Fogerty. According to published accounts, Smith had doubts about the album's quality. Smith played the LP with Fogerty in his office, and said, "Look John, this is just not a good record. We'll put it out if you really want us to, but we'd rather not." (This is documented in the April 1985 issue of "Guitar Player" magazine.) Fogerty was known to be still tweaking the"Hoodoo" material as late as 1978-1980.

 

One must listen to "Hoodoo" with a remembrance of the musical scene in 1976. Discos and leisure suits ruled. Musically, only Bob Seger and the Stones were producing anything halfway decent. It would seem an ideal time for John Fogerty to return and rescue rock n' roll. Unfortunately, Fogerty was in the midst of a continuing legal battle with Fantasy, his old record label. His writing and musicianship suffered greatly due to this.

 

"Hoodoo" gives us flashes of recurring themes in Fogerty's music and lyrics, both in the past and yet to come. "Hoodoo" is driven by a compressed Telecaster guitar sound so prominent on "Centerfield", with the emphasis on the low strings. There are horns and a sax solo, Hammond B3 organ, Farfisa "surf" organ, and a honkey tonk piano thrown in along with a banjo. Fogerty even makes use of the dated and dreaded "wah-wah" pedal, and the Heil "Talk Box", as made famous by Steppenwolf's John Kay, Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton. Fogerty's voice is very strong throughout the album. Here is a review of "Hoodoo" song by song.

  1. "You Got The Magic" - One of only two songs ever commercially distributed from the album (as a single), it has a memorable, haunting intro. This powerful introduction builds into pure John Fogerty, with lyrical references to "shadows of night" and "faces in the fire". Overdubbed guitar riffs abound in classic Fogerty fashion, and a Farfisa organ thrown into the mix adds to the overall weirdness the song speaks of. The screaming lead guitar solo is one of Fogerty's better thought out riffs. This tune indeed has "the magic".

  2. "Between The Lines" - This song has a Dylan-esque organ and lead guitar duet driven rhythm, and features Fogerty's strong vocals. Not your typical Fogerty rocker, this ambling piece nevertheless is captivating with its mournful paranoid lyrics. With plenty of Telecaster low string guitar licks filling in at just the right time, this song sounds uncannily like a modern era Bruce Springsteen tune. Fogerty's pathos ridden lyrics are highlighted by a minor chord chorus thrown in for good measure. Although a sloppy snare drum roll ends this tune (ringing vocals and guitar would have made a better ending) this cut is my favorite from the "Hoodoo" album.

  3. "Leave My Woman Alone" - An altogether different arrangement than heard on his 1985 "John Fogerty's All Stars" TV special. This version has stronger guitars, and an annoying "fuzz" bass sound popular at the time. The lead vocals and harmonies are subpar in comparison to the "All Stars" version. Aside from a decent Telecaster lead guitar break reminiscent of a Steve Cropper (Booker T & The MG's) solo, this song is weak. Fogerty's arrangement is to blame; the tune is overplayed and overproduced.

  4. Marchin' To Blarney" - Whew! Boy was I glad to find out this one is an instrumental. With a drum introduction that makes you fear the sound of bagpipes to follow, this tune winds up being a Telecaster overdub showcase for one of Fogerty's catchy guitar licks. With some banjo and a number of other instruments nicely blended in the music, this is a very listenable tune.

  5. "Hoodoo Man" - Fast paced and suitably lyrically spooky, this rocker is prime John Fogerty. If Fogerty had left out the "Money, Money" derivitive guitar riff in the intro and produced a more inventive lead guitar solo, this song would be even better. Noteworthy is the Gibson Les Paul Custom neck pickup lead guitar riffs here that Fogerty later put to good use on "The Old Man Down The Road" (played on a Washburn guitar). A bit of the "talk box" guitar sound is on this cut also.

  6. "Telephone" - Another highlight, this Motown sound influenced tune again showcases the vocals of Fogerty. With several unexpected turns and chord changes, Fogerty keeps this tune lively. It would not be hard to imagine Al Green singing this song. Punctuated by a tasteful saxophone solo by Fogerty, this is one more tune that shoulda been out there. The only negative is the electronic or "fuzz" bass again in use here.

  7. "Evil Thing" - The "B" side of the released single "You Got The Magic". This cut suffers from the use of an electronic bass and wah-wah pedal guitar. Lyrically, it is another of Fogerty's well conceived paranoid pieces, this time about a love affair gone astray, one of the few times Fogerty has ever written about man/woman relationships. Sadly, the catchy lyrics are overcome by overdone instrument playing, notably the wah-wah guitar and a chunky keyboard bass sound. The drumming is also lackluster.

  8. "Henrietta" - Let's rock. You can hear Fogerty's trademark method of counting off the start of a song here (1,2, 1-2-3-4) and away we go on "Hoodoo's" most satisfying pure rock n' roll cut. This song is a basic three chord rocker, but leave it to Fogerty to throw in a few curves here and there to make it unique. This cut is where the "talk-box" is notably used by Fogerty. Thankfully, he doesn't attempt to speak with it, but uses it more like Joe Walsh ("Rocky Mountain Way") or John Kay & Steppenwolf ("Hey Lawdy Mama"). With the great rhythm section, honkey tonk piano and rocking guitars combined with strong vocals, this one is a keeper.

  9. "On The Run" - The last cut again showcases the vocal magic John Fogerty possesses. Soulfully sung, this tune starts out quiet, and builds to a nice paced number. Fogerty's bass playing and drumming are on the mark on this uptempo cut. With a clever bridge lyrically and musically, the song remains interesting. Fogerty fades out this cut normally, and then roars back into a final few bars of vintage Fogerty guitar jam in another key to fadeout.

 

The question remains, should "Hoodoo" have been released? Fogerty has stated he was lost musically and basically grabbing at straws (thus the wah-wah pedals and other gimmicks). I think the record needed a bit of polishing before it was released. The drum rolls at the end of "Between The Lines", a bit different and stronger intro to "Hoodoo Man", drop "Leave My Woman Alone", and add another song from the library. A little editing and remixing here and there on some other cuts and you'd have a decent record. With that in mind, I believe the album is strong enough to have been released. It is indeed interesting to hear the primordial soup from which the album "Centerfield" came. I hope John re-records "Between The Lines" and "Hoodoo Man" on a future release.

GN

 

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