-- Sara Gurgen

John Fogerty

By the time the preeminent Sixties blue-collar rock group Creedence Clearwater Revival acrimoniously disbanded in 1972, lead singer and songwriter John Fogerty had unfortunately signed away a large portion of his creative output. In order to get out of his contract with Fantasy Records, he had to relinquish all publishing rights to the songs he wrote between 1968 and 1971, including all nine of CCR's Top 10 hits. For the past two decades, rather than continue to pad Fantasy's pockets with the fruits of his artistry, Fogerty steadfastly refused to perform any of the songs he signed away. But after rediscovering his "spiritual ownership of the songs" -- reportedly with a bit of coaxing by cronies Bob Dylan and George Harrison -- Fogerty has reclaimed, at least morally, both his catalogue and his legacy. (In the irony department, Fogerty's former CCR bandmates, bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford, are touring this summer under the name Creedence Clearwater Revisited, with a hired hand tackling lead vocals. Fogerty is rightfully pissed, and has called the charade "tasteless and tacky, like an Elvis impersonation." He lost a lawsuit attempting to prevent their use of the name.)

Legal wranglings aside, Fogerty is back with a would-be greatest hits album, Premonition, his first live solo album; it handily captures the spirit of his swamp-boogie days. The eighteen-song set, taped on a Burbank soundstage last December, finds Fogerty in top form, his voice rich with the swagger and grit of a man making up for lost time. The album is packed with obligatory CCR killers -- "Born on the Bayou," "Fortunate Son," "Green River," and "Proud Mary" -- plus tracks from 1985's Centerfield and last year's Grammy-winning Blue Moon Swamp. (Fogerty does toss in a new song, the title track.) But what's most effective about Premonition isn't so much the veteran rocker's enthusiasm for reliving his glory days but the nostalgia factor, a ploy that worked for Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. In Fogerty's case, it's been a long time coming. This material is eternal, and note-for-note re-creations of classics like "Who'll Stop the Rain" are hard to fault. Fogerty clearly owns these songs; Premonition proves it.

-- George Pelletier

The Royal Pendletons
Oh Yeah, Baby
(Sympathy for the Record Industry)

Gloriously inept, fiercely rocking, and with a sensibility derived from primitive punk rockers from the past, the Royal Pendletons may be the greatest garage-rock band on the planet. Well, if not the greatest, definitely the most fun: The New Orleans quartet's debut album, Oh Yeah, Baby, is a relentless, rollicking fourteen-song stomper, driven by the minimalist Farfisa flourishes of George Thomas Oliver and the crude percussive pounding of King Louie Bankston. Pendleton originals (most written by vocalists/guitarists Michael Hurtt and J. Matt Uhlman) are masterfully paired with assaultive covers ranging from the obscure James Brown instrumental "Cross Firing" to ? and the Mysterians' "Hangin' on a String" and Earl King's "Those Lonely, Lonely Nights." The band's own songs fit so well into the mix that you'll swear Hurtt's angry, growling "Game of Love" was actually retrieved from a lost Sixties single, or that you've heard their reverb-drenched "Mecca" on a vintage surf-instrumental collection. It's a tribute to the band's intoxicating genius that, whether ripping through their own stuff or wailing on a found oddity, the Pendletons' singularly sloppy stamp is all over Oh Yeah, Baby.

-- John Floyd

The Spinanes
Arches and Aisles
(Sub Pop)

Arches and Aisles, the third album in seven years from the Spinanes, heralds many changes for the onetime indie-rock duo. Drummer Scott Plouf ended his collaboration with vocalist/guitarist Rebecca Gates in 1996 for a regular gig with the band Built to Spill, leaving Gates to continue the Spinanes saga (and name) as a solo act. She seems to have taken full advantage of her newfound independence, moving to Chicago from Portland and taking her music to a more adventurous level by using a rotating cast of back-up musicians to decorate her usually sparse soundscapes. While earlier Spinanes duo albums suffered from a sameness of moody acoustic atmospherics and a dearth of hooks, Arches and Aisles is more expansive, even if the few songs that really stand out do so because of the talented musicians Gates brought in to bolster her own performance.

Particularly conspicuous is drummer and keyboardist John McEntire, of postmodern progressive rock outfits Tortoise, Gastr del Sol, Red Krayola, and the Sea and Cake. His bubbly intro to "Kid in Candy" is rhythmic and melodious; beautiful layers of droning synthesizers hum in the background like ambient wind. McEntire's influence surfaces again in the dense overlay of guitars and organ melodies on "Reach v. Speed," which also features the mellow vocals of Sea and Cake frontman Sam Prekop.

Although both of these songs bear the stamp of the Sea and Cake, this is still a Spinanes record, and the other songs have a tough act to follow. Taken on their own merits, though, they are a step up the evolutionary ladder from previous Spinanes material. Gates has clearly made an attempt to diversify the sonic environments that reflect her varying moods, be they perky and playful ("Sucker's Trial") or slow and contemplative ("Greetings from the Sugar Lick"), making for the most musically diverse Spinanes record to date.

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