Since John Fogerty disbanded Creedence Clearwater Revival, hes abdicated his role as spinner of Americana to the likes of John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen (see below). But while it took multiple lawsuits and acrimony between him and his former bandmates, Fogerty has seemingly recaptured the magic of those longago days. True, hes had high points since then, principally Centerfield from 1985. But hes never sounded so much like a new and improved version of CCR. He sharpens his pencil and zaps the administration for the war in Iraq, the abandonment of New Orleans, and his view of its corruption and ineffectiveness on Long Dark Night, while on Summer of Love he lets the guitars do the talking. And his singing really is better than ever, with clearer enunciation and less quaver and twang. Who would have thought you really could go home again?
Bruce Springsteen Magic Columbia
Critics are calling this Springsteens best album in years. The only question is, the best album since when? One could compare this to Born in the USA in terms of its quality and not be embarrassed, or to Darkness on the Edge of Town for its cinematic feel, and not be far off there either. Radio Nowhere opens the disc with an anthemic singalong that brings to mind the America Springsteen misses. Theres a maturity here, both lyrically and musically, that the Boss couldnt claim back then. While his spooky harmonica brings back memories of dustbowl days, the string section argues for an orchestral oeuvre previously unheard, though perhaps hinted at on Meeting Across the River on Born to Run. It all adds up to an instant classic, one whose moods and majesty measure up to the soaring guitars and wordplay. Magic indeed.
Maynard Ferguson The One and Only Maynard Ferguson Maynard Ferguson Trust
While critics sometimes panned the late trumpeters bravura style, fans and fellow trumpeters stood in awe of Fergusons audacious chops. The One and Only... is as good a goingaway present as he could have left us, with both the power and the toooftenoverlooked taste, musical generosity and command of a master musician in full view. Ferguson often capitalized on jazz versions of popular tunes, from Hey Jude to his hit version of Gonna Fly Now from the Rocky movies. Here, he tips his hat to Bill Withers with Aint No Sunshine. Ferguson also was a master of the ballad, and his flugelhorn playing, especially in his later years, was a thing of beauty. On Vita Bella, he amply demonstrates his vitality and the sheer beauty of his tone. The other standards and originals on this disc convey a feeling of beauty, of bravado, warmth and joy. If he had to go, Maynard certainly went out on one of his highest notes.
Will Downing After Tonight Peak
Downing is one of those middleoftheroad R&B singers whose music is appealing enough but lacks the personality or the hits to make him stand out from the crowd. The album has its share of highlights, such as the opening Wills Groove and the delightful Lovers Melody, a much more sprightly track than the name might suggest. The wahwah guitars and swaying vocals are accompanied by Roy Ayers on vibes, giving the tune a slightly exotic twist. But the energy continues to flag on the overlong title track which follows, finding Downing endlessly repeating the title phrase with no change in the backing, presumably to create emphasis or tension. But instead the repetition tends to have a stultifying effect. There are enough of the high points to make you wish Downing had edited the overlong tracks and deleted the less interesting ones altogether in favor of more exciting tunes.