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Out of the Swamp

Blue Moon Swamp may be John Fogerty's first CD in ten years, but you only have to go to a baseball game to know that he's never really been out of our consciousness. It was between innings at a recent Astros game that the familiar strains of Fogerty's "Centerfield" came blaring. The song is a bit of musical fan mail to America's pastime, and a fan near me said, "Can you imagine the royalties Fogerty gets from this song? It's played at every game in every ballpark in the country."

The fan was right, and the fan was wrong. "Centerfield," the title cut from Fogerty's multi-platinum 1985 solo CD, is a staple at baseball stadiums, but the word is that Fogerty doesn't get any royalties for that tune -- at least not when it's played to promote the great game. He so loves baseball that he lets almost anyone connected with the sport use it for free. Fogerty is, after all, an artist of integrity, one whose voice and songs such as "Green River," "Fortunate Son," "Bad Moon Rising," "Lodi" and "Born on the Bayou" made Creedence Clearwater Revival the biggest band in America in the late '60s.

But for a variety of reasons that relate to the innate unscrupulousness of the music business, Fogerty's output has been sporadic since he left Creedence, effectively killing the band, in 1972. He put out a few largely ignored solo records, then, angered over royalty disputes, vanished into the Oregon wilderness with his family. In 1985, Fogerty came out of hiding with the fresh sounds of Centerfield, which sported two hits besides the title track ("Rock 'n' Roll Girls" and "The Old Man Down the Road"), followed that up the next year with the less-inspired Eye of the Zombie, then crept back into seclusion until this spring, when he released Blue Moon Swamp. The new CD symbolizes a sort of closure with Fogerty's past. On those sporadic occasions in the past few decades when he played live, he refused to perform CCR material. Then, at a recent benefit show at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Fogerty sprinkled several Creedence hits into his set (songs such as "Who'll Stop the Rain" and "Run Through the Jungle" were soundtrack tunes for thousands of Nam vets).

Similarly, Blue Moon Swamp is a CD that sounds most like his earlier Creedence work. Though the Oakland, California, native has long been fascinated by the Deep South -- a fascination that left a distinctive imprint on his early songs -- he never spent much time in the region during his CCR days. Since then, though, he's traveled extensively in Louisiana, Mississippi and other such states, and songs on Blue Moon Swamp such as "Swamp River Days," "Rattlesnake Highway," "Walking in a Hurricane" and "Southern Streamline" reflect that.

Yet for all the renewed spirit, it must be said that Fogerty's new songs still lack the sheer hook quotient of even lesser CCR hits. Still, anger has always driven Fogerty's best work, from "Fortunate Son" to "Vanz Kant Danz," and given that, a recent judge's decision that a bogus Creedence trotted out by onetime bandmates Doug Clifford and Stu Cook -- who played drums and bass, respectively, in CCR, but neither wrote nor sang even one of the group's hits -- can tour under the band's name and play Fogerty's tunes may be a plus. One hopes that righteous rage will spur Fogerty to perform -- old songs and new -- at an incendiary level.

-- Rick Koster

John Fogerty performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 5, at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands. Tickets are $10 to $35. The Bottle Rockets open. For info, call 629-3700.

Toni Price -- An enormous talent, Price has carved out a reputation for bizarre individuality. She frequently shuns opportunities for publicity, rarely tours, and her impassioned performances follow in the tradition of King Crimson's Robert Fripp in that she prefers to sit while entertaining. But who cares? Sitting, standing or executing a pas de deux, Price is an affecting artist, one who wails like Bonnie Raitt, if Raitt were exorcising demons from the ghost of honky-tonk pioneer Charline Arthur. Born in Philadelphia and seasoned over the years in top 40 and lounge acts, she eventually landed in Austin, where she fit in immediately. Price has subsequently tested her autonomy against Big Music honchos and, with minor setbacks, it's worked. In 1995 she released the excellent Hey, and her latest, Sol Power, features Price's usual contingent of Austin pickers in a sweating and drinking testimony to her unique magic. At 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday, September 6, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2424 Norfolk. Tickets are $12. 528-5999. (R.K.)

Vanessa Williams -- Williams is one of the few soulful females who have crossed over into the mainstream and yet managed to hold on to their original R&B fans. Though she may not have the singing chops of, say, Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, Williams does bring a sense of calm confidence to her performances. It's even seeped its way into her acting. Need evidence? Watch her maintain a sense of morality amid the bloodshed and greed of the new gangland saga Hoodlum. Good things are still coming Williams's way; she just released a CD titled Next, and at the end of the month she'll be seen in the Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds-produced movie Soul Food. At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 10, at the Summit, 10 Greenway Plaza. Tickets are $30, $50 and $75. With Luther Vandross. 629-3700. (Craig D. Lindsey)

 
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