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John Fogerty 

Déjà Vu All Over Again (Geffen)

John Fogerty's first album in seven years is best when it's simplest. Tunes like the semi-country "Rhubarb Pie" and "I Will Walk With You" have a captivating lilt, and the pop tune "Sugar Sugar (In My Life)," all slouchy and sweet, is one of Fogerty's catchiest. The CD rocks from the start, its Iraq-referenced title track evoking that seminal anti-Vietnam War anthem "Fortunate Son," which Fogerty wrote as the head of the beloved Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The reminiscence deepens with "Wicked Old Witch," a hard-rocking update of Creedence's "Born on the Bayou," and takes a weird, unsuccessful turn with "Nobody's Here Anymore," Fogerty's clumsily Luddite attack on the isolation that can accompany computer addiction. Mark Knopfler's trademark tangy guitar flavors the track, but doesn't particularly distinguish it from Dire Straits' far superior "Sultans of Swing."

Other associations, such as the Ramones-styled choruses on "She's Got Baggage" and the overwrought hard rocker "In the Garden," don't work either. All too often, Déjà Vu sounds as if Fogerty has something new to say, but hasn't found his own vocabulary for it. Wearing the stylistic clothes of other, equally distinctive musicians only dilutes his own style. Perched uncomfortably between the landmark and the transitional, Déjà Vu lives up to its title: Fogerty didn't let his material marinate long enough, once again.

More by Carlo Wolff

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