Janiva Magness, Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty, Blue Elan Records
“Sista Janiva’s robust and soulful voice is showing each cut with determination to make us all fall in love.” Mavis Staples
John Fogerty is widely regarded as an iconic figure in rock and roll history over a fifty-year career. With a stint as co-founder and chief musical director of Creedence Clearwater Revival and then a hugely successful solo career, along with a string of classic hits to his name, Fogerty has been acclaimed in a number of “Greatest” Rolling Stone lists and honoured by induction into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Play any one of John Fogerty’s best-known songs and anyone with the least knowledge of rock and roll, will start singing along.
So when Grammy award winning singer, Janiva Magness comes up with this album covering Forgerty’s songs and in the process playing a rich tribute to him, every music fan ought to sit up and take notice. When an artist’s songs are performed by another artist, the spotlight falls firmly on the songs themselves and the strength of the songs becomes obvious – and that is certainly the case with the songs in Change in the Weather. But more than that, if the covering artist is someone of the calibre of Janiva Magness and can bring to those songs her own sense, feeling and deep appreciation, then you have something quite special.
Magness says of Fogerty, “John Fogerty is a brilliant writer. His material is very rich and provides a real highway into the heart of his songs, which is wonderful for me as a singer. Their backbone is his storytelling, which is spare and direct, and absolutely American in its imagery and themes.”
She gives us twelve songs from the Fogerty canon, all ones you are hoping would be there, including Bad Moon Rising, Have You Ever Seen the Rain, Wrote a Song for Everyone, Fortunate Song and A Hundred and Ten in The Shade. She is joined on Don’t You Wish It Was True, by triple-Grammy-winner and blues icon Taj Mahal and on Lodi by young country artist Sam Morrow.
Janiva Magness is on something of a creative roll at the moment, having released the excellent Love Wins Again, Blue Again and Love is an Army over the last three years, and her raw, redemptive autobiography Weeds Like Us in 2019.
Magness’s band is terrific throughout, guitars rockin’, great groove and adding a nice bluesy tinge where feasible – on Lodi, Don’t You Wish it Were True, Bad Moon Rising, Blueboy, Déjà vu and A Hundred and Ten in the Shade. Janiva Magness’s vocals, of course, are to the foreground, soulful, growling, haunting and soaring as the song requires.
Magness said that she found it stunning how Fogerty’s lyrics are still so relevant, both socially and on an individual level. Helpfully, the rather beautifully packaged CD material contains a booklet with comments by Magness on each song which help focus on Fogerty’s lyrics. You listen afresh, then, to her duet with Taj Mahal on Don’t You Wish It Was True, with its aspiration for a better world and protest at the way things are.
“He said the world’s gonna change and it’s starting today,
There will be no more sorrow and no more hate
Don’t you wish it was true?”
There is a certain timelessness to Fogerty’s music, and a relevance both musically and lyrically. Both are brought to the fore by Janiva Magness and her band in this fine recording.