December 18, 2008

Creedence Clearwater Revival: the 40th Anniversary Editions

Back in the day Creedence Clearwater Revival were not considered to be a cool band. They just sounded way to commercial for hippies and critics-in-the-know. Releasing top-selling singles by the dozen (although none of those made it all the way to number #1), it is surprising how much good stuff there is on the six album that the classic four-piece line-up released in a little over three years. Creedence are the kind of band that were made for greatest hits albums, while the original albums tend to be overlooked.

Let's face it: John Fogerty was Creedence Clearwater Revival. He wrote the bulk of the songs, played a blistering lead guitar with an instantly recognizable blues twang tone and of course there is his voice, trained in the days of yore when they were a struggling covers band, with a few broken amps and zero amplification for the vocals. That's where he got his blues shouter voice. Brother Tom Fogerty was on rhythm guitar (and he left after the sixth album, leaving the trio soldiering on with one more studio album and a below-par live album). Stu Cook on bass and Doug Clifford on drums were a rock solid tandem, who played all the right notes and hit the right things to keep the fast train that was CCR on the tracks.

The Concord Music Group gave the six classic albums the 4Oth Anniversary Edition treatment: sleeve notes (good) and bonus material (some good, some bad - far too much live performances from the 1971 European tour that must have been stored in a really soggy place, sounding murky and muddy).

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival
The debut album contains only a handful of originals, but in those very first few notes of Screamin' Jay Hawkings' I Putt A Spell On You Creedence layed down their own sound: swamp rock created by a bunch of Bay Area boys who never had been in the deep South, but had musically transported themselves down to Louisiana. The listener had no choice but to follow. John Fogerty doesn't write about hippies, but about everyday live in Porterville and the hazards of being a working man.

The bonus stuff is good: a studio outtake of Before You Accuse Me (this song would be re-recorded for the Cosmo's Factory album) and two live tracks from March 14, 1969 show at The Fillmore in San Francisco.

  1. I Put A Spell On You
  2. The Working Man
  3. Suzie-Q
  4. Ninety-Nine And A Half
  5. Get Down Woman
  6. Porterville
  7. Gloomy
  8. Walking On The Water
  9. Call It Pretending
  10. Before You Accuse Me [outtake]
  11. Ninety-Nine And A Half [live at The Filmore, San Francisco 03/14/1969]
  12. Suzie-Q [live at The Filmore, San Francisco 03/14/1969]
Bayou Country

Bayou Country
The sole cover on their sophomore album is Good Golly Miss Molly, a song that will get the rise out of drinking party, but hardly relevant. John was still going South writing about being born on the bayou, and taking a trip on the river boat Proud Mary. That was a huge hit and was snapped up by Solomon Burke, and Ike & Tina Turner. Still getting heavy rotation on classic rock radio this song made CCR. Following the trend of long bluesy jams, the stand out tracks are Bootleg (the bonus alternate take is actually the better one) and Grayeyard Train.

The bonus stuff:
good: alternate take of Bootleg and the jam taking the piss out of an auto dealer named Crazy Otto advertisements;
bad: the Europe 1971 live recordings.

  1. Born On The Bayou
  2. Bootleg
  3. Graveyard Train
  4. Good Golly Miss Molly
  5. Penthouse Pauper
  6. Proud Mary
  7. Keep On Chooglin'
  8. Bootleg (alternate take)
  9. Born On The Bayou [live in London, 09/28/1971]
  10. Proud Mary [live in Stockholm, 09/21/1971]
  11. Crazy Otto [live at The Filmore, San Francisco 03/14/1969]
Green River

Green River
Darkness crept into the lyrics of Green River. In terms of musicianship and compositions Creedence was still on the way up, but John Fogerty was getting second thoughts. He wanted to be praised by the critics, writing the pleading Wrote A Song For Everyone. He was afraid that the singles wouldn't make the charts anymore and he would be sent back to Lodi, working at a car wash.

The title track is the ultimate Creedence statement; a shuffling rockabilly blues song that has worked wonders for the guitar makers and checkered shirts industry. People wanted to hear it over and over again. And then try to play it themselves.

Bonus stuff:
good: two outtakes: Broken Spoke Shuffle and Glory Be (there's always a hint of Gospel in the CCR music, so there);
bad: the Europe 1971 live recordings.

  1. Green River
  2. Commotion
  3. Tombstone Shadow
  4. Wrote A Song For Everyone
  5. Bad Moon Rising
  6. Lodi
  7. Cross-Tie Walker
  8. Sinister Purpose
  9. The Night Time Is The Right Time
  10. Broken Spoke Shuffle
  11. Glory Be
  12. Bad Moon Rising [live in Stockholm, 09/21/1971]
  13. Green River/Suzie-Q [live in Hamburg, 09/17/1971]
  14. Lodi [live in Hamburg, 09/17/1971]
Willy And The Poor Boys

Willy And The Poor Boys
The back-to-basics for Willy And The Poor Boys found Creedence at a cross-roads. Contemplating life on the porch in a mellow mood is hard to do when you are pissed off about the Vietnam war. As John Fogerty points out in his angry Fortunate Son, it's the ordinary guys who get send down to get killed in the jungle of South-East Asia. He longs for the good old days, when the band that gave thr album its name was playing on homemade instruments. The Leadbetty cover Cotton Fields and the classic train song The Midnight Special fit into that sentiment. The dream has become a nightmare and Fogerty is taking notes and putting them into memorable songs. He was on the top of his game with Creedence and the slow descend would arrive any day now.

Bonus stuff:
adequate: the Booker T. jam. There are better sources out there. Concorde Music did not find them. Since this a 1970 recording it had made more sense to include it with Cosmo's Factory.
bad: the Europe 1971 live recordings.

  1. Down On The Corner
  2. It Came Out Of The Sky
  3. Cotton Fields
  4. Poorboy Shuffle
  5. Feelin' Blue
  6. Fortunate Son
  7. Don't Look Now
  8. The Midnight Special
  9. Side O' The Road
  10. Effigy
  11. Fortunate Son [live in Manchester, 09/1/1971]
  12. It Came Out Of The Sky [live in Berlin, 09/16/1971]
  13. Down On The Corner [jam with Booker T & The MGs at Fantasy Studios]
Cosmo's Factory

Cosmo's Factory
Last call for classic Creedence. With a groovy opener called Ramble Tamble where the lyrics serve as an afterthought this album is about the road: playing endless gigs while thinking about the poor sods being shot to Hell in Vietnam. John Fogerty laments the fact that he can't find the time to sit down and look outside his back door. Ending with an expanded version of Marvin Gaye''s I Heard It Through The Grapevine and the gospel tinged Long As I Can See The Light the contents sit uneven with the rather cheesy cover photo taking at the studio where the album was recorded.

Bonus stuff:
good: the alternate take of Travelin' Band ;
adequate: the Booker T. track. Once again: there are better sources out there;
bad: the Europe 1971 live recording.

  1. Ramble Tamble
  2. Before You Accuse Me
  3. Travelin' Band
  4. Ooby Dooby
  5. Lookin' Out My Back Door
  6. Run Through The Jungle
  7. Up Around The Bend
  8. My Baby Left Me
  9. Who'll Stop The Rain
  10. I Heard It Through The Grapevine
  11. Long As I Can See The Light
  12. Travelin' Band (remake take, problably for lip-synched appearances]
  13. Up Around The Bend [live in Amsterdam 09/10/1971]
  14. Born On The Bayou [with Booker T & The MGs at Fantasy Studios]

The end. By now brother Tom Fogerty had had enough. He wanted to contribute songs or he would walk. And he did, shortly afterwards. John was still looking for recognition. They wined and dined the press when the album was released, put together a documentary that would serve as ad TV special. The press ate well and drank deep. And killed them. Hey Tonight was their last hurray, but sadness prevails on this one. Sailor's Lament is a terribly sad song, and the Pagan Baby wears a smile that isn't real. The bonus stuff says it all: an ill-fated tape-montage that was used as a promo single proved once again that Creedence were not the American Beatles, even if they sold more records at the time. They were a goddamn fine rock band that could make a crap car audio system sound good. It would take some time for the critics to come to terms with that.

  1. Pagan Baby
  2. Sailor's Lament
  3. Chameleon
  4. Have You Ever Seen The Rain?
  5. (Wish I Could) Hideaway
  6. Born To Move
  7. Hey Tonight
  8. It's Just A Thought
  9. Molina
  10. Rude Awakening #2
  11. 45 Revolutions Per Minute (Part 1)
  12. 45 Revolutions Per Minute (Part 2)
  13. Hey Tonight [live in Hamburg, 09/17/1971]

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