CD Review of 40th Anniversary reissues by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival:
40th Anniversary reissues

C
reedence Clearwater Revival wasn't the most popular or exemplary of the Sixties bands. Coming out of the San Francisco Bay Area 'burb of El Cerrito and pretending as if they’d just crawled out of the Louisiana swamps, CCR wasn't trendy like Airplane or greeted with peaceful, open arms by a loving throng of tripped-out fans like the Grateful Dead. Four decades on, however, the hard-edged 1969 rockabilly of Green River (and the band's other albums) endures, made of much more substantial stuff than "White Rabbit" or whatever watch-your-speed junk the Dead was pushing.

The fact that the band rocked hard and was dialed into the working man's blues – and was pissed about the war, not in a fashionable geopolitical sense but instead a Springsteen-esque, much more personal way – enabled CCR to enjoy more popular success than the psychedelic groups that fans liked, but didn't really get. CCR, on the other hand, was a singles machine, cranking out tightly formed country-billy hit after hit after hit on six albums released from 1968 to 1971, without the drug-addled slop and hallucinations of their San Fran peers.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Fantasy has given Creedence’s six studio albums the deluxe treatment – try not to choke on that 40th Anniversary part – and the Bullz-Eye staff leapt at the opportunity to re-examine these albums in a modern light. Surprise! They still rule.



Creedence Clearwater Revival:
Creedence Clearwater Revival

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Label: Fantasy
Released: 1968
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The debut album from Fogerty, Inc. came forth as a product of the group's re-forming after John Fogerty and Doug Clifford completed their mandatory stint of military service (Fogerty, Army reserve; Clifford, Coast Guard reserve). CCR might lean on numerous covers – such as Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You," the completely unrelated Dale Hawkins' "Suzy Q," and Wilson Pickett's "Ninety Nine and a Half (Won't Do)" – but it established a beach head for CCR in the blues-rock world. Sounding a little like mainstream pop broadcast on AM dials of the day and a lot like something completely different, the album provides glimpses of what was to come with its psychedelic country twinges and Fogerty's distinctive voice – at once raw and powerful. The reissue features clean remastering and four bonus tracks, the Motown-esque "Call it Pretending," a so-so cover of Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me," and rockin' live versions of both "Suzy Q" and "Ninety-Nine."

~ mojo flucke, ph.d.



Creedence Clearwater Revival:
Bayou Country

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Label: Fantasy
Released: 1969
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Their eponymous debut notwithstanding, Bayou Country represented Creedence Clearwater Revival’s actual coming out. While the band had previously scored a hit with its take on “Suzie Q,” it was John Fogerty’s nascent skills as a songwriter, surfacing in originals like “Born on the Bayou” and “Proud Mary” that allowed the band to make the metamorphosis from classy covers band to a group capable of leaving its own indelible imprint. It defined CCR as an American institution, one that found Fogerty tapping the wellspring of the fertile Mississippi headwaters to create an authentic narrative on the heartland and its heroes. At the same time, “Bootleg” (reprised here as a bonus track with a longer alternative take), and “Keep On Chooglin’” gave credence to the fact Creedence were essentially a jam band, while a spirited version of “Good Golly Miss Molly” proved they were still capable of reviving a classic oldie. This reissue also includes live, unreleased offerings of “Born on the Bayou” and “Proud Mary” from the band’s final European tour (uneven mixes though they are) and a bluesy jam called “Crazy Otto” recorded at the Fillmore in 1969, a further testament to their budding instrumental prowess.

~ Lee Zimmerman



Creedence Clearwater Revival:
Green River

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Label: Fantasy
Released: 1969
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Green River counts the familiar title cut as well as "Bad Moon Rising" as its big hits, but really, all the songs are rock solid, from soulful R&B of "The Night Time Is the Right Time," a song first made popular by Ray Charles, to the slower, folky "Wrote a Song for Everyone," the DNA strand from which the Boss could have theoretically grown every single one of his hard-luck characters. The reissue contains five bonus tracks, the first two of which are pure gold: "Broken Spoke Shuffle" and "Glory Be," two rocker instrumentals that ended up not being developed into CCR songs; Fogerty's modus operandi was to have the band flesh out the instrumental backing tracks and then dub in the vocals later.

The rest of the extras are live renditions of songs on the album that are fun to hear and which testify to how tight the group was in concert. The final trio lineup of CCR performed the live tracks, so if you're into that sound, it's pretty rockin' stuff. But the bonus material doesn't necessarily add enough value to the disc to justify its purchase if you've already paid the record company for the last CD version. For new fans, however, these are vital recordings and resonate just as true today. You are either involved in the war or know someone who is. You feel the effects of one piss-poor economy and are probably understanding right about now just how cold a world you live in. John Fogerty knew, and still knows. When you crank it up, you can feel it, and it somehow it gets better for a moment, especially in crystal clear remastered digital and not the compressed-to-hell FM you remember from your misspent youth.

~ mojo flucke, ph.d



Creedence Clearwater Revival:
Willy and the Poor Boys

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Label: Fantasy
Released: 1969
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In retrospect, CCR’s fourth album could be called their best effort overall, although Green River arguably vies for that contention as well. Still, Willy and the Poor Boys strikes a distinction all its own, being among the first albums to pioneer the genre that came to be called Americana. Fogerty’s originals showed him on an enduring songwriting streak, with the folksy “Down on the Corner” and the raging antiwar anthem “Fortunate Son” earning inclusion among the best songs in his ever-expanding canon. As was their practice from early on, the band was still apt to explore their roots, tapping trad standards “Cotton Fields” and “The Midnight Special” as the springboards for down-home discovery. Likewise, the crazy country tale of a UFO encounter, “It Came Out of the Sky” (a not so-distant cousin to the Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman”), the rootsy “Poorboy Shuffle” and the dire, demonstrative coda “Effigy” gave the album a solid second string. The live add-ons, “Fortunate Son” and “It Came Out of the Sky,” both plucked from that final European tour, add interest, but it’s an unreleased jam with Booker T. and the MGs on “Down on the Corner” that ranks as the reissue’s most fortuitous find.

~ Lee Zimmerman



Creedence Clearwater Revival:
Cosmo’s Factory

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Label: Fantasy
Released: 1970
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I have no idea how the hell CCR managed to crank out five classic albums with a ton of hit singles in two short years, but they did it. And the quality of both the music and the lyrics made every other band putting out an album and couple singles per year look like fools. On this, their fourth album, you get “Travelin’ Band,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” “Run Through the Jungle,” “Up Around the Bend,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” the 11-minute “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Long As I Can See the Light,” and then everything else. Jesus. John Fogerty was one prolific dude who could also take other people’s tunes and make them his own.

This new 40th anniversary edition sounds a lot better than previous reissues of the material. The songs have a crispness and immediacy to their sound now that make them jump out of the speakers even harder than before. Alone this album would receive five stars, but the three bonus cuts appended here are worthless. There’s a remake of “Travelin’ Band” sans horns with a barely audible vocal track and a really lo-fi version of “Born on the Bayou” with Booker T. and the MGs. However, the live “Up Around the Bend” recorded in Amsterdam in 1971 shows the band were just as shit-hot in concert as in the studio. Fans may want to repurchase this for the better sound, but not for the extras. Anyone else who’s the least bit inclined to get something by CCR should definitely pick this up.

~ Jason Thompson



Creedence Clearwater Revival:
Pendulum

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Label: Fantasy
Released: 1970
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Pendulum, the final disc that CCR recorded as a quartet (the band’s last record, 1972’s Mardi Gras did not include Tom Fogerty), is a fascinating, jammy album that contains the mandatory couple of hits, but also includes some very interesting material that suggests that John Fogerty was trying to evolve the sound as opposed to churning out a formula for hits. For those requiring the familiar, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” and “Hey Tonight” are Pendulum tracks and regardless of how many times they have been heard, still sound like great songs. John Fogerty’s killer Hammond B3 playing is a huge part of this record and compliments the excellent rhythm guitar work and steady (if not unspectacular) bottom end. “Pagan Baby” the opening track, is one of the heavier songs the band ever recorded and features a surly guitar part complimented by the impassioned vocal delivery of John. Even though the Creedence history is littered with bitter acrimony and conflict, the band sounds as if it is having a blast ripping this six minute plus tune out. You can hear a John Fogarty chuckle in the background during the song. “Sailor’s Lament” the second track features a huge backing vocal chorus supporting John set to a wonderful rolling keyboard and familiar CCR rhythm guitar work. The saxophone part on this track provides wonderful depth to a CCR ditty. The extras for this re-release include the bizarre, Revolution #9 (Beatles) influenced “45 Revolutions Per Minute (Part 1)” and the equally bizarre “45 Revolutions Per Minute (Part 2)” which equate to ten plus minutes of disposable weirdness. A live very raw version of “Hey Tonight” is also included. This is a record which should be appreciated for the terrain that CCR attempted to cover by expanding their sound but working within their familiar strengths. The liner notes are also insightful and well written by Joel Selvin. Like the others re-issues, Pendulum provides a glimpse into CCR past the radio familiar material that is built into our collective consciousness, a glimpse well worth taking.

~ R. David Smola

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