Creedence Clearwater Revival
You may remember them as the Blue Velvets or the Golliwogs but only if you lived in the Bay Area in the mid-60s. Tom Fogerty played rhythm guitar and sang. Younger brother John was on lead guitar, Stu Cook handled bass and Doug Clifford was on drums. The band caught the attention of Fantasy Records but practically no one else. Long time Folk label Elektra had switched to Rock by signing both Love and The Doors. Now, Fantasy, a prestigious jazz label, was attempting the same thing.
The lack of success was taking its toll. First, the name Golliwogs had to go. It had been forced on them so they'd sound British at the height of that trend. Combining the first name of Tom Fogerty's friend, with a TV commercial and their desire to bring back a truer, more real sound, they became Creedence Clearwater Revival. There were some other changes as well. John Fogerty took over lead singing chores. Also, his songwriting which, by had his own admission gone from awful to good, was about to crack brilliant.
The band's first LP was moderately successful but it's the second Bayou Country that really defined CCR. The opening track is the classic "Born On The Bayou." The album also contains CCR's signature song "Proud Mary."
Over the next few years John Fogerty wrote, arranged, played lead guitar and sang on "Run Through The Jungle," "Bad Moon Risin'," "Who'll Stop The Rain" and many others. They never had a Number One song. In fact they hold some kind of record for the most Top Ten singles without a Number One. But who cares?
What makes CCR special? Well, at a time when Rock was engulfed in artsy, self indulgent, pseudo-creative clap-trap, CCR played Country/R&B tinged Rock and by doing so displayed more creativity and artistic merit than their contemporaries. They produced a string of timeless albums - "Willy And The Poor Boys," "Green River" and "Cosmo's Factory."
Eventually, Tom departed to spend more time with his family. He also launched a solo career that bombed. Clifford and Cook started writing songs and wanted to sing but since they lacked John's talent and experience, they paled in comparison. The drop in song quality and internal tensions spelled the end of CCR. Additionally, a royalty dispute caused Fogerty and Fantasy Records to part on extremely hostile terms. For years, Fogerty refused to play his own songs because Fantasy Records owned the publishing rights and would profit. Should never have signed away those rights (to Fantasy) in the first place.
John Fogerty did a couple of solo albums under the name Blue Ridge Rangers that went nowhere. Clifford and Cook surfaced is the Country Rock band Southern Pacific. But they eventually participated in Creedence Clearwater Revisited-CCR (get it?). This Fogerty-free outfit only showed what people will do to relive past glories or make a buck.
John Fogerty recovered somewhat in the mid-80s with "Old Man Down The Road," a song that got him sued. Fantasy Records, who owned the publishing to "Run Through The Jungle", claimed he plagiarized his own song. Fogerty won.
Now jump ahead a couple decades. Fogerty's long-standing dispute with Fantasy Records ended in a way that is reflective of corporate America but still unique to the music industry. Fogerty was dropped by his label. Happens. In '04, Fantasy was acquired by the Concord Music Group so the original owner (Saul Zaentz) was no longer in the driver's seat. Fantasy now had the opportunity to re-sign the musician that brought them to prominence.
Back on Fantasy (following a three decade break), Fogerty's "Revival," with the single, "Don't You Wish It Was True," arrived in '07. Recorded in L.A., the disc's title referenced CCR, as did the track, "Creedence Song."
1968 Creedence Clearwater Revival
1969 Bayou Country
1969 Green River
1969 Willy And The Poor Boys
1970 Cosmo's Factory)
1972 Mardi Gras
In a world populated by Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival might seem a little boring. Don't be fooled. This group of journeyman musicians led by singer, songwriter, guitarist John Fogerty delivered potent Rock. Born and raised in the Bay Area, Fogerty somehow nailed the Southern Rock bayou sound better than most natives. No doubt his love for that music seeped into his playing, singing and songwriting.
After a decent debut album, most remembered for extended guitar-jam covers like, "I Put A Spell On You" and "Suzie Q," Creedence Clearwater Revival put out four consecutive brilliant records.
"Born On The Bayou" has the great line "don't let the man getcha and do what he done to me." Fogerty's songs show maturity and a working class perspective that he retained throughout his career. "Proud Mary," a great "southern influenced" Rocker is CCR's biggest hit. Both "Keep On Chooglin'" and "Bootleg" are hypnotic riff Rockers. There's even a blazing version of "Good Golly Miss Molly." It's one of the few Little Richard covers that comes close to the original in both energy and force.
"Green River" and the ominous "Bad Moon Risin'" are the obvious highlights but the album also has the Rocker "Commotion" and the mournful "Lodi." Lyrically, Fogerty is at his peak.
Willie And The Poorboys
This album comes across as the most upbeat thanks in a large part to the lighthearted and friendly "Down On The Corner" and the comical "It Came Out of the Sky." However, this record also contains CCR's most ferocious Rocker, the anti-establishment "Fortunate Son."
The song list reads like a "Greatest Hits" album:
Lookin' Out My Back Door
Run Through The Jungle
Up Around The Bend
Who'll Stop The Rain
For fun, and to pay tribute their Rock roots, CCR covers Roy Orbison ("Ooby Dooby") and Elvis ("My Baby Left Me").
To top it off there's a hot guitar jam on "Heard It Through The Grapevine." Fogerty's vocals are as soulful as Marvin Gaye's original.
After "Comos Factory," Tom Fogerty, chaffing under his kid brother's absolute control, left for an uninspired solo career. Then, John relinquished some artistic control to Cook and Clifford. Big mistake. Lackluster is the best way to describe CCR's final recordings.
"Chronicle" is a Greatest Hits album. It gleans great latter day CCR songs without having to buy the albums. But unless you are extremely cheap or money is too tight to mention don't cheat yourself. Get the four great CCR albums.
In the mid '80s Fogerty returned with "Centerfield" (with the title track, "Old Man Down The Road" and the joyous "Rock and Roll Girls") "Blue Moon Swamp" released over a decade later is another outstanding CD. "Premonition" catches Fogerty live and even doing some CCR songs.
Coincidentally, Fogerty and Bruce Springsteen released albums on the same day (Fogerty's "Revival" and Springsteen's "Magic"). The two storytellers are more similar than different. Fogerty and CCR were right in the middle of the Vietnam-era. Springsteen arrived during the post-war malaise. Both were concerned with the everyday issues and the struggles of the common man. Sadly, in the subsequent three decades, those challenges have gotten tougher.
A feeling emanating from many songs was that escape, if only temporary, via a motorcycle ("Born To Run") or even a riverboat ("Proud Mary") was vital. There was a need to cut loose, be free. At the same time, Fogerty and Springsteen were weighted down with heavy issues - war, unemployment and poverty - both economic and spiritual. Their songs told of people with a scarred past and unpromising future. Short-changed on life by fortunate sons who made tons of money at the expense of other's well being. And while that mean spirited-template is still around, mercifully so are Fogerty and Springsteen.
As "Revival" was released, Fogerty vented his anger at the Bush administration (and the Iraq War). "When (the) Vietnam (war) ended, my feeling was, 'Let's just make damn sure this doesn't happen again,'" said Fogerty. "(This) just kills me. Shame on the older people (who) allow a president to send our children out to die." "I Can't Take It No More," which takes the president and his minions to task over the war, is Fogerty's most potent (if a bit heavy handed) swipe at the powers that be. There are others. In "Gunslinger" when Fogerty sings about justice he isn't thinking about special favors for friends of the establishment. No, the view is their day of reckoning should be sooner rather than later.
Just as CCR did back in the day, Fogerty straddles the line between Country and Rock telling human stories. He pulls off a string of powerful performances on the lead track, "Don't You Wish It Was True," "It Ain't Right," "Somebody Help Me" and "Long Shot." The titles say it all. It's the underdog trying to survive the wayward machinations of those in power.
Fogerty does take a couple glances back. "Summer Of Love" is a bit of a stretch. Sure CCR was around then, even living in San Francisco - the nexus of love generation's universe, but they were never really part of that scene. A better connection is "Creedence Song," Fogerty's affectionate look back at his legacy. "You can't go wrong if you play a little bit of that Creedence song." Indeed.