Creedence Clearwater Revival albums
It’s not that CCR never made “an album that wasn’t good”, they never really made one that wasn’t spectacular. To say that John Fogerty wrote great songs was an understatement: he crafted great albums quicker than anyone in the 60’s, and he set a precedent that is almost impossible to reach (the only other 60’s band’s that were this quick and consistent were probably early Rolling Stones, late Beatles, and Love). Yes, they were a great singles act: some of the best songs ever written are in their discography: “Proud Mary”, “Green River”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Lodi”, “Fortunate Son”, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain”, “Up Around the Bend”. I mean good lord! Also they have plenty of album tracks to match their singles, and I am talking great music: “Effigy”, “Don’t Look Now”, “Keep on Chooglin”, “Porterville”, “Ramble Tamble”, and “Tombstone Shadow”. They take standard blues influences and transform them into something unique. CCR is that unique band that created their own language of music, some kind of New Orleans-blues rock-Bo Diddley hybrid, and it is copied and parodied more than almost any other rock music band after them, with good reason.
John Fogerty – Lead Guitar, Vocals
Tom Fogerty – Guitar
Doug Clifford – Drums
Stu Cook – Bass
Willy and the Poor Boys
Bo Diddley, Carl Perkins, Pete Seeger, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, Ray Charles
1968 – (4.5 / 5) – Creedence Clearwater Revival
1969 – (4.5 / 5) – Bayou Country
1969 – (4.5 / 5) – Green River
1969 – (5 / 5) – Willy and the Poor Boys
1970 – (4.5 / 5) – Cosmo’s Factory
1971 – (4.5 / 5) – Pendulum
1972 – (1.5 / 5) – Mardi Gras
Creedence Clearwater Revival – (4.5 / 5)
The first Creedence Clearwater record shows off all sides of the band extremely well. Making cover songs their own accentuates the band’s love of their influences, and no band can make songs their own like CCR. “Susie Q” is a CCR song to most people, though “I Put a Spell on You” is not as known but almost as good (former by Dale Hawkins and the latter by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, no relation). “Susie Q” shows off the band’s tendency to create actually interesting jams (something they do better than anyone from the 60’s, Grateful Dead and Allman Bros. included). “Ninety-Nine and a Half Days” is another beautiful cover, this time Wilson Pickett, and the band effortlessly works soul music influences into their swamp rock style. The album only has one tune I am not overly fond of, the somewhat generic “Get Down Woman”, which still features a nifty guitar solo. Also Fogerty’s love for his favorite topics are present: the working class on “The Working Man” and the overlooked killer single “Porterville”; darkness and despair through guitars on “Gloomy”, the best song on here; religion on “Walk on Water”. The songs are more canvases for the music instead of actual subject matter, as Fogerty’s attention to how something “sounds” is always more important than what he is actually saying. The guitar work is what is amazing on this first album, but for a band that is more known for singles CCR sure know how to craft a record, and this debut is one of their most consistent listens.
Greatest Songs: Gloomy, Porterville, Susie Q, 99 and A Half
Bayou Country – (4.5 / 5)
It’s hard not to divide every CCR record into “singles” and “album tracks”, but I will try to avoid that. The band’s trademark swamp sound is more enforced on this record, the gloom of “Graveyard Train”, the albums only weak track, sees to that. Seven minutes of slow dirge, mmm what fun! While it’s tempting to hate that song, it’s really not that bad, and each other of the six songs on Bayou Country Make up for it. “Born on the Bayou” shows off Fogerty’s emphasis on the New Orleans persona, and that song truly creates its own world. “Bootleg” gets the left over French aspect, at least in words; it really just sounds like a pop song to keep the flow of “Born on the Bayou” going, but with enough musical tricks to make it a great song (mostly in the guitar riff tradeoffs of the Fogerty brothers). “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Penthouse Pauper” are good songs, each with its own unique mystique. Honestly, Creedence Clearwater Revival is a stronger album song by song than Bayou Country, though the reason history sees it differently I will now explain.
The band saves its best two songs for last, with “Proud Mary” being CCR’s most known and respected song and “Keep on Chooglin” being a song so ahead of its time it boggles the mind. In fact, the rest of this album PALES in comparison to those last two songs, which really shows great album structure. “Proud Mary” is a rock song for the ages, sounding at once mysterious and awe inspiring. Its chant of “big wheels keep on churning / Proud Mary keep on burning / rolling, rolling on a river” are as iconic as American rock n roll gets. To sound even more insane, I will say “Keep on Chooglin” is my all-time favorite CCR song, with its constant chug of one chord (g chord) for almost eight minutes and never getting dull, it is at once hypnotic and futuristic. That song alone sets a standard that rock music followed (whether people realize it or not) just as much as “Proud Mary” did with pop music. Together those closing tracks make quite the team though. Still, it is a close call between this album and they debut, both are about equally great. I just want to dispel that this album was a leap forward for the band in song quality – untrue you see, it just had the break out hit of “Proud Mary”.
Greatest Songs: Keep On Chooglin, Proud Mary, Born on the Bayou
Green River – (4.5 / 5)
….and this next record had THREE huge hits instead of just TWO, so it is a further of a step forward for the band! Is it that much different in consistency than the previous two records? No, it is almost exactly of the same breed of greatness. Green River has plenty of great tunes, that’s for sure – the classic single of the title track “Green River” with its screech of “weeeeeeeeellllll” during the chorus, the simplistic chords but great melody of “Bad Moon Rising”, and “Lodi”, Fogerty’s most mature story yet lyrically (“Every song I’ve had to play while people sat there drunk” might be one of my favorite lines in any song ever!). On par with those, you have “Tombstone Shadow” with its Neil Young inspired one note guitar solo and “Commotion” which might be the band’s most frantic song. “Wrote a Song for Everyone” is my dad’s favorite on here, and I can see how it would appeal as it is one of the band’s more country sounding tracks. “Cross Tie Walker” and “Sinister Purpose” are good songs (especially Doug Clifford’s drumming in the latter), though maybe not up to the quality of the previously mentioned ones. The only song I don’t like on here happens to be the closer, a cover of Ray Charles “Night Time is the Right Time”. I just don’t think it fits with the songs that preceded it and is also kind of ‘overdone’ vocally by Fogerty. There are few bands that could rapidly release great albums like CCR did in 1969, and Green River stands out as something special in the band’s discography no matter how you look at it.
Greatest Songs: Lodi, Commotion, Tombstone Shadow, Green River
Willy and the Poor Boys – (5 / 5)
There are two reasons this is my favorite CCR record. First, I think it is the most consistent. There are no bad songs at all, and the ratio of great songs to merely good ones is higher than ever. Two huge singles: “Down on the Corner” and “Fortunate Son” are the most recognizable of course, the former setting the tone for the album while the latter is one of the all-time great protest songs (iconic lyrics including “It aint me / it ain’t me / I ain’t no millionaires son”). Album tracks are where this record excels: the gut wrenching “Effigy”, the country ode “Feelin’ Blue”, the old school shuffle of “Don’t Look Now” and the star crossed guitar licks of “It Came Out of the Sky” are all GREAT songs that are easily the equals of the singles.
The second great thing about Willy and the Poor Boys is the way it has a singularity and a flow to it. The album has a familiar story all the way through about he poor man’s outlook on life, just look at the songs titles (almost a concept record?)! Also the is a certain atmosphere that always works and is never boring that no other CCR album has, which makes songs like “Poorboy Shuffle” and “Side o’ the Road” not seem out of place or lame in comparison to the real stand outs. This is not an easy thing to do, and the band pulls it all together well. Last but not least, CCR pull’s some great cover songs with “Cotton Fields” and “Midnight Special” blending in effortlessly and they are expertly woven into the tapestry of the record. The album comes off as more than it seems at first, and everything ties together very well into the closer “Effigy”, which is one of the most despairing songs off all time by any band; at the end the lyrics descend to a simple “Why…..why…..effigyyy….” followed by some great, demented guitar work. If you’re looking for the best CCR album experience, this is their masterpiece.
Greatest Songs: Effigy, Fortunate Son, It Came Out of the Sky, Down on the Corner
Cosmo’s Factory – (4.5 / 5)
If there ever was an example of a minor masterwork, it would be Cosmo’s Factory. Most people point to this as the band’s best, though I think Willy and the Poor Boys beats it by quite a bit. There are a whopping SEVEN hit singles off of here, each of them great, and there are also some perfect album tracks. The problem is that there are four cover songs where there should be maybe two (maybe one). “Before You Accuse Me”, “Ooby Dooby”, and “My Baby” are the culprits and cannot compare at all to any other original CCR song on this record. I understand the desire to express songs that influenced you and all that, but Fogerty made a huge error I believe in putting these songs on here. They are not bad songs, but to emphasize my point, they can’t touch the originals on here. They also interrupt any flow the album, being at positions 2, 4, and 8.
But with all the negative aside, there is so much to praise about this great record. “Ramble Tamble” marks a daring band that is willing to experiment despite their popularity, and it is one of the best songs they ever did; the seven-minute running time only enhances the experience of an opening album track and the break down in the middle with spastic guitars has to be heard by any real CCR fan. “Up Around the Bend” is another all-time classic that mixes emotion and guitar riffing to heavenly extents. I’m not gonna go through trying to describe “Travlin’ Band”, “Run Through the Jungle”, “Who’ll Stop the Rain”, “Long as I can See the Light”, and “Run Through the Jungle” with words; each transports you to its own sonic universe for the lengths of the song and are infinitely listenable. Fogerty has a real gift for giving a song juuuuuust enough emotion and just enough time to shine; he is truly one of the expert rock ‘n roll singles artists of all time. “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” is the only great cover on here and the band completely transforms it from a little soul song to a guitar epic, preceding Television’s “Marquee Moon” by seven years (no joke, they are of the same caliber). Eleven minutes of pure, guitar god glory. In all, I really do love this album, and it is the band’s second best (after Willy and the Poor Boys). That on its own is enough to see through the over-excess and pretentions I think, as more often than not Cosmo’s Factory delivers the great rock n’ roll.
Greatest Songs: Up Around the Bend, Who’ll Stop the Rain, Ramble Tamble, I Heard it Through the Grapevine
Side note: Play the middle section of “Ramble Tamble” and then listen to Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow” of their record Ten. Interesting similarities….
Pendulum – (4.5 / 5)
While considered a step down in quality from the previous two records, Pendulum is more akin to Bayou Country then any of the other CCR albums. Still experimenting and transforming sound, some of the stuff Fogerty does on here is more ambitious then successful; the closer “Rude Awakinging #2” is a progressive rock epic with no lyrics for goodness sakes! Usually Fogerty sticks to his CCR formula though and when it works it’s great. “Chameleon” is a great rock song that is either talking about the way to go about rock music in general, sultry women, or making fun of sellouts in the music world. I can’t tell which one it could be any which makes the song great. Have I ever mentioned the production on CCR records? Every album has a great sound to it, and “Have You Ever seen the Rain?” (one of this band’s most famous songs) is one of the best “sounding” songs of their entire existence. “Hey Tonight”, “It’s Just a Thought” and “Hideaway” have that same emotional intensity and the latter has a unique air of mystery to the hushed melody sung by Fogerty. I’ve mentioned the best half of the album, really there is nothing too bad or too good on the rest of it. Some songs are good but too long (“Pagan Baby” and “Rude Awakening #2) and some never really take off or could have been scraped (“Born to Move”, “Monlina”, “Sailor’s Lament”). They could have killed two of these songs and had something of a great album like Creedence Clearwater Revival, but who is really complaining? With six albums that are all masterworks of some sort in four years, CCR still remains one of the most unique band’s in rock history while also being one of the most popular. That is a rare feat indeed but they deserve all the praise they get.
Greatest Songs: Have You Ever Seen the Rain, Hey Tonight, Hideaway, It’s Just a Thought
Mardi Gras – (1.5 / 5)
You know, I would actually say this album is overrated. People say “its not that bad” but they are wrong. This is bad music. You see, the other guys in CCR wanted to wrtie some songs too, so Fogerty said “we’ll probably break up anyways, why not”. Even Fogerty’s songs on here are not up to his standards, but they are nowhere as bad as Clifford’s and Cooks. It is actually pretty funny, so the diehard fan might want to pick it up to see how horrible it is. Funniest moments are probably the vocals on “Sail Away” (though it’s the best song on here by a long shot), the exciting school boy tale of “Tearin’ Up Country”, the glam rock sounding “Door to Door”, and the horrible cover of “Hello Mary Lou”. The main problem is Clifford and Cook’s biggest influence is Fogerty himself, so it just sounds like a bunch of CCR imitators. Rarely do bands bottom out as much as Mardi Gras, comparisons being the Velvet Underground’s Squeeze and Clash’s Cut the Crap. I don’t really count this as a CCR record, more like something they had to put out to receive closure on their break up.
Greatest Songs: nope!
Chronicle Vol. 1 – (5 / 5)
The thing about this, and why I initially didn’t put it on my CCR page, is I mean what am I doing: saying how I would change Chronicle Vol.1? Yeah, it’s pretty much a perfect greatest hits, which ain’t surprising ‘casue it’s CCR! Twenty flawless tracks, no problem. What gets me is that they include stuff form Mardi Gras here over more from Bayou Country, and there might be just a little much from Cosmo’s Factory (7 out of 20). Ok, Ok, here I go – if I could change something, I would put “Porterville” and “Born on the Bayou” on here instead of “I Put a Spell on You” (not nearly the definitive version of that song) and “Someday Never Comes” (a bad song, it was on Mardi Gras for goodness sakes). It would beef it up a tad, but it is still fine the way it is. I’m not complaining about how they put “I Heard it through the Grapevine” on here, thought I do think it is kind of distracting being the only song of that length; while we are on it I wish they wouldn’t have shortened “Susie Q”, the album version is much longer. So, is this fun to read? Because there ain’t that much you can change about a band-made-greatest-hits. We are spoiled in the 2000’s because we can make our own CCR compilation, back in 1976 this is all people could buy. Is it the best introduction to the band? Well undoubtedly. Should you get Chronicle Vol. 1 if you plan on getting the first 6 albums? No, you’ll have everything on here anyway. Unless you have money only for one record of course, because then you definitely should get this first 🙂
Greatest Songs: Up Around the Bend, Have You Ever Seen the Rain, Proud Mary, Travlin’ Band, Lodi……roll the dice, throw the dart, it’s hard to miss with this!