Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968)
I’ll put it out there before I begin; psychedelic rock is blues with drugs just so you know. Unlike the pretentiousness of The Doors this is roots rock, blues that feels like it’s come straight from the ground, from the swamp if you so desire.
“I Put a Spell on You” sounds like theirs, but it’s not. “Susie Q” sounds like theirs, but it’s not. “Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do)” sounds like theirs, but it’s not. Don’t worry, they do produce their own. It’s got a Southern warmth to it (which is weird because they’re from California) and ignoring the exception of “Gloomy” doesn’t have the hallucinogenic wanderings of psychedelic counterparts of the time.
“Well I was born on a Sunday/On Thursday I had me a job” – their tough, workmanlike solidarity is a delectable match with John Fogerty’s soft forlorn lyrics, even if half of them aren’t his.
Bayou Country (1969)
I do enjoy their swampy textures and John Fogerty’s longing to be from the Deep South, though his French-like pronunciation of “bootleg” is a bit too Franco-English for my philistine, non-bilingual chops.
It’s got more crunch and rhythm and blues melodies than its predecessor (cue that slushy harmonica in “Graveyard Train”), and though said track is a bore some of the in-and-out jingle-jangle will keep you preoccupied. That being said, following on from the thirty lost souls mentioned “Oh, take me to the station, ’cause I’m number thirty-one” is an ominously ostentatious self-written obituary that will perk you up from your bluesy slumber.
Pretentiousness is always welcome but it needs a twinge of humour to soften the blow and if “If I were a secret, Lord, I never would be told. If I were a jug of wine, Lord, my flavor would be old” isn’t good enough for you, there’s the door (or The Doors, if you prefer?).
Green River (1969)
“Wait a minute, this sounds like rock and/or roll”, yes it does, Reverend, yes it does. John is now mixing those Southern country influences with what he grew up with – the “commotion” of the city-slicker, seeing the “gypsy man, ‘way down in San Berdoo”, the childhood nostalgia of “Green River” and the hindrance of being “stuck in Lodi”.
A more commercially-sounding record, even some of the short and snappy hits don’t cross the three-minute mark. The R&B vibe from the previous albums is more repressed but this won’t displease the general rock fan in us when you’re getting the rollicking rock ‘n’ roll reverential revelations of Western US lifestyle.
Willy and the Poor Boys (1969)
They’ve done country. They’ve done country with the Californian lifestyle. What’s next? – The same, and some politics of course.
If you’ll excuse the unfortunate “Poorboy Shuffle” which sounds like… what it sounds like (and worse) and cast your lobes to the very fortunate “Fortunate Son”, a glorious protest song of American working-class life chastising the societal powers that be with vicious and vivacious vocals from our hero John Fogerty proclaiming that he “ain’t no millionaire’s son” with “Some folks inherit star-spangled eyes/Oh, they send you down to war”. I like it, John, I like it. It’s easy-listening but momentum-retaining warm, protest blues.
You won’t feel blue after “Feelin’ Blue” let me tell ya and if you think they sound too white for all of this R&B and Southern rock lark, here’s “The Midnight Special” and “Effigy”, the latter surely a damning nod to our bed sheet-bearing, cross-cremating, KKK kunts.
Cosmo’s Factory (1970)
With CCR’s birth of five hundred and twelve albums during the late ’60s, we’re into the ’70s with Cosmo’s Factory. Some mighty fine “chooglin'”. I think I know what that is now.
How full does this album feel and sound compared to the rest? How much does it kick you in the tacks? “Ramble Tamble” sounds like some sort of possessed Chuck Berry; you can hear every instrument in their brilliancy, and though not as politically-driven lyrically as most of the tracks on its predecessor I thoroughly enjoy its forceful and unrelenting drive. The added ingredient of a stripped-back John Fogerty voice so we can hear his brother, Cook and Clifford deliver their unmistakable rhythmical gift is a beautiful change from the usual gravely growling and serene roots rock.
Musically, it’s their most diverse with macho garage rock sounds and track titles with the aforementioned laid-back Fogerty vocals in spots, but I yearn for some political blues to go with my unrelenting rock, just so I can feel like I’m barreling over some Deep South racists or something, but then I’m grabbed by the forlorn “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and forget the rest of the record exists. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” has me appreciating the underappreciated Stu Cook bass and Doug Clifford drums, though I still can’t wash the pronunciation of “heard” out of my hair – “houweed”.
If you have an issue with the country chucking of “Pagan Baby” then bring it up with me, I ain’t havin’ it. Plenty of firsts and lasts for our Southern (but Western) country (but urban) quartet – the first with no covers, the last with rhythm dynamo Tom Fogerty. The first with our John getting horny with some horns, the last in which he’s the sole producer.
Its mixture of organs, keyboards and horns along with the up-front guitar aesthetic is difficult to grasp when their previous efforts, lacklustre or not, were so consistent musically and/or lyrically. Having said that I don’t at all mind this new instrumentation initiative… sometimes. The opener is a vibrant laying down of the gritty gauntlet, but then “Sailor’s Lament” is a dead lead balloon. Hit me, please, with some “Chameleon” – “You keep on changin’ your face, like a chameleon”, I’m digging that. I’ll also have an extra large “hiiideaway”, please. They were always “Born to Move” – “Come on people, teach yourself to move”, we’ll learn. “Hey Tonight”, hey Stu Cook bass.
Fogerty’s wet for some precipitation again with the dull classic “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” (which is yes, quite a bit) following on from “Who’ll Stop the Rain” from its predecessor. I initially thought I got the “avant-garde” finale, but “Sister Ray” can rest easy with his/her devilish debauchery.
Mardi Gras (1972)
The first with no Tom Fogerty. The first with no band on the album cover. The first with co-songwriters and co-singers. The last.
Sonically, it’s cheap and corny country, lyrically it’s just as bad. It’s flat dead on its feet; John Fogerty sounds as bothered as I am listening and Stu Cook’s “Yeahhh!” in “Take It Like a Friend” is no. Now I don’t mind Doug Clifford’s vocals as far as flat goes, but, Jesus what is “Tearin’ Up the Country”? Dear God. In a way you can’t really fault it as a country album, even through all the corn, but you can hear their swamp and blues in there somewhere which are trapped behind the unoriginal Southerness.
If you hang in there (not by your neck but via your ears) you may get a slight kick from the middle of the record. “Someday Never Comes” – John is trying his best to rekindle the solidified swampy vocals of old… oh, God – “Gonna try, and sail away from the rest of my life” – or do you mean this record, Stu? You’ve redeemed yourself with “Door to Door”, I think.