Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Bayou Country
Green River
Willy and the Poor Boys
Cosmo’s Factory


We’ve all been there before. You somehow find yourself in one of the world’s armpits, a horrendous bar lacking in few redeeming qualities. On tap they’ve got Bud and Bud Light and in bottles every ice beer known to man. Between the squeals coming from the gaggle of girls doing purple hooter shots on one side and the hoots from the assemblage of would-be date-rapers playing quarters on the other, you’re quickly developing a headache and an urge to just end it all here and now. Finally, you decide that before someone plays another track from Bad Company’s Greatest Hits, you’re going to need to try to at least find some decent music on the jukebox. But of course, the juke’s been tailored to meet the clientele’s tastes, and it’s slim picking between the Dance Hits of the ‘90s comps and the “best” of the Scorpions, Kansas and Molly Hatchet. It is in these times that there is always one refuge: CCR.

This is not meant to be a slight on Creedence Clearwater Revival in any way. But the fact remains: you will always find CCR—on the jukebox of any bar, on the radio in even the remotest areas of the country, in record bins everywhere. Creedence has been for some time—and still is—the quintessential American band. Their combination of Memphis soulful reverence, deep South swamp boogie, California jangle, Midwest grit and everyman smarts is all encompassing. Though from the Bay Area’s fertile scene of the time, they could have been from anywhere in the country. Case in point, “Lodi,” their hit from 1969, a song about a town that every state in the union has (well, almost).

Born in the late ‘60s, CCR found success on AM radio, but were just as suited to the FM dial that was still to come. Yet despite this commercial success and a certain amount of critical respect, they still seem under appreciated. Other writers (Camden Joy in an article for Puncture, in particular) have articulated CCR’s value more eloquently than I can in the scope of this review of their oeuvre, but I can’t imagine rock music sounding anything like it does without the band’s contributions. Theirs incorporated so much, but emitted it all in a streamlined beacon of white heat.

It’s been 40 years since CCR’s debut and in celebration, Fantasy (the band’s original and only label) has reissued the band’s six albums as a four-piece (the mixed-bag Mardi Gras, made after Tom Fogerty left the band, has been omitted) in remastered, expanded editions.

Of course, just as there was 40 years ago, there’s a lot to recommend these albums. On their self-titled debut, the band was still indebted to its influences, even as it transcended them. While covers of “I Put a Spell On You,” “Susie Q” and “Ninety-Nine and a Half” showcased John Fogerty’s soul-filled vocals and the band’s marshy grooves, even originals like “The Working Man” weren’t so far removed their R&B roots. The new version’s inclusion of a live take of “Before You Accuse Me” further cements those ties.

By Bayou Country, CCR had shed any anxiety of influence they might have had. Leadoff cut “Born on the Bayou” is the first indication, a song steeped in Stax, but with a grizzled veneer that Creedence would cultivate. “Keep on Chooglin’” is similarly a prototype for their merging of soulful boogie, rock vitriol and country inflection. On Green River the band completely finds itself, and the record is CCR’s masterpiece among masterpieces. The title track and “Commotion” are straight-to-the-groove, but “Bad Moon Rising” and “Lodi” add a Rickenbacker jangle that, while echoing some of the California-favored sound, still shows plenty of Dixie. Willy and the Poor Boys continues the winning streak, with “Fortunate Son,” the most pure and topical song in an era of songs attempting to be topical, standing out. That CCR released four albums of such quality in just 15 months makes them all the more remarkable.

Cosmo’s Factory and Pendulum were both released in 1970, and by this point CCR had done what would take bands more than a decade these days. But these last two, while hardly poor records, didn’t match the previous triumvirate. Still Cosmo’s produced the band’s 11-minute cover of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” and Pendulum, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and “Hey Tonight.” If only most bands’ weakest records were this good.

As far as these versions go, it’s the improved sound that’s most impressive. Sure, the packaging and liner notes are nice, and the added-on live tracks are cool too, but it’s hearing these classics ring out with added fidelity that makes them worthwhile. I’ve always said that one can never have too much CCR, and these reissues make that doubly so.
Stephen Slaybaugh