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Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Bio

Creedence Clearwater Revival (often referred to as Creedence or CCR) was an American rock band active in the late 1960s and early 1970s which consisted of lead vocalist, lead guitarist, and primary songwriter John Fogerty, his brother rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty, bassist Stu Cook, and drummer Doug Clifford. These members played together since 1959, first as The Blue Velvets, then as The Golliwogs. Their musical style encompassed the roots rock, swamp rock, and blues rock genres. They played in a Southern rock style, despite their San Francisco Bay Area origin, with lyrics about bayous, catfish, the Mississippi River, and other popular elements of Southern United States iconography, as well as political and socially conscious lyrics about topics including the Vietnam War. The band performed at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Upstate New York. The group disbanded acrimoniously in late 1972 after four years of chart-topping success. Tom Fogerty had officially left the previous year, and his brother John was at odds with the remaining members over matters of business and artistic control, all of which resulted in subsequent lawsuits among the former bandmates. Fogerty's ongoing disagreements with Fantasy Records owner Saul Zaentz created further protracted court battles, and John Fogerty refused to perform with the two other surviving members at CCR's 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Creedence Clearwater Revival's music is still a staple of US radio airplay; the band has sold 26 million albums in the United States alone. Rolling Stone ranked them 82nd on its Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list. John Fogerty, Doug Clifford, and Stu Cook met at Portola Junior High School in El Cerrito, California. Calling themselves the Blue Velvets, the trio began playing instrumentals and "juke box standards", as well as backing Fogerty's older brother Tom at live gigs and in the recording studio. Tom soon joined the band, and in 1964 they signed with Fantasy Records, an independent jazz label in San Francisco that had released Cast Your Fate To The Wind, a national hit for jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi. The record's success was the subject of a National Educational Television special, which prompted budding songwriter John Fogerty to contact the label. For the band'
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Creedence Clearwater Revival: Creedence Clearwater Revival Mojo, Dec 2001

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FOR A FEW SEASONS as the '60s turned into the '70s, Creedence Clearwater Revival were the biggest band in the world, with their incredible US success – four Top 10 singles and three Top 10 albums in 1969 (including the Number 1 Green River). Like Led Zeppelin, they were inescapable but, unlike those aloof overlords of the teen Valhalla, Creedence appeared perversely unglamorous: a hirsute, unstyled, sweaty people's band.

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Before you retch and reach for your Roxy Music albums, pause a moment and time-trip to 1969, way before Bruce Springsteen popularised the blue-collar ideal. For all the new culture's egalitarian protestations, much of the music was either way too avant (The Grateful Dead's classic Aoxomoxoa) or lacking basic rock kinetics (Jefferson Airplane's Volunteers). Coming from the non-glam side of San Francisco, Creedence combined rock'n'roll, soul, blues, pop and psychedelia into an urgent synthesis that both had a huge cross-class appeal and addressed a nation at war.

This collection is overfull but acts as a thorough aural biography – with excellent notes by Alec Palao, Robert Christgau, Dave Marsh, Stanley Booth and others – of an important, underrated group. Yes, Creedence were foursquare and ultimately limited, but look at the overproduction: five albums in two-and-a half years. That would expose the faults in anyone – except perhaps The Beatles, to whom Creedence unfortunately compared themselves in 1970. They weren't The Beatles but, as these 121 performances show, they were good enough to stand by themselves.

CD 1 begins in 1961 with brother Tom leading The Blue Velvets: a strong Ritchie Valens and Del Shannon influence. Merseybeat and The Beach Boys arrive in 1964 with an appalling name, The Golliwogs. By the second half of '65, they started to get good, with the Them-influenced stomper 'Brown-Eyed Girl', then in early 1966 hit paydirt. 'Fight Fire' is a perfect fusion of content with form, folk rock yearning mixed with R&B-derived crunch. Other folk rock and soul try-outs segue into the other pre-Creedence high spot, an early version of the visionary 'Walking On The Water' with a stinging fuzz solo.

1968's Creedence Clearwater Revival cements the moment when the group's gearshift became apparent: the great 'Porterville', with its stinging rift, outcast lyric ("They came and took my daddy away to serve some time/But it was me who paid the debt he left behind") and nagging "I don't care" refrain. Breakthrough hit 'Susie Q' is an extended soul/psych fusion that totally justifies its length. On 'Gloomy' and 'The Working Man', John Fogerty sets out the twin poles of his aesthetic: sympathy for the common man infused with an overwhelming sense of dread.

All the group needed was a transforming mythos, and it comes in 'Born On The Bayou'. Here they relocated from the East Bay to an imaginary Deep South, all bullfrogs, bayoux, backwoods and "barefoot girls dancing in the moonlight". For John Fogerty, now the group's auteur, the assumption of a new identity enabled him to pursue an alternative reality of country earthiness and, at the same time, the malevolent forces that always lay beyond the last light. Like he sings on 'Green River': "Well, take me back down where cool water flows/Let me remember things I don't know."

Like Robert Johnson and Del Shannon, Fogerty had a hellhound on his trail: death-haunted songs like 'Graveyard Train' and 'Tombstone Shadow' conjure up nameless terrors that can only be assuaged by flight, augmented by impassioned covers of black standards. The Green River LP tightens up the quality with the rightly famous 'Lodi', the hard-rocking title track and 'Commotion' (which contains the first of several Fogerty digs at "the White House"), the Mansonesque 'Sinister Purpose', and of course 'Bad Moon Rising' – which, it has to be said, hits the post September 11 spot dead on: "I hear the voices of rage and ruin."

1969's Willy And The Poor Boys places dusty folk blues covers next to some of Fogerty's most incisive set-pieces – 'Down On The Corner' and 'It Came Out Of The Sky'. At its heart is the blistering 'Fortunate Son': Fogerty saw how the privileged young could escape service in Vietnam, and his yell of "It ain't me, I ain't no senator's son" is an rare blast of class rage in the new youth utopia.

1970's Cosmo's Factory sees the group at its most imperial: bookended by two trance-outs – 'Grapevine' and what might well be their kinetic and melodic peak, 'Ramble Tamble' – and full of hits: 'Who'll Stop The Rain', the Vietnam firestorm 'Run Through The Jungle', and the scorching 'Up Around The Bend' which, with its high register attack, cut through in that year of rock draught.

Then, halfway through CD4, the faltering. Pendulum is unsuccessful attempt to broaden an increasingly restrictive template. Adding vocal harmonies and an organ produces some intriguing moments ('Pagan Baby') but results in only two hits: 'Have You Ever Seen The Rain' and the almost perfunctory 'Hey Tonight'. The rest of the story is well known: internal arguments resulted in the disappearance of brother Tom and a misbegotten exercise in democracy, 1972's Mardi Gras, which contained one last flash, 'Sweet Hitch-Hiker'. The two added live concerts are for fans only.

Certainly, by the time a three-piece CCR extend 'Keep On Choogling' to 13 minutes on CD6, you're gasping for glamour, spikiness and urban artifice – all right, Roxy Music. But this was not the way it happened at the time. The best way to grasp Creedence's greatness is to play through those five core albums one by one, skip the clunkers and crank up the rockers. And there you have it: an underground band who had a whole slew of pop hits, who dominated the mainstream on an independent label, and who both defined the late '60s crisis in America and transcended it through a sequence of at least 20 heartfelt, exciting rock-pop songs. Their omission from the '60s pantheon is redressed by this surprisingly powerful set.

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Cosmo's Factory Who Put The Bomp, Oct 1970

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WELL, THEY'VE finally done it. Creedence Clearwater has produced an entire album without a single poor song. And what's more, they don't all sound alike. Technically, all four members of the group are playing better than ever before; Fogerty's improvement as a guitarist is uncanny – even since the last album his inventiveness and the number of styles at this command have more than doubled, it seems.

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John Fogerty is a confessed fan of the sound achieved by Sam Phillips on Sun Records in the mid-fifties with such rock & roll greats as Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. He has succeeded in using a modern studio to turn out high quality stereo recordings that sound for all the world like the raw, primitive, powerful records that Phillips made using only 2 microphones and no overdubbing. This album effectively captures the spirit of early Sun rock. The Carl Perkins licks abound, especially in 'Ramble Tamble', the first part of which sounds like something Scotty Moore and Bill Black might've warmed up with before a session with Elvis. The frequent changes of theme in the song keep it from achieving any coherent identity, but it's a pleasant workout nonetheless. 'My Baby Left Me', an Arthur Crudup song, is done just as Elvis recorded it for Sun in 1954, even down to the string bass intro. The intense vitality of the original is not matched here, but what do you want? 'Ooby Dooby' also differs only slightly from Roy Orbison's original Sun release.

The other derivative songs include 'Travellin' Band', an admitted take-off on Little Richard, and 'Before You Accuse me', a fine 12-bar blues standard composed by Bo Diddley, one of the best and most unusual (for him) of Diddley's songs.

Then there's 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine.' I didn't think much of this cut the first few times, seeing it as a throwback to the sound of Creedence's first album. I've changed my opinion a bit since then, but I still feel the song represents diminished level of creativity from the rest of the album. My chief dissatisfaction is with the extended instrumental break, which is unimaginative and detracts from the intrinsic emotional force of the song. The vocals, however, are handled extremely well, and the deep-voiced chorus is a fine touch that distinguishes this version from all the others that have been done.

In addition to all these songs, Creedence presses forward here with their own original styles. 'Run Through The Jungle' is a tense, mysterious song that creates an effective mood. 'Up Around The Band' is joyful, filled with promise for the Golden Age to come, and almost an answer to 'Who'll Stop The Rain', which creates a powerful feeling of despair. You can almost imagine the singer sitting there lamenting the state of the world only to have the pied piper of 'Up Around The Bend' come along and show him the way out of his misery. The songs, however, are in reverse order, which I suppose disproves any such intent on Fogerty's part. (For that matter, though, I think the order of all the songs is very poorly chosen, especially for a group so interested in manipulating its listeners' moods through its music.) 'Who'll Stop The Rain' is the closest Creedence comes to leaving themselves open to the perennial charge that their songs tend to sound alike, inasmuch as it sounds enough like 'Lodi' to make you notice; but it's still a great song. 'Long As I can See The Light' is a soft, blues-painful song with a beautifully evocative saxophone solo. I can almost see Buddy Knox kicking up his heels as he sings 'Lookin' Out My Back Door.' He never sang the song, but it's the kind of happy, clap-your-hands-and-dance rock & roll song that he would've been right at home with.

I think John Fogerty must be really satisfied with this album. In it, all the divergent styles that Creedence has been developing and emulating come together to create an amalgam of all that's great about rock & roll. The band has reached a peak of sorts with Cosmo's Factory, in the sense that they've learned to weed out (or not produce) the second-rate songs and the boring instrumentals that have seemed almost obligatory on their past albums; their growth from now on will be on a higher level, refining the various elements of brilliance to produce songs that will continue to delight us for years to come.

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Top Albums

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Platinum

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Cosmo's Factory cover art

Cosmo's Factory

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Pendulum cover art

Pendulum

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Chronicle: 20 Greatest Hits cover art

Chronicle: 20 Greatest Hits

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Top Songs

Fortunate Son cover art

Fortunate Son

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Bad Moon Rising cover art

Bad Moon Rising

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Proud Mary cover art

Proud Mary

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Down on the Corner cover art

Down on the Corner

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Have You Ever Seen the Rain cover art

Have You Ever Seen the Rain

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Up Around the Bend cover art

Up Around the Bend

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Who'll Stop the Rain cover art

Who'll Stop the Rain

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