Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival
[40th Anniversary Edition]
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2008, Volume 15, #10
Written by John Metzger
Wed October 15, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
During the early portion of their careers, John and Tom Fogerty certainly experienced their share of disappointment in the music industry. The brothers had been performing together since the late 1950s, but despite changing the name of their group from Tommy Fogerty and the Blue Velvets to the Golliwogs — and altering their sound to reflect the changing times — they still hadn’t gained any traction. Complicating matters considerably for the duo was that they were trying to establish themselves within an increasingly crowded scene that included the Beau Brummels, Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead. Between 1967 and 1968, however, the band, which now was performing as Creedence Clearwater Revival, began to find its voice. Its self-titled debut, which was issued a year after the Summer of Love, can’t be classified as anything other than an endeavor that is uneven and only partially successful. Nevertheless, it continues to play an important role within the outfit’s canon.
The strengths of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s eponymous opening salvo emanate entirely from its reinterpretation of three tunes, which together formed the template for the band’s future. On Wilson Pickett’s Ninety-Nine and a Half, John Fogerty proved himself to be a powerfully emotive vocalist, and the hypnotically spooky rendition of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put a Spell on You immediately established the collective as a product of Louisiana’s blues-based swampland rather than its San Francisco surroundings. As for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s cover of Dale Hawkins’ Susie Q, the song rumbles to life on the back of a drum beat, and it never lets go of the listener. Shrugging aside its weird effects and falling somewhere between the works of Lightnin’ Hopkins and Jimi Hendrix, the ominous, writhing, tumultuous solos that Fogerty laces through the track’s cataclysmic, churning rhythm are a reflection of the times in which the recording was made. With his lacerating, machine-gun blasts, he captures the violence of both the war in Vietnam as well as the Civil Rights movement rather than the vibrations of peace and love that previously had prevailed.
For the record, The Working Man — Fogerty’s self-penned, Otis Redding-inspired romp — manages to hold its own, though it is helped considerably by its placement between I Put a Spell on You and Susie Q, two towering achievements. The remainder of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s self-titled endeavor, however, suffers from the group’s underdeveloped presence. Although the band was able to create moods to frame others’ material, its original compositions continued to feel slight because its ability to pen a song lagged so far behind its instrumental cohesion. Like The Working Man, each of the remaining four tracks bear a striking resemblance to other recordings. Porterville, for example, already was several years old by the time that Creedence Clearwater Revival committed it to tape, and the cut sounds exactly like California’s mid-’60s response to The Beatles. Likewise, Gloomy tosses Cream’s rendition of Spoonful into the Bay Area ballroom scene of the era.
In celebration of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 40th anniversary, its self-titled debut — along with the five other discs that featured its original line-up — has been remastered, reissued, and augmented with bonus tracks. Both the b-side Call It Pretending as well as an early attempt at Bo Diddley’s Before You Accuse Me further emphasize how much growth Fogerty and his band still needed to undergo. The former cut is merely an unimaginative curiosity, while the latter tune lacks the level of confidence and perspective of the version Creedence Clearwater Revival leant to Cosmo’s Factory. Concert performances of Ninety-Nine and a Half and Susie Q, both of which were culled from a March 1969 appearance at The Fillmore in San Francisco, demonstrate how well the outfit captured its live sound in a studio setting. Nevertheless, aside from being a little rougher around the edges, they also add nothing to the band’s legacy. There always, of course, will be those who will defend Creedence Clearwater Revival’s debut against any naysayer who points out its flaws, but ultimately, the eponymous endeavor’s organization reveals the ensemble’s lingering weaknesses, allowing the lesser songs to trump the better ones.
Of Further Interest...
Creedence Clearwater Revival: 40th Anniversary Edition is
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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