Creedence Clearwater Revival
[40th Anniversary Edition]
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2008, Volume 15, #11
Written by John Metzger
Fri November 14, 2008, 06:30 AM CST
Bayou Country was the album on which John Fogerty found his voice, and its success gave his confidence a much-needed boost. Green River, however, is the set that forced those who continued to doubt Creedence Clearwater Revivalís artistic credibility to pay attention. The fact that its nine songs spanned less than 29 minutes didnít matter. Green River felt complete, and its concision ought to serve as a lesson to the bloated affairs that have hit the market, week after week, since the advent of the compact disc.
Perhaps it was his sense of humor that guided Fogerty to open Green River with its title track. Or, maybe he simply was taunting those who refused to take him seriously. Judged solely on the basis of the guitar riff that ensues at its onset, the tune sounds, for a moment, as if it will be yet another rehashing of Dale Hawkinsí Suzie Q. Mere seconds later, however, it is clear that Green River is the full-fledged realization of Fogertyís vision. His vocals are emotional and soulful. Where he previously had carried the rest of Creedence Clearwater Revival on his back, his brother Tom along with drummer Stu Cook and bass player Doug Clifford now stood right by his side.
There is no denying the fact that, throughout its first two endeavors, Creedence Clearwater Revivalís rhythm section had been an inconsistent presence, which inevitably left Fogerty to be the outfitís driving force. On Green River, however, the band repeatedly matched the furious aggression of its fiery front man. From Bad Moon Risingís extrapolations from Rubber Soul to The Night Time Is the Right Timeís indebtedness to the White Album, Creedence Clearwater Revival continued to drag The Beatlesí output through the Louisiana mud. Fogertyís Americana-drenched ruminations also allowed other influences ó which ranged from Cream (Sinister Purpose) to The Band (Wrote a Song for Everyone) ó to percolate through its interior, while Lodi eventually became the lynchpin that connected Gram Parsons with the Eagles. Although Fogertyís borrowed refrains continued to be quite apparent, he also had learned how to wrap them around his words and twist them into something that was uniquely his own.
Lyrically, Green River was a monumental leap forward, and the album remains Fogertyís most focused and cohesive artistic statement. Despite the springy ebullience of Bad Moon Rising and the peaceful, easy feeling of Lodi, the set conveyed a dark message, one that spoke to the violence and chaos that had begun to take the lives of soldiers, citizens, and political leaders both at home and abroad. The only song that seems to resonate with hope is the title track, though its optimism emanates from an idyllic childhood vision of a simpler life. Wrote a Song for Everyone drives home Fogertyís point that the optimism of the Haight-Ashbury scene, which culminated in Woodstock just few weeks after Green Riverís release, was melting into the disillusion that turned Altamont into a disaster.
Over the years, Green River has only gained in stature. Terrorism may have replaced the Cold War, but the economic issues that divide the haves from the have-nots largely have stayed the same. Fogerty wisely made his death-stalked tales general enough that Green River continues to conjure the hopelessness of life in America nearly 40 years later. For proof, look no further than Bad Moon Risingís apocalyptic visions of blowing hurricanes and overflowing rivers as well as the suffocating aura of a war that has raged beyond control. Strange as it may seem, itís safe to say that a better indictment of the Bush Administration has yet to be written.
Of Further Interest...
Green River is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box