Creedence Clearwater Revival
Willy and the Poor Boys
[40th Anniversary Edition]
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2008, Volume 15, #12
Written by John Metzger
Mon December 8, 2008, 06:30 AM CST
John Fogerty not only had a fondness for The Beatles, but he also worked from roughly the same slate of influences. Therefore, it isnít at all surprising that his masterpiece Green River was essentially an Americanized version of Rubber Soul, albeit one that, like many endeavors from the late 1960s, also wrapped its musical expressions around a narrative concept. Considering how rapidly Creedence Clearwater Revival was producing new albums, Fogerty had little choice but to develop a template to follow, one that also left him with enough flexibility to grow.
Astoundingly, Willy and the Poor Boys was Creedence Clearwater Revivalís fourth endeavor in 16 months. As a result, it not surprisingly exhibited signs that the group was struggling to produce enough material to feed a hungry marketplace. Without a doubt, the outing was a step ahead of Bayou Country, not only because the group was tighter and more experienced but also because Fogerty had matured significantly as a songwriter and interpreter. Yet, Willy and the Poor Boys also fell short of the perfection that Creedence Clearwater Revival had achieved on Green River.
By 1969, the California music scene had begun to undergo a mammoth transformation, during which many artists shed their electrified ambience in order to embrace a sound that was simpler and more roots-oriented. This stylistic shift rippled through Creedence Clearwater Revivalís output, too. Although they were separated by a mere 10 months, there was a dramatic difference in the textures that the group explored on Bayou Country and Willy and the Poor Boys. Where the former effort was anchored by the extended jams of the ballroom scene ó Graveyard Train and Keep on Choogliní, among them ó the latter set boasted a jug band stomp (Poor Boy Shuffle) as well as a pair of revitalized cuts from Leadbellyís canon (Cotton Fields and Midnight Special).
Although it hardly could be considered a concept album, Willy and the Poor Boys revolved around a populist theme that pitted the working class against those who used wealth to their advantage. Fogerty was at his angriest, of course, during the heart-pounding fury of Fortunate Son, a song that gained an even more punishing edge during the previously unreleased concert cut that was tacked onto the conclusion of the remastered endeavor. Elsewhere, he celebrated street corner bands via the title track and poignantly addressed the crumbling foundation of the American economy on Donít Look Now (It Ainít You and Me).
While Creedence Clearwater Revival made the best of the material it had, there was still a sense that Willy and the Poor Boys was simply an odds-and-sods collection of songs rather than a fully integrated album. The endeavorís two instrumentals (Poorboy Shuffle and Side of the Road) fit nicely into its framework, helping to ease the transition from one track to the next. This alone, however, wasnít enough to raise them above their role as functional filler. A few cuts, such as It Came Out of the Sky and Donít Look Now (It Ainít You and Me), pointed to Cosmoís Factory, while other selections sounded like leftovers that had been deemed either redundant (Cotton Fields) or inferior (Effigy) to the material that had filled Green River. Clearly, Creedence Clearwater Revival was in a holding pattern. Fortunately, its rut was both shallow and short-lived. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
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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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