Gutsy debut with worthy bonus tracks
Barry McGloin | Canberra, Australia | 03/31/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"These 40th anniversary Creedence Clearwater Revival reissues have been made available at a very competitive price here in Australia. I first bought Bayou Country and then Green River, two favourite albums from the sixties. I was pleased to find that the total product is one which befits the quality of the band's output. The remastered sound is perfect, the bonus tracks worth hearing and the liner notes, particularly those written by Dave Marsh for Green River, incisive.
I took a chance with this first self titled album, not having heard it in total previously, and then went on to buy the remaining reissues. There are gems on all of them. The music is honest, it has none of the pretentious twaddle that bogged other bands of the era (including the biggest), and as Ben Fong-Torres indicates in these liner notes, it is this music, this combination of roots' elements which gives CCR longevity. I would add influence; listen to Kings of Leon's great album Aha Shake Heartbreak and tell me you don't hear Creedence's rootsy rock attack, Fogerty's vocal language and economy of style.
The band cooks. A great rhythm section and Fogerty has been occasionally overlooked as a guitarist in lists of pantheon guitar slingers, possibly because the songs are deceptively simple on execution, but what a fine guitarist he was and is - I saw him at the Byron Bay Blues Festival in 2008 where he levitated an entire marquee. Such lists tend to concentrate on the more flamboyant speedsters but Fogerty's approach is lean, melodic and rhythmic; it has attack but not excess.
Fogerty's voice is an instrument of great power and range. He covers the mighty Wilson Pickett's soul classic Ninety Nine and a Half and you barely recall the horn section. He does Screaming Jay Hawkin's superb I Put a Spell on You but unlike the demented original, he shakes the earth with intent. Who else among white singers can do Little Richard and come close to the master? But Fogerty was blessed with gifts in excess of even Richard. He could conjure landscapes for his art, put himself among bayous, green rivers and river boats, swamps and rising bad moons, he could ride the freight train, sense hellhounds on his trail.
An interesting aspect of this album is that it shows the development of the band. Three tracks (Spell, Susie Q and 99 ½) are covers, exciting live act staples and honed to the max. Two are self penned blues, Working Man ("don't take me on a Friday Lord, that's when I get paid..." ) bearing resemblance to the slower Penthouse Pauper from Bayou Country, and Get Down Woman, a straight slow blues sung and played well. The final three album tracks which include the first single Porterville, are a hangover from their days as The Golliwogs pop rock unit, similar in parts to The Yardbirds, Electric Prunes and Nuggets' series garage bands. The songs are replete with background vocals, harmonies and psychedelic guitar breaks, but the lyrics portend some dark destiny, later realised more fully in Bad Moon Rising, Run Through the Jungle and Fogerty's solo Old Man down The Road.
The first bonus track Call It Pretending is the B side of Porterville and shows the band attempting a Mowtownish sound, Four Tops or Temptations. The second bonus track is an album outtake, an earlier version of Bo Diddley's Before You Accuse Me, faster and in a different key to the more successful track from Cosmo's Factory. The final bonus tracks are from their first headlining gig at the Fillmore, Ninety Nine and A Half and the full live 11:46 version of Susie Q; both are worthy additions to this 40th Anniversary issue. An impressive enjoyable debut, not quite the 5 star 'essential' of later recordings but you can observe an emerging talent: a tight band, some great guitar solos and Fogerty flexing his vocal and song writing muscles.