Creedence Clearwater Revival's roots go back to 1959, when the band was known as The Blue Velvets — an instrumental group featuring John Fogerty on guitar, Stu Cook on piano, and Doug Clifford on drums. Eventually Fogerty's brother Tom joined on lead vocals and rhythm guitar and the band changed their name to The Golliwogs. After releasing a number of singles for the Fantasy label, the band was allowed to release their first album if they agreed to change their name. They did and in 1968, Creedence Clearwater Revival (or CCR) released their self-titled debut album and quickly became one of the biggest bands in the world. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of their first album, Fantasy has re-released a number of CCR albums: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bayou Country, Green River, Willy and the Poor Boys, Cosmo's Factory and Pendulum. The band's final album, Mardi Gras, recorded as a trio without Tom Fogerty and featuring songs written and sung by all three members, was not included in these reissues.
1968's Creedence Clearwater Revival showcased the band's trademark swamp rock/blues/country with a touch of psychedelia sound on songs such as “Suzie Q” — a cover of an old Dale Hawkins song and the band's first top-40 hit — and their cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You." Fogerty does Wilson Pickett justice on the band's cover of "Ninety-nine and a Half" (a live version is included as a bonus track) and dives heavily into the blues on "The Working Man" and "Get Down Woman." Bonus tracks include "Call it Pretending," which was actually a Golliwogs b-side; an up-tempo version of "Before You Accuse Me" different from the version included on Cosmo's Factory; and an almost 12-minute live version of “Suzie Q” where the band really stretches out. Creedence Clearwater Revival is a fine debut, but barely scratched the surface of what was to come as John Fogerty's songwriting abilities grew.
1969's Bayou Country, the first of three albums released by the band that year, features the band's biggest and most-covered song, "Proud Mary." Fogerty returns to the swamps with "Born on the Bayou" with its gritty, almost menacing vocal, and the band rocks out with their cover of "Good Golly Miss Molly.” Songs such as "Bootleg" and "Keep on Chooglin'" have an unmistakable groove and feature CCR at their best. Bonus tracks include a version of "Bootleg" that is almost twice as long as the released version, a live, psychedelic blues jam called "Crazy Otto" from 1969 and two live cuts — "Born on the Bayou" and "Proud Mary" — from the band's European tour as a trio in 1971 after Tom Fogerty had left the group.
Green River showcases three more classics with the title track, "Bad Moon Rising" and "Lodi" — a California town John Fogerty was not fond of visiting. Also notable is CCR's cover of "The Night Time is the Right Time," the most famous version of which was by Ray Charles' in the late 1950s. Two bonus tracks from San Francisco’s Wally Heider studios are included — “Broken Spoke Shuffle” and “Glory Be.” Both are instrumental basic tracks with the former having a feel not unlike “Lodi” while the latter is more rocking with a jangly guitar riff. Also featured are a number of live tracks from 1971 from the three-piece version of CCR including "Bad Moon Rising," "Green River/Suzie Q" and "Lodi." Throughout all these CDs, the live cuts really show how good a band CCR was, pushing the tempos while remaining tight.
Next up is Willy and the Poor Boys with two more CCR staples in “Down on the Corner” and the protest song, “Fortunate Son.” Still popular today, John Fogerty played “Fortunate Son” on 2004’s Vote for Change tour backed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Also notable is a strong cover of “The Midnight Special.” A live version of "Fortunate Son" from the three-man version of CCR is one of the bonus tracks, along with a live version of “It Came Out of the Sky.” The highlight of the bonus tracks though is a live jam of “Down on the Corner” with Booker T. and the MGs which was filmed for a TV special and features John Fogerty and Steve Cropper trading guitar licks.
CCR’s arguably biggest and most popular album was Cosmo’s Factory, and for good reason. Killer covers such as “Before You Accuse Me,” “Ooby Dooby,” “My Baby Left Me” and the 11-minute “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” mix with killer originals such as “Travelin’ Band,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” “Run Through the Jungle” (which Fantasy later sued John Fogerty over when they thought “The Old Man Down the Road” sounded a little too similar), “Up Around the Bend,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and the gospel-like “Long As I Can See the Light.” Cosmo’s Factory would be a strong greatest-hits album for most bands while for CCR it was one of two albums released in 1970. Bonus tracks include a studio version of “Travelin’ Band” without the horns and live versions of “Up Around the Bend” and “Born on the Bayou,” the latter again with Booker T and the MGs.
The other album CCR released in 1970 was Pendulum, and it was the final album that featured Tom Fogerty as he quit the band shortly after its release due to inter-band tensions, especially with his brother. The album included two more hits — “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and “Hey Tonight” and is one of the band’s more diverse albums. “Pagan Baby” is borderline hard rock while “Sailor’s Lament” with its horns and keyboards is anything but. The band even goes psychedelic in the experimental “Rude Awakening #2.” The bonus tracks feature a rare promotional single entitled “45 Revolutions Per Minute.” Obviously inspired by the Beatles “Revolution 9,” the track has Bay-area disc jockey Tom Campbell interviewing the band while tape loops and guitar licks play in the background. In a further Beatles nod, the sleeve had a message saying, “A black flag flies at the Beatles’ Apple headquarters.” Also included is a live version of “Hey Tonight” from the three-man version of the band.
CCR’s carved a large niche in rock and roll with their unique sound that eventually made them first-ballot Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. Their songs are all over classic rock radio to this day and they are the favorite band of The Dude from The Big Lebowski. The new reissues sound great, have 99 percent of the hits (“Sweet Hitch-Hiker” was on 1972’s “Mardi Gras”), and interesting bonus tracks. Beyond the hits though, these are just strong albums worth owning.