Monday, October 1, 2012

Creedence Clearwater Revival defines American rock and roll

From left:  Tom Fogerty, John Fogerty, Stu Cook, and Doug Clifford
Though its heyday was brief, Creedence Clearwater Revival produced more memorable songs than just about any group in rock and roll history. Led by lead guitarist, singer, and songwriter John Fogerty, the group only released seven albums. However, a staggering five of them were released in 1969 and 1970.

Here is a look at my personal top ten:

'Up Around the Bend' -- Appearing on the album 'Cosmo's Factory,' this song is the walking definition of a toe-tapping hit single. Reaching #4 on the Billboard singles chart, it has all the traits of classic CCR: Fogerty's growling vocals, the whiplash rhythm section of bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford, stinging guitar work, and an infectious beat. If this song does not make you smile, you better check your pulse.

'Have You Ever Seen the Rain?' -- This song hit #8 on the charts and may have the most tastefully performed Hammond organ work I have ever heard. The real intrigue of the song is its melancholy lyrics that Fogerty later revealed were inspired by the group's impending break up. The song appeared on their 'Pendulum' album, which was the last to include all four members of the group. Rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty left the band shortly after its release.

'It Came Out of the Sky' -- An album track from 1969's 'Willy and the Poorboys,' this song is a slice of life from that era. The references to Spiro Agnew and Ronald Reagan may make the song a little dated, but it rocks.

'Fortunate Son' -- Clocking in at only 2:20 in length, this song says more about class warfare than just about any song in the rock era. At the time, it was specifically applicable to those who were and were not serving in Vietnam, but the song's lyrics are so universal that they can apply to many other circumstances.

'Born on the Bayou' -- The opening song on the group's second album, 'Bayou Country,' this tune was the first to introduce their signature swampy sound. It was also the first place I heard the verb 'chooglin' as in 'chooglin' on down to New Orleans.'

'Proud Mary' -- Also appearing on the 'Bayou Country' album, this is the song that even casual fans know even though they usually incorrectly identify it as 'Rollin' on the River.'

'Green River -- The title track from their third album, I've always looked at it as a continuation of 'Proud Mary.' If 'Green River' isn't a brother to that song, then it's definitely a first cousin. It makes another case for utopia by the river side.

'Someday Never Comes' -- This was the group's final top 40 single, but it hardly follows the CCR formula. It is a chilling song of family neglect that is passed down from one generation to the next. Fogerty said later this was written during a tough period in his marriage, and he was just trying to explain his feelings to his kids.

'Bad Moon Rising' -- Old Testament prophecy meets Revelation type imagery in this song. And things aren't looking so good.

'I Heard It Through the Grapevine' -- Though known mostly for its short, tight songs, CCR did have extended jams on their albums. Their version of the Marvin Gaye hit is probably the best example of this and clocks in at a little over 11 minutes.

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