Creedence Clearwater Revival wasn't a blues band, though acknowledgement of their contributions to authentic music in these pages is appropriate. This was a well-named band. 'Roots' had yet to be coined as an identifier during their heyday. The idea of revival, both as a means of bringing music back to life and as a joyous, almost "religious" experience connected for the quartet of John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford. The six remastered discs here offer the most concise musical picture of this important band to date.
The first disc in the collection, titled "1961-1967 Pre-Creedence," opens with Tom Fogerty & The Blue Velvets" and their Richie Valens-meets Ricky Nelson sound. As catchy as it is, it doesn't have any conspicuous connection to CCR. The rest of the disc serves as a bridge between the Blue Velvets and CCR. The Golliwogs sound covered the Mersey-Beat "Don't Tell Me No Lies" to the Beatle-esque "You Came Walkin" to the psychedelic "Walking On The Water." By the ninth cut, the first of two versions of "You Can't Be True," shades of Creedence begin to emerge in John Fogerty's guitar work, even though British influences are still evident. "Brown- Eyed Girl" has more in common with Paul Revere & The Raiders than Van Morrison, and "You Better Be Careful" reminds of the Troggs at their best. "Fight Fire" could have been a Creedence song with more vocal bite (John Fogerty hadn't learned to snarl yet). That the same quartet who would become Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded these sides is a bit surprising, given the radical change in direction that was to come. That all of the tunes were written by the Fogerty Brothers (the vast majority by John) isn't surprising, though certainly there was nothing in the songwriting style that made a logical jump the CCR. Nine of these tunes are seeing their initial release here.
The next five discs are essentially the nine Creedence Clearwater Revival albums re-arranged a bit. The radio and bar band hits that have been done to death are here. Eight-and-a-half minutes of "Suzie Q," 11 minutes of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," "Looking Out My Back Door," "Who'll Stop The Rain," etc. What emerges from this collection, however, is not just a glimpse of how important this band was in their time (1967-1972), but how enduring and powerful this music remains. Their take on "I Put A Spell On You" is the first glimpse of Fogerty's vocal and guitar prowess and has more subtlety and nuance in the grooves than Screamin' Jay's version. The blue-shirt grit that the band brought to the gig covered every-man in the best sense. They covered soul (Wilson Picket's "Ninety-Nine and a Half", "Grapevine"), blues ("Midnight Special," "The Night Time Is The Right Time") and back country Americana (most brilliantly on Fogerty's classic "Born On The Bayou"). There are songs that even old CCR fans like me may have forgotten about, like "Bootleg," with its great greasy back-beat and the 90-mph "Ramble Tamble"). These guys certain could ride a groove all night (check out "Keep On Chooglin'") and, my, these boys could shake it up, as on the seriously rockin "Good Golly Miss Molly."
The third disc, from 1969, covers "Green River," "Commotion," "Tombstone Shadow," the Band-inspired "I Wrote A Song For Everyone," "Bad Moon Rising," "Lodi," "Down On The Corner," "It Came Out Of The Sky," the wonderful cover of "Cotton Fields," the bluesy "Feelin' Blue," "Fortunate Son," and the "Midnight Special." Not a clinker in the bunch.
Disc #4 opens up full-throttle with "Ramble Tamble" and features the loping country blues of "Before You Accuse Me," the radio friendly "Travelin' Band," Roy Orbinson's classic "Ooby Dooby," and a run of the big hits ("Lookin' Out My Back Door," "Run Through The Jungle," "Who'll Stop The Rain," "Have You Ever Seen The Rain," etc).
Disc #5 ends the studio cuts. "Molina," harkening back to the Golliwog days, opens. The pair of takes on the rare "Revolutions Per Minute," sounds like a cross between Hendrix and the Beatles and come off sounding silly and more dated than anything else here. A big treat is the Merle Haggard-sounding "Looking For A Reason," with Fogerty digging deep for the country strain that was always a part of the CCR sound. Cook and Clifford's output was limited to the last studio album, "Mardi Gras." Suffice to say, it wasn't the equal of Fogerty's. The disc ends with the music from "The Concert." The final disc is essentially the "Live In Europe" disc. Both live sets prove that this was no studio-gizmo band. They delivered the goods on stage, as well.
Certainly, if you have the two disc hits collection and that's all you're looking for, you'll be satisfied. If you have all the albums on disc, you'll be happy enough, too. The excitement here is in the unreleased cuts, the superb 75-page booklet and, face it, it's just such a treat to have it all in one handy-dandy location.
Creedence wasn't a blues band. Their importance was in the brilliant gumbo of styles they turned us on to 30 years ago. Maybe they didn't really revive anything. The blues, rock, country and swampabilly they played was probably there all along. They just helped us musically starved kids find it. Creedence played authentic music, roots music. They were one of the greatest bands of the past half-century, whatever it was they played. This superb collection proves that they sound just as extraordinary today. That's the hallmark of music that matters.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Mark E. Gallo, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.