Creedence Clearwater Revival is one of my favorite bands from the late 60’s. Although their career wasn’t as long as some of the other significant bands of that decade, they still made a big impact. The quartet was on the Woodstock bill. Many of their songs, like “Fortunate Son” and “Bad Moon Rising” are iconic of that era. They had seven albums, and I’m going to rank and review each one in this post, on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the Magnum Opus rating. The band’s members are:
- John Fogerty: lead vocals, guitar
- Tom Fogerty: rhythm guitar
- Stu Cook: bass
- Doug Clifford: drums
Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968)
Rating: *** Singles: “Susie Q”, “I Put a Spell on You”
CCR found their niche right away, blending swamp rock with blues riffs. This is a great debut, mostly for “Susie Q”, one of my favorite CCR songs. (I love the solo towards the end, especially the way John keeps altering it)
Fun Fact: Prior to CCR, the band was known as the Golliwogs. “Walk on the Water” and “Porterville” are leftovers from that period.
Best Songs: “Susie Q”, “I Put a Spell on You”
Bayou Country (1969)
Rating: **** Singles: “Born on the Bayou”, “Proud Mary”
This is a great follow-up, with not a single sign of sophomore slump. It’s one of the three CCR albums in Robert Dimery’s 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (The others are Green River and Cosmo’s Factory.) This includes their first big hit, “Proud Mary” which was later remade by Tina Turner (as much as I like Tina Turner, I prefer the original version of the song) It should be noted that despite the influence Louisiana had on their sound, no member of CCR is from Louisiana. They are actually from San Francisco, California. However, you don’t necessarily have to be from an area to appreciate its musical sound. Of all the albums, this is the one that celebrates Louisiana the most.
Best Songs: “Born on the Bayou”“Proud Mary”, “Keep On Chooglin”
Green River (1969)
Rating:*****, Magnum Opus Singles: “Bad Moon Rising”, “Green River”, “Lodi”
In 1997, John Fogerty said this was his favorite album. I agree, and I think it’s one of their two best albums. When you have a title track like “Green River”, you know you have a classic. It also contains their most famous song after “Proud Mary”, “Bad Moon Rising”. So many good songs on this album, I had a hard time narrowing down three that were worth checking out.
Best Songs: “Green River”, “Tombstone Shadow”, “Bad Moon Rising”
Fun Fact: Sonic Youth also has an album called Bad Moon Rising.
Willy and the Poor Boys (1970)
Rating: ***** Magnum Opus Singles: “Down on the Corner”, “Fortunate Son”
This is my favorite CCR album, and I’m a bit disappointed Robert Dimery’s book didn’t include it. Like The Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the title track is about a fictional band, although this time, CCR doesn’t dress up in flashy military gear. It’s got two of CCR’s best covers, “Cotton Fields” and “Midnight Special” (technically, “Midnight Special” is public domain, but I still count it as a cover). It’s got the protest song about the Vietnam War: “Fortunate Son”, which seems to be a requirement for any movie set in the 60’s. For me, this is CCR’s definitive album.
Best Songs: “Down on the Corner”, “Fortunate Son”, “It Came From Out of the Sky”
Fun Fact: “Down on the Corner” was sampled on the Beastie Boys’s song “Time to Get Ill” on their debut album Licensed to Ill.
Cosmo’s Factory (1970)
Rating: **** Singles: “Looking Out My Back Door”, “Run Through the Jungle”, “Travelin’ Band”
By this time, tensions within the band were beginning to pull them apart. Tom Fogerty felt he rarely got a chance to show off his talents, and it was the main source of the tension. He was ready to call it quits and go solo. Even with that, the quartet still managed to pull out a great album. Out of all the albums, this is the one with the most covers, and it contains my #1 favorite CCR song, “Who’ll Stop the Rain”. That fact alone makes it a worthwhile listen.
Best Songs: “Before You Accuse Me” “Who’ll Stop the Rain”, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
Fun Facts: When John Fogerty released “Old Man Down the Road”, his brother Tom brought him to court for plagiarizing the opening riff to “Run Through the Jungle” (he lost). The album gets its name from the nickname the band had for the studio where they recorded their albums. “Heard it Through the Grapevine” was originally written and performed by Smokey Robinson, but Barry Gordon, the founder and head of Motown, wasn’t pleased with his version, so he had Marvin Gaye record a cover instead, and that’s how Marvin Gaye’s version became more famous.
Rating:** Single: “Have You Ever Seen the Rain”
By all accounts, this should’ve been the finale. Tom Fogerty left after this album was released, and it’s just not as good as what came before. It doesn’t even feel like they had fun with it.
Best Songs: “Pagan Baby”, “Hey Tonight”
Fun Fact: Pendulum is the only CCR album without covers.
Mardi Gras (1972)
Rating:** Singles: “Someday Never Comes”, “Sweet Hitch-hiker”
This album is often dubbed “John’s Revenge”, as it was John’s attempt to capture what was left of the band after Tom had left. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a good indicator that the band was through, as if Pendulum, wasn’t. The brothers’ in-fighting had killed the band for good. Even John Fogerty himself hates the result, calling it horse manure in a 1976 interview and dismissing it entirely.
Best Song: “Someday Never Comes”
To summarize, here’s how I rank the albums from worst to best:
5. Creedence Clearwater Revival
4. Bayou Country
3. Cosmo’s Factory
2. Green River
1. Willy and the Poorboys