CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL – ” Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bayou Country ” Remastered Reissues

Posted: February 27, 2019 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Fillmore

Craft Recordings is continuing the 50th anniversary celebration of Creedence Clearwater Revival.  In 1968, John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty, Doug Clifford, and Stu Cook released their first album together, providing the perfect soundtrack for a tumultuous period in American history. Over just seven albums issued between 1968 and 1972, the band’s rootsy rock-and-roll sensibility yielded such all-time classic hits as “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Green River,” “Down on the Corner,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” Last November, Craft Recordings released a deluxe box set containing CCR’s complete seven-album studio discography in new half-speed masterings by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios.  On March 15th, those new 180-gram, half-speed mastered editions of the first two albums –“Creedence Clearwater Revival” and “Bayou Country” will receive stand-alone LP releases.

In its press release for the box, Craft described the mastering procedure for these albums: “Using high-res transfers from the original analog tapes, the half-speed mastering process involves playing back audio at half its recorded speed while the cutting lathe is turned at half the desired playback speed. The technique allows more time to cut a micro-precise groove, allowing more accuracy with frequency extremes and dynamic contrasts.”  Miles Showell offers further insight into his own approach: “I’ve tried to be as authentic as I could, and just make it sound like music. Not over-hyped, not over-processed. Up until now a lot of processing has been done on these recordings, so my approach was to strip them right back and just expose them for what they are – because what they are is great music.”

Released in the summer of 1968 — a year after the summer of love, but still in the thick of the Age of Aquarius  Creedence Clearwater Revival’s self-titled debut album was gloriously out-of-step with the times, teeming with John Fogerty’s Americana fascinations. While many of Fogerty’s obsessions and CCR’s signatures are in place  weird blues (“I Put a Spell on You”), Stax R&B (Wilson Pickett’s “Ninety-Nine and a Half”), rockabilly (“Susie Q”), winding instrumental interplay, the swamp sound, and songs for “The Working Man” — the band was still finding their way. Out of all their records (discounting Mardi Gras), this is the one that sounds the most like its era, thanks to the wordless vocal harmonies toward the end of “Susie Q,” the backward guitars on “Gloomy” and the directionless, awkward jamming that concludes “Walking on the Water” Still, the band’s sound is vibrant, with gutsy arrangements that borrow equally from Sun, Stax, and the swamp.

Fogerty’s songwriting is a little tentative. Not for nothing were two of the three singles pulled from the album covers (Dale Hawkins’ “Susie Q,” Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You”) — he wasn’t an accomplished tunesmith yet. Though “The Working Man” isn’t bad, the true exception is that third single, “Porterville” an exceptional song with great hooks, an underlying sense of menace, and the first inkling of the working-class rage that fueled such landmarks as “Fortunate Son.” It’s the song that points the way to the breakthrough of Bayou Country, but the rest of the album shouldn’t be dismissed, because judged simply against the rock & roll of its time, it rises above its peers.

Bayou Country (40th Anniversary Edition)

Opening slowly with the dark, swampy “Born on the Bayou,” Bayou Country reveals an assured Creedence Clearwater Revival, a band that has found its voice between their first and second album. It’s not just that “Born on the Bayou” announces that CCR has discovered its sound — it reveals the extent of John Fogerty’s myth-making. With this song, he sketches out his persona; it makes him sound as if he crawled out of the backwoods of Louisiana instead of being a native San Franciscan. He carries this illusion throughout the record, through the ominous meanderings of “Graveyard Train” through the stoked cover of “Good Golly Miss Molly” to “Keep on Chooglin'” which rides out a southern-fried groove for nearly eight minutes. At the heart of Bayou Country, as well as Fogerty’s myth and Creedence’s entire career, is “Proud Mary.” A riverboat tale where the narrator leaves a good job in the city for a life rolling down the river, the song is filled with details that ring so true that it feels autobiographical. The lyric is married to music that is utterly unique yet curiously timeless, blending rockabilly, country, and Stax R&B into something utterly distinctive and addictive. “Proud Mary” is the emotional fulcrum at the center of Fogerty’s seductive imaginary Americana, and while it’s the best song here, his other songs are no slouch, either. “Born on the Bayou” is a magnificent piece of swamp-rock, “Penthouse Pauper” is a first-rate rocker with the angry undertow apparent on “Porterville” and “Bootleg” is a minor masterpiece, thanks to its tough acoustic foundation, sterling guitar work, and clever story. All the songs add up to a superb statement of purpose, a record that captures Creedence Clearwater Revival’s muscular, spare, deceptively simple sound as an evocative portrait of America.

Despite the personal and professional tensions that plagued the band, CCR’s joyous brand of Americana keeps on chooglin’. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers are still active today, with John Fogerty headlining his own solo shows, and Cook and Clifford performing as Creedence Clearwater Revisited. (Tom Fogerty died in 1990.)

The timeless Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bayou Country are due from Craft Recordings on March 15th.  (Note that Amazon is currently showing a March 29th release date.)

Creedence Clearwater Revival (Fantasy 8382, 1968 – reissued Fantasy/Craft, 2019)

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