Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Coming in Fourth on the "Creative Outbursts" List...

Coming in at # 4 on the haahnster list of “creative outbursts” is John Fogerty for his incredible output with Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The band was something of an oddity. They were by far the most commercially successful band from the San Francisco area in the late '60s/early '70s. Yet, they are NEVER mentioned as part of the “San Francisco sound” of that era, as people blather endlessly about The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, etc. No offense to the “Deadheads”, but I’ll take one COSMO’S FACTORY over 1,000 AMERICAN BEAUTY(s). But, I digress.

The group’s self-titled, debut album (1968) was powered mainly by spirited covers of songs such as “I Put A Spell On You” and “Suzie Q”. However, it did include five Fogerty-originals, among them “Porterville”, which is quite a rocker.

Then, things really took off for JC Fogerty and the boys. In 1969, they released (count 'em) three albums. Yes, I said, “three”! BAYOU COUNTRY contained only one cover (“Good Golly Miss Molly”), but six Fogerty-originals: “Born On The Bayou”, “Bootleg”, “Graveyard Train”, “Penthouse Pauper”, “Proud Mary”, and “Keep On Choogling”. GREEN RIVER was next, and contained one cover (“The Night Time Is The Right Time”) and eight-Fogerty originals: “Green River”, “Commotion”, “Tombstone Shadow”, “Wrote A Song For Everyone”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Lodi”, “Cross-Tie Walker”, and “Sinister Purpose”. Lastly, WILLY AND THE POORBOYS contained Fogerty-arrangements of two Leadbelly standards (“Cotton Fields” and “The Midnight Special”) and eight Fogerty-originals: “Down On The Corner”, “It Came Out Of The Sky”, “Poorboy Shuffle”, “Feeling Blue”, “Fortunate Son”, “Don't Look Now (It Ain't You Or Me)”, “Side Of The Road”, and “Effigy”. That’s not a bad year, in my opinion.

Then came my personal favorite, COSMO’S FACTORY (1970). This album includes great covers of “Ooby Dooby” and “My Baby Left Me”, an INCREDIBLE cover of “Before You Accuse Me” (that makes Eric Clapton’s cover of the same song sound like the piece of sh-t that it is), and my 2ND FAVORITE COVER OF ALL TIME, a jaw-dropping, 11-minute guitar workout of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. Also included are seven Fogerty-originals: “Ramble Tamble”, “Traveling Band”, “Looking Out My Back Door”, “Run Through The Jungle”, “Up Around The Bend”, “Who'll Stop The Rain”, and “Long As I Can See The Light”.

There was at least a slightly perceptible drop in quality on the 2nd album of 1970, PENDULUM, which contained ten songs, all Fogerty-originals. However, the classics “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”, “Hey Tonight”, and “Molina” are strong entries.

Alas, the party was over, as John’s brother, rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty left the band. Apparently, he was disgruntled about the full control little brother John had taken of the group. In response, John insisted that the other two remaining members contribute tracks to the next album, MARDI GRAS (1972). The result was an unmitigated disaster that is often thought to be the worst album released by any group of this stature. In some fairness, two of the Fogerty-originals (“Sweet Hitch-Hiker” and “Someday Never Comes”) still qualify as classics in my book.

So, rewinding to before MARDI GRAS, the original CCR line-up, spearheaded by lead guitarist, lead singer, and songwriter John Fogerty, released six albums between July 1968 and December 1970. And, the best four (the middle four) of the six were all released in the 19-month period of January 1969 to July 1970. Hello!!!

Based on the rapid succession in which the albums came out, and the relative lack of previously unreleased material that has subsequently emerged, it would appear that whatever Fogerty wrote in this timeframe was almost immediately recorded and released. Hence, some might consider the prolific appearance to be a bit deceptive. However, it is almost impossible to argue the consistent quality of the material in question. Had it been sustained just a bit longer, perhaps I would even rank Fogerty a spot or two higher. As it stands though, I am still completely in awe. And, I say this is the 4th most amazing “creative outburst” in the history of rock music.

[For those of you keeping score at home, I guess that means Neil is in the Top 3.]


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