Willy And The Poor Boys

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Fantasy, 1969


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


It’s been well documented that 1969 was an absolutely stunning year of music, and for CCR, it was a particularly prolific one. The quartet released three albums that year, all of which were consistently great, keeping them in the charts around the world while running antithetical to the artsy, bloated spirit that had started to take hold of the band’s contemporaries.

CCR was definitely an American band, one that relied on blues, Motown, and swamp rock updated for a new generation. It sounded like nothing else on the radio – and still doesn’t, as you know a CCR song the moment it starts – and had an instant charm and appeal while still bringing hard rock and pop appeal. The negative side was that John Fogerty had taken control of the band and turned it into a less-than-democratic environment; among his directions were that the band continue to release music, pretty much as soon as it was mastered, so that they always stayed in the public conscious.

It made sense on paper – and in today’s fickle world, it’s even smarter – but in 1969 it wasn’t really necessary, and CCR’s set at Woodstock only cemented them as an integral part of the vast, diverse musical landscape of the year. This means that each of their albums has some filler on it, mostly in the form of instrumental jams designed to kill time, and while fun, these can be a bit repetitive after a time. On my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Willy And The Poor Boys, that song is “Feelin’ Blue,” and it’s about the only time this record’s energy flags a bit.

But boy, does “Fortunate Son” ever make up for it. Fogerty’s timeless protest anthem, while written at the time of Vietnam, is not tied to that war but is smartly centered on all privileged Americans – the rich and the politicians – who send other people’s kids to war and who cite undying patriotism but live lives of hypocrisy and luxury. The fiery rock is just over two minutes but says more than most protest anthems; some consider it CCR’s best song, and it’s tough to argue.

By their fourth album, CCR was a tight unit, but their songs veered between punchy numbers like “Fortunate Son,” the witty story-song “It Came Out Of The Sky,” and “Don’t Look Now” to more ramshackle, front-porch pieces like “Down On The Corner,” the jug band homage “Poor Boy Shuffle” and both of the traditional American songs “Cotton Fields” and “The Midnight Special.” By this point, CCR had fully absorbed its influences, despite the California origins, and could totally reinvent and sell a remake of “The Midnight Special” that sounded timely in 1969. One of the chief appeals of CCR is that their songs rarely seemed tied to a specific time – psychedelic rock, British invasion, prog, disco, punk, etc. – and so their music remains timeless, if a touch corny and innocent by today’s jaded standards.

“Side O’ The Road” is another instrumental that does little more than kill some time, leading to the closing “Effigy,” which was written more pointedly about Richard Nixon and is among the most depressing melodies of Fogerty’s oeuvre, made even more melancholy by his vocal multitracking and the bee-sting guitar solos, which take up half the song. The piece fades out without any kind of hope, but rather than undercut what came before, it seems to illustrate that we live in tough times no matter what the era. While you can’t ignore that, sometimes the simple act of playing music, hanging with friends down on the corner (as it were) and storytelling can make things better, at least for a while. And on that level, Willy And The Poor Boys succeeds.

Rating: B

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