Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Fantasy, 1968

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The most striking thing about Creedence’s debut was how unlike the music of the time it was, and how that was completely normal.

One of the great things about late ‘60s music is the breadth of styles that were popular and the freedom of experimentation that the artists clearly felt. Not beholden to the three-minute single, artists could create all manner of sounds and play with song lengths, exotic instruments, feedback, side-length tracks, or the blending of two genres (rock and folk, rock and blues, R&B and everything, etc.).

So Creedence arrived in the midst of this, and their hook was to create back-to-basics rock that sounded like it came from the Deep South – music with few pretentious flourishes that was uniquely American. Whether this was an affected pose for the California band or a genuine love affair remains debatable, but the truth was that little else sounded like this in 1968…or to this day, to be fair. Like most debuts, the album sounds tentative, a bit underdeveloped, and in the context of what the quartet would do in 1969 and 1970, it has taken a backseat to the more famous albums and songs.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Aside from the covers, the original songs are flawed but interesting gems for fans of the band, particularly those who enjoy deep cuts from later albums like “Effigy,” “Tombstone Shadow,” and “Ramble Tamble.” None of them stack up to those tracks, let alone the hits that would come in 1969 and 1970, but “Gloomy,” “Porterville,” “Get Down Woman,” and especially “The Working Man” are solid (albeit generic) raw material, the beginning elements that would coalesce into greatness soon enough. John Fogerty’s righteous anger and ragged voice are evident from the outset and the band’s tight interplay and fondness for jamming, especially on the closing “Walking On The Water,” are already set as well.

The disc put CCR on the map because of its two major covers, “I Put A Spell On You” and “Suzie Q,” which transcend their originals and become of a piece with the rest of the album, as well as the band’s entire output. Full of swampy menace and some excellent solo spots, both songs remain career highlights; the latter, in particular, also features the band’s underrated ability to lock into a groove for long periods of time. Granted, the wordless vocals in the second half pad the track a bit, but Fogerty’s ear-piercing guitar solo makes things right again. The third cover doesn’t get as much recognition, but “Ninety Nine And A Half (Won’t Do)” is nearly as good and energetic, worth seeking out as a forgotten early track for fans.

I’d imagine the original copies of this disc have been supplanted by the 40th anniversary edition, which is preferred because of a couple of deep cuts (a cover of “Before You Accuse Me” and the rarity “Call It Pretending” among them) and a smoking, groove-centric, 12-minute live version of “Suzie Q” that you should locate now if you like this band at all.

Creedence Clearwater Revival is a pretty unassuming debut, with all of the elements unique to CCR already in place but little to really recommend it outside of the hits and “Ninety Nine And A Half.” Still, for a band that quickly tore through the charts and public consciousness for three brief years, it’s interesting to hear the origin story, if not really necessary to understanding the band.

Rating: C

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