Cosmo's Factory

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Fantasy, 1970

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Steven Hyden (formerly a writer for the brilliant site Grantland) has a pet theory about how to determine the greatness of a rock band/artist; it’s called the 5 Album Test. Basically, the test works as follows: if a band delivered a stretch of five unassailable albums, they make the cut as one of the best of all time.

Naturally, such a theory prompts a great deal of wailing to and gnashing of teeth. But if you just select a random handful of artists, I believe that Hyden is definitely onto something, and at the very least it makes having those barroom shouting matches just a little more interesting. Do the Beatles have such a stretch? What about the Stones? U2? Bowie? Yes, all of them delivered zeitgeist defining works....but were they consecutive? Was there just one album nestled away in a deep run of brilliance that while good, isn’t great?

Hyden has posited in some of his work on the subject that Creedence Clearwater Revival is a no-brainer when it comes to passing the Five Album Test, and honestly, it is hard to dispute his assertion. Over a period of two years in the late ‘60s, John Fogerty and Co. absolutely knocked it out the park, releasing SIX albums that rang out as a legitimate counter to the changing music landscape. And if you follow the progression of those records, in this humble reviewer’s eye, Cosmo’s Factory stands out as the pinnacle of that legacy-defining run.

All the talent that CCR displayed in their previous albums comes to a head on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Cosmo’s Factory; they are at the peak of their powers here. The singles from this record are all-timers: “Up Around The Bend,” “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.” Lesser bands would give up their left kidneys just to write a song of that quality ONCE in a career, and here Fogerty delivered three of them. Of those highlights, “Who’ll Stop The Rain” has always hit hardest. It’s definitely the closest CCR would get to folk-rock: lyrically and musically, it would not be out of place on a Simon & Garfunkel album from the same period. With that said, and this is decidedly a moment specific to a vinyl-listening session of Cosmo’s Factory, when that opening guitar lick to “Up Around The Bend” kicks off Side! You are geared up and ready to go within seconds. The guitar, the hand claps, the hook…it’s just a stellar piece of work.

There are two extended jam songs on Cosmo’s Factory, “Travelin’ Band” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” The latter, of course, has been covered by dozens upon dozens of artists, most famously by Marvin Gaye in 1968. But a scant two years later, CCR delivered their own epic, eleven-minute version. Fogerty definitely brings a gritty rage to the soon to be jilted lover that sets his performance apart from its more famous cousin. But where Motown’s “Grapevine” finds it’s greatness in brevity, CCR’s take allows the band to stretch their legs and expand on the groove they’ve established. There are no histrionics, no building of layer upon layer, just a solid rock and roll performance.

While I argued earlier that musically, CCR defied the trends in music in the late 60s, that doesn’t apply to their writing. One thing I’ve tremendously appreciated about Fogerty is his ability to capture the mood and the tension that permeated the culture in America during the Vietnam War era. The uncertainty of where society was headed, the injustice, the “fog of war”…it all comes out in CCR’s songs without knocking one over the head. A song like “Run Through The Jungle” creates a sense of unease from its first moments. “Who’ll Stop The Rain” asks the question of “when will this end?,” not in a depressed woe-is-me attitude, but out of a general longing to see some common sense cut through the lies and misdirection.

That five album test I mentioned earlier? It’s a fun diversion to spice up our musical conversations and help put things in their place so we can attempt to quantify who is greater, whose peak was higher, etc., etc. It would be foolish to say that a band like Big Star is somehow “lesser” because they were around for a couple of records, instead of a decades-long career. But that is an argument for another time, because when it comes to Creedence Clearwater Revival, there’s no need to debate. They were, and are, an all-time great. Cosmo’s Factory is the proverbial cherry on top.

Rating: A

User Rating: A



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