CCR Review: COSMO’S FACTORY at 50

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Earlier this year, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Cosmo’s Factory celebrated 50 years of existence. Considered by many to be the group’s magnum opus, Cosmo’s features nearly every positive element the band had to offer, all polished into a fine, commercial package. 

You can get an idea of how I’m going to rule here by going to this post from February, but if you’re interested in a full track-by-track breakdown, keep scrolling!

Side A:

1. “Ramble Tamble”

Possibly the best album opener in CCR’s catalog, “Ramble Tamble” begins as something of a sequel to “Commotion” from the band’s Green River album. Like the latter track, RT opens with a harder-edged rock intro before shifting to a neo-rockabilly feel. Also like “Commotion,” “Ramble Tamble” laments the socio-political climate of the period with lines such as “There’s garbage on the sidewalk / Highways in the back yard / Police on the corner / Mortgage on the car.” Both songs are even in the key of D.

However, after two blistering verses bookended by a brisk refrain, “Ramble Tamble” begins switching gears, gradually slowing to a stop over the course of 20 seconds. The respite is short-lived, though, as the band immediately returns, changing time, tempo, and, effectively, keys, beginning an Am, C, G, D chord progression.

Over the next four minutes, the experimental instrumentation incrementally builds in layers, intensity, and speed, culminating in an anthemic “wall of sound.” Clearly, the intent is to create a psychedelic jam-band feel, but this is no jam. No, this is master producer Fogerty meticulously directing the band to create one of their best works.

Then, around the 5:30 mark, just as quickly as it began, the epic experiment ends, and the rockabilly returns for Fogerty to wrap up the lyrics with a shot at the Nixon administration:

They’re selling independence
Actors in the White House
Acid in digestion
Mortgage on my life

The song is unquestionably one of the band’s best.

#3 – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Cuts

2. “Before You Accuse Me”

Keeping their tradition of including a handful of covers in their projects, the group proceeds with a rendition of Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me.” It may not be as inventive as their interpretations of other classics like “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Midnight Special,” but it’s a competent rendering featuring that unmistakeable Creedence sound.

3. “Travelin’ Band”

Speaking of “Good Golly Miss Molly,” the band was sued over the next track for its similarity to the Little Richard hit. Although eventually settled out of court, the lawsuit was ludicrous, as “Travelin’ Band” only sounds like “Miss Molly” in the way all  ’50s-style rock ’n’ roll songs do. The music is a spectacular homage to that era, while the lyrics chronicle touring musicians’ life on the road. TB is also one of six songs from Cosmo’s to hit the Billboard Top 5.

4. “Ooby Dooby”

A cover of a song originally released by Roy Orbison, “Ooby Dooby” is essentially the original version with John singing—which, for a CCR and Roy fanatic like me, is a winning combo.

5. “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”

Another Billboard hit, “Lookin’ Out My Backdoor” is perhaps the apex of Creedence’s country/folk/rock sound. The laid-back feel and Dr. Seuss-inspired lyrics make for a happy, toe-tapping sing-a-long.

6. “Run Through the Jungle”

A metaphorical commentary on the Vietnam War, “Run Through the Jungle” presents a darker, harder side of the CCR swamp sound—and yields another deserving Billboard hit.

Side B:

1. “Up Around the Bend”

Side B kicks off with hit #4. Opening with one of Fogerty’s most recognizable licks, “Up Around the Bend” is an iconic ‘70s rock song, and with its head-bobbing groove and lyrics about traveling, it’s the quintessential “driving song.” I may not own a convertible, but if I did, “Up Around the Bend” would be at the top of my open-road playlist every summer.

2. “My Baby Left Me”

The band’s rendition of this Billy Crudup R&B tune is more than fine but also the weakest track on the record. Personally, I would have preferred another Crudup tune, “That’s All Right,” which is essentially “My Baby Left Me” with different lyrics.

3. “Who’ll Stop the Rain”

Cosmo’s fifth hit single, “Who’ll Stop the Rain” is not only perhaps the most recognizable song from the album but possibly the greatest ballad of a generation. Inspired by CCR’s not-so-spectacular Woodstock experience, the song incorporates many cultural themes of the day through the use of vivid imagery and sets them atop a melancholy, country/rock tune, with folk sensibilities. 

4. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”

While a slimmed-down edition would earn CCR a final hit 4 years after their breakup, the 11-minute jam cut of “Grapevine” included here showcases the exceptional musicianship of the group. For my money, their rendition is the best version of the song ever produced, Marvin Gaye’s included. 

5. “Long As I Can See the Light”

As perfect as “Ramble Tamble” was as the album opener, “Long As I Can See the Light” is equally exceptional as the closer. A slow-blues tune, ”Light” evokes images of weariness, restlessness, longing, loneliness, and wandering. Yet it’s ultimately an uplifting song about homecoming. There’s a distinct gospel and spiritual feel to the entire affair, and the song’s “candle in the widow” could easily be construed as the Light on the other side of this world. 

(On a side note, it’s my favorite song of all time.)

The album may not be as coherent as, say, Willy and the Poor Boys, but the individual tracks are so good, coherency is rendered irrelevant.

Conclusion:

Packing in a fantastic selection of covers and peak quality originals, Cosmo’s Factory is not only Creedence’s best album but one of the greatest albums ever produced by anyone.

Rating:  10/10

*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form! – Cole

Review: Creedence Clearwater Revival – PENDULUM (50th Anniversary)

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*A version of this review originally appeared on Southern Senses 12/07/15.


 

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Pendulum, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s sixth album and the last to feature all four members of the group. The record, which followed the band’s most successful effort, Cosmos’s Factory (released earlier the same year), was seen as a comparative failure at the time by both critics and fans. In retrospect, however, the album has been viewed more favorably as demonstrative evidence that the group was capable of far more than 2 and 1/2 minute hit singles. 

Side A: 

1. “Pagan Baby”

The album kicks off in classic CCR fashion: hard-hitting swamp rock driven by Fogerty’s signature guitar licks and vocal howling. What separates this track from previous efforts is the upward tempo shift a little over 1/3 of the way through, followed by an extended jam segment. Although the tune is many of the band’s strengths in a nutshell, the track is not indicative of the rest of the album…for better and worse. 

2. “Sailor’s Lament”

About as odd of a tonal shift as could be, track 2 is a quirky little ditty with folk-influenced lyrics and soul sensibilities. The entire band delivering hi-pitched backing vocals throughout the track is a bit weird, but effective. The track benefits from the introduction of Stu Cook’s funky-ish bass and Fogerty’s saxophone section. This is the track the signals the listener: This is not a typical Creedence record. 

3. “Chameleon” 

Another interesting choice for the band, “Chameleon” is a straight-forward, up-tempo Motown, tune replete with a boisterous horn section. It’s reminiscent of “Call It Pretending,” a largely unknown tune from the group which was both the last single to be released under the “Golliwogs” moniker and the first to be released under CCR. This track continues to show that the band (particularly J. Fogerty) is not confined to a particular genre. 

4. “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” 

Indisputably the best track on the record, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” is another enduring Fogerty classic which has withstood the test of time. From its signature bass line to its unforgettable lyric hook, everything about this song is magnificent. The lyrics are a metaphor discussing (and dare I say “prophesying”) the pending demise of the band. A sad fact, but one which makes the track that much more poignant. Another element that I’ve rarely heard discussed is the elevation that Fogerty’s organ work adds to the second half of the track. (Spoiler Alert: The instrument becomes more prominent as the record continues.) Despite being the best song here, it’s also probably the most “safe” tune, as it hearkens back to the softer pop/rock side the group displayed in past endeavors. 

5. “Wish I Could Hideaway” 

Possibly the saddest song Fogerty has ever written, “Wish I Could Hideaway” metaphorically chronicles the breakdown of John’s relationship with brother and bandmate, Tom. The lyrics are set atop a dark, haunting chord-progression, expertly delivered by John on organ. The lines “What’s there to say? / We’re all bound for the graveyard / Ooh I wish you well” are particularly powerful, considering the brothers’ ultimate lack of reconciliation.

Side B: 

1. “Born to Move” 

Side B kicks off with my second favorite track from the record, “Born to Move.” The track is a severely underrated dance jam, with more of Fogerty’s spectacular organ and horn work and Cook’s funk-bass. It’s clear here that Fogerty is taking his organ cues from then-ultra-hip band and friends Booker T. and MGs. 

2. “Hey Tonight” 

The the second half of the album’s double-A-sided single (w/“Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” ), “Hey Tonight” is also the only other well-known song from Pendulum. There are elements of classic CCR here, including a signature intro, but there is something undeniably “‘70s” about the track that denies it the timeless quality of most of the band’s hits. 

3. “It’s Just a Thought”

My third favorite track from the record, “It’s Just a Thought” is perhaps the oddest bird out of the record’s many odd birds. Here, Fogerty waxes poetic about the fleeting nature and general incomprehensibility of life. It’s a melancholy, mid-tempo tune driven by more funky-sounding bass and organ work. 

4. “Molina” 

For years, the only CCR song I claimed to not like on any level; however, I eventually came around. Yes, I like “Molina” too. It’s a throw-back, ‘50s rock ’n’ roller replete with more great sax work from Fogerty. Still, it isn’t as fun or inventive as other throwbacks like “Travelin’ Band” and “It Came Out of the Sky.” 

5. “Rude Awakening #2” 

Probably the most maligned John Fogerty composition in CCR’s catalog, “Rude Awakening #2” is a rare instrumental from the group. It starts off beautifully, takes a very dark and engaging turn, gets a little too weird, then finally derails into near-unlistenable audio garbage somewhere around the 4:20 mark. Like much of the album, “Rude Awakening” seems to be an attempt by Fogerty to silence critics who claimed that the group was a “singles band,” incapable of producing a “rock album” and jam tracks. Until about 3 and a half minutes in, the track sounds like something Led Zeppelin would’ve produced around the same time, though with Zeppelin, Robert Plant would likely have been singing, and later, screaming, words over the music. And perhaps that’s what this track needed: Fogerty howling. Maybe that and the last three minutes scrapped or replaced with something listenable. 

Overall, the album isn’t the group’s best effort, but it is definitely their most original and well-produced. I would’ve loved to have heard a follow-up with more organ and sax from J. Fogerty, more funky bass sounds from Cook, and more jam tunes that showcased the excellent musicianship of the group. But unfortunately, the record’s relative failure was the tipping point of increasing tension in the band. Tom Fogerty left CCR within a month after the album’s release, and the fractured collaborative effort of the remaining trio yielded the band’s swan song (“swan album”?), the universally panned Mardi Gras. 

Final verdict: A record which highlighted the best of the band’s established attributes while demonstrating their capability of much more, Pendulum stands as a must-listen for all CCR and John Fogerty fans, fifty years later. 

Rating: 9/10


*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form! – Cole

Every John Fogerty Studio Album Ranked

Today, John Fogerty dropped the expanded edition of his live-from-quarantine family band project, Fogerty’s Factory, and to celebrate, I’m counting down all ten JF studio albums from worst to best.

10. Eye of the Zombie (1986) – 2/10


 

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Coming off the smash success of Centerfield, Fogerty went all-in on exploring ’80s studio sounds, and…the results were less than stellar. The songs sound like over-produced ’80s fare, but not quite mainstream enough to be successful as such.

The singular exception is “Change in the Weather,” a less produced, swampy tune that hearkens back to John’s CCR days. But even this tune is hampered by production trends of the period and, thus, doesn’t quite live up to its older brothers.

9. Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again (2009) – 4/10


 

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Thirty-six years after his original one-man country band experiment, Fogerty returned with a hotly anticipated sequel. Unfortunately, Rides Again fails to hit most of the marks that made the first outing so interesting.

Whereas the original Rangers featured a prime-voiced Fogerty belting out unique renditions of classic country/western tunes (while also playing every single instrument on the record), the follow-up finds the mellower, more nasally elder John crooning mostly safe covers with an ace backing band (including the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, and Timothy B. Schmidt.)

That doesn’t sound too bad on paper, but in practice, the result is far less satisfying. (A notable exception on the project is a rawer, more Creedenc-y remake of the aforementioned “Change in the Weather.”)

8. Revival (2007) – 5/10


 

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Returning to Fantasy Records in 2005, Fogerty appeared poised to embrace his Creedence past with the seasoned sensibilities of a sage veteran and deliver a truly special project. I feel I’m in a minority here, but I think Revival fell far short of its potential.

Although it garnered Fogerty a Grammy nod for Best Rock Album, for me, the effort was less an homage to, or continuation of, John’s glory days, than a repetition of much better work that had gone before. The country/folk tunes “Don’t You Wish It Were True” and “Broken Down Cowboy” are probably the best songs on the record, primarily because the older Fogerty’s voice and songwriting fit better with the genre. 

Lyrically, the project is bogged down by heavy-handed, now incredibly dated political commentary, mostly directed at then-president George W. Bush. Fogerty has always been political, of course, but the beauty of politically charged classics like “Fortunate Son,” “Run Through the Jungle,” and “Ramble Tamble” is in the timelessness.

Even though the U.S. military draft has been inactive for some time now, “Fortunate Son” still plays well on the radio. Conversely, Revival lyrics that name drop Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney already have the majority of the post-millennial generation scratching their heads and saying, “Who?” (If any of that generation is actually listening, that is.)

7. Deja Vu (All Over Again) (2004) – 6/10


 

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Fogerty’s first album of new material since the Grammy-winning Blue Moon Swamp was a decidedly mixed bag. As with most of John’s later material, the album’s strength lies in softer, “folkier” material like the Roger Miller-esque “Honey Do,” the sweetly sentimental “I Will Walk with You,” and the rare Fogerty love song “Sugar, Sugar (In My Life),” probably the best song on the record. (It’s certainly the catchiest and my personal favorite.)

Other tunes don’t fare so well. The title track, for instance, sounds like a musical rehash of “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” while lyrics equating Vietnam with Iraq ring hollow. Meanwhile, Fogerty’s attempts at punk (“She’s Got Baggage”) and hard rock (“In the Garden”) fall flat.

6. Wrote a Song for Everyone (2013) – 6/10


 

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The star-studded duet album. It’s certainly…interesting to hear legends and hot modern artists collaborate with Fogerty on unique versions of some of the Master Swamper’s best songs, though the tunes featuring country artists land the best—no surprise considering Fogerty’s gravitation toward country in his later years.

The best songs on the record, however, aren’t the duet remakes; they’re the two new original solo tracks, “Mystic Highway” and “Train of Fools.” Both tunes are catchy and unmistakably Fogerty, with “Mystic” channeling a country/folk sound somewhere between Willy and the Poor Boys and Blue Moon Swamp and “Train” leaning into the patented CCR swamp vibe. Here’s hoping John uses these two tunes as a template for the next album.

5. Hoodoo (1976) – 7/10


 

Having never been officially released (thus, no cover banner), Hoodoo is the stuff of legends. I’ve reviewed the record at length before, but in short, it isn’t as bad as John and the Asylum Records people thought at the time.

Basically, many of the best songs on the record sounded outdated for 1976, and the tunes that tried to channel then-current music trends mostly didn’t work. Still, there are some spectacular tracks on the record (“Evil Thing,” “Telephone,” and “Leave My Woman Alone”), and it’s the last time Fogerty can be heard sounding like his old Creedence self.

4. Blue Ridge Rangers (1973) – 8/10


 

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 As strange as a post-CCR, pseudonymous, one-man-band, country/western cover project sounds, Blue Ridge Rangers is actually a fine record.

John’s choice of covers is ever interesting, and while some tracks are competent, reverent renditions of old favorites, Fogerty shines the most with clever, blues- and rock-infused arrangements of classics like Hank Williams’s “Jambalaya” and gospel standard “Working on a Building.”

3. Centerfield (1985) – 9/10


 

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Considering songs like “Old Man Down the Road” and the title track, it’s no wonder Fogerty’s iconic comeback record is also his most popular solo LP. Honestly, though, I’m not personally a huge fan of the record.

I have an aversion to ’80s music in general, and Centerfield is steeped in musical trends of the decade. Even the “Green River”-esque  “Old Man” is, in my eyes, held back by an electronic drum sound. Still, with Centerfield, Fogerty achieved something he never had before nor ever has since:

He successfully adapted his classic music sensibilities to a newer commercial era.

And for that feat, Centerfield sits at #3.

2. Blue Moon Swamp (1997) – 9/10


 

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The Grammy-winning second comeback album.

I reviewed BMS in greater depth several years ago, but for this list, I’ll simply say that Fogerty managed to create a post-CCR blend of country, folk, rock, and blues that felt simultaneously familiar and original. There are some lesser tracks, but the standouts more than make up for the deficiencies. 

1. John Fogerty (1975) – 10/10


 

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Another record I’ve touched on before, John’s eponymous sophomore effort tops the list because…well, it’s the most “CCR” album in Fogerty’s solo catalog. John’s voice is at its howilin’ prime, and his guitar work ain’t far behind.

Any song on here could’ve easily been on a Creedence record. Originals like “Rockin’ All Over the World” and “Almost Saturday Night” are as singularly iconic as any of Fogerty’s CCR work, and the cover choices are excellent.

Sure, in 1975, the project was considered “dated” and was essentially a flop. But good music is good music regardless of perception, and I remain optimistic that, one day, JF will be widely recognized as a woefully underrated work.

Bonus Album: Premonition (1998) – 9/10

Recorded in front of a live studio audience, Premonition was on the borderline of being numbered in the main list. Why? Although I was unable to verify the claims, it’s been alleged that Fogerty engaged in some post-production studio overdubbing, which would explain why the album was not originally marketed as a “live” release.

Whether truly live or studio-finagled, Fogerty’s mature renditions of classics and under-the-radar tunes are masterful, and his performances of a few BMS tunes may be better here than on studio cuts, particularly the kicked-up “Joy of My Life.”

*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form!

Southern Senses Archive: John Fogerty – BLUE MOON SWAMP (1997) Review

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Original version published 09/14/15 on Southern Senses


 

Having successfully revived (pardon the pun…or don’t) his career numerous times throughout the decades, former Creedence frontman John Fogerty could rightly be known in the industry as “The King of Comebacks.” But perhaps no single career revival (punnier) has served as more of a reminder of Fogerty’s greatness, nor has stood the test of time as well, as Blue Moon Swamp. The album is a country and rock blend at its finest—a mesh which Fogerty helped bring to the forefront of popular music almost three decades earlier. After it’s original release in 1997, the record was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album, and here’s why:

01. “Southern Streamline”

If you want to appeal to a Southern audience, sing about a train. The lighthearted romance theme coupled with the “peppy” side of Fogerty’s signature CCR sensibilities makes the track one of the best upbeat songs Fogerty has penned this side of “Bad Moon Rising.”

03. “Blueboy”

A signature opening lick (something which set most of Fogerty’s CCR tunes apart from the proverbial “pack”) is gloriously present in “Blueboy.” Lyrically, the song paints a scene of by-gone, simpler times when country folk gathered in town on Saturday to watch a local boy play his guitar.

04. “A Hundred and Ten in the Shade”

One of the best tracks on the record, “A Hundred and Ten in the Shade” is a blues-based tune permeated by Fogerty’s patented swamp rock sound. The addition of The Fairfield Four on vocals gives a fitting spiritual quality to the “fingers-to-the-bone” work depicted in Fogerty’s lyrical lamentations.

06. “Bring It Down to Jelly Roll”

As a songwriter, I don’t think I would ever use the word tandem “jelly roll” in my tunes. Offhand, it seems “Jelly Roll” is the name of a club or joint, and Fogerty is telling the listener to “bring it down to Jelly Roll” for a one of a kind good time. Still, I’ve never heard of Fogerty addressing the meaning directly, but according to the internet consensus (Isn’t that all that matters in these days?), the tune is a tribute to New Orleans jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton. Regardless, “Jelly Roll” the song is a rockin’, Southern-dripping track reminiscent of the Stones’ “Honkey Tonk Women” and has remained one of my favorite BMS tracks from first listen.

09. “Rambunctious Boy”

Beginning with bluegrass-themed, a cappella harmony featuring The Lonesome River Band, followed by a short burst of mandolin, “Rambunctious Boy” is prime example of Fogerty excellence. The track ultimately feels like something The Eagles would have been proud to have produced.

10. “Joy of My Life”

“Joy of My Life” is Fogerty’s favorite track from the record, and incidentally, it’s mine too. A beautiful love song Fogerty penned for his wife Julie, “Joy of My Life” is by far the sweetest, most romantic thing Fogerty has ever produced and is only enhanced by Fogerty’s wonderfully appealing dobro licks. I contend that had this song been released by any major, mainstream, male country music artist at any point in the last 20 years, it would have been a mammoth hit.

11. “Blue Moon Nights”

Rounding out the Blue Moon Swamp Top Tracks is the almost-title track “Blue Moon Nights.” “BMN” is a happy little ditty that, though much more stripped than most of its brethren, ultimately serves as one of the best reminders of Fogerty’s rockabilly roots and why, after nearly 50 years, Fogerty has remained an American music staple.

Album Rating: 9/10 (Original: 4/5)

 

Sub Categories: Rock, Country, Country/Rock, Americana, Roots Rock, Swamp Rock, Blues Rock

5 Favorite Albums


The post title speaks for itself, so without further ado, here are my five favorite albums as of February 2020:

 
5. John Fogerty (1975) – John Fogerty 

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As a solo artist, John Fogerty never sounded as much like CCR as he did on his eponymous sophomore record. 
 
Uptempo anthem “Rockin’ All Over the World” and swampy “The Wall” both sound like they could’ve been from one of Creedence’s ’69 or ’70 masterpieces. Meanwhile, “Travelin’ High” plays like a funkier sequel to “Travelin’ Band,” and “Where the River Flows,” though not Fogerty’s most ground-breaking writing, is a fine country/rock ballad. Also as with CCR records, the cover selections here are excellent, featuring Fogerty belting out his own renditions of “You Rascal You,” “Lonely Teardrops,” and “Sea Cruise.” 
 
Unfortunately, the self-titled release was also the last time on an official album that Fogerty’s vocals were unmistakably recognizable as belonging to “the Creedence guy.” But that status as the last bastion of Fogerty’s classic sound is probably the biggest draw for me.
 
4. Get Born (2003) – Jet

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The Aussie rock ’n’ roller’s debut is a classic rock fan’s dream. 
 
From harder-edged Chuck Berrian sounds (“Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”), to pop/rock ballads seemingly ripped straight from The Beatles’ catalog (“Look What You’ve Done”), to Dylanesque country/folk ballads (“Move On”), the album sported one catchy, memorable, and listenable tune after another during a time when such a combination was scarce to come by. (Not that it’s any less rare now.) 
 
Though some may find the songs too derivative (or down right thieved), or point out that others had already done it better, I found Jet’s “new old music” on Get Born to be a breath of fresh air in the 2000s—and I still do today.
 
[Language warning on a couple of tracks.]
 
3. Redux (2019) – Me!

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Now, I know what you’re thinking—narcissism, shameless, cheap self-promotion—but bare with me. 
 
When I first started writing songs, I thought all of them were great just because they were songs. It wasn’t long before I realized that wasn’t the case, and I started making a concerted effort to detach myself from the perspective of creator and view the work from other vantage points. During the writing process, I began casting my eye as a music critic, attempting to determine the quality of creative choices while crafting the music. Then, after the songs were completed, I assumed the perspective of a music fan, asking the simple question, “If this were somebody else’s music, would I like it?” Although it’s been 6-9 years since their original composition, in the case of the Redux songs, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” 
 
I still like them. No, I love them, and that isn’t something I can say about every song I’ve produced. The tracks combine many of the elements I like most about music (piano pop/rock, acoustic folk, blues, ‘90s alternative), and, sonically, the Redux mixes/masters are the best the tunes have sounded. 
 
(And now for a true display of shameless, cheap promotion, check out these sweet liner notes for more album info!)
 
2. Abbey Road (1969) – The Beatles


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Though Let It Be was post-produced and released later, Abbey Road is truly The Beatles’ last record. And what a record it is! 
 
From classics “Come Together,” “Something,” and “Here Comes the Sun,” to an 8-song medley on the flip side, preceded by the haunting, 3-part. 9-vocal harmony track, “Because,” there isn’t a skipper in the bunch. The album also contains my favorite Beatles song of all time, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” I know many hated the track (John Lennon included!), but lyrics about a serial killer set to a peppy, vaudevillian jaunt? Now, who wouldn’t love that? Ok. Well. I still like it and think it’s genius. 
 
In short, I’m not sure there could’ve been a better swan song, or swan album, for the legendary group than Abbey Road. 
 
1. Cosmo’s Factory (1970) – Creedence Clearwater Revival


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My favorite album of all time by my favorite band of all time, containing my favorite song of all time.
 
For me, Cosmo’s Factory is the cream of the crop. In addition to the six—yes, SIX—Billboard Top 10 hits on the record (“Travelin’ Band,” Who’ll Stop the Rain,” Up Around the Bend,” “Run Through the Jungle,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” and my afore-referenced all-time favorite, “Long As I Can See the Light”), Cosmo’s also sports the original rockabilly/progressive-ish rock hybrid “Ramble Tamble” and an 11-minute jam version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” 
 
What else do I need to say? Cosmo’s is simply the best of the best. 
 
Honorable Mention:
 

I had quite a difficult time deciding between John Fogerty and The Beatles’ White Album for the #5 slot. Though Fogerty won out, if I had to choose only one of the two albums to listen to exclusively forever, I would sorely miss “Rocky Raccoon.”


 

 

Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 4 – WILLY AND THE POOR BOYS (1969)

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Well, this article was supposed to be published on December 31 as my 2019 blog finale; unfortunately, due to technical difficulties with my hosting service, there was a slight delay. Ah, well! Here’s to the inaugural post for 2020!


Towards the end of 1969, Creedence Clearwater Revival released Willy and the Poor Boys, the group’s third and final album of the year and the next link in the band’s musical evolutionary chain. A semi-concept album, Willy explores the harder side of life, channeling heavy doses of folk music, and spinning stories about America’s poor and working classes. Perhaps the record is best described as CCR’s answer to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s.
 
A1. “Down on the Corner”
 
The record’s opener is a feel-good, toe-tapper about the titular, fictional band performing on a street corner. The song sounds “happier” than any of the Creedence’s previous releases yet feels like a natural progression of the lighter tunes from Green River. The repeating riff and chorus are as infectious as can be, and the song’s rhythm is an unapologetic invitation to clap along or, better yet, “cut a rug.“ Another timeless classic from John Fogerty and company.
 
#03 – Billboard Hot 100
 
A2. “It Came Out of the Sky”
 
“It Came out of the Sky” is a ’50s-style rocker in the vein of Chuck Berry, but unlike CCR’s usual hard-edged and brash callbacks to early rock ’n’ roll, the instrumentation on “Sky” is light and loose, perfectly matching the lyrical content. Those lyrics play like an intelligent, low-budget sci-fi/comedy: A farmer’s life is turned upside down when an unidentified object falls from the sky into his field. Scientists, politicians, religious leaders, and the media all react (or overreact) to the event, and all want a piece of the prize. (Seriously, why isn’t this a movie?) It’s a fun, funny track and one of CCR’s best.
 
#9 – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Cuts
 
A3. “Cotton Fields”
 
A song originally by folk/blues musician Lead Belly, “Cotton Fields” is a simple but effective cover, elevated by John Fogerty’s beautiful, multi-part self-harmonies. Not the best track on the record, but it fits the “poor boy” theme perfectly.
 
Bonus Selection – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Cuts
 
A4. “Poorboy Shuffle” 
 
An instrumental that sees the group assuming the identity of the fictional Willy and the Poor Boys and playing a folk jam, replete with bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford on washtub bass and washboard respectively. The tune is a fun ditty, but it’s made even better by its unique and unexpected segue to the next song. As “Poorboy Shuffle” pans right and fades out, an off-time and off-tempo drum beat fades in left.
 
A5. “Feelin’ Blue”
 
“Poorboy Shuffle” is no more, and that surprise drum beat is soon joined by guitars and bass, which together create a loping, head-bobbing blues tune. Although “Feelin’ Blue’s” lyrics are clearly about a plebeian in a bad situation, keeping the album’s theme firmly intact, they are also vague enough to allow for multiple interpretations, helping the track to stand on its own apart from the album. The track is exceptional on every level and stands as yet another lesser known CCR masterpiece.
 
Bonus Selection – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Cuts
 
B1. “Fortunate Son”
 
Side B kicks off with one of the band’s most well-known tunes, the hard-hitting, politically-charged rock anthem, “Fortunate Son.” The lead guitar lick is a typical John Fogerty riff—simple yet iconic—and the music’s urgent ferocity makes for a perfect side opener and also serves as an antithesis to the easy feeling “Down on the Corner.” Unfortunately, it also causes the song to feel misplaced on this release, as the rest of the record’s material leans soft and folk-y. Lyrically, however, “Fortunate Son” couldn’t fit any better, hitting the project’s “plight of the everyman” sensibility with an acerbic assault on the unfair military draft exemptions given to sons of upper class families. 
 
#03 – Billboard Hot 100
 
B2. “Don’t Look Now”
 
As “It Came Out of the Sky” is the band’s softest rock ’n’ roll track, “Don’t Look Now” is their lightest rockabilly tune. The song continues the “low-class lament,” but overall, it’s also the weakest track on the record. However, as in the case of many CCR full-lengths, the worst track on the record is still a fine song.
 
B3. “The Midnight Special”
 
J. Fogerty’s blues/rock rendering of “a great ol’ sing-along song” is an album highlight, and as a tune first popularized by the aforementioned Lead Belly, “Midnight Special” serves as both a companion piece and counterpoint to “Cotton Fields.” From the first sonorous strum of the tuned-down-a-step lead guitar, to John’s howling about “trouble with the Man,” to Clifford’s grooving, impactful drumming, to the choral harmonies, to the instrumentation drop on the next to last chorus, to—well, everything! “Midnight Special” may very well be the best album-only cut the band produced.
 
#1 – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Cuts
 
B4. “Side o’ the Road”
 
Reminiscent of the Booker T. and the M.G.’s “Green Onions,” this second instrumental leans blues, a counterpart to “Poorboy Shuffle” much like the “Cotton Fields”/“Midnight Special” pairing. Like “Don’t Look Now,” “Side o’ the Road” isn’t particularly spectacular, but it’s also better than average.
 
B5. “Effigy”
 
The affair closes with “Effigy,” one of CCR’s oddest pieces of music. The opening sounds darkly Medieval, but the song soon switches to a country/folkish feel that fits the general vibe of the record—before switching again to a haunting, melancholy chord change. It’s akin to experimental tunes of the ’90s alternative rock movement and, therefore, far ahead of its time. Lyrically, Fogerty symbolically rails against the period’s establishment, successfully carrying through with poor and working class perspectives on American life from the first to last track.
 
Conclusion:
 
Although there are a few minor criticisms that can be lobbed at the record, Willy and the Poor Boys is by far the most coherent album CCR ever produced and one of the greatest pieces of Americana roots rock in history.
 
Related:
 
Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 1 – Green River
Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 2 – Live at Woodstock
Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 3 – Born on the Bayou


Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 3 – BAYOU COUNTRY (1969)

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Creedence Clearwater Revival kicked off 1969 with their sophomore effort, Bayou Country, an album which saw lead singer/guitarist/songwriter John Fogerty refine the group’s rough blues/rock sound into a unique brand of the Southern-dripping subgenre known as swamp rock. Though I say “refined,” the songs on Bayou are just as raw and from-the-gut as the band’s earlier material, and I don’t mean that as a slight.
 
A1. “Born on the Bayou”
 
With all the marks of Creedence’s best material (a signature guitar lick, howling vocals, and infectious lyrics), “Born on the Bayou” is the epitome of what would become the band’s signature, swampy sound. It also begins to solidify the group’s “black magic” mystique, touched on earlier with the band’s cover of “I Put a Spell on You” and the Fogerty brothers’ original “Walk on the Water.” Though “Born on the Bayou” failed to chart as the B-side of CCR’s smash hit, “Proud Mary,” in 1969, the former has enjoyed longevity as a rock radio staple and become one of the band’s most recognizable tunes.
 
A2. “Bootleg”
 
Lead by Tom Fogerty’s scratchy acoustic rhythm, something that would also become a Creedence staple, “Bootleg” continues the swamp groove of “Born on the Bayou,” while boasting philosophical-yet-accessible lyrics about human nature’s attraction to “forbidden fruit.”
 
Bonus Track Selection – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Cuts
 
A3. “Graveyard Train”
 
Same style as tracks 1 and 2, but slower, producing a somber, “funeral dirge” vibe— fitting, considering the song’s subject matter flatly spelled out by the title. Though it might be a little too long at 8 minutes and 38 seconds with its lumbering tempo and musical repetition, the dual harmonica work in the middle of the track is exceptional. It certainly isn’t a bad song, but with siblings like “Born on the Bayou” and “Proud Mary” leading the pack, “Graveyard” sits as the weakest track on the record. Of course, on albums by other artists, it might have been the cream of the crop; that’s just how good Creedence was.
 
B1. “Good Golly Miss Molly”
 
One of the band’s best covers, “Good Golly Miss Molly” strays a bit from the marshland of Side A, serving instead as a reminder of CCR’s rock ’n’ roll roots and a demonstration of the group’s ability to bring something fresh to a tried-and-true tune. Another element that elevates the track is J. Fogerty’s hard-panned, double vocals which engulf the listener into the song. A spectacular opener for the album’s flip side.
 
#10 – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Cuts
 
B2. “Penthouse Pauper”
 
“Penthouse Pauper” begins with a surprise, “sassy” riff and ends as a complete masterwork of blues/rock.  The track also sports some of the cleverest lyrics Fogerty has ever penned.
 
Verse 1:
 
Now if I were a bricklayer
I wouldn’t build just anything
And if I were a ballplayer
I wouldn’t play no second-string
And if I were some jewelry, baby
Lawd, I’d have to be a diamond ring
 
The tune proceeds in like manner until the last line reveals the joke of the speaker’s apparent braggadocio:
 
I can be most anything
When you got nothin’
It’s all the same
 
A severely underrated gem in the CCR catalog.
 
#5 – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Cuts
 
B3. “Proud Mary”
 
An instant standard upon release, “Proud Mary” is a timeless classic which tells a compelling story, employs vivid imagery, and proves that the band’s patented sound introduced at the album’s start need not be relegated to the gloomy side.
 
#2 – Billboard Hot 100
 
B4. “Keep on Chooglin’”
 
Bayou comes full circle with “Chooglin’,” the ultimate swamp rock jam, featuring exceptional guitar and harmonica work from J. Fogerty. With it’s similar instrumentation and length, but faster tempo and “good time” lyrics, the tune serves as both a parallel and counterpoint to “Graveyard Train,” actually elevating the latter. Understandably, the tune went on to become CCR’s live anthem, not unlike what “Freebird” became for Skynyrd, and continues to be played regularly in concert by John Fogerty himself.
 
#4 – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Cuts
 
Conclusion:
 
Though some could say the swamp rock music theme is too repetitive, or conversely, that a couple of the tracks don’t follow that theme enough to make a coherent album, I would say Bayou Country proves that CCR was more than just a “singles band.” Under John Fogerty’s leadership, they were a group that could make lean, mean LPs that stand the test of time.
 
Rating: 10/10
 
Related:
 
Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 1 – Green River
Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 2 – Live at Woodstock
Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 4 – Willy and the Poor Boys


Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 2 – LIVE AT WOODSTOCK (2019)

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Fifty years after it was captured live on tape, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s legendary Woodstock performance was finally officially released this past August. But was it worth the wait?
 
The band kicks off the set with three, rockin’ crowd-getters: “Born on the Bayou,” “Green River,” and the Wilson Pickett cover “Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do).” Here, all three tunes are played slightly faster than their studio counterparts but are otherwise nearly identical—a common live show “complaint” among CCR’s critics of the day. Still, it’s particularly pleasing to hear “Ninety-Nine,” as no live recording of Creedence’s version has been legally available before this release.
 
The quartet then switches gears a bit with “Bootleg,” a slower, more grooving swamp track from the crew’s sophomore record, Bayou Country. It’s another tune we’ve never heard live before, and rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty gets an unusually prominent spot in the mix with his guitar panned hard left—a pleasant surprise.
 
The band then rips through a few more of their hits from the year, with “Commotion,” “Bad Moon Rising,” and “Proud Mary,” all played about the correct tempo, indicating that the group has settled down and settled in.
 
Next, the band delivers their signature blues-rock takes on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s “I Put a Spell on You” and Ray Charles’s “The Night Time Is the Right Time.”
 
Frontman John Fogerty then announces the band’s last song as “Keep on Chooglin’,” an extended jam which served as a standard concert closer for Creedence during that time period. After a 10-minute rendition of the tune, the group leaves, only to return at the behest of the cheering crowd for an 11-minute rendering of “Suzie Q,” a Dale Hawkins cover that had served as CCR’s breakthrough hit a year earlier.
 
For this rendering, Creedence dispenses with the hokey nonsense rhymes found in the middle of the studio cut and extends the song’s length by a full three minutes, allowing John prime opportunities for additional lead soloing and providing Stu Cook a rare chance at a bass solo. Unfortunately, this is the only track on the record that truly stands out and offers something different from CCR’s other two live albums, The Concert and Live in Europe.
 
Woodstock is by far the best sounding live recording released by the band, however, and that’s worth something. Yet at the same time, the cleaner sound causes a couple of the tracks to suffer from a lack of “rawness.” For instance, “Night Time” from The Concert is a must-listen, due mainly to the lower recording quality lending an extra measure of appropriate roughness that’s absent from the band’s studio cut of the song. The same can be said of Europe’s “Chooglin’”, with that version winning additional points for more jamming and the inclusion of a slow-blues “Pagan Baby” breakdown mid-way through the performance.
 
Still, if for nothing else but historical significance, it’s thrilling to have these tunes available at last, and since the band’s surviving members are unlikely to ever record new material together, I’ll take any previously unreleased Creedence record I can get.
 
Rating: 7/10
 
Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 1 – Green River
Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 3 – Born on the Bayou
Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 4 – Willy and the Poor Boys

Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 1 – GREEN RIVER (1969)

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Seven hit singles, three classic albums, and one legendary performance at the biggest concert in history—1969 was indeed a banner year for Creedence Clearwater Revival, and to commemorate, over the next few months, I’ll be taking a comprehensive look at all three ’69 LPs plus the (finally!) just released recording of the band’s Woodstock set.

Green River, 1969 –

The band’s second record of 1969 and third overall, Green River could aptly be described as “the album when Creedence became Creedence.” Featuring interesting interpretation of blues covers and originals not quite ready to be hits, their eponymous debut had been an odd for its time, alt-blues/rock affair. The band’s sophomore effort Bayou Country was a bit better. Frontman John Fogerty had begun taking his country/western, blues, and rock ’n’ roll influences and filtering them into a sound familiar yet unique and, above all, highly accessible to the masses. Still, there were some rough edges on Bayou—a slight lack of focus and clarity. Not so for Green River, as Fogerty laid hold on the style he established with Bayou and crafted it into a truly signature sound.

A1. “Green River”

First up is the title track, a song that, together with “Born on the Bayou,” defined the swamp aspect of CCR’s catalog and helped birth an entire sub-genre. The tune is obviously inspired by blues and rock ’n’ roll, and there’s something in the scratchy acoustic that hearkens to country and folk—all playing into the group’s M.O. as the band for the every man.

Based on John’s childhood memories of family vacations, the lyrics conjure vivid images of simple life in the outdoors, further playing into the Creedence mythos of swamp and poor folk. The music is stellar, with an E7-based riff that is, in typical J. Fogerty fashion, simple yet iconic. The use of the C chord in the key of E (which Fogerty probably borrowed from Suzie Q) also elevates the track, and the layered electric licks playing off each other add yet another level of charm. I would say the track is the perfect opener…if track 2 wouldn’t have made a better one.

#2 Billboard Hot 100

A2. “Commotion” 

Following the grooving swampiness of “Green River,” “Commotion” comes out of left field with a screeching, hard-hitting rock guitar riff, soon joined by a perfectly matched, hammering kick drum. Then, halfway through the intro, the full kit enters, switching the rhythm the a ’50s rockabilly shuffle; the rest of the instrumentation soon joins in sync. Yet the hard-edged guitar, reminiscent of ’70s hard rock still a few years away, continues throughout, creating an unexpected blend of old-meets-new. The lyrics are a commentary on the mad rush of late 1960s American life that is possibly even more apt today.

For me, the “in-your-face,” “no apologies” attitude of the track makes it a more appropriate opener candidate than “Green River,” and I’m not entirely certain why the choice was made to kick off the project with the latter. If I had to guess, I’d say it was to open the record with the A-side and B-side of the album’s lead single. If that’s the case, I get it but would have never done it myself. Then again, I’ve never been a member of the #1 band in the world, so….

#30 Billboard Hot 100

A3. “Tombstone Shadow”

Boasting a funky-soul grove, “Tombstone Shadow” is another blues-based track with a swampy feel that continues to expand on Bayou Country‘s themes. The song recounts an actual encounter the band experienced with a fortune-teller who made ominous predictions about the group’s fate. For me, the most unexpected element and highlight of the piece is John’s quickened pace of lyric delivery on verse 2:

Said I got thirteen months of bad luck

Bound to be some pain

Don’t you do no travelin’

Or flyin’ no “machains”

It’s a perfect addition to the CCR canon.

#6 – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Tracks

A4. “Wrote a Song for Everyone”

The A-side closer is a loping country/folk ballad that feels like the serious brother of “The Weight” by The Band. You see, instead of recounting a humorous tale about a town full of colorful characters, “Wrote a Song” seems to paint a portrait of the Civil War then compare that period of American history with the sociopolitical climate of the late 1960s. But the crux of the song is actually Fogerty lamenting his ability to speak to the whole word through song yet having problems communicating with his wife.  The song packs a wallop and might be Fogerty’s best ever. It’s certainly the best on the record. 

#2 – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Tracks

B1. “Bad Moon Rising”

Opening the record’s B-side is the most iconic song on the release, “Bad Moon Rising,” a straight-up Sun Records rockabilly tune. But the gritty, high tenor John is unmistakably not Elvis, Johnny, or Carl, and the portentous lyrics about the pending end times are a delightful juxtaposition to the toe-tapping music. Seriously, it must be the happiest-sounding song ever written about the apocalypse. Another CCR signature track.

#2 Billboard Hot 100; #1 UK

B2. “Lodi”

An easy country/rock ballad that would have also sounded quite at home on an Eagles record. The song placement seems to be another case of an A-side/B-side single tandem, but unlike the “Green River”/“Commotion” combo, “Lodi” seems a perfect follower to “Bad Moon,” offering a smooth country respite from a hand-clapping cataclysm. The lyrics are a fine example of country balladeering, chronicling the rise and fall of a professional singer, though as Fogerty later semi-joked, he wasn’t actually “stuck in Lodi” when he penned the song—that happened later.

#52 Billboard Hot 100

B3. “Cross-Tie Walker”

The project takes its first step down with another straight rockabilly track. Unlike “Bad Moon,” “Cross-Tie Walker” features a mellower J. F. vocal and lyrics about the poor class. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; the song simply lacks the elements necessary to make it as special as “Bad Moon.” There is an unusual walk-down throughout, however, that elevates the track a bit and also gives underrated bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford something “cool” to do. It definitely belongs on the record. In fact, the lyrics tie directly into the title track’s story, similar to the “Keep on Chooglin’”/“Born on the Bayou” relationship on Bayou Country.

B4. “Sinister Purpose”

Another down-step, “Sinister Purpose” hits the requisite swamp/blues musical and hoodoo lyrically marks but is far inferior to most of its brethren, often feeling like a generic late ’60s rock track that could have been recorded by any number of period acts. It probably would’ve fared better on Bayou Country, and it’s definitely the weakest track on the album.

B5. “The Night Time Is the Right Time”

An exceptional cover of a blues standard, most likely perfected during the group’s stint as a bar band. It’s reminiscent of the band’s work from their debut, only tighter and more polished. As great as the rendition is, however, the song feels out of place on a record where blues is otherwise relegated to being a component of swamp rock and all other songs lean toward one wave or another of the country spectrum. Subsequently, it isn’t a particularly fitting closer.

#7 – Southern Senses 10 Best CCR Album Tracks

Conclusion:

While odd track-placement and a couple of lesser cuts keep the record just shy of perfection, every other element makes Green River one of the best albums ever from one of the greatest bands of all-time.

Rating: 9/10

Related:  

Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 2 – Live at Woodstock
Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 3 – Born on the Bayou
Creedence Clearwater Revival 50th Anniversary Special, Pt. 4 – Willy and the Poor Boys


Review: John Fogerty – Hoodoo

In honor of John Fogerty’s 74th birthday, I’m taking a look at the legendary Hoodoo, Fogerty’s third solo album that didn’t release 43 years ago this month. That’s right—it did not release…ever, in fact.

For the uninitiated, here’s the backstory: 

Following his (unfairly) ill-received self-titled sophomore record, Fogerty hit the studio to produce Hoodoo, a record, as its title suggests, meant to hearken back to Fogerty’s mystically swampy CCR heyday. The album was completed, slated for a May 1976 release, and even saw a double-sided pre-release single hit shelves, before Asylum Records (Fogerty’s U.S. label at the time) executive Joe Smith called a meeting to inform Fogerty that the record wasn’t very good.  In a gracious move, Smith gave Fogerty the option of releasing anyway. Fogerty, however, immediately declined the offer, agreeing with Smith’s assessment.

The project was scrapped, and Fogerty ordered all tapes destroyed, eventually releasing his official third record, the smash-hit Centerfield, in 1985, and that was the end of Hoodoo. But not really.

Despite Fogerty’s order, not all the tapes were destroyed. Plus, as previously mentioned, two of the tracks had already been released and sold on vinyl by the time the album was scrapped. The record subsequently survived and became a Holy Grail for Fogerty fans. (Though I won’t say where, it can be found on the internet.)

Without further ado, here’s the track-by-track breakdown:

1. “You Got the Magic”

The album opener, also the A-side of the pre-release single, is pretty much a hybrid of disco (a pop rage at the time) and Fogerty’s spooky, swampy signature sound. It’s obvious Fogerty is trying to be relevant by using popular trends while hearkening back to the sound that propelled him into international rockstar status, and though the idea has promise on paper (for uniqueness if nothing else), the combo unfortunately doesn’t really work. In keeping with the self-referential stylings, the lyrics are ominous and chock-full of allusions to dark magic, just as some of Fogerty’s stellar CCR work. But it feels more of a copy of earlier, better works than an homage or continuation.

2. “Between the Lines”

’70s feel-good Rock. There’s an uptempo “Positively 4th Street” vibe to it, and the refrain boasts a slamming, harder-edged rock repetition that adds a delightfully unexpected differentiation to the track.

3. “Leave My Woman Alone”

Great version of a classic Ray Charles tune replete with soul/funk-infused brass and classic Fogerty multi-vocal self-overdubs. It’s not as good as the original (though I prefer this rendition), nor the version Fogerty would perform 9 years later for the John Fogerty’s All-Stars HBO special, but it’s certainly a solid cover.

4. “Marching to Blarney”

Possibly the oddest song to ever appear on a Fogerty-lead record, “Marching to Blarney” is a “happy” Gaelic-based instrumental featuring a heavy dose of drums and guitar. As weird as that sounds, it’s actually a solid tune that may very well have the listener wishing he was marching his way through the lush countryside of the Emerald Isle.

5. “Hoodoo Man”

Like “You’ve Got the Magic,” the almost-title-track is another attempt to recall Fogerty’s CCR voodoo-swamp mystique, this time, sticking a little closer to the source material by leaning heavier on the rock ‘n’ roll. Unfortunately, the track falls short and ends up serving only as a reminder that many of the tunes on the release aren’t as good as their predecessors.

6. “Telephone”

A solid soul-inspired tune that’s reminiscent of a grooving, uptempo Percy Sledge or Clarence Carter tune. Fogerty hits a beautiful, clear falsetto here that really showcases his oft under-appreciated vocal prowess.

7. “Evil Thing”

Although yet another tune seemingly penned solely to keep with the black magic theme of the record, “Evil Thing” actually succeeds on multiple levels and is probably the best track of the release. Unlike its mystical album mates, it’s more swampy and grooving in sound like the CCR tracks which inspired it. It also incorporates a period-specific funk quality that makes it akin to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” This track was released as the B-side to the album’s only single, and understandably so, as it’s only one a few tunes on the record that works well as both a 1976 mainstream radio tune and a classic Fogerty track.

8. “Henrietta”

The second cover on the album, “Henrietta” is the minimum of what you would expect from a Fogerty version of a rock ‘n’ roll classic. That’s not saying it’s bad; just not particularly special.

9. “On the Run”

Another attempt to channel music trends of the time, “On the Run” feels related to a ‘70s uptempo Elton John track. There’s also a CCR feel-good tune vibe to it that seems to be coming from the same place from which most of Fogerty’s best work originates: childhood influences. I hear a bit of Buddy Holly here. As great as those comparisons sound, the track unfortunately doesn’t quite measure up to the tunes of which it reminds—something it has in common with many of its Hoodoo brethren.

So, in a retrospective analysis, is the album as bad as Fogerty and company thought in 1976?  I would say, “no.” Though it’s nearly completely devoid of the lyrical masterwork which distinguished, and later continued to distinguish, Fogerty among his peers, Hoodoo certainly offers enough for the die-hard Fogerty fan to enjoy. If nothing else, the record is a must listen as the last time Fogerty can be heard belting with his screeching, howling powerhouse growl, as his next proper release (Centerfield) would find the artist a much softer, more mellow-voiced singer, as he continues to be to this day.

I think ultimately, the record suffered most from lack of “period currency,” as only a handful of the tracks attempted to tap into the mainstream music scene, and unsuccessfully at that. Much of what works on the project is Fogerty’s incorporation of both his roots and his previously established stylings, and while an artist channeling ’50s, ‘60s, & early ’70s genres (particularly the country/rock vein of CCR) is heralded as a breath of fresh air today (Alabama Shakes, anyone?), in 1976, the vastly altered music scene would’ve found most of the record to be 5 or so years outdated.

Aside from this though, the album fails on one level that is crucial to art:  it did not accomplish what the artist intended. John Fogerty has stated many times before that his goal for a record is to deliver top-notch lyrics and music in his songwriting, and he admits he failed in doing this with Hoodoo.

Although that’s a sizable negative, the fact remains Fogerty’s worst works are still superior to many acts’ best.

Rating: 3.5/5