Note: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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