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