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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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