BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

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BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby LeBaron » 12 Aug 2014, 00:59

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What can you say about Creedence? I've listened to their first five records a lot over the past few weeks, and the more I listen to them, the less I know, and the more complicated my Creedence Feelings get. Of course, I'm in favor of them, and there has always been surprising antipathy for them on BCB (placement in the BCB 130, notwithstanding). And even when BCB loves them, it seems that it's all about Cosmo's Factory, a very strange and ultimately unsatisfying record.

I was born in the early/mid 70s, and for my generation, Creedence was most obviously present on cable television, in endless advertising for mail order compilations of their greatest hits. A fuzzy brown/green band played distantly, in slow motion with too-short coiled guitar cords, as short clips of their many, many hits segued into one another as an endless list of song titles scrolled on the screen. "Proud Mary," "Down On the Corner," "Susie Q," "Bad Moon Rising," "Who'll Stop the Rain," "Hey Tonight," "Travelin' Band," "I Put a Spell On You," "Long as I Can See the Light" . . . . on and on. They were slightly less omnipresent on the radio, but then again, I knew all those songs, and my parents sure as hell didn't have any Creedence albums, so they were definitely out there. I count something like 14 songs in the top 50, and 9 in the top ten. From '68 to '71, they were everywhere, and they owned '69 and '70. Now I look back on it, and though they were definitely everywhere on the radio, there’s an unmissable dark, weird edge to almost all of Fogerty’s songs, which wasn’t how I heard even something as straightforward as “Bad Moon Rising” when I was a kid.

And so I came to them as an established fact. I have no firm memories hearing the songs for the first time, they were just always there. Even though that was a fact of life due to exposure, let’s give credit where it’s due and give props to John Fogerty. As someone with such a distinct voice and sound, he sure seems to disappear into some of the bigger hits. The whole band disappears!

At some point, me and my pal Russ decided/realized that they really had it going on. And Doug Clifford, America’s Bill Ward, maybe drew us in, with his funky, laid back style, and the way he never met a ride or crash cymbal he didn’t like---he’s always kicking ass. It was the drums and the guitars, they were the gateway for us to Full Dude Status. I think Russ’s dad also had some legit Creedence on tape.

For so long now, it’s been the albums for me. Specifically, the first two (Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bayou Country), and Willy and the Poor Boys. The first two in particular show my Creedence: a perfect band with fiery, wiggy, lead guitar, buttressed by stolid rhythm playing, and a stellar, swinging rhythm section. They walk a weird tightwire, not unlike Crazy Horse on Everybody Knows this is Nowhere. The first record in my mind is a weird combination of crazy covers (“I Put A Spell On You,” “Susie Q,” “Ninety-Nine And a Half (Won’t Do)” that demonstrate their fearlessness, and some period originals, replete with psychedelic guitar flourishes. “Porterville,” “Gloomy,” and “Walking On The Water” provide a strong ending, and “The Working Man” is pretty badass too, albeit more straightforward. An auspicious debut, but Bayou Country is better. I mean, fucking “Born On The Bayou”! That, to me, is all of Creedence’s mojo, crystalized. There’s the loping funk, the perfect-tremelo guitar, and that sweet, languid, lead guitar that oozes all over everything. They have hit their stride, and amidst the evergreen “Proud Mary,” nuggets like “Penthouse Pauper,” “Bootleg,” and “Graveyard Train” sustain the vibe. “Good Golly Miss Molly” is probably superfluous, but it has a pretty ferocious attack and biting freaky guitar that gets lost because it’s, well, “Good Golly Miss Molly.”

What a record!


Green River comes next, and I’m now convinced it’s their greatest LP. The gnarly, funky Creedence starts to recede in favor of Fogerty’s songs. Side One: Green River/Commotion/Tombstone Shadow/Wrote a Song for Everyone. Side Two: Bad Moon Rising/Lodi/Cross-Tie Walker, Sinister Purpose/Night Time Is the Right Time. Just a monster record, and over in half an hour. There’s still some pounding, raucous shit (“Commotion”), but it’s hard for me to complain about less of that when one great song after another comes and goes. Willy and the Poor Boys gives Green River a run for its money, but is a bit scattershot for me as a record. Heavy jams like “Effigy” and “Fortunate Son” sit uncomfortably with wonderful Leadbelly covers (I know, Midnight Special predates him) and, well, the rest of the record! This record is Creedence at their brownest, but it’s hard to hold that against the material which is mostly a joy. I just wish it felt a little more unified.

Cosmo’s Factory is much beloved on BCB, but it is the hardest for me to love (it's hard to love straightaway with that horrendous cover). It starts promisingly with “Ramble Tamble,” and there’s lots of Creedence Classics on it (“Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” “Run Through the Jungle,” “Up Around the Bend,” “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” and “Long As I Can See the Light”), but it doesn’t satisfy me as much as it obviously does for others.

Speaking of those five records, they really cranked them out, didn’t they? Wiki says, CCR was in July ’68, Bayou Country was in January ’69, Green River in August ’69, Willy in November ’69, and Cosmo’s in July ’70. That’s how lots of bands did it, but it’s still pretty unreal.

I got sidetracked talking about the first five albums, because I didn’t want to miss anything, and I admit I haven’t ever bothered with Mardi Gras and Pendulum. But I didn’t want to miss anything. My initial attraction to Creedence was as a BAND’s BAND. But the more I look into it, the more I realize that Fogerty quickly took control of the band, and they were playing for him. It’s hard to argue with the results, and it’s hard to argue with Fogerty. The guy doesn’t seem to have a perceptible weakness. Great writer, great singer, great guitar player, made great records. What other rocker has covered Ray Charles, Leadbelly, Wilson Pickett, Little Richard, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with such command, while always sounding like himself? Particularly in the earlier days, while they could be tagged as conservative or traditionalists for covering plain old rock and roll, they always sounded like Creedence, and always had some cool, freaky guitar fucking it all up. Lots of bands did other things better, or first, or longer, but Creedence staked out their turf, flew their flag, and no one played better. It’s how a rock and roll band should sound.

My Creedence:
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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 12 Aug 2014, 01:12

Nice one, Baron! Green River sits atop the pile for me. The shout-out to "Effigy" puts us in good stead. When people start to talk up The Band, I always feel this tinge of defiance - They're good but they're no CCR. And CCR is about as fake and inauthentic pose as you can get. They're a band outta Frisco.

Fucking love 'em. I think Fogerty has one of the Top Five voices in Rock. Maybe Top Three. Is Lennon better? I dunno. For three years they could do no wrong. They'd never be The Beatles. Why would they want to?
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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby B » 12 Aug 2014, 01:29

Baron of the Flies wrote:
An auspicious debut, but Bayou Country is better. I mean, fucking “Born On The Bayou”! That, to me, is all of Creedence’s mojo, crystalized. There’s the loping funk, the perfect-tremelo guitar, and that sweet, languid, lead guitar that oozes all over everything.


Fuckin a

Love that track. Just was blasting it at home a few weeks ago. And agree Green River is the best LP. I went on a Creedence binge lately too. Like over the last 2 years or so I keep coming back to them. Before that I always liked them but more in a kind of they always been there and sound good to me type of way.

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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby pig bodine » 12 Aug 2014, 01:32

Yes! I started listening to the radio in 1970 and caught the tail end of their run. I have a large family, and some of my cousins (two brothers--jocks) who served in Viet Nam swore by them. Every time we visited them, I'd have them play their records. By the time I started buying them in the mid 1970's I was already familiar with them. I have a fondness for the first two as well, and Green River. I also am less sold on Cosmo's Factory, even though it was the first one I bought after Chronicle--20 Greatest Hits, which was probably one of the first 15-20 albums I ever bought. I think part of the reason is the length. Creedence albums got in and got out quickly, like the singles. Cosmo's was probably 45 minutes long or 50% longer than the other albums. If it had been 30-35 minutes, it would have been the monster people think it is, although it still is pretty damn good. One cool thing about them was that everybody I knew liked them--from top 40 fans to heads, liberals, conservatives, freaks, jocks, they were universal.

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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby ORORORO » 12 Aug 2014, 01:33

Great, great band. And nice write-up! you're right to single out 'Born on the Bayou' - it's jaw-droppingly good. Every time.

I sometimes forget about them, 'cos they're not quite my cuppa, that kind of rootsy rock, that corny rock and roll voice. But then again, they ARE. And when music's THIS good, it's irresistible. You have to love them - if you're sane. I love the way they're so direct, so concise. I mean, 'Travelin' Band' - you couldn't do much less! and it's a fucking ripsnorter.


Baron of the Flies wrote:Speaking of those five records, they really cranked them out, didn’t they? Wiki says, CCR was in July ’68, Bayou Country was in January ’69, Green River in August ’69, Willy in November ’69, and Cosmo’s in July ’70. That’s how lots of bands did it, but it’s still pretty unreal.


I don't know of any other band - EVER - putting out three albums in the same year. Certainly not a popular band putting out three GREAT albums.
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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby toomanyhatz » 12 Aug 2014, 02:23

Can't add much to this, other than to agree that "Effigy" is great. And that pace they kept up! Unbelievable!

Sad too that they fell apart so acrimoniously. Brothers that couldn't even settle their differences when one was on his deathbed. Wow. I think they might resent John F. for taking over, but in the longrun he was right to. They had been around for an awfully long time with only limited success until he remade them, and made them huge. And Mardi Gras, with shared songwriting, is by far their worst record.

Best song - It can change by the day, but I really do think "Effigy" is a scorcher. I'll take that for non-hit, and "Bad Moon Rising" for hit (though it's pretty tough to hear it fresh)

Best album - Used to go for Willy and the Poor Boys, now I'm more inclined to Green River. But you can pick a card, really.

Most underrated album - I go along with Baron on the first, but Pendulum is unfairly maligned too (and proof they could blend in a little psych and still be defineably themselves).
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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby Scally Mcgrew » 12 Aug 2014, 02:50

Excellent group and great write-up, Baron. Apart from the many ace tracks mentioned above, I am very partial to their version of Grapevine.

By the way, Bingy, Fairport Convention also brought out three cracking albums in 1969!
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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby take5_d_shorterer » 12 Aug 2014, 03:22

Baron of the Flies wrote:I came to them as an established fact. I have no firm memories hearing the songs for the first time, they were just always there. Even though that was a fact of life due to exposure, let’s give credit where it’s due and give props to John Fogerty. As someone with such a distinct voice and sound, he sure seems to disappear into some of the bigger hits. The whole band disappears!


That's because they figured out how to make real folk music. I mean the real thing that has no authorship. Example:


CCR, Proud Mary
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gpqz3cdVPLM

This tune has an author about as much as the Mississippi River has an author. This disappearing act in which no one can figure out who wrote the song is extremely difficult to pull off. Bob Dylan, for all his ability and interest in folk music, never accomplished this. Robbie Robertson is not even close. Robertson, in fact, is so far away from this that I don't even feel confident in claiming that he understands what it means for a folk song be without an author. In the songs that Robertson supposedly wrote, you can hear the explicit references to the 19th century. In the CCR song above, there is no consciousness of the 19th century, nothing to give you a guide that we are or are not in the 19th century. I looked at the Mississippi River near Memphis. If you stand at the right spot so that you can't see the buildings, you probably can't tell either what century you're in. That's starting to approach where Fogerty was at.

The one song I can think of that comes near this is the final track on Harry Smith's Anthology


Henry Thomas, Fishin' Blues
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVdpXdpzvYY

This is what Mark Twain was shooting for in Huckleberry Finn. It's like an untranscribed conversation between Huck and Jim. You can see the sun glinting off the the river's surface.

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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 12 Aug 2014, 03:32

Take 5 just blew my fucking mind.

How cool!
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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby LeBaron » 12 Aug 2014, 03:37

In my thinking, the Mark Twain touchstone/comparison occurred to me, but escaped me when I sat down to type. I think it's a credit to Fogerty's craft that so much of this stuff could easily go really wrong---apart from the Americana stuff, there's all these doom and gloom songs, and at any moment, they could go terribly wrong, but it never does. He had a touch.
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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby LeBaron » 12 Aug 2014, 03:41

I do love some of their album covers. Well, three of them. Bayou Country is pictured at the top of my post. Green River is nearly as good. Like the music, they're perfect.

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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby Jimbo » 12 Aug 2014, 05:09

Funny how back in my too-hip younger years I didn't like them because there weren't the blistering Clapton/Page guitar solos I wanted from my bands back then, not to mention how they were ubiquitous on top 40 radio and also not to mention that squares liked them. Kind of how I felt about The Guess Who.

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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby Charlie O. » 12 Aug 2014, 06:12

Excellent OP, Baron, even if I don't agree with it all. I'm a Cosmo's man, myself. I agree that Green River is wall-to-wall greatness in terms of songs and performances, but it doesn't have the flow that Cosmo's has.

And it helps that "Up Around The Bend" is probably my favoritest song. Maybe not John's sharpest as a writer, but that guitar intro is just a hot shot to my pleasure center, every time. It just is.

Most underrated/overlooked album: I was gonna say that they don't have one, but then I thought of The Concert. On paper it doesn't look like anything special - they played their songs live just like the records, pretty much, and Fogerty wasn't noted for between-song banter... but, jeez, just put the sucker on and stand back - they brought it. (An old college friend who happens to be a killer guitar player swears that Live In Europe is "one of the great power trio records" - Tom Fogerty had quit by then - but I'm afraid I don't quite hear what he hears in that one.)

toomanyhatz wrote:I think they might resent John F. for taking over, but in the longrun he was right to. They had been around for an awfully long time with only limited success until he remade them, and made them huge. And Mardi Gras, with shared songwriting, is by far their worst record.

It might be bullshit - we'll probably never know for sure - but Cook and Clifford have since claimed that they had little interest in writing for Creedence. What did concern them (they now say) is that Fogerty, in addition to writing, producing and touring, was also managing the band, and they felt he was getting a little sloppy in that department just because he was overextending himself. They say that when they went to him offering to help shoulder the burden a bit, he took it the wrong way, and... you get Mardi Gras. (Ironically, two of the three original songs I like on that album - "Need Someone To Hold" and "Tearin' Up The Country" - were written by the drummer. The third, "Sweet Hitch-Hiker", had been released as a single nine months previously.)
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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby fange » 12 Aug 2014, 06:45

Great stuff, Baron.

Yep, their strongest LP for me Green River too. My favourite single is a bit more difficult, and has changed several times over the last 30 years, but these days it's usually either 'Green River' or 'Born On The Bayou'.

As some of you have said, during those few years when they could do no wrong Fogerty and the band seemed to have brilliance just POURING out of them. Musically, they seemed able to mesh rock and roll's energy, psychedia's exoticness and surprise, as well as a folky/rootsy power to communicate emotions and human issues. Fogerty's best lyrics for me are quite simply some of the best rock lyrics ever, up there with Berry and Dylan - concise due to the band's preference for short songs in general, yet extremely powerful, loaded with beautiful imagery, loaded with wit and emotion, and a very sophisticated use of cadence and rhythm. And yet they could rock like fucking nobody's business too.

My fave Creedence deep cut for a few years now has been 'It Came Out Of The Sky', possibly the greatest song Chuck Berry never wrote...

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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby Goat Boy » 12 Aug 2014, 13:29

Nice write up, Baron!

Whenever I describe CCR I always tend to use the world ‘elemental’. To me they are the essence of rock the roll in the same way that Chuck Berry was Bo Diddley. It’s not the kind of thing you could really get away with now, it would just sound hokey I guess.

I think there’s an obviousness to a lot of great songs. When you hear them you feel like you must have heard it before, because it’s somehow always existed. Like it’s part of our collective consciousness and some soul managed to channel it, put some chords and words to it and viola. I get that feeling a lot with Fogertys songs. There is an uncanny magic to his best stuff.

The rhythm section had something deceptively special as well. It’s not like Doug Clifford is doing anything that any number of other drummers couldn’t do but they could never replicate that feel. It’s a special thing and they were a special band.
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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby Bent Fabric » 12 Aug 2014, 15:03

Baron of the Flies wrote:too-short coiled guitar cords


Obviously, a fucking masterful opening post - and I'm going to initially grab on to this.

For most of my life, they really did seem like these crusty old dorks who ate twigs and berries and shit in the woods (my folks were friends with hardcore granola weirdos and...they all looked like CCR's road crew...just bringing lentils to CND meetings). Somehow the detail of the 2" coiled instrument cables seems endemic of my own resistance to them for so long. I mean, you posted two VERY beautiful album covers (they really do have a gorgeous, vague, distant artiness to them - like some kind of hillbilly Stone Roses), but then you get...

Image

Dorks, right? Those semi-afros, the fucking washboard...ugh.

Image

And...what? The guy on the fucking bike? The furry freak brothers on the floor? I swear there's someone picking his nose when you open up the gatefold...maybe individual posters of all four picking their noses, ala The Beatles.

None of this has a damn thing to do with their music (and, yeah, I'm a Cosmo's man - if THAT don't get you back again...), but...maybe it did in my mind. We had this Creedence Gold comp in the house when I was a kid (kind of a cool cover concept with the die cut/multi-tiered profiles on the sleeve), and I dutifully made an effort (hey - it's "Woodstock era shit" - it's GOTTA be good!), but to my mind, they somehow seemed so stodgy and quaint, and...ubiquitous, and...possessed of a certain "stage absence". By the time I discovered all that "John Hughes bullshit" (no major or deep knock against New Order/Cure/Smiths/Depeche Mode/etc. intended here - it's still "my shit" to some considerable extent), there wasn't really any space in my life for "Born On The Bayou" - it seemed ridiculously affected, like..."THAT'S your fucking schtick!?!?". Shit - I couldn't fucking WAIT to get out of New Orleans when I was a kid. More fool me, perhaps.

ANYHOW - life goes on...I discovered "Up Around The Bend" via a rather unremarkable cover version from Hanoi Rocks (boy, talk about a band that NEVER lived up to advance billing)...and remember publicly insisting that it was superior to the original (it never was - as Charlie says, that shredding guitar tone is just so fucking sweet).

There was eventually the most gradual shift ever - I remember hearing "Down On The Corner" on the radio (I'd heard it MILLIONS of times before), and just kind of being stopped in my tracks by the groove of the band....then you get into the highly effective simplicity of "Proud Mary" (Ken says some trenchant things about this one)...just a sort of hard luck story with a certain "shit - take a look around you, the RIVER, man!" Zen to it...again, the groove is king here. They kept coming - "Fortunate Son" is a masterpiece about corruption, privilege, etc....and, yeah, it sounds beautiful. And then? Yep - "Looking Out My Back Door"...beautiful, intense, a deeply poetic domestic portrait that namechecks Buck Owens! Goddamn! And so on...the backwards vocal harmonies in the break to "Susie Q", the tom fills on "Midnight Special", the evocatively sad chord changes on "Someday", just the general "no broad strokes here" very understated, "observational protest music" of "Run Through The Jungle" and any of the hits with the word "Rain" in the title...it was the sort of thing that just kept gradually going from seeming very stodgy, quaint and mothballed to...you know, kind of fucking awesome and impressive and...possessed of a certain depth. Cosmo's Factory (a record I'd once laughed at a sort of burnout Harley fixing, Deadhead, Zappa fanatic friend for claiming as his favorite), showed up cheap and remastered and...was a revelation to me (my affection is largely based on it having been my first)...I mean, that it opens with such force and just keeps going from strength to strength. Some of their most incredible originals, a whole massive series of incredible covers, all played with such general ferocity, lightning speed, and...what...aren't there something like 80 songs on that album? I'm never gonna play it every day, but I found myself putting it on A LOT when we'd have big parties, and...the children would just spazz out and dance to the whole damn thing.

So much here - don't knoiw whether it's John or Tom who has the guitar tuned down an entire step, playing the chords and licks in different inversions (you can hear it in "Fortunate Son", "Bad Moon Rising" and "Proud Mary" and many others - it adds a real depth). And - to quote a great man: "What other rocker has covered Ray Charles, Leadbelly, Wilson Pickett, Little Richard, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with such command, while always sounding like himself? Particularly in the earlier days, while they could be tagged as conservative or traditionalists for covering plain old rock and roll, they always sounded like Creedence, and always had some cool, freaky guitar fucking it all up." The pre-Beatles shit was kind of crucial to their thing - and not in any sort of Sha Na Na way.

I miss Fogerty whenever he comes through town now, sadly - money and timing are the big factors. Luckily, he comes all the time, and...hopefully, I'll get my chance. The older he gets, the more revealing his interviews are - I read a real page turner recently (MOJO?) in which he talks about writing "Porterville" over a period of weeks during his Army purgatory (lotta marching) and sort of turning a corner with music (likewise, multitracking his own harmonies and all the issues with running the band, despite increasing opposition from the others - describing the pre-CCR era of their music as very much of its time and indistinguishable from the Syndicate of Sound or any other garage band), failed attempts to repair his relationship with his brother, and so much more...he's a fascinating narrator (as he should be), and...his ability to reminisce is as good a CCR narrative as you're likely to get.
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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby der nister » 12 Aug 2014, 15:04

good stuff, baron

part of the songwriting's power is the music and lyrics are a perfect marriage:
country, blues, and rock progressions with country, blues, and rockabilly riffs/solos
with a rhythm section that could lay back and play it in the pocket
yet with topnotch production and solid state amps (controversial and cutting edge at the time)

i wouldn't discount Pendulum, '73's Blue Ridge Rangers or '75's John Fogerty for continuing the feel
or containing some of that magic

CCR - Pagan Baby, 1970

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Born To Move
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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby Matt Wilson » 12 Aug 2014, 15:49

Few things in life are better.

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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby The Modernist » 12 Aug 2014, 15:59

Of all the big bands, I came latest to them. I've no idea why, but you never heard them much (apart from 'Bad Moon Rising' ) on UK radio, so perhaps that was a part of it. I've really come to appreciate them in recent years though, although I still need to get to know the albums better. Difficult to say what makes them different to their peers, but a lot of it comes down to the elemental power that Fogerty brings. There have been few bands that communicate as directly as they do.

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Re: BCB 130 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Postby Samoan » 12 Aug 2014, 16:01

That was a wonderful piece, Baron. Your passion is so shiningly evident.
Last edited by Samoan on 12 Aug 2014, 16:23, edited 1 time in total.
bobzilla77 wrote:Those people who say the guitars sound like bagpipes have never really listened to bagpipes.