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Creedence Clearwater Revival - Ultimate Hits

Right now, with the words below, you could be reading about a band called Muddy Rabbit, Gossamer Wump, and Creedence Nuball and the Ruby. The Golliwogs never really liked the name that Fantasy Records had given them when they inked a record deal in 1964. When the label changed hands in 1967 the new owner Saul Zaentz wanted a full length album but needed a name change. The band agreed and though the possible monikers listed above were contenders, the name that landed on the album cover was Creedence Clearwater Revival. The new band title became a part of our culture via radio play and chart success throughout the late 60’s and early 70’s. Fantasy Records has released a three disc set corralling the band’s hits and live performances with Ultimate, Greatest Hits and All Time Classics. The album reminds long-time listeners of the group’s glory days and provides newbies a taste of classic songs that are a part of musical history.

Three of the four core members, John Fogerty, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford, met in Portola Junior High in El Cerrito, California. Performing as a trio and backing John’s older brother Tom, the band played out and released a cover of “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” upon signing with Fantasy Records, a San Francisco Bay Area jazz label. In 1966, band members John and Stu were drafted, both getting full enlistments transferred to reserve status. Their military stints came to an end in 1968 and the newly renamed Creedence Clearwater Revival began a heavy schedule of rehearsing and playing out in local Bay Area clubs.

The band name was a hybrid of three pieces. The name Creedence came from a friend of Tom Fogerty, Credence Newball, Clearwater was snagged from a TV commercial for the west coast brew Olympia Beer and Revival was used to illustrate the group’s rebirth commitment to the group. “Suzie Q”, a re-make of the rockabilly artist Dale Hawkins’ 1956 hit, broke the band nationally after heavy airplay from the SF Bay Area and on Chicago AM stalwart WLS. The first album effort yielded two other radio tracks, a cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell on You” and “Porterville”, though neither track achieved the first single’s national Top 40 status. Creedence were not chart toppers with their first full album release but the band was definitely on the map.

Success landed on Creedence Clearwater Revival with their second album release, Bayou Country. With a January 1969 release, the record reached platinum glory, making the climb to Number 7 on the charts and giving the world John Fogerty’s most covered tune, “Proud Mary”, the most famous version being delivered by Ike and Tina Turner in 1971. Bob Dylan named “Proud Mary” his favorite single of 1969. Joining the track on the Pop charts was “Bad Moon Rising”, both cuts stopping short of the top at Number 2 positions.  CCR’s third album, Green River, hit the streets in August of 1969 with the title track matching the Number 2 success of earlier hits. “Prolific” barely covers the Creedence output in the 1969 surge. Rounding the number to three for the year, the group released Willy and The Poor Boys in November of 1969 with album cuts “Down on the Corner” and “Fortunate Son” continuing their hit radio success.

Outside of the Top 40, Creedence Clearwater Revival became a staple of the new kid radio format, Underground Radio on the FM side of the dial. Tracks from both 1969 releases such as “Lodi”, “Night Time Is the Right Time”, “Born on the Bayou”, “Midnight Special”, “Commotion” and the nine-minute long, one chord driven “Keep on Chooglin’” were expanding on the band’s popularity. CCR topped The Beatles in 1969 in single sales.

Hotels rooms were home for Creedence in the late 60’s and early 70’s and amid the constant stops at clubs, the band headlined two festivals that brought the underground sound into the mainstream, Atlanta Pop Festival and Woodstock. John Fogerty thought the Woodstock performance was below standard, so nothing from the band was included in the film or soundtrack. Bassist Stu Cook is still surprised, “"The performances are classic CCR and I'm still amazed by the number of people who don't even know we were one of the headliners at Woodstock '69."

To celebrate the new year, Creedence released the two-sided hit single “Travelin’ Band/Who’ll Stop the Rain”. The fast paced “Travelin’ Band” got into legal trouble when the rights owners of “Good Golly Miss Molly” sued due to too many similarities. “Up Around the Bend” and “Run Through the Jungle” were written and quickly released in anticipation of the group’s first European tour in April, 1970. The band went back into the studio in June of 1970 to record what is considered their finest album, Cosmo’s Factory, with that year’s single releases included on the vinyl. The album also included their fifth, and final, Number 2 listing with “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”. Though their success is legendary, Creedence never topped the Pop charts at Number 1.

The recordingofCosmo’s Factory, which included among its Pop hits an eleven minute version of “Heard It Through the Grapevine” saw the rise of inner tension rising from the four band members due to grueling touring and release schedules. John Fogerty put an end to a democracy for Creedence and Tom, Stu and Doug felt their voices were no longer heard. John was in charge of songwriting and business decisions, furthering control by implementing a ‘no encore’ policy in 1970. Tom Fogerty left during the recording of Pendulum and Creedence Clearwater Revival officially disbanded in October of 1972.

Music history has long included John Fogerty and the how’s and why’s of his decisions, resentments and views of both Creedence and Fantasy Records, particularly about label head Saul Zaentz. Their last studio release, Mardi Gras, showed CCR the exit on a low note. Politics have become part myth with a few facts thrown in, all related as hindsight, which is often cloudy. Like many great acts, their music has never left the building and the rock solid foundation that it has in the culture tends to lessen both the impact and sheer genius of the songwriting of John Fogerty.

The cultural stance that John Fogerty took in his songs is sometimes missed by their bright and sunny Pop base. John Fogerty’s knack of incorporating world views into his songs is nothing short of brilliant. “Who’ll Stop the Rain”, as a commentary, takes direct aim at nuclear bombs; “Fortunate Son” is a thinly veiled attack on the have’s from the have-not’s, and “Up Around the Bend” and “Wrote A Song for Everyone” perfectly mirror the times and need for change that were a part of the period in which the songs was written. Creedence let suburban white kids know about areas of their country, and segments of its population, in a time when mass exposure of country ways of life were seen only in period movies. “Down on the Corner” showed Willy and His Poor Boys making a living in the only way they knew how, while “Proud Mary” and “Born on the Bayou” talked of life along the Mississippi and in the Deep South.

Creedence Clearwater Revival spent a little over three years as a chart topping group, but their sound has, and will, live forever.  Ultimate, Greatest Hits and All Time Classics reminds and remembers a group that puts American acts on par with bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.  Danny McCloskey/RA

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