Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Album Review: Creedence Clearwater Revival - Green River

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Green River
[Fantasy 1969]


Creedence Clearwater Revival is the sound of hot, humid summer nights in the south sitting (or should I say “sittin’”) on the front porch and basking in the moonlight. The music seems to reflect life in the deep country backwoods with chugging rhythms, rock-steady beats and the vocal howl of John Fogerty as wild and free as the great outdoors. CCR turned out a string of roots rock hits that steered clear of many of the psychedelic music influences prevalent in the late ‘60s, and 1969’s Green River is widely considered to be the band’s first classic album.

Clocking in at a mere 29 minutes, Green River shows the band moving away from the extended jam sessions of previous albums and focusing on the short, direct, radio-friendly hit without losing any of their roots rock steam. Opener “Green River” sets the scene for rural americana perfectly: “Walkin’ along the river road at night / Barefoot girls dancin’ in the moonlight.” Its infectious beats, rock-and-roll-meets-country-twang guitar riff and the celebration of country life over ruination in the big city are all prevalent throughout Green River. Namely, “Commotion” begins with a loud guitar riff and warm harmonica that make it one of the album’s best and a honky-tonk classic.

Not surprisingly, one of the best songs on the album is the radio-staple “Bad Moon Rising.” A short, upbeat, and energetic burst of country charm, Fogerty lets his voice echo with commanding power. But for perhaps the best technical work on the album, “Lodi,” the story of hitting rock bottom in a dead end town, features the most imaginative and memorable guitar riff on the album that brings pleasant melodicism to ease the impact of Fogerty’s melancholy. “Cross-Tie Walker” is another testament to the band’s technical skill, with a great prominent bass line courtesy of Stu Cook and the always steady drumming and rhythm guitar of Doug Clifford and Tom Fogerty, respectively.

The album closes on what are unfortunately two subpar (to CCR’s considerably high standards, that is) songs, the clichéd bad boy tune “Sinister Purpose” and “The Night Time is the Right time,” a cover of a 1954 blues song by Nappy Brown. While the former passes through with little fanfare and Fogerty’s least convincing vocal performance, the latter’s fragmented, sexual theme doesn’t really fit alongside Fogerty’s original, narrative portrayals of country life.

As the lead singer and creative force of the band, John Fogerty wrote songs whose often dark subject matters, including looming death, sin, and hopelessness were in part obscured by the steady rock rhythms that infused poppy guitar riffs and boogie grooves. In doing this, Fogerty and the rest of CCR became a smart, radio-ready hitmaker, and Green River is CCR’s first album to showcase this. For all the commercial and critical achievements of the album, in its most basic terms, it is an undeniably good time.

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