Creedence Clearwater Revival “Bayou Country”
For a long time I wondered why four guys from the musical wellhead that was late ‘60s San Fran set out to sound like a swamp’n’roll band from the backwoods of Louisiana, whilst accepting as perfectly natural that five young long-haired white boys from London, England should have bust their guts to emulate a black 1950s Chicago bar band. Eventually I stopped wondering and started trying to pin down why this album has remained Creedence’s most underestimated, least discussed collection, despite coming closest to the ideal they sought. Not that it didn’t sell; just that nobody ever seems to mention it till near the end of a CCR conversation, if at all. And at the time of writing it’s running a distant fourth in The Rising Storm’s Creedence discography uReview vote.
The undeniable ability of John Fogerty’s outfit to produce immaculate three-minute power-pop singles shines throughout CCR’s oeuvre, from “Suzie Q” to “Sweet Hitch Hiker”. But this album finds the band stretching out on what is to all purposes a live stage set performed in the studio: raw and honest, high energy, no discernable overdubs. The three long, sweaty, riffing jams – “Born On The Bayou”, “Graveyard Train” and “Keep On Chooglin’” – and the shorter but similar “Bootleg” get as close as CCR ever did to the authentic swamp-rock of Tony Joe White. On the mandatory classic rock’n’roll cover “Good Golly Miss Molly” John does what Paul McCartney did on the Fabs’ version of “Long Tall Sally”: his eviscerating vocal simply leaves the original for dead. “Proud Mary” is the hit single, but despite its prettiness it’s the weakest cut on the album, as the pace and energy level dip temporarily. The real surprise, and true gem, of the whole collection is “Penthouse Pauper”, an uncharacteristic twelve-bar blues on which both John’s voice and his Telecaster are fit to strip wallpaper.
The straightforward, no-frills nature of Creedence’s music enabled them to record and release an astonishing six albums in two-and-a-half years, from July 1968 to December 1970. (Think on that, Coldplay.) Whilst on an extended vacation in western Canada in 2007 I got to talk to and play with a number of young musicians who weren’t born till years after these albums came out. I was surprised to find that CCR was right up there as one of their favourite acts to cover. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised: the simple but irresistable songs, the natural, unaffected guitar sound and that unique banshee voice have a genuinely timeless quality.