Creedence Clearwater Revival
Green River
(Fantasy 8393)

Anyone who has ever played in a band with me will attest to my "charming" (annoying) ability to produce instant hilarity with one simple technique: playing CCR. If I am playing guitar, I need only to play the opening riff of "Green River," and if I'm on bass, it's "Down on the Corner." Sometimes I will throw in a throaty and dismally disrespectful "Whe-ellllll" to seal the deal. People may hate me, but they can't help but laugh.

The questionable social value of this mimickry aside, I guess I have to say that it's really about how deeply ingrained CCR is in me. I can't help it, and I don't necessarily like it, but CCR is as much a part of me as unfortunate weight gain and historically bad hair. It's one of those things that I choose to keep hidden in shadow, but now in a Jungian fashion I will shed light on CCR and embrace them openly. Sure, they're ridiculous, as ridiculous as we all are at 12 or 13. But even so, how could you possibly argue that they're not good?

John Fogerty, whose absolutely hilarious voice graces all of CCR's material, is one of the most purely unheralded rock musicians of all time. No one wants to admit to being "in" to CCR, but I've never met anyone who really hates them. What it is, is this: simple songs, simple arrangements, heartfelt performances, and an unwavering dedication to melody and economy. Fogerty literally would make the rest of the band play less than what they wanted to. They weren't superstar musicians, but even so, they never once exceeded their grasp. That's why it works, and that's why Fogerty correctly says that his music works so well when any random bar band plays it. Anyone can play CCR – even me, apparently.

Green River is one of CCR's true classics, tending to be uniformly acknowledged as such. It is one of the albums that has the fewest overplayed tracks on it (avoid Cosmo's Factory for just that reason). I am actually downgrading it for having "Bad Moon Rising." When I put on the CD just now, I said to myself, "Okay, I'm going to listen to this straight through, even 'Bad Moon Rising'." It didn't turn out that way. I got about 15 seconds into that (track 5) and had to press skip. God damn you, "Big Chill," you ruined everything!

Sure, "Green River" is overplayed (especially by me, in rehearsal spaces and basements across time and space), but it's pure, archetypal CCR: fake swamp rock with huge melodic content and that big ridiculous, undeniable voice. The true pleasures here, though, are "Lodi" (always wonderful to hear) and "Wrote a Song For Everyone" (one of Fogerty's most genuinely affecting songs). There are a couple more swamp rock cuts ("Cross-Tie Walker" and "Sinister Purpose"), plus the scratchy blues of "Commotion" and "Tombstone Shadow," both of which sound like Fogerty's making some kind of point. You know, like bands used to do in the 60s? Well, go ask your grandpa about it.

The true überFogerty moment here is "The Night Time is the Right Time," which features Fogerty singing over TWO overdubbed Fogerties doing "waaa-doo-day" background vocals in pseudo-doowop fashion. It is hilarious…and yet, good. You can't deny this guy. He's a precursor of John Mellencamp and several other songwriters you kinda don't want to like, but kinda can't help but like. For my money, an album like Pendulum, which is much more subtle and far less trampled to death by radio, is a better place to appreciate why Fogerty is great.

But Green River is inarguably a quality half hour. You can yam all you want about the Byrds or any other group from this era, but song for song, Fogerty was shitting out more excellent music than anyone in rock but McCartney and maybe Ray Davies. The fact that his riffs and vocals are as instantly comical as Gallagher pulling the huge hammer out from underneath the prop table doesn't really denigrate the achievement. You can blame that mainly on jackasses like myself who clearly know the music inside and out but still can't help making fun of it.

Review by Whelchel