Saturday, August 4, 2012

August 4: Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Green River"

Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Album: Green River
Year: 1969
Label: Fantasy

While it was without question one of the most pivotal and creative points in all of music history, the tail-end of the 1960's also saw the rock-based genres of music moving further and further away from the sounds upon which they were founded.  That is to say, when one inspects a majority of the rock music being made during this period, the rhythm and blues and soul which led to its creation are largely missing.  This is not to take anything away from the amazing music created during that era, but it is also a reality that is often overlooked.  However, it is due to these circumstances that one can find a greater appreciation for the handful of bands that remained true to the spirit of rock and roll, though even in these cases, the fact seems secondary, if even recognized at all.  When it comes to bands that carried the torch for the almost roots-based rock and roll in the late 1960's, few did so with as much soul and energy than one finds in the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival, and their long list of hit songs serves as a testament to the impact and influence they had.  Bringing a unique fusion of soul, country, blues, and rock, their music is often referred to as "swamp pop," and the moods that the band conveys makes this term quite fitting.  Though they had already set the standard for their sound into place with their previous release, few records in history can rival Creedence Clearwater Revival's exceptional 1969 album, Green River.

On so many levels, from the moment that Green River begins, it is a far tighter and more focused affair than its predecessor, and instantly grabs the listener with its sound and energy.  It is the swing and mood within John Fogerty's guitar that makes every song on the album so distinctive, and even within this single element, one is quickly transported to a dusty road in the southern United States.  As the rest of the band joins into the musical arrangement, the feeling and mood of the album becomes even more vivid, and no other band in history has been able to convey such a clear sense of "place" than one can experience here.  There is a mesmerizing, almost primitive feel to the percussion of Doug Clifford, and it manages to perfectly match the wide range of styles the band deploys, whilst also staying firmly rooted in the rock style.  Bassist Stu Cook furthers this combination, and the groove he injects into the songs gives Green River as much funk and soul as one can find anywhere.  It is the way in which the musicians manage to come together as a single unit and make the album overflow with life, and sets it aside from other records of the era, as there is a gritty looseness that enables Green River to remain just as fresh and exciting today as it was more than forty years ago.

Adding the ideal final element to the album, John Fogerty's vocals on all throughout the record remain some of the most inspired and unforgettable in all of music history.  Though he almost always borders on what sounds like screaming at times, there is a captivating attitude and growl within his voice, and it is without question one of the easiest voices to recognize.  It is also in the vocals of the band where one can hear the country influences, and it is much the reason that Creedence Clearwater Revival were able to find crossover success in ways that which no other band was capable of achieving.  There is also a unique sense of defiance within Fogerty's vocals, and while many might argue, one can connect this element directly to the punk movement that was beginning to build.  Regardless of the more finite elements of his singing, it is this attitude and unrestrained energy that makes Fogerty's vocals so unforgettable, and yet they are supported by the wonderfully vivid and captivating lyrics which he sings.  Furthermore, the allure of both the band and album were captured on the now-iconic song, "Bad Moon Rising," and it is the way that the vocals and lyrics are able to bring a relaxed tone, along with a sense of mystery that make this record such a unique musical experience.

While the bands' previous release had certainly shown their abilities, it is the fact that on Green River, their sound is so much more compact, that makes it the superior work of art.  Furthermore, the album injected a massive amount of original material into the bands' catalog, as they'd previously released a mostly cover songs.  The fact that one can so easily "feel" the heat coming off of the album is a testament to the combined talents of the musicians, and this moods are completely unlike anything else in recorded history.  The way in which they fuse together deep, almost dark grooves with the contrasting voice of John Fogerty is nothing short of brilliant, and yet there is also a clear connection to the "classic" sounds of rock and roll.  This is largely due to the reverb on Fogerty's guitar, and it would become a tone and approach that countless artists would copy in the years that followed.  Yet it is the flow that one can feel throughout the songs that enables it to become so much greater than the sum of its parts, as it is this element that transports the listener, and even after countless listenings, one cannot help but be swept up in the imagery and mood.  The fact that it retains this element, as well as the purposeful presence of the more roots-based rock sound largely define the core of Creedence Clearwater Revival's musical approach, and they were rarely more true to this sound or in better form that what one can hear on their phenomenal 1969 album, Green River.

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