It seems it’s time here in the B&V labs for us to (like the Dude) slip into our big, tan, baggy Westerly cardigan and mix a White Russian as we turn our attention once again to the mighty, mighty Creedence Clearwater Revival. You’ll have to forgive me for referencing the classic movie The Big Lebowski and Jeff Bridges’ iconic character, “The Dude,” but ever since the Dude lost his Creedence tapes when his car was stolen at the bowling alley the two have always kind of been tied together for me. CCR has once again opened up the vaults and released another searing live LP, At The Royal Albert Hall – April 14, 1970. I have to wonder how much great live stuff they have in the vaults and why it’s taking over half a century for these live recordings to see the light of day?
Say what you want about Creedence but they were a great band. I don’t think they ever had that “cool” cache like the Stones or the Beatles but they put out some great, straightforward, meat and potatoes rock n roll. They rocked but had a touch of blues in the music… along with a swampy southern vibe. It was a wonderful goulash. They were from San Francisco but dressed like lumberjacks from the great northwest. These guys had the Grunge look 30 years before it was a thing. And of course John Fogerty had that awful “page boy” haircut. Maybe that’s what hurt their swagger? They had a profound influence on rock n roll. Springsteen inducted them into the Rock Hall of Fame. In 1986 Bob Seger covered their iconic protest tune “Fortunate Son” and released his live version of the song as a B-side to the song “American Storm” (it was later added to the CD as a “bonus track”). I 100% agree with what Seger says to begin the song, “This by a band that I’ve always loved called the Creedence Clearwater Revival…” (although Bob, it’s just Creedence Clearwater Revival, there’s no “the” in the name). If ever there were two acts cut from the same cloth it was Seger and CCR. I think you can trace Creedence’s influence well beyond Springsteen and Seger though. Ike and Tina Turner covered “Proud Mary.”
For a band who never really released a great live LP during their active period of 1968 to 1972 they’ve certainly made up for it since. They did release Live In Europe in 1973 but that one feels like an LP released to fulfill contractual obligations. The Concert also recorded in 1970 but not released until 1980 was a more accurate portrait of this iconic band’s live show. It was only 3 years ago that they finally released the full recording of their performance at Woodstock, Live At Woodstock. Man, we loved that down here at B&V. But then as long time readers know, we love our live albums around here. Although embarrassingly we didn’t include any CCR on our list of our favorite live LPs. Oh well, live and learn. CCR – John Fogerty, vocals/lead guitar; Tom Fogerty, rhythm guitar; Stu Cook, bass; Doug Clifford, drums put out a body of work that will forever keep them in the conversation for “Greatest American Rock Band.” And live, well they could really bring it live. I’m going on record today as saying Creedence may be one of the greatest live bands ever.
As it turns out, At The Royal Albert Hall – April 14, 1970 actually documents CCR’s first concert appearance in the U.K. They certainly came to conquer as if this was the reverse of the War of 1812. The Americans are setting the capitol on fire. When we listen to this concert it helps to step back and look at the then current British rock n roll environment at the time. The Beatles, who had returned to a more rock n roll approach (vs the psychedelic approach they’d adopted) on Abbey Road and the soon to be released (May 1970) Let It Be had just announced their break-up. McCartney’s debut came out three days after this show. Cream had broken up the year prior. The Stones were coming off the successful Let It Bleed album and tour but founding member Brian Jones had quit and then sadly drowned in his pool. It feels like there might have been a rock n roll void in the U.K. at the time… enter “a band I’ve always loved,” Creedence Clearwater Revival.
At the time Creedence was at their zenith. 1969 had been an amazing year. They’d released three of their best LPs – yes, 3 LPs in one year – Bayou Country followed by Green River followed by my personal favorite Willy And The Poor Boys. Talk about a 1-2-3 punch. They’d also played in the wee hours of August 17th, 1969 at a little festival known as Woodstock. They were supposed to play the night of August 16th but the Grateful Dead just kept jamming and CCR had to come on after midnight on the 17th, much to John Fogerty’s chagrin. But that Woodstock set was legendary stuff. This concert at the venerable Royal Albert Hall was right before CCR was to release another great LP, Cosmo’s Factory. The time was ripe for an American Invasion of the British rock scene.
CCR come out on this recording and deliver. I will admit there are parts of this where Fogerty’s vocals are slightly distorted which only make the recording more deliciously menacing. They kick it off with “Born On The Bayou.” Right off the bat you can tell Fogerty is taking no prisoner’s on guitar. There’s no in-between song chatter (for the most part) it’s just set ’em up and knock ’em down. There was certainly some “chooglin'” going down that night. Fogerty is just wailing and talkin’ about old hound dogs and the 4th of July. They stretch “Born On the Bayou” into a hypnotic groove. What a perfect opening. That quickly rolls into “Green River.” It starts to feel like the Royal Albert Hall is turning into a roadhouse out at the crossroads, outside the city limits with beer for a quarter or perhaps for a pound. Fogerty’s lead stabs through clean and strong. That leads us into the third track, from the album Green River, the more obscure “Tombstone Shadow.” “Everytime I get some good news, there’s a shadow on my back.” Great, great track with a bluesy vibe and great lead guitar.
That leads us to my favorite track on the album, “Travelin’ Band.” I love this version of the song. It borders on manic. It is a full tilt, meet me at the finish line rocker. Fogerty says a quick thank you and then they launch into “Fortunate Son.” This middle section of the album is some of the greatest rock n roll I’ve heard in a long time. A screaming guitar solo kicks off “Commotion” and at that point it’s just hold on for your life. CCR is rawking. The pace is relentless. To give everybody’s heart a rest at that point, CCR slow it down and go midtempo with another personal favorite, “Midnight Special.” You can hear the crowd cheering as Fogerty sings the first few lines. The chooglin’ keeps on rolling with a spirited rendition of “Bad Moon On The Rise” ( the studio version of we included in our Moon themed playlist).
After that the hits keep coming. The band sounds enthused and into it. They hit “Proud Mary” which is one of their early hits. When Fogerty wasn’t playing any Creedence songs because he was tied up in litigation and just plain pissed, it was Bob Dylan who told him he needed to play his CCR tunes… “otherwise people are gonna think “Proud Mary” is a Tina Turner tune.” While Fogerty is on fire so is the whole band. The rhythm section of Cook and Clifford are tight. They keep rolling right into “The Night Time Is The Right Time,” perhaps the bluesiest moment of the night. The big surprise for me was the rollicking version of Little Richard’s “Good Golly Miss Molly,” and it’s big fun. Fogerty’s guitar is on fire at this point. I imagine the London Fire Dept having to pour water on the guy… But he manages to come back for one more, the appropriate ending, “Keep On Chooglin’.” After exhorting the crowd to keep on “chooglin’,” Fogerty jams and bends his guitar strings – and plays harmonica – through the longest song/jam of the night. I love this song.
I don’t think the set lasted even an hour. The crowd had to have left the Royal Albert Hall smiling and keyed up. If you’re into live albums this is a great one to have. It’s a high energy, full tilt rock n’ roll performance. Turn this one up loud and if you’re out there and you’ve had your Creedence tapes stolen… I hope this will help ease that pain. I know that between this live album and Ozzy’s latest LP, Patient Number 9, I am certainly feeling great these days. Although that might be the White Russians…
Keep on chooglin’ out there people. We need that vibe today more than ever.