Creedence Clearwater Revival emerged in 1968, seemingly from a Florida swamp but actually from El Cerrito in California. Rebelling against the psychedelic music that was prevalent at the time, Creedence began their career playing stripped-down and bluesy swamp rock.
As CCR’s career progressed, frontman John Fogerty’s writing grew in confidence, and the band turned into a classic rock hits machine. But after six albums between 1968 and 1970, Fogerty’s writing muse ran dry, and the other members of the band fought for artistic control with famously terrible results. But the band’s brief career resulted in a truckload of great songs, and some terrific albums.
Here are Creedence Clearwater Revival’s seven studio albums, ranked from worst to best:
#7 Mardi Gras
Rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty left the band in protest of his brother’s dominance. A frustrated John allowed the other two remaining members space to write and sing their compositions. Even John’s material like the heavy ‘Sweet Hitch-hiker’ and pretty ‘Someday Never Comes’ doesn’t rank among the group’s best. Stu Cook and Doug Clifford are a strong rhythm section, but their songs are generic, and Clifford is a poor vocalist.
Pendulum is more of a studio-based album than Creedence’s previous albums – I like the more detailed arrangements, like the soulful organ on some tracks. But on their sixth album since 1968, it feels as though John Fogerty’s running out of songs, and despite a few strong songs like ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain?’, Pendulum was the band’s weakest effort to date.
#5 Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s debut showcases their swampy and bluesy boogie. Many of the songs are covers, including the minor hit ‘Suzie Q’, and it’s reliant on basic blues progressions. But even though John Fogerty would develop quickly as a songwriter, their core sound is already fun and infectious.
#4 Bayou Country
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s second album builds on the swamp rock of their first. It features strong John Fogerty originals like ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘Born on the Bayou’ that stand out among their swampy boogie. Scarily, it was the first of three albums that the band released in 1969.
#3 Green River
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s development on their second album of 1969. The album contained two #2 hits – ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘Green River’ – the group famously never topped the singles charts. There’s also more diversity on display – there’s a hint of country appears on songs like ‘Lodi’, while ‘Wrote A Song For Everyone’ is acoustic and gorgeous.
#2 Willy and the Poor Boys
Creedence Clearwater Revival enter their peak era on Willy and the Poor Boys. It’s jammed full of hits like ‘Down On The Corner’ and the protest song ‘Fortunate Son’. There are great album tracks like ‘It Came Out of the Sky’ and ‘Effigy’ and ace covers of ‘Cotton Fields’ and ‘Midnight Special’. You’ll barely notice a couple of insubstantial instrumentals.
#1 Cosmo’s Factory
Cosmo’s Factory has so many great songs it plays like a Greatest Hits collection. Highlights include ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’, ‘Up Around The Bend’, ‘Ooby Dooby’, and ‘As Long As I Can See The Light’. Among the deep cuts, there’s the opening swamp groove of ‘Ramble Tamble’ and the lengthy cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’. Even if Creedence Clearwater Revival are sometimes thought of as a singles band, they had some great full-length albums too – Cosmo’s Factory is a case in point.
Do you have a favourite Creedence Clearwater Revival album? Is there anyone out there who doesn’t like them?