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Bayou Country (CCR, 1969) 26 September 2007

Posted by Basilios in CCR.
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Time to introduce a new group! And I picked Creedence Clearwater Revival, to the delight of a mate of mine; as famous and renowned as they are, in my opinion they don’t get the fame and credit they deserve, thus matching my criterion for reviews. The album I will review this time is their second, Bayou Country. Right from the start, even from the album title, they establish their fictional image of a bunch of poor artists from the Deep South of the USA. Well, they’re not. They’re from California, but the Deep South is the inspiration of much of their musical choices, that can’t be denied. And nobody like CCR was going to be able to take the best of the American South and distill it in poppy, friendly albums.

The songwriting on this album, as on the ones following it, is dominated by guitarist and singer John Fogerty. He writes all of the songs here, apart from a Little Richard cover, Good Golly Miss Molly, that is actually is quite nice, if a bit repetitive, and more of a lightweight song. It’s not that the others are heavy or dark, mind, but while Good Golly Miss Molly is a song about a girl that likes dancing, many of the others are about, well, different things.

For example, childhood in the Deep South, being taught by your dad that The Man is out to get you. This is what Born On The Bayou is about. This song is memorable, and possibly the second best here.

Then we have the catchy but repetitive Bootleg. Better musically than lyrically, interesting guitar playing, but not all that much for me. Nice background music, though! Things get slightly worse with the next offering, the long and monotonous Graveyard Train. More than eight minutes of mid-tempo blues – and that’s too much of it, even for the playing skills of CCR.

You might have noticed that monotonous starts to be repeated often, right? And indeed it does. Many of these songs here have the same problem: great playing, decent lyrics, but the same musical themes repeat over and over and over. Every single minute is entertaining, but stretch it to the full length of a song and things start to get dreary.

All the remaining song have the same problem, save one. Penthouse Pauper? John Fogerty talks about what he’d do if he was a pauper, a politician and so on. And it’s repetitive. Keep On Chooglin’? Repetitive. Good grief, Keep On Noodling would have been more appropriate. I don’t know why the CCR boys did it; maybe they wanted to create a groove of sorts, something vaguely hypnotic.

Hmmm, that’s not really their strength. Other groups do the groove thing better, such as Yes, and in a more subtle way, altering themes at every repetition so they never sound repetitive, but self-similar. What CCR does best is rock songs that are compact and tell us a little story in their three or four minutes of running time.

And that’s what they accomplish in the best song on this record, the one I was thinking about when I wrote “save one” above: Proud Mary. That’s a great song! Catchy start, simple and clean but not easy to play (believe me, I tried!), nice chord sequence, and good lyrics about travelling on the river and enjoying the company of the people living on its shores.

So there. Many repetitive songs that have their moments nonetheless; two overextended exercises in building a groove; and two great songs, Born On The Bayou and Proud Mary. I like this record, but I can’t go mad over it, or play it over and over again.

Final Grade: 22/30

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Comments»

1. John C - 26 September 2007

I’ve not heard the album in full, but I generally agree with what you say about the songs I have heard. “Bootleg” is painfully repetitive in my view and “Keep on Chooglin'” doesn’t do much for me either. I have to confess I’m not a big fan of “Born on the Bayou”, though it seems to be one of your favourites. You’re right about “Proud Mary” though, that one’s a classic in my view and one of CCR’s best.
Later songs from later albums were often better and John Fogerty – who seems to be an absolute virtuoso on zillions of instruments – did some decent solo material as well.


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