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Green River (CCR, 1969) 8 October 2007

Posted by Basilios in CCR, Music Reviews.
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Green River

Green River was third album for CCR here, and the second the band released in 1969, after Bayou Country and before Willy And The Poor Boys. 1969 was the annus mirabilis for Creedence, or rather, for John Fogerty, whose songwriting skills grew, developed and matured. This second album is an important milestone, and even if it’s not the best CCR released, it shows the group’s promise, and it’s certainly enjoyable on its own right.

Opening the album we find the eponymous song. Like Born On The Bayou on the previous album, it’s a song about childhood memories, but while Born On The Bayou sounded more bitter, Green River sounds altogether more positive and nostalgic. This is certainly the best song on Side 1 of this album; the other ones here are not as interesting as Green River. I could describe all of the three other songs on Side 1 as not bad, but uninteresting. Commotion follows next and looking at the lyrics it looks like an attempt to describe the chaos and rush of a modern city – neat idea, actually, but could have been better! And it is still better than Tombstone Shadow, anyway. I’m not a fan of slowly bluesy numbers, and this is what this song is, a blues number by the book. Then we have Wrote A Song For Everyone, which is actually a nice slow piece, another example of the fake personal history that John Fogerty likes to write – as I mentioned above, nice but not interesting.

Then Side 2 comes in and it’s much better. Things start off very well indeed with Bad Moon Rising, which is in my opinion the best song on this album. Despite its cheerful, poppy sound, this song is about John Fogerty’s misgivings for the future. Stay home tonight, he says, because there’s going to be ruin and pain, and are you ready to die? Well, how heartwarming, Mr Fogerty. Or was he trying for irony, maybe? Mocking those more apocalyptic hippies that were preaching the self-destruction of humankind in that time?

After Bad Moon Rising we have another great song, Lodi, which sounds quite different musically but still in a way talks about the effects of misfortune. The lyrics are written from the point of view of a singer who’s down on his luck and got stuck in a town called Lodi, without enough money to leave. Even though I suspect the story this song tells is yet another of John’s fantasy flights, you have to admit it: you can really feel the frustration and the quiet resignation. Fogerty might stick bunches of not terribly interesting filler songs in his records, but I have to admit that he really knows how to write his lyrics – even if it is for his not completely realistic autobiographical ones.

Closing the album we find two more fillerish songs, Cross-Tie Walker and Sinister Purpose, and the usual cover, The Night Time Is The Right Time. Cross-Tie Walker starts quite like Bad Moon Rising, but then goes on developing differently, and telling the story of a vagabond of sorts that wanders aimlessly on the freight trains. It’s not bad, actually, with its weird and vague infusion of love for an anarchic kind of freedom.

Sinister Purpose I don’t like very much. Nothing much wrong with it, it’s just nothing special. Slow mid-tempo ballad of sorts, about a chap with, well, dodgy intentions about a girl. Not a bad guitar solo, though.

Then we end the album with The Night Time Is The Right Time, which is bluesy and catchy, but nothing special. This was clearly thrown in as a filler; even with this song the total length of the album is about thirty minutes. With three albums in 1969 alone and another coming in 1970, I suppose the well was running dry by the end of the recording sessions for Green River. John Fogerty’s voice and guitar skills bring back a bit of life in what would otherwise sound like an old, tired classic.

All in all, this album may only be thirty minutes long, but it’s thirty good minutes, or mostly so. Three memorable songs, (Green River, Bad Moon Rising, Lodi), a bunch of decent ones, and an OK cover make up an album that is better, if ever so slightly, than the preceding Bayou Country.

Final Rating: 24/30

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Comments»

1. John C - 9 October 2007

I’m not a huge fan of Green River (the song), though I’ve never heard the full album. I do like Lodi though, I think it is a really well-written and well-arranged piece. I have to confess the first version of Lodi I heard, some years ago, was a country cover by Emmylou Harris (on her “Live at the Ryman album) that was played so well that I didn’t even realise it was originally a rock song. It’s interesting how different instrumentation can create a totally different sound on the same song.

The sad thing about “Bad Moon Rising” is that now, decades after this song was written, in this age of climate change there probably are people worrying along the same lines. It is an interesting contradiction, such dark lyrics with such a cheerful melody. On the subject of country covers, Hayseed Dixie did a version of “Bad Moon Rising” for their halloween themed album. On the CD, they end the last chorus with “There’s a Bathroom on the Right” which apparently many people think is genuinely the last line of the chorus. I’ve heard Fogerty sings this now sometimes when playing live 🙂 I heard Hayseed Dixie play “Bad Moon Rising” live once and they used the original, correct vocal. Again, it was interesting to see how different instrumentation could turn a rock classic into a bluegrass number.

2. Howard Giske - 13 October 2007

Green river is great. I wrote a parody of it at: http://www.realcrash.com/mortgage-blues-at-green-river/. I really went into a heavy flashback when I heard “Little Creedence Song” on the radio.


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