Since Creedence Clearwater Revival disbanded 33 years ago, its catalog has been anthologized in every conceivable way, culminating with a six-disc boxed set of every track the band ever laid down, including its pre-CCR incarnations. What makes this 25-cut, single-disc set unique is that it’s the first time Creedence hits and bandleader John Fogerty’s solo recordings have been presented together. That fact, as much as the timelessness of the music, is the reason for this collection’s existence – to serve as an announcement of something the music industry never imagined: Fogerty has come back to “The House That Creedence Built,” Fantasy Records.
The much-publicized acrimony between the guitarist/singer/songwriter and the label (culminating with Fantasy unsuccessfully suing Fogerty for copyright infringement of his own catalog, which through various contractual twists and turns the label ended up owning – claiming that “Old Man Down The Road” was nothing more than a retread of “Run Through The Jungle”) ended only when Fantasy was recently acquired by Concord Records. So now you have a set that for years Fogerty refused to even perform live – ignoring the most important chapter of his legacy so as not to, as he viewed it, help Fantasy profit from his blood, sweat, and tears.
Fogerty eventually came around onstage, and his shows preceding 1998’s live Premonition were every CCR/Fogerty’s fan dream come true.
The unsaid component of this compilation is that these are only Fogerty originals – which, granted, were Creedence’s most enduring statements, but explains the absence of early hits and classics like CCR’s covers of “I Put A Spell On You” and “Suzie Q.” One could quibble about the omission of this Fogerty original or that, but at 77 minutes, it’d be hard to choose what to leave off.
In the early days, Fogerty’s guitar playing was workmanlike and respectable, but a far cry from the virtuosity of contemporaries like Clapton and Beck. He constructed leads like the composer he was, not given to jaw-dropping, extended improvisations. But woodshedding during the nine years between 1986’s Eye Of The Zombie and 1997’s Blue Moon Swamp, John came out blazing like never before – still economical in his lead work, but able to achieve things he probably wished he’d been able to on earlier recordings.
The icing on the bread pudding here is the quartet of never-released 2005 live versions of “Bootleg,” “Hey Tonight,” “Fortunate Son” (along with the original studio version), and “Keep On Chooglin’,” complete with some two-hand tapping pyrotechnics. These incendiary cuts, and the fact that you can now stick into your dashboard what would have previously been a mix tape, are reason enough to buy this.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.