Creedence Clearwater Revival: 1969 Archive Box

CCR Box

Creedence Clearwater Revival
1969 Archive Box
(Fantasy/Concord)
5 out of 5 stars

For collectors—deep pocketed ones—only.

This mammoth, sumptuous, expansive and expensive package swaps Record Store Day swag appeal for musical rarities as it revives the vibe of both the titular year the music was released and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s unvarnished, blues based, swamp oriented rock and roll. By any measure, this was arguably the most incredibly productive and prolific 12 months of any US band. The fact that CCR’s humble working class origins were as unassuming as those of any outfit only increases the wow factor.

The foursome led by guitarists John and Tom Fogerty, drummer Doug Clifford and bassist Stu Cook started out as the Golliwogs in the relatively modest confines of El Cerrito, California, releasing their debut as Creedence in 1968. It was a respectable success, but enough to provide the impetus for 1969’s tough, rocking Bayou Country that put them on the popular map by way of its enduring number two charting single “Proud Mary.” Between that rugged radio hit, a Little Richard cover, the FM standard “Born on the Bayou,” extended workouts on “Keep on Chooglin’” and the menacing nine minute gloomy repeated riff chugging at the heart of “Graveyard Train,” this was a quartet that covered all the bases. That success continued with Green River, a #1 album with tighter tunes, and finally the terrific, slightly more rustic Willy and the Poor Boys (#3), not to mention three additional hit singles. Add an appearance at Woodstock, two on the influential Ed Sullivan Show and it’s hard to imagine another act duplicating that amazingly fertile—artistically and commercially– 12 month run.

More importantly, the music CCR created in 1969 had legs. It has endured through the decades with even deeper, more obscure tracks like the ominous “Effigy” and the reflective “Wrote a Song for Everyone” finding favor as the years wore on. A tribute from 2013 found Americana stars such as My Morning Jacket, Dawes, Zac Brown and others covering many of these songs along with their composer. CCR may not have been the first swamp rockers to hit the radio waves, but they were far and away the most influential.

John Fogerty’s well publicized legal troubles with the Fantasy label are common knowledge and the many often shoddy CCR compilations churned out after the band’s 1972 demise are a testament to the worst impulses of a record industry milking its cash cow. Things have since settled down in that department, but it’s hard to believe Fogerty had much to do with this lavish, high priced keepsake. It includes all three albums on colored vinyl and CD (but eliminates the extra tracks available on previous versions), three EPs in their original picture sleeves from Japan, Brazil and Mexico, all with four songs, an album poster, previously unreleased concert photo, bumper sticker, and a 60 page book of clippings about the band, published the same year. There is even a Woodstock concert ticket replica. It’s all housed in a 4 ½ inch thick brown box with metal ribbing that seems sturdy enough to last a lot longer than it took to make the music inside.

Clearly this, with its over $100 price tag, will appeal to only the most dedicated fans and/or collectors, since there is nothing musical here that hasn’t been easily available since the year it was recorded. The set’s press release calls it a limited edition “audio-visual time capsule” but the lack of any live concert recordings or video footage (how about a DVD with some of the long bootlegged Woodstock or Sullivan footage?) and the compiler’s insistence on not including extra tracks (supposedly to keep the integrity of the originals) is a frustrating omission. The box is nothing more than a bulky and pricey souvenir, loaded with moderately interesting ephemera.

The irony is that as one of America’s most respected and least flamboyant bands, Creedence Clearwater Revival deserves this deluxe treatment, even if you sense they wouldn’t have bought it themselves.