Creedence Clearwater Revival
Live at Woodstock
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Even those around when Woodstock happened in 1969 might not have realized that Creedence Clearwater Revival performed at the legendary festival as headliners for day two of the iconic three-day weekend.
Don’t blame the brown acid circulating at the time; it’s because they weren’t included in either the original film or soundtrack recording of the event (a later director’s cut added four songs). There are a few published reasons why Creedence’s Woodstock set has never been released in its entirety, ranging from John Fogerty being unhappy with the band’s 50-plus minute show, to him thinking that they were already successful and didn’t need additional exposure.
Fifty years has a way of softening people’s mood, so checking off the “better-late-than-never box,” here it is: all eleven songs played in the early hours of Sunday, August 17th. To put things in perspective, the San Francisco based quartet’s third album, Green River, had just been released (it would eventually top the charts) and “Bad Moon Rising,” out in April 1969, was currently charting. Creedence hit the stage at midnight, just after a long performance by the Grateful Dead (who also elected to not appear in either the documentary or the soundtrack).
Despite some early technical issues, it’s difficult to understand what Fogerty may have had musical reservations about. The foursome cranks out their songs with requisite energy, and even if swamp rocking shorter tunes like “Green River,” ‘Commotion” and “Bootleg” aren’t show-stopping, they are far from embarrassing. CCR had been playing at least three selections (covers of “I Put a Spell on You,” “Ninety-Nine and a Half [Won’t Do],” and an extended version of “Suzie Q” that totally smokes) for a few years, so these were baked-in. A cursory if not exactly perfunctory “Bad Moon Rising” and a workmanlike “Proud Mary” get the job done without much sweat. They sound about the same as the classic studio takes, which just shows how those recordings were likely recorded live in the studio.
But it’s the closing cover of Ray Charles’ “Night Time is the Right Time,” plus “Keep on Chooglin’” and “Susie Q,” the latter two over ten minutes long, where the sparks really fly. Fogerty’s in great voice for a fiery “Night Time …” and blows into a sizzling solo. The band connects on the chugging “… Chooglin’” and “Susie Q” builds from a comparatively subtle beginning to an explosive rocker as it chugs forward. Bassist Stu Cook displays how rugged a player he was and Fogerty blazes through a guitar workout that’s both rustic and psychedelic.
The remastered audio captures each instrument with surprisingly sharp and clean separation which makes this sound better than what an exhausted, rain-soaked, mud covered audience experienced hearing it live. Was it worth the five decade wait? Not really, but it’s an important milestone in Creedence’s career and well worth hearing for any Americana fan, especially in the comfort of their living room.
Just leave the brown acid out of it.