Life at 33 1/3: The perfect album

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Creedence Clearwater Revival: Cosmo’s Factory (Fantasy)

I read all about this album in the New Musical Express while camping on the small island of Mærdø right outside of Arendal in southern Norway.  It was summer 1970, and the Kinks were topping the charts with “Lola”.

Let me just quote Roy Carr’s opening sentence in that July 25th review: “This album proves once and for all that any genuine and valid resurgence in rock music most definitely began with Creedence Clearwater Revival”.  That is a huge statement, and I bought it just as I bought his run-through of the tracks and the comments from the group itself.  This was a must-have album; I hadn’t felt this excited by a coming album since The Beatles’ “Abbey Road”.

Just like The Band, Creedence was a reaction to and a correction of the silly, egotistical and pretentious roads rock music had taken.  They brought the music back home.  But unlike The Band they were not a working collective of equals, and moreover, they achieved something The Band never could: They were embraced by the teenagers.  There actually was something called Creedence-mania.

Blame it on John Fogerty’s adventurous ability to write hit singles and keep things simple.  He actually believed in the 45s, a format the rock-world was leaving behind.  But this was not bubblegum; the Fogerty songs were focused and immediate with a dark undercurrent.  He served the teenagers roots music with a contemporary awareness and got away with it.

Because of their teenybopper appeal, Creedence were not taken seriously by people over 20.  It was stupid of them of course as they missed out on the trip and ended up discovering the band when they had already broken up.  That’s what happens to snobs.

There’s nothing snobby about  Creedence Clearwater Revival.  It is all lumberjack shirts and electric guitars with a solid roots awareness sprinkled with Fogerty’s obsessions with the Mississippi river and the swamps around New Orleans.  And never did they do this stuff better than on “Cosmo’s Factory”, the group’s  absolute masterpiece.

Fogerty drops his markers all over the thing, he does some extremely potent covers of Bo Diddley, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley and Marvin Gaye-tunes – and name drops Buck Owens for good measure.  It’s the entire American heritage distilled, spiced up with some testosterone and thrown back on the market with a cheer in its chest.  The album celebrates freedom, integrity and the joys of life, the essence of rock’n’roll, and updates it without dressing up in strange clothes (and drum solos).

The Creedence choogle-genes are frolicking in the priceless opener “Ramble Tamble” which tumbles  out of the speakers on one leg, pulled by a fierce and bloodshot Fogerty vocal, before the song slows down and transformes into a burning take on The Beatles “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” coda, a slab of psychedelia that gets its kicks from fresh air rather than lumps of acid.

Even better is their monumental 11 minute treatment of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, lots of guitar, but Fogerty‘s soloing never strays far off the irresistible, chugging groove that is established by the rest of the band, there is nothing flashy about his playful doodling.  It is feelgood all the way.

The album is well charged with hit singles: “Up Around The Bend”, a big cheer from rock’n’roll’s top shelf, “Travelin ‘Band”, “Good Golly Miss Molly” with its priceless self-mythologising lyrical luggage, “Who’ll Stop The Rain”, goosebumps and free falling  through heavens of acoustic guitars, “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”, a charming country tribute from the Fogerty front porch, “Run Through The Jungle” a damp and ominous  voodoo journey through the jungles of the Vietnam War seen through the eyes of the soldiers and not the politically correct demonstrators at home in the U.S., and “Long As I Can See The Light”, besides sporting yet another Vietnam reference, albeit more subtle, one of the loneliest blues songs ever created.  I’m not very fond of Fogerty’s saxophone playing on this one, but hell, it’s his song.

The Fogerty compositions on the album are among the best he wrote.  The cover songs are clever choices and his interpretations almost steals them away from their authors.  Fogerty’s sharp, rasping voice belongs in the rock’n’roll Champions League.  Same goes for his raw, distinct guitar playing. Credit should also also be given to the rest of the band, they provide the perfect foundation for this exeptional individual.  Chemistry indeed.

A perfect album.  Nothing less.

Released: July 1970

(All songs written by J. C. Fogerty, except where noted.)

Side one:

1.”Ramble Tamble” – 7:09

2.”Before You Accuse Me” (Ellas McDaniel) – 3:24

3.”Travelin’ Band” – 2:07

4.”Ooby Dooby” (Wade Moore, Dick Penner) – 2:05

5.”Lookin’ Out My Back Door” – 2:31

6.”Run Through the Jungle” – 3:09

Side two:

1.”Up Around the Bend” – 2:40

2.”My Baby Left Me” (Arthur Crudup) – 2:17

3.”Who’ll Stop the Rain” – 2:28

4.”I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong) – 11:05

5.”Long as I Can See the Light” – 3:33

Lineup:

Doug Clifford – drums/ Stu Cook – bass/ John Fogerty – lead guitar, piano, saxophone, harmonica, vocals, producer, arranger/ Tom Fogerty – rhythm guitar.