Nearing the end of 1969, we have our first encounter with another timeless act from that era, as well as another act who performed at Woodstock. Today we look at the album “Willy and the Poor Boys” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. This album, which was their fourth album released as this band (even though they had performed and recorded together under other names for almost ten years), is rated #193 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Creedence Clearwater Revival, or CCR, primarily features singer, lead guitarist and songwriter John Fogerty, although the band also included his brother Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford. Interestingly enough, CCR hails from the San Francisco area of California, even though the casual fan would assume, based on their sound and their lyrics, that they originated from the Bayou of Louisiana. Ultimately, they all became embroiled in long and bitter disputes over legal issues, and to this day, John Fogerty refuses to perform with any of them, including his brother.
This album is a strong mix of well-known CCR classics and some lesser-known instrumental tracks and covers. It opens with “Down on the Corner”, building on the theme of a sidewalk hustle band jamming for spare change. Two other standout tracks on the first side are the Leadbelly cover “Cotton Fields”, which might be my favorite song on the album, and “Feelin’ Blue”. The second side opens with the fiercely anti-Vietnam war song “Fortunate Son”, which right or wrong, I will always associate this song with the scene in the movie “Forrest Gump” when Forrest and Bubba arrive to their combat unit in Vietnam. The third prominent song on the album is another Leadbelly song, “The Midnight Special”, and the album concludes with a powerful condemnation of Richard Nixon on “Effigy”.
I have always found it sad that CCR could never reconcile their differences, especially when family is involved, but they had a very strong run of productive recording in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and to this day remain one of the most successful American bands of that classic rock era. This album is probably the best one to showcase as an introduction to new listeners.