"Things got bad and things got worse, I guess you know the tune"
Creedence Clearwater Revival were a band out of time in 1969. Releasing albums of late 60s durability to a late 50s schedule, you might expect their albums of this period to be little more than their latest single, a few covers, and a whole load of filler. Reality is that all three of the albums CCR released that year boasted glorious hit singles and cover versions, but the vast majority of their album tracks were far higher quality than a lot of their contemporaries that considered themselves full on ‘album bands’. Granted, each of these CCR albums followed the maxim that ‘less is more’, and none were overly long, but to be able to release trio of albums in a twelve month span with barely a duff track among them, that was something truly noteworthy.
Green River was the second album in CCR’s 1969 trilogy, and it’s relatively close in tone to their breakthrough, Bayou Country, released earlier in the year. Green River is the sound of one of the all time great rock bands getting into the groove and running with it without resorting to retreads. Granted, both the title track and “Bad Moon Rising” follow a similar template to the band’s previous big hit “Proud Mary”, but they’re both legitimately great rock songs in their own right that any rock band of any vintage would have been more than happy to release. Elsewhere Green River finds CCR organically expanding their sound on phenomenal numbers like “Wrote a Song for Everyone”, and the should-have-been-a-bigger-hit “Lodi”, as well as nailing down some judiciously selected cover versions. It was evident that John, Tom, Stu and Doug were on a creative roll, and as long as they kept recording albums of the quality of Green River, they were unlikely to be derailed. Creedence Clearwater Revival had found themselves at the point where pop music, rock music and rootsiness converged at absolutely the right time, and they had all the skills required to make the most of that situation.
Green River was the album that confirmed that CCR’s earlier success was no fluke. John Fogerty was in the highest echelon of popular songwriters, he knew exactly how to pen a killer chorus, and CCR as a whole were capable of unerring musical precision, seamlessly meshing together as a musical unit in a way that few have managed since. Stu and Doug were always a majorly impressive rhythm duo, and coupled to Tom’s relentless guitar strum, they were as much a vital element of CCR’s success as John’s voice and writing. The fact that the acrimony between Fogerty and his former band mates, even following the death of Tom, has ensured that CCR has not sullied their legacy by way of money grabbing reunions in the way the majority of their peers have, and as such revisiting albums like Green River the only way to get our CCR fix. And that’s no bad thing.