For years I unfairly dismissed Willie and the Poor Boys as one of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s weakest albums. I can’t explain why this was the case, as it came smack bang in the middle of the band’s red-hot streak through 1969 to 1971. Perhaps it was the slightly rootsier rocking which I reacted against, as if CCR decided that they wanted to prove that they were just as authentic as The Band were. Whatever the case, I was wrong. Dead wrong.
Willie and the Poor Boys is just under 35 minutes long, and of it’s ten tracks, only its two instrumentals “Poorboy Shuffle” and “Side o’ the Road” even approach being a misfire, and even then they add texture and a variety of pace to the album. Usually when a band is on such a prolific streak as Creedence Clearwater Revival were (Willie and the Poor Boys was their third album released in 1969), it is achieved at the cost of quality control. That just want the case here. John Fogerty had just hit a rich vein of form, and to supplement that, CCR were always capable of covering just the right songs that they could adapt to their instantly recognisable style.
Like many CCR albums, Willie and the Poor Boys is an embarrassment of riches. From the opening title track, it wastes no time running the gamut of styles that CCR had mastered, be it straight up rockers like “It Came Out of the Sky”, or the more relevant than ever “Fortunate Son”, soulful bluesy numbers like “Feelin’ Blue” and their rendition of “Midnight Special”, to nods to early rockabilly on “Don’t Look Now (It Ain’t You or Me)”, before finally closing with moody slow-burner “Effigy”. Willie and the Poor Boys is not only a great little rock and roll album, but the sound of a band at the top of their game, with a writer who knew he was in the form of his life