Album: Cosmo’s Factory
Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
1. Ramble Tamble
2. Before You Accuse Me
3. Travelin’ Band
4. Ooby Dooby
5. Lookin’ Out My Back Door
6. Run Through the Jungle
7. Up Around the Bend
8. My Baby Left Me
9. Who’ll Stop the Rain
10. I Heard It Through the Grapevine
11. Long as I Can See the Light
CCR had a very short career, with seven albums in five years. Cosmo’s Factory was unquestionably their peak. Only two mediocre and disappointing albums remained, as tensions grew heavily between John and Tom Fogerty. John was the group’s workhouse, writing every song and playing multiple instruments, but he was also a bit of a control freak. While John’s career continued after the break-up of CCR, he released only two albums over the next thirteen years, thanks in part due to his disgust with his record company. John’s voice was so raw and powerful when he was young; by the time Centerfield was released in 1985, he had lost something.
Up Around the Bend is my second favorite Creedence song after Lodi. The opening guitar riff is also my second favorite of all-time after Chuck Berry’s opening for Johnny B. Goode. It’s also the perfect example of a song John could do in his younger years. I’ve heard him in concert later in life, and while he can still pull off his more low-key folk music with no problem, he cannot hit the high notes any longer. When he does this song now, it’s pretty painful. But oh man do I love to crank up the volume when I listen to it here.
The other major hits from this album are Travelin’ Band, Lookin’ Out My Back Door, and Who’ll Stop the Rain, all reaching number two on the charts. Most Creedence fans know that the band never had a #1 hit, but had thirteen top-ten hits including seven that reached #2. I’ve never looked up which songs actually prevented Creedence from reaching #1 and I’m afraid to. While hopefully they lost out to solid competition like The Beatles or The Stones, I’d be willing to bet there’s at least one or two mindless pop jingles in there. If any of my readers have access to the Billboard charts for those weeks, feel free to drop a line in the comments.
The reason the album is considered such a masterpiece is that the non-singles are all good as well. There are three covers here, Before You Accuse Me, My Baby Left Me, and I Heard It Through the Grapevine, and all do the original justice, if not improve them. While I prefer Marvin Gaye’s version of the latter song a bit, I do appreciate the extended guitar solo at the end of CCR’s version. Long as I Can See the Light was the B-side to Lookin’ Out My Back Door, and might be CCR’s slowest song. It’s not an emotional ballad, but it’s very relaxing and a solid end. Ooby Dooby is a silly song reminiscent of 50’s pop music, but it’s short and sweet. Run Through the Jungle (B-side to Up Around the Bend) is one of three songs taking place in the jungles of Vietnam that would make one believe Fogerty spent time there while in the Army. But, much like all of his songs about New Orleans and living in bayou country, he never spent a day in Vietnam. The guy’s just a fantastic songwriter.
The one song I think gets ignored and makes this album upper-echelon for me is the opener, Ramble Tamble. It’s seven minutes of mostly guitar and drum solos and it’s one my favorite driving songs. It’s almost impossible to start this album and not want to put the pedal to the floor and beat on the steering wheel. There’s an awkward break in the middle where John plays a slower-tempo solo that some complain about, but I think it’s a fine interlude before he goes on and rocks it out for the last two minutes.
Nine of these eleven songs are on the Chronicle albums, the only two being left out were Ramble Tamble and Ooby Dooby. So most casual CCR fans know this album well. If you haven’t listened to this all the way through, though, you’re missing out one of rock and roll’s greatest experience.