I don’t particularly like the band, or even the lyrics to this song. But somehow this became one of my favorites.
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.
Album: Abbey Road
Artist: The Beatles
1. Come Together
3. Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
4. Oh! Darling
5. Octopus’s Garden
6. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
7. Here Comes the Sun
9. You Never Give Me Your Money
10. Sun King
11. Mean Mr. Mustard
12. Polythene Pam
13. She Came In Through the Bathroom Window
14. Golden Slumbers
15. Carry That Weight
16. The End
17. Her Majesty
The last album The Beatles recorded, where they were all pretty much pissy with each other, is my favorite, mainly because of the epic sixteen-and-a-half medley at the end. In fact, I combined the nine songs into a medley for my MP3 player, though I left She Came In Through the Bathroom Window and Golden Slumbers as individual songs as well. The latter is an amazing lullaby while the former showcases McCartney’s passionate voice at his best. Actually, Oh! Darling showcases McCartney’s voice at it’s best. He sang the song relentlessly for a week before recording it so the final track would sound like he was hoarse, much like on Twist and Shout. It’s definitely a song that can only be sung by a young man. I heard Paul try to sing it a few years ago and my skin nearly crawled off my body to hit the mute button.
Harrison’s Something isn’t quite as ambitious but it’s a subtle, romantic song without being cloying. Come Together is pretty damn popular and I like it alright, but I think Lennon’s best song on the album is I Want You, but then again I’m a sucker for eight-minute songs that are mainly extended jams. In fact, only fourteen different words are spoken during the eight plus minutes.
The album’s major weak spot is from McCartney with Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. It’s a fun song the first few times through, but I’m pretty much done with it by now. It’s silly and belongs on Yellow Submarine, not here. Starr’s Octopus’s Garden comes close to falling into the same trap, but is low-key enough to not seem completely out of place.
Many feel that Her Majesty should not have been tacked on at the end, what with The End being a poetic and fitting end to The Beatles. Ah, whatever. I like it.
Like with The Barenaked Ladies, there are a plethora of songs from The Beatles that make my Top 500 that didn’t get showcased on this countdown due to being on mediocre albums (or not on albums at all!). Here they are, a whopping eighteen more:
If I Fell
And I Love Her
I’ve Just Seen A Face
Two of Us
I Am the Walrus
Baby You’re a Rich Man
Happiness is a Warm Gun
I’m So Tired
She’s a Woman
I’m Only Sleeping
She Said She Said
In fact, Hey Bulldog is a top fifteen song for me. Yeah, who’d of thunk, it being on Yellow Submarine and all.
Album: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
1. I Put a Spell on You
2. The Working Man
3. Suzie Q
4. Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do)
5. Get Down Woman
8. Walk on the Water
CCR’s debut album is often under-looked when their short career is evaluated, no doubt because it lacked easily digestable hits. The only two songs that charted were Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put a Spell on You (which they certainly improved but wasn’t that great of a song to begin with) and Suzie Q, which was cut in half for the radio as the last half is some of CCR’s worst guitar work in addition to adding nothing to the song. The rest of the album is bloody fantastic and needs to be listened to by any CCR fan that hasn’t had a chance to.
The Working Man is a simple ode that has a catchy rhythm and showcases Fogerty’s impressive ability to hit the high note. Ninety-Nine and a Half and Get Down Woman are decent rockers. And then things really heat up. Porterville was recorded in the Golliwog days and was easily their best song under the band’s previous name. It’s one of CCRs most energetic songs, up there with Travelin’ Band. Gloomy doesn’t sound like much at first, but the guitar riff at the end is unworldly.
Walk on the Water is a perfect ending, a visceral and haunting tune that ends a short story about a run-in with Death with three minutes of crying guitar that leaves a chill in the bones.
2. Fat Bottomed Girls
4. Bicycle Race
5. If You Can’t Beat Them
6. Let Me Entertain You
7. Dead on Time
8. In Only Seven Days
9. Dreamer’s Ball
10. Fun It
11. Leaving Home Ain’t Easy
12. Don’t Stop Me Now
13. More of That Jazz
I’ve never been a huge fan of Queen as stadium rock has never been my thing, though I do enjoy many of their singles. For some reason, this album hits the right notes for me despite only have a couple of songs I’m crazy about. Crazy thing is Freddie Mercury wrote five of the thirteen songs and those are easily my five favorite.
Mustapha opens things, and while it’s completely nonsensical, utilizing several languages and some made up words, it has great energy and is a great lead-in. Jealousy is a decent ballad made better by the buzzing guitar work. Bicycle Race is silly but has some pretty impressive changes in meter and chords. Let Me Entertain You is a simple rocker but a great sing-a-long. And finally, Don’t Stop Me Now is transcendent. It’s been ranked the number one driving song and I can’t disagree. Mercury’s writing, rhyme scheme, piano playing, and harmonizing with his band mates is just insane. It was also wonderfully introduced to a new audience in the famous zombie killing bar scene in Shaun of the Dead.
As for the rest of the album, I can sing along to Fat Bottomed Girls but only so often. I also enjoy If You Can’t Beat Them and Dreamer’s Ball. More of That Jazz is an odd choice to end the album considering Don’t Stop Me Now would have been a great closer. The final song acts as a summary of everything we’ve just heard, much like old musicals would often have during the credits. It’s actually pretty good for what it is, but I can’t imagine every listening to it outside the context of the album.
Album: Rubber Soul
Artist: The Beatles
1. Drive My Car
2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
3. You Won’t See Me
4. Nowhere Man
5. Think for Yourself
6. The Word
8. What Goes On
10. I’m Looking Through You
11. In My Life
13. If I Needed Someone
14. Run for Your Life
After five albums, The Beatles had slowly been getting away from boy-band pop. Most of their pure rock songs were covers, but they had been showing signs of maturity with their writing, with numbers like And I Love Her, Yesterday, and I’ve Just Seen a Face. Whether it was age, practice, or good drugs, it finally all came together for Rubber Soul.
Drive My Car is pop no doubt, and a song that turned me off a bit at first. But Paul’s energy is so infectious that I now I can’t help but sing “Beep beep beep beep, yeah!” John then follows it up with my favorite Beatles song, Norwegian Wood, a short but powerful tale of sexual frustration and arson. Plus, they bring out the sitar, which is perfect here.
Speaking of frustration, I’m Looking Through You and Run for Your Life are as bitter as you can get. While these songs have been accused of being misogynistic, I’d like to think Paul and John were not monsters and were just exposing and then exaggerating their raw emotions after dealing with difficult personal relationships.
The album isn’t all about anger. In My Life is one of my favorite love songs, simple but endearing. I’m also a fan of Michelle, You Won’t See Me, and Harrison’s Think For Yourself.
Despite four top-tier songs, the album falls a bit for me because the filler is pretty unimpressive. It’s not as mindless as their filler on previous albums, and shows some creativity with their use of various instruments and vocal stylings (e.g. The Word is mostly just one note), but if I never heard Girl, Wait, or What Goes On the rest of my life, that would be just fine.
Album: Blue Moon Swamp
Artist: John Fogerty
1. Southern Streamline
2. Hot Rod Heart
4. A Hundred and Ten in the Shade
5. Rattlesnake Highway
6. Bring It Down to Jelly Roll
7. Walking in a Hurricane
8. Swamp River Days
9. Rambunctious Boy
10. Joy of My Life
11. Blue Moon Nights
12. Bad Bad Boy
The Grammy Award winner for Best Rock Album starts out with a country song, naturally. It’s only an average song and it tanked on the country charts, but it leads into the rest of the album pretty well. Hot Rod Heart is a simple rocker; decent, but nothing all that memorable. At this point the album proves why it deserved the Grammy.
Blueboy is classic Fogerty, a little bit country with some rockin’ electric guitar solos. Had it been released in rock’s hey-day in the 60’s, I have little doubt it would have been a top ten hit. A Hundred and Ten in the Shade is a low-tempo song that fits the mood of the title perfectly, and Fogerty is complimented with the perfect backing vocals of The Fairfield Four, a gospel group that has been around since 1921.
After that we have the hardest rocker of the album, though the lyrics on Rattlesnake Highway are a bit over the top. Walking in a Hurricane is the best hard-rocker here. Bring It Down to Jelly Roll is another good country/rock mix. The last half of the album has a bit less bite. Swamp River Days and Blue Moon Nights, while pleasant, are pretty generic songs reminiscent of the slow parts of the CCR albums. Rambunctious Boy is the worst song, but not so bad as to ruin the mood. Joy of My Life is a ballad John wrote for his wife, and it’s fine.
Bad Bad Boy is an interesting way to wrap things up. It’s a decent rocker and it has a nice fade out at the end, but it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the album. It’s a bit disheartening that after working on this album for a decade, it doesn’t have a more consistent theme, but the production values are fantastic and it’s easy to tell he poured his heart and soul into each song. It’s a good thing, too, since shortly after this album’s release, Fogerty’s voice started to degrade. He’s had a few decent songs since, but the last ten years have not been kind to him vocationally. He can still sing his country songs, but anything that requires the howling voice like Up Around the Bend or Have You Ever Seen the Rain? can make your skin crawl.
2. Down with Disease
3. If I Could (with Alison Krauss)
4. Riker’s Mailbox
5. Axilla, Pt. 2
7. Sample in a Jar
8. Wolfman’s Brother
9. Scent of a Mule
10. Dog Faced Boy
Hoist is Phish’s most pop-friendly album, put them on the map for general audiences, though their follow-up album, Billy Breathes, was even more popular. I like both albums, but this one has more of my favorite songs. I tend to prefer their songs that highlight the guitar and drums rather than Trey Anastasio’s voice. His voice is fine, but on some songs, like Lifeboy, he has this high-pitch monotone thing going that ruins everything.
The album begins with an upbeat jam in Julius that really sets the table. Down with Disease was the most popular single from the album; it’s done well, but lacks the bite I would like. If I Could is my favorite song on the album, thanks in no small part to Alison Krauss, who has now made two albums this week as a guest singer. It’s a simple but beautiful ballad.
Riker’s Mailbox is just thirty seconds of noise, but they got Jonathan Frakes to play trombone for it, which is pretty awesome. Axilla, Pt. 2 is a nice jam. I have no idea what the heck is going in Sample in a Jar, but it has a fantastic melody. Wolfman’s Brother is an extended jam with empty lyrics but I find it very relaxing. Scene of a Mule is a crazy folk song about a cowgirl who makes her mule take a dump to defeat hostile aliens. It’s funny, but not terribly pleasant to listen to very often.
Dog Faced Boy is an honest, acoustic ballad that I enjoy, but your mileage may vary. I generally stop the album there. Demand is an extended jam following a guy driving recklessly down the freeway for several minutes before a terrible crash, followed by a prayer. The jam is okay, but not great, and too long to deal with.
Album: Green River
Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
1. Green River
3. Tombstone Shadow
4. Wrote a Song for Everyone
5. Bad Moon Rising
7. Cross-Tie Walker
8. Sinister Purpose
9. The Night Time Is the Right
Creedence released three albums in 1969 (!!!) Their first album of the year, Bayou Country, helped the band become popular on the heels of Proud Mary. Green River was their second and also their best.
One amazing thing about John Fogerty is that he was able to write songs about places he had never lived and make you think he had been there his whole life, when in fact he was from San Francisco. Green River is one of those songs that harkens back to children growing up in the 50’s in bayou country.
Commotion is a frenetic rocker and one of their best up-tempo songs. Tombstone Shadow is an autobiographical about John’s visit with a fortune teller that didn’t go so well. It sounds like something Screamin’ Jay Hawkins would have done. Wrote a Song for Everyone is a great ballad about insecurity. Bad Moon Rising is probably the most famous song from the album and one I’m rather tired of, but it’s still a good sing-a-long.
Ever since I started keeping track, Lodi has been in my top five songs of all-time. Fogerty has said it’s a “sad, sad song about a bad, bad photographer.” It’s also about a bad, bad musician.
After this the album kind of sputters. Cross-Tie Walker has an incredibly boring rhythm. Sinister Purpose is pretty heavy-handed on the lyrics, but it’s got a pretty sinister sounding guitar going on, so it’s a good listen. And then we get to the song that knocks Green River out of the top 20. The Night Time is the Right Time is uninteresting, too slow, and has the backups all singing “Wah-Doo-Day” between every single line. It’s obnoxious and I can’t stomach it very often.