Creedence Clearwater Revival (or CCR for short) didn’t stick around for long, Their first album was released in 1968, and their last in 1972. Yet despite the brevity of their recording career, few other bands from the era have managed to leave such a lasting legacy. Widely regarded as one of the greatest American rock bands of all time, their body of work (which includes such seminal songs as Proud Mary and Fortunate Son) continues to influence, inspire and inform to this day. Here, we take a look back at their luminous career as we rank all the Creedence Clearwater Revival from worst to best.
7. Mardi Gras
During an interview with Rolling Stone in 1976, John Fogerty said “I figured that Creedence made six albums. Let me count… the first one, Bayou Country, Green River, Willy and the Poor Boys, Cosmo’s Factory, Pendulum… yeah, six. I wouldn’t even count Mardi Gras and neither would anybody else. I had no control over anything after that. The rest is horse manure. Baloney.” Clearly, his opinion was shared by Rolling Stone, who’d previously described Mardi Gras, the band’s seventh and final studio album, as “the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band.” The rest of the world agreed. A terrible end for a great band.
6. Creedence Clearwater Revival
When CCR’s self-titled debut was released in May 1968, it was greeted warmly by the buying public (who bought enough copies to send it to number 52 in the album charts – poor in comparison to their later albums, but a very respectable position for a debut) but poorly by the critics, who made snide comments about anything and everything bar John Fogarty, who was reluctantly conceded to be a “better than average singer” and a pretty decent guitar player to boot. But the fans were right and the critics were wrong. Over time, the vast majority have come to revise their opinions, and the album is now rightly hailed as an excellent introduction to the band. It’s not perfect – the strange vocal harmonies at the end of Suzie Q dates the song precisely to 1968, and not in a good way, while Walking on the Water is too cack-handed and directionless to work in any year – but for the most part, it’s remarkably strong, especially on the exceptional Porterville, a great find on any album, but particularly on a debut.
Pendulum, the band’s second album from 1970, is the only CCR album to be written entirely by John Fogerty and the last album to feature Tom Fogarty. A commercial success, it reached number 5 on the Billboard 200, number 8 in the UK, and number 1 in Australia. Compared to the band’s previous recordings, which had a joyously haphazard approach, Pendulum was conceived in a much more structured way. It’s not quite so gloriously transcendent as their earlier efforts, but it’s still superbly listenable, with an admirable ambition that doesn’t always find its mark, but which deserves props for trying. Key tracks worth revisiting include Pagan Baby, Chameleon, It’s Just a Thought, and the raucous pleasure that’s Molina.
4. Bayou Country
Released in January 1968 as the band’s second album, Bayou Country got a roasting from the critics, who described it as inconsistent and plagued by a lack of originality. But just as they had with CCR’s debut album, they got it wrong. The album is a joy, with more great songs tucked between its covers than most bands could hope to produce over a lifetime. On tracks like the ominous Graveyard Train and the seminal Proud Mary, John Fogerty hits his creative stride, weaving tales, fleshing out his mythical persona, and establishing himself as the backwater Louisiana native he never was and never could be. The greatness just keeps coming, with Born on the Bayou, Penthouse Pauper, Porterville, and Bootleg all ranking as minor masterpieces. An evocative, lean, and utterly compelling triumph.
3. Green River
Back in the ’60s, bands didn’t hang around. In 1969, CCR released three albums, all of which are phenomenal in their own right. The second is Green River, the album that catapulted the band to superstardom and which John Fogerty has described as his favorite Creedence album. The record takes the essence of its predecessor, Bayou Country, gets rid of the lengthy jams, chops away the excess, and produces something that, while still as gleeful as you’d expect from CCR, is undercut with a sinister menace that Fogarty had always hinted at, but never laid bare before. The band rocks as relentlessly and joyfully as ever, but it’s that undercurrent of melancholic darkness that both defines the album, and establishes its greatness.
2. Willy and the Poor Boys
CCR’s third and final album from 1969 is Willy and the Poor Boys. Any album that features a song like Fortunate Son is bound to be a success, and Willy and the Poor Boys didn’t disappoint, charting at number 3 on the US Billboard 200, number 10 in the UK, and within the top 20 in various other countries. While Fortunate Son is, for many people, the quintessential CCR song, one song doesn’t make an album, no matter how era-defining it happens to be. Fortunately, Willy and the Poor Boys is much more than the sum of its parts. Described by All Music as one of the greatest pure rock & roll records ever cut, the album finds CCR stepping back the heaviness that undercut their previous release, Green River, and taking a more laid back, mellow approach to the recording process, shuffling gleefully from rockabilly spirituals like Don’t Look Now to the lazy blues of Poorboy Shuffle. It’s fresh and it’s fun and it’s very, very good. Where this any other band, it would be considered their magnum opus. As it is, it gets pipped to the post by our next entry.
1. Cosmo’s Factory
Cosmo’s Factory, the band’s fifth studio album, was a commercial juggernaut, spending nine consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard 200, reaching number one in Australia, Canada, France, Norway, and the UK, and entering the top 5 in every other country it charted in. It’s since been certified 4x platinum in the US and silver in the UK. Obviously, commercial appeal is a lousy barometer by which to judge an album, but in this case, Cosmo’s Factory’s chart success is both justified and warranted. It’s as near to perfection as a rock album can get – perfectly conceived and flawlessly executed, its tracklist of dramatic rockers, charming covers, and incendiary rockers reads like a greatest hits album. A masterpiece.