Friday, July 24, 2020

McQ's Best Of 1969 Vol 13 - Creedence & Friends

If one emerging genre captured the full attention of North American artists in 1969, it was country rock.

It seemed near every artist, even those who had already established big reputations in folk-rock and psychedelia, was ready to put that all aside for a chance to get down-home and rootsy.

And leading the way that year, just as on our Vol 12 - Conventioneers mix, were a pair of relative newcomers; The Band and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

So as on Conventioneers, we're surrounding a Chronicle-sized portion of songs from these two artists with representative cuts from many of the other pioneering alt-country releases that made 1969 such a rich, inventive, and definitive year in the development of the genre.

Here's the Spotify link. Enjoy!

Set 1 (Road House Revelers)

1. Born On The Bayou - Creedence Clearwater Revival
2. Rag Mama Rag - The Band
3. Country Honk - The Rolling Stones
4. You Don't Have To Cry - Crosby, Stills & Nash
5. Down On The Corner - Creedence Clearwater Revival
6. Christine's Tune - The Flying Burrito Brothers
7. Fare The Well, Miss Carousel - Townes Van Zandt
8. Ballad Of Easy Rider - The Byrds
9. Little Hands - Alexander 'Skip' Spence
10. To Be Alone With You - Bob Dylan
11. Sugar Mountain - Neil Young
12. Green River - Creedence Clearwater Revival
13. Can't Find My Way Home - Blind Faith
14. Wanted Man - Johnny Cash
15. Fancy - Bobby Gentry
16. My Uncle - The Flying Burrito Brothers
17. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down - The Band
18. Wrote A Song For Everyone - Creedence Clearwater Revival

Set 2 (Backwoods Warblers)

19. Roosevelt and Ira Lee - Tony Joe White
20. Jesus Is Just Alright - The Byrds
21. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere - Neil Young & Crazy Horse
22. I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City - Harry Nilsson
23. Be Here To Love Me - Townes Van Zandt
24. It Came Out Of The Sky - Creedence Clearwater Revival
25. Long Time Gone - Crosby, Stills & Nash
26. Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones
27. Look Out Cleveland - The Band
28. San Francisco Mable Joy - Mickey Newbury
29. Tombstone Shadow - Creedence Clearwater Revival
30. Polly - Dillard & Clark
31. Do You Know How It Feels - The Flying Burrito Brothers
32. At The Crossroads - Sir Douglas Quintet
33. Lay, Lady, Lay - Bob Dylan
34. Lodi - Creedence Clearwater Revival
35. The Unfaithful Servant - The Band
36. The Real Thing - Russell Morris
37. For The Sake Of The Song - Townes Van Zandt
38. A Boy Named Sue - Johnny Cash
39. Down By The River - Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Encore (Honky Tonk Men)

40. Midnight Special - Creedence Clearwater Revival
41. Honky Tonk Women - The Rolling Stones
42. Helplessly Hoping - Crosby, Stills & Nash
43. Up On Cripple Creek - The Band
44. Proud Mary - Creedence Clearwater Revival

All About These Country-Rock Swamp Rats:

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Like a sudden Cajun fog seeping low over a Bayou swamp, Creedence Clearwater Revival came seemingly out of nowhere (actually San Fran) and before long, had permeated everything. Outside of The Beatles, Michael Jackson with Thriller, and Fleetwood Mac with Rumours, few rock and roll act had a single calendar year where they so dominated the radio airwaves. And it started in 1969 for Creedence with the January release of their sophomore effort Bayou Country (Solid Recommend).  The albums would just keep on getting better and more refined through the rest of 1969, but Bayou Country is an outstanding record itself, loaded with jammy numbers like Bootleg, Good Golly Miss Molly, Penthouse Pauper, and Keep On Chooglin', and the record where Creedence really codified their sound and backwoods mystique, perfectly encapsulated in the two selections here that open and conclude this mix, insistent myth-maker Born On The Bayou (for my money, Fogerty's best vocal ever), and the song Dylan himself famously proclaimed as his favorite of 1969, the one-of-a-kind Proud Mary

With their sound and persona now firmly established and their popularity surging, Creedence tightened things way up in August 1969 and went dark and apocalyptic with Green River (Strong Recommend). Though the album rarely addresses the war or the social chaos of 1969 specifically, a brooding sense of turmoil and impending doom lies in lurk everywhere. A Bad Moon Rising gives light to a Tombstone Shadow revealing Sinister Purpose, Commotion is all around, and whether its his present romantic life (Wrote A Song For Everyone) or the future of his career (Lodi), Fogerty envisions only abject failure. Even the bucolic environ of the hit title track is viewed in the context of modern angst, rather than something to celebrate in itself. Only a lively, last-minute cover of Ray Charles The Night Time Is The Right Time lightens the mood. and yet, despite all that bad mojo, Green River remains one of the best listens of the late 60s.

Landing in November, '69, Willy And The Poor Boys (Highest Recommend) was a much more upbeat, feisty affair. Song for song, with multiple instrumental tracks, maybe not quite as strong as Green River, but on an intangible level, even better, and arguably the band's high point vocally, best exemplified by the group harmonies on its pair of Leadbelly covers Cotton Fields and The Midnight Special, and Fogerty's beyond fierce, Julie Nixon/David Eisenhower-wedding-inspired rant on Fortunate Son. Elsewhere, the resilience, importance, and craftiness of America's working poor played paramount, whether they were performing those essential tasks the upperclass disdains (Don't Look Now), shilling their tunes for a nickel (Down On The Corner), or taking full advantage of a very unusual, fortuitous discovery (the laugh-out-loud funny It Came Out The Sky). Even the album's bleak closer, second Nixon putdown Effigy, didn't pack enough dark energy to bring down the album's prevailing optimistic, gritty charm, which is why I rate Willy as 1969's fourth best album, behind only The Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed, and the remarkable album that follows next in this write up. 

The Band: More to come!

The Rolling Stones: More to come!

Crosby, Stills & Nash: More to come!

The Flying Burrito Brothers: More to come!

Townes Van Zandt: More to come!

The Byrds:More to come!

Alexander 'Skip' Spence: More to come!

Bob Dylan: More to come!

Neil Young & Crazy Horse: More to come!

Blind Faith: More to come!

Johnny Cash: More to come!

Bobbie Gentry: More to come!

Tony Joe White: My favorite discovery on this mix, I must admit to having being completely oblivious to the joys of swamp rock pioneer Tony Joe White prior this year.  For this mix here, we use the so funky, so endearing bullfrog-leg quest Roosevelt And Ira Lee to kick off Set 2. Unfortunately, we do not highlight his wonderful Rainy Night In Georgia, because Brook Benton's more successful (and yes, slightly better) cover of the song was also released in 1969.

Harry Nilsson: More to come!

Mickey Newbury: More to come!

Dillard & Clark: More to come!

Sir Douglas Quintet: More to come!

Russell Morris: More to come!

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