Bayou Country showed CCR were no one hit wonder — they knew how to work a room, and they were on a roll. They released two more albums in 1969. Green River debuted in August of that year, and its title track was an instant radio hit. It also yielded “Bad Moon Rising,” which has gone on to be the unofficial theme song of every vampire and werewolf movie made since the eighties. Taken in context, though, the album shows a band restless to be more than a Top 40 band, hiding relevance in catchy tunes. That sentiment is most eloquently expressed in “Lodi,” about a singer who barely missed his gold ring.
Green River illustrated Creedence’s greatest strengths, and it also showed some of its insecurities. They were a bar band made good, after all, and they knew how to rock a room. “Commotion” and their cover of Ray Charles’ “Night Time Is the Right Time” prove that. But the band had also begun to resort to filler, and some of the lesser known tracks are more rambling blues jams at best. The bonus tracks on this reissue seem thrown together, consisting of two unfinished jams, and three uninspired live performances (as a trio) from their 1971 farewell tour. Dave Marsh, of Rolling Stone fame, provides the liner notes.
Willie and the Poor Boys, released later the same year, further solidified CCR’s standing as the hit machine of the time. More importantly, it placed the band in the center of the social upheaval of 1969. “Fortunate Son” wasn’t an anti-Viet Nam war song so much as it was a diatribe against the machinations of wealth pitted against the powerless who served in the war. It was one of the few times that CCR was overtly political, and it’s relevant to this day. “Down on the Corner,” the hit that details the everyday routine of the mythical Willie and the Poor Boys is also a sort of an origin story of CCR, and a tribute to American working bands.
These two songs alone would make the album noteworthy, but it’s also a more sure-footed album than Green River, and includes polished covers of blues classics “Midnight Special” and “Cotton Fields.” Bonus tracks include previously unreleased live performances of “Fortunate Son” and “It Came Out of the Sky”, both from the 1971 European farewell tour. As other performances from that tour, they’re rather flat. But the live version of “Down on the Corner” from a jam session Creedence did with Booker T. & the MG’s in 1970 more than makes up for those shortcomings. Liner notes are by NYT contributor Ed Ward.