Wednesday, February 18, 2009

CCR songs transcend band rift

John Tristao, Stu Cook and Steve Gunner


A band known by fans as Creedence was one of my favorites as a young person. The name was short for Creedence Clearwater Revival, or CCR, and I eagerly purchased their remarkable string of hit singles from 1968 to 1972.

When the Island Resort and Casino in Harris announced that two original members of that band would perform on Feb. 13 and 14, as Creedence Clearwater Revisited, I didn't rush to buy tickets.

Yes, bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug "Cosmo" Clifford were one-half of the quartet I so admired, but they were not performing with John Fogerty, the man who was nearly single-handedly responsible for their sound.

Fogerty wrote almost all the songs, labeled "swamp rock" at the time. He sang lead vocals and played lead guitar as well as arranging and producing their recordings. To me, Fogerty and Creedence were the same. (The fourth member, rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty, died in 1990.)

But, as the show dates approached, my wife Sue and I decided to go. After all, the last time the band played together publicly was 1972, and the likelihood of a reunion of the three surviving members is remote due to long-standing animosity between the two camps.

We've seen John Fogerty as a solo act three times and figured we had nothing to lose going to see the "other band."

Besides Cook and Clifford, Creedence Clearwater Revisited is comprised of John Tristao, lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Steve Gunner, keyboards and acoustic guitar; and Tal Morris, lead guitar. (Morris replaced Elliot Easton of the Cars who was part of the band when it formed in 1995.)

I took my seat at Friday's show with a bit of an attitude, but shared the crowd's excitement upon hearing the beginning notes of "Born on the Bayou," the long-time opener for this band and the original CCR.

From the start, Clifford was powerful on his drum kit, enthusiastic frontman Tristao duplicated Fogerty's growl and Cook was all smiles on bass.

"Green River," my favorite Creedence song, came next, followed by "Lodi" and "Commotion," which included some appealing lead guitar work by Morris.

"Who'll Stop the Rain" was followed by an extended version of "Susie Q," the band's first hit, which nearly reached the Top Ten in 1968. With "Hey Tonight," from 1971, the concert program stuck to the running order of their live "Recollection" double CD.
Doug Clifford

At this point, Clifford left his drums for the front of the stage, telling the audience to "hang on to your dreams." He explained he met Cook 51 years ago and talked about forming CCR with John Fogerty and the late Tom Fogerty. Clifford then gave Cook a hug, calling him "my best friend." (The two musicians were actually born one day apart in April, 1945.)

The music continued with "Long As I Can See the Light," "Down on the Corner" and "Looking Out My Back Door." The band stretched out again with "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," featuring a funky bass solo from Cook. The song was also a big hit for both Gladys Knight and the Pips and Marvin Gaye.

The band continued through their setlist with the traditional folk song "Midnight Special" and "Bad Moon Rising," both crowd pleasers.

CCR's biggest hit, "Proud Mary," came next as Sue reminded me that the popular tune was the first song we ever danced to. With the politically-charged "Fortunate Son," the band left the stage to a standing ovation.

They returned with "Have You Ever See the Rain" and "Travelin' Band." A second encore started with "Good Golly Miss Molly," a Little Richard gem and the only song the band performed which wasn't on their 1998 live disc.

The 19-song concert concluded with fans crowding the stage, cheering to "Up Around the Bend."

In the end, Creedence Clearwater Revisited put an enjoyable show and concert-goers left satisfied with the experience.

It was clearly evident fans still wanted to hear the great rock 'n' roll songs the band presented in concert even if John Fogerty wasn't present to perform them.

Sue and I have seen Fogerty play Creedence songs and solo hits in 1995, 1997 and 2005, and I still prefer his show. Fogerty has continued his hit-making ways with songs such as "The Old Man Down the Road," "Centerfield" and "Walking in a Hurricane."

Clifford and Cook, meanwhile, have relied strictly on the original band's material in concert. Still, they provided the propulsive rhythm for Creedence and also deserve to earn a living from their musical efforts.

CCR was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Interest in the band's music remains high. For decades, every bar band in America had to know Creedence songs because fans demanded it.

I used to think that I had to choose sides in the dispute between Fogerty and his old bandmates. I was loyal to Fogerty and continued to buy the sporadic albums he issued as a solo artist, beginning with 1973's "Blue Ridge Rangers." A sequel, "Return of the Blue Ridge Rangers," is scheduled for release at mid-year.

After witnessing Creedence Clearwater Revisited perform, I see both sides furthering CCR's reputation while fulfilling the public demand for their timeless music.

So now, play me another Creedence song, please.

Creedence Clearwater Revisited

(Photos by Sue Seymour)

1 comment:

Zebra said...

From everything I have read about this band's breakup, it seems that Fogerty's greed and ego were the deciding factor. What a shame. Ths was a great group, and it would be nice to to see them reunite. No doubt testosterone will prevent this.