The record to be profiled today is the 1970 album, Cosmo’s Factory by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Considered by many to be their best album, it was the high water mark for a band that could churn out hit singles on pace with The Beatles. It is also supposedly the last album the band composed on good terms. Rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty would leave the band he founded with his younger brother John after the recording of their next album Pendulum. The name Cosmo’s Factory was derived from drummer Doug ‘Cosmo’ Clifford’s propensity to call CCR’s recording studio ‘the factory’ because of the rigid work schedule imposed by John Fogerty. Like all of Creedence’s albums, John Fogerty wrote all of the original songs by himself. The tensions that arose from the band came about because John wrote, sang, and played lead guitar on all of the songs, as well as any other instrumental overdubs.
But for now, enjoy the pinnacle of Creedence Clearwater Revival. The band had released 3 albums in 1969, toured constantly when they weren’t recording, and played Woodstock still weren’t done when they went in to the studio to record this album. The album birthed 3 singles, all of whom went as high as the top 4 of the Billboard Singles Chart. The album could almost be called a greatest hits if not for the numerous other hit songs written for the 1969 albums.
The album starts off strong with the fast paced Ramble Tamble. Creedence usually wrote songs in the 2 and a half to four and a half minute range, so it’s a refreshing change to hear them stretch their legs on such a wild and distinct song. The track really exists in two sections, the first is the aforementioned fast tramping piece, featuring some killer guitar lines from John Fogerty. Just less than two minutes into the song everything changes. The first section abruptly halts, giving way to an interlocking grooving of instruments spiraling faster and faster in tight arrangement. It features the dual guitar play from John and Tom Fogerty with a sharp back beat courtesy of bassist Stu Cook and Clifford, John Fogerty overdubs electric piano in the section as well. Just as the groove gets to be its most intense, the song shifts back to a reprise of the original section of the song to close the song.
Following Ramble Tamble is Creedence’s cover of Bo Diddley’s old rock and roll standard Before You Accuse Me. John Fogerty’s lead guitar action is at the very nexus of dirty blues and rock and roll swagger. The song also features Fogerty playing a honky-tonk track piano overdub straight out of the 50’s, the very sounds that were the progenitor of rock and roll.
The third track and lead single off the album is the breakneck rocker Travelin’ Band. Peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200, Travelin’ Band is a song about just that, the joys of a life moving across the country in a rock and roll band. It is one of the fastest songs Creedence ever laid down on vinyl. In addition his normal duties, John Fogerty contributed all the backing horns to the song. Also featured on this track is Stu Cook’s rollicking bass line that pulls the song along.
After Travelin’ Band is another cover song. Just like Before You Accuse Me, Ooby Dooby is a sauntering old style rock and roll tune given new life by Creedence’s lively performance. CCR really was one of the better cover bands of their era (which is really saying something for 1968-1970), this is in addition to being one of the best singles bands of the era (also really impressive, I mean come on The Beatles were still around!!!).
If anyone ever mistook CCR for a country band, one of the tracks that probably led to that opinion forming is Lookin’ Out My Back Door. One of the bands most enduring songs, a half acoustic-half electric romp through the surreal imagination of John Fogerty. The song is just pure fun, you can’t help but smile at this playful and friendly piece. Lookin’ Out My Back Door was the third single cut from the album, and also reached #2 on the Billboard singles chart.
Following a track so lively and fun is Creedence at their most terrifying. Run Through the Jungle is a song that constructs images of impending doom and apocalyptic reckoning. The sinister guitar line and harmonica solos have raised goosebumps all over the skin of listeners for 45 years, many link this song, along with another of Creedence’s hits, Fortunate Son, with the ongoing Vietnam War. Fogerty’s howling menace of a vocal performance would be the counterpoint to the notion that CCR was a country band. In a swirl of tension and darkness, the otherwise lively first side of Cosmo’s Factory fades out into the distance from this tense and unwavering 3 minutes of a song.
The song leading off the second side of the album is also the second single released: Up Around the Bend is another feel good song, propelled by Stu Cook’s bubbly bass and the Fogerty brother’s rollicking guitar lines. It’s another track that just leaves a smile on your face.
A short, jazzy introduction leads us to the third cover song on Cosmo’s Factory. My Baby Left Me, just like the preceding three cover songs off the album, is a short and sweet call back to the early days of R&B and rockabilly, when the rock and roll movement was still in its infancy.
The third track on the second side is Who’ll Stop the Rain. A contemplative and emotional journey of a track, Who’ll Stop the Rain is one of the best showcases for Creedence’s dual acoustic-electric guitar formation that became the band’s signature sounds.
The next track is a real experience. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s cover of I Heard It Through the Grapevine is unlike anything else the band ever offered. While the average song CCR wrote on this record is a lithe three minutes, this hulking behemoth clocks in at just over 11. A moody and substantive piece, it is one of John Fogerty’s best singing and lead guitar performances. Just underneath is Tom Fogerty’s rhythm guitar, propping up the lead lines and allowing John to solo with impunity. The back beat, however, is what puts this song over the top as one of the best recordings the band left us with. It is Doug Clifford’s finest drumming performance, heavy and pulsating but spurred on by sharp and pointed cymbal crashes. The song was a hit for Motown acts and it was recorded by a number of artists before Creedence, including The Miracles, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Gladys Knight and the Pips, despite it only being written two years before Creedence’s version. None of them are remotely similar to CCR’s cover, stretching the 3 minute song into an over 11 minute hard rocking jam.
Moving on from the gloom in Grapevine, the last track on the album is the uplifting and fragile Long As I Can See the Light. It features John Fogerty overdubbing both electric piano and saxophone to complement the three piece (Tom Fogerty didn’t play on this track). The song is a fitting ending to this album: a record of incredible highs and lows from one of the best bands to come out of the late 1960’s.