The Goldmine-Cosmo’s Factory by Creedence Clearwater Revival

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.

Side A

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.

Side B

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVb0jh6pIEY

The Goldmine-L.A. Woman by The Doors

L.A. WomanFor this first blog post we will be going back to unearth the famous album L.A. Woman by The Doors. The sixth and final Doors album with lead singer Jim Morrison, L.A. Woman is considered one of the bands’ masterpieces. It is a fabulous array of blues rock from one of the seminal psychedelic bands of the late 1960’s. Released in April of 1971, the album was recorded under tense conditions by the band, who were attempting to spurn the notoriety that Morrison had attracted which had landed him in jail in several states.

Immediately evident is the distinct lack of all dark psychedelia that The Doors built their careers on. L.A. Woman would pick up where their previous album, Morrison Hotel, left off. A drive deeper and deeper into blues rock. All while incorporating Jim Morrison’s unique and thought provoking poetry. The album features two additional musicians to the band members themselves: bassist Jerry Scheff who was Elvis Presley’s own bassist, and guitarist Marc Benno to play rhythm, this allowed Doors guitarist Robby Krieger to play lead guitar lines and solo without overdubbing in the studio.

Side A

L.A. Woman begins with some driving funky blues of courtesy of The Changeling. Drummer John Densmore plays sharp and tight while Ray Manzarek’s super-funk organ and Scheff’s bass set the tone in this rollicking tune.

Following The Changeling is Love Her Madly, one of the more popular radio songs the band wrote, featuring Manzarek’s signature flair on the keyboard that was the musical lynchpin of the group.

Up next is Been Down So Long, a swaggering and dirty blues-rock song oriented around Krieger and Benno’s guitar play. Morrison sounds so at home in his blues man persona; the days of Break On Through and Light My Fire from their first album The Doors sound from a completely different time and place. In the tours before the recording L.A. Woman, Manzarek would join Krieger on guitar because there are no keyboards on the track.

If Been Down So Long is The Doors playing blues-rock at its best then Cars Hiss By My Window is The Doors playing straight up blues at its best. Listen closely for an eerie second vocal track by Jim Morrison hidden in the mix. Another fun open secret about this song is the ‘guitar solo’ is actually sung by Morrison to mimic a soulful blues six string performance (whether or not you find it convincing is up to you.)

The rather abrupt end of Cars Hiss By My Window brings us to the title track: L.A. Woman is perhaps the best song The Doors wrote in their blues phase and one of the crowning achievements of the band. Evoking dark, mysterious images and murky tones that place the listener into the world of an LA night. The American fascination with the underside city of Los Angeles is fleshed out and embodied by this track; equal parts wonder, mystery, and danger. L.A. Woman is the longest song on the album, clocking in at 7 minutes and 49 seconds, so each band member gets his chance to properly stretch his legs with some fantastic improvisation. The song builds up from a bluesy interlude into a furious finale through the chorus. A seminal moment of the recording career of The Doors can be heard when Robby Krieger is striking the guitar chords after Morrsion sings “city at night” backed with the textural piano playing of Ray Manzarek and John Densmore laying down a pounding beat. We conclude the first side of the album with Jim Morrison yelling “L.A. Woman” as the music fades out.

Side B

Beginning the second side of the album is a truly deep and dark piece of music called L’America. The sinister opening of creepy noises begins the journey into a different sort of city, one with none of the wonder but all the darkness conveyed in L.A. Woman. Densmore’s half-military style drumming moves along the track and features Ray Manzarek back on his electric organ, something more akin to the earlier work of the band.

Speaking of the earlier work of The Doors, the elegant and sad Hyacinth House sounds similar to works like The Crystal Ship off the The Doors’ first album. Hyacinth House shows off beautiful organ sweeps by Ray Manzarek, some of the finest work of his illustrious career. Jim Morrison tells a sorrowful tale of loneliness that many critics thought of as a reflection of his own feelings in the months leading up to his death.

Next up is Crawling King Snake, one of the bluesier songs on the album after Been Down So Long and Cars Hiss Past My Window. An old blues piece The Doors is breathing life into with their own special style. Robby Krieger is at home on his slide guitar and gives the song the mystique of the dirty southern bayous that generated the blues itself.

A bit more of a Doors version of the blues can be found on the following track: The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat). It’s blues but with a Doors psychedelic twist. Just like the song itself suggests, the back beat is in charge and drives the song along. Manzarek’s funky organ plays along with Kriger and Densmore, all playing loose at times but coming together for those moments that show you just why The Doors were one of the best bands the United States ever produced.

Finishing off the B-side is the other centerpiece on the album aside from the title track itself. Riders On the Storm begins with the sound of thunder and rain, leading us through a murky and dark journey to conclude the album. Each band member gets in on the action, Krieger solos with underrated feeling and precision on guitar, Ray Manzarek’s electric piano washes over like the storm itself. Scheff’s bass and Densmore’s drums are sharp but understated, perfect for evolving the atmosphere the track. Underneath Morrison’s evocative vocals is another ghost-like, whispering voice that follow his vocal track like an echo of the thunder. Aside from L.A. Woman the song, Riders on the Storm is one of the most well known and popular songs The Doors wrote. The sound of rain fades out, ending the album. For listeners everywhere it would be the last of Jim Morrison any of them would ever hear, the singer died a bit under three months after the release of the album.

If you listen to the 40th edition of the album, slightly different mixes of songs can be heard. Along with that two extra tracks:You Need Meat (Don’t Go No Further) is a bluesy romp sung by Ray Manzarek, and Orange County Suite is a sorrowful song recorded by Morrison alone on the piano and given sparse back instrumentation by his band mates after his death. It was likely written for his girlfriend Pamela Courson.

L.A. Woman is one of the best albums to come out of the fall of the counterculture movement in the late sixties. Most people in that generation were extolling the happiness and freedom a life of love and drugs could bring. The Doors were a band of that exciting time set apart by their propensity to explore the darker elements of the summer of love. It is the final album by The Doors with Jim Morrison, widely regarded as one of the most popular rock icons of his generation and a national poet for the counterculture movement. The album is certified double platinum in the United States. Give it a listen if you have 40 minutes to spare.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bFmdadQ5bM