Monday, March 3, 2008

No. 392: Willy and the Poor Boys

Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Album: Willy and the Poor Boys
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: John Fogerty's greatest achievement contains his best song and two great Leadbelly covers. The opening song remains famous, though I'm not totally sure why.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: A pop hook is good, but "Down in the Corner" is dumb and no amount of using the word "Poorboy" is going to make John Fogety a Louisianan.
Best song: "Fortunate Son" is great.
Worst song: "Feelin' Blue" stinks.
Is it awesome?: Nope.

Once again, we have an album Robert Christgau likes and I hate:

Somehow I have never bothered to state my almost unqualified admiration for John Fogerty. Creedence's ecumenical achievement is almost unbelievable: this is the only group since the Beatles and the Stones to turn out hit after hit without losing any but the most perverse hip music snobs.

(Emphasis is mine)

I won't disavow my own snobbery, but this is clearly CCR's best album. Yes, that's damning with faint praise, as CCR is a nonsense band. Nevertheless, the band's two Leadbelly covers are great and Fogerty's relatively clever protest song, "Fortunate Son," is the best thing Fogerty has ever put his name on.


Musical complexity doesn't automatically mean something is great. Just because Steve Vai, Buckethead and Yngwie Malmsteen all can play really quickly and within complexity doesn't mean any of them make good or great music. For the most part, the Beatles weren't nearly as complex as many other bands and they happen to be the greatest rock and roll band, uh, ever.

With all that said, I want to relay a story. Over last weekend, I was walking with some friends and we passed a Potbelly sandwich place twice. Potbelly, for those uninitiated, often has people perform in the store, playing an acoustic guitar and singing.

We were walking towards Target and passed the Potbelly. The singing fellow was doing "Down on the Corner" on the way there. On the way back, he was playing "Bad Moon Rising."

CCR, for those who don't play guitar, is one of the first bands a beginning guitar player learns to play. Most of the band's songs are incredibly simple, relying on three or four of the most basic chords. The vocals are all within a limited range ("Fortunate Son") and many of the songs are about hanging out in the bayou ("Down on the Corner").

(I am not obligated to mention that John Fogery is from El Cerrito, California. No bayous. Just strip malls.)


Is this an album I enjoy? Nope. There are highlights, but it remains a crappy 1960s piece of junk. Yes, there are some good songs, but comparatively, this isn't very good.

No comments: