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Creedence Clearwater Revival: At The Royal Albert Hall

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Creedence Clearwater Revival: At The Royal Albert Hall
There is a decidedly celebratory air surrounding the release of Creedence Clearwater Revival's At The The Royal Albert Hall and it is a wholly deserved one. Whether or not the Travelin' Band documentary film, due to premiere on Netflix the same day as the album's release, is as frank an account of the group's history as that proffered by author John Lingan in his excellent book A Song For Everyone (Hachette Books, 2022), there is still an appropriate ripple effect to the phenomenon: while we didn't know many details about the rancorous dissolution of the group roughly a half-century ago, there was more than enough publicity devoted to the later spats between CCR's titular leader John Fogerty and Fantasy Records—those differences apparently resolved with the 2004 acquisition of the label by The Concord Music Group.

In setting up the subsequent release of a larger package focusing on the long-delayed concert recording, the film becomes almost but not quite superfluous in the overall scheme of things (notwithstanding the stroke of genius in having "The Big Lebowski" himself, Jeff Bridges, as narrator,). Still, that is not to deny the validity of preserving in cinematic form the recognition of the success Creedence earned in their heyday, nor the opportunity to once and for all set the record straight on the recording of their appearance(s) at the venerable London venue.

An album mistakenly titled The Royal Albert Hall Concert was almost immediately acknowledged as an error upon its release in on Fantasy Records 1980. The recording actually used was traced to a January 1970 CCR performance recorded at the Oakland Coliseum and the egregious mistake in labeling the master tape(s) by the record company was subsequently reported as the source of the snafu. The album was renamed The Concert (Fantasy Records, 1980) for later reissues. As it stands now, with the release of the correct recording, there is excellent fodder for a three-way comparison between the English concert, the aforementioned West Coast show and the recording (in its entirety) of the CCR appearance documented on Live At Woodstock (Craft/Fantasy, 2019).

The concert footage included in the aforementioned documentary—directed by Grammy Award-winning Bob Smeaton of The Beatles Anthology (Apple Records) series fame—leaves almost as deep an impression as the immersive sonics on the compact disc. The audio recordings of the material from the first of two nights in England were mixed and restored by Giles Martin and Sam Okell of Beatles reissue fame, then mastered at Abbey Road Studios by Miles Showell; the result is a sumptuous, immersive effect that amplifies how earthy is the sound of Creedence Clearwater Revival. It also fully delineates how the quartet, without the distraction of forced showmanship, suffused even lesser songs like "Tombstone Shadow" with a purposeful fervor. The musicianship ensures such material hardly suffers in juxtaposition to genuinely stellar numbers like "Green River," and the intensity never flags over the course of the twelve tunes, bespeaking a consistent perfectionist loyalty to the original arrangements. Yet, for all the touring CCR was doing at the time, nothing here sounds rote, antiseptic or a toxic combination of both.

If the setlists varied only slightly from tour night to night (and this one only barely diverges from the song sequence on this release's five decade old predecessor as well as the previous summer's famous festival appearance), the same can be said of these takes of "Fortunate Son." At this point, CCR was commercially and creatively rightfully proud of their work in the form of "Bad Moon Rising," and they displayed an eagerness to do it passionate justice on stage for the rabid audience(s) before them. If forty-minutes-plus does not allow for many extended improvisations except for the closing six and half minutes of "Keep On Chooglin,'" that too was a deliberate artistic choice. To concentrate on tight, concise takes put Creedence Clearwater squarely in line with the currency of concert presentation of its time, with emphasis on the musicianly rather than show business terms (today's constant shuffle of material within extended multi-set concerts was barely in its infancy at the time).

Creedence Clearwater Revival thus proffered a faithfully rendered greatest hits collection (and then some), its pithy, unadorned approach a veritable badge of honor. From Stu Cook's arcing bass runs to drummer Doug Clifford's assertive kit action and Tom Fogerty's metronomic rhythm guitar, it is all in keeping with the straightforward country/blues/pop song structure. The latter's sibling John supplies the finishing touches on something like "Proud Mary" with his sharp solos and stirring vocal caterwauling, while his turn on harmonica during on the aforementioned final tune is a respectful nod to roots; its inclusion represents the same implicit homage as inclusion of cover material was explicit, in the form of songs made famous by Leadbelly ("Midnight Special"), Ray Charles ("The Night Time Is The Right Time") and Little Richard ("Good Golly Miss Molly").

By rights, perhaps, this should all sound and look dated. But there's clearly too much commitment—and unabashed glee judging from what the camera work catches around the stage—for that to happen and in that respect, At The Royal Albert Hall thus exists in that preternatural zone of timeless appeal so rare in any genre of music. However, only Creedence Clearwater Revival completists may need this latest concert piece if the aforementioned titles are already in hand: the practical reality nonetheless exists, however, that this title may render its companion pieces obsolete for more than a few collectors and aficionados of the band. There is no denying superior audio quality is a a crucial distinction for a certain demographic, but it is also true that, in a very real way, the antique sonics of the prior releases suit the music and its main influences (plus there is the historical quotient of the August 1969 performance)

As if another viable selling point was actually necessary, the miscellaneous music from "Travelin' Band" might well have been included as a separate compact disc or as an adjunct to At The Royal Albert Hall performance on CD (which times out at around forty-minutes). It is, however, included in a Super Deluxe Edition Box Set, a limited edition, multimedia affair with Blu-Ray and vinyl. The short-term marketing, however, will certainly not resound so deeply as has, for over a half-century now, the raucous drive of Creedence Clearwater Revival that resides at the very heart of this project.

Track Listing

Born On The Bayou; Green River; Tombstone Shadwo; Travelin' Band; Fortunate Son; Commotion; Midnight Special; Bad Moon Rising; Proud Mary; The Night Time Is The Right Time; Good Golly Miss Molly; Keep On Chooglin'.

Personnel

John Fogerty: voice / vocals; Tom Fogerty: guitar; Stu Cook: bass, electric; Doug Clifford: drums; Creedence Clearwater Revival: band/orchestra.

Additional Instrumentation

John Fogerty: lead guitar, harmonica; Tom Fogerty: backing vocals; Stu Cook: backing vocals; Doug Clifford: drums

Album information

Title: At The Royal Albert Hall | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Craft Recordings


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