Creedence Clearwater Revival – 40th Anniversary Reissues (Fantasy, 2008)
(six separate CDs — see below for purchase links)

Okay, first things first — I realize the image above is for the Creedence box that was released a few years ago, which has nothing to do with the new 40th anniversary reissues. But what was I going to do, build one giant image out of all six album covers? That’s just too much work, even for you, my dear friends — and it would look ugly besides.

Anyway, looks aren’t important here; what really matters is how thoroughly Creedence kicks ass, and how these six reissues act as a sort of Voltron of classic rock, coming together to form a yellow-eyed, beer-toting S.O.B. with the meanest fake bayou howl you’ve ever heard and the lead guitar to match. (Of course, if CCR’s catalog is Voltron, then that means Pendulum is Voltron’s ass, but hey, even a yellow-eyed S.O.B. needs to sit on something every once in awhile.)

It’s been an awfully long time coming, but decades of animosity between lead Revivalist John Fogerty and his former (now current) label have finally come to an end. Now that Fogerty doesn’t have to contend with legendary rock & roll anus Saul Zaentz — and now that Fantasy is owned by the deep pockets at the Concord Music Group — the Creedence catalog are being polished off and restored to their rightful place in the label’s crown. CCR seems like it’s been around forever, and many of its songs have been played so many times that they’re taken for granted, but try to wipe your slate clean, take a step back, and goddamn — would you look at that catalog? Six albums, released in under five years, and just filled to the brim with stone cold classics.

Pendulum is the weakest of the lot, unsurprisingly; it’s a snapshot of an exhausted band that’s been through all manner of upheaval — but even that album includes a pair of terrific tracks, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” and “Hey Tonight.” At the other end of the spectrum is Cosmo’s Factory, which is a virtual greatest hits compilation unto itself: “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Up Around the Bend,” “Travelin’ Band,” “Long As I Can See the Light,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” and “Run Through the Jungle” are all here. Kinda makes you feel like you haven’t done shit with your life, doesn’t it?

Each of the albums comes with an assortment of bonus tracks, divided between alternate takes and live tracks; they don’t necessarily correspond to the studio cuts to which they’re appended, and they all fall well short of essential listening, but this is probably one case where the bonus material is genuinely an afterthought for most consumers — the main draw here will be the albums themselves, cleanly remastered and artwork restored, with essays and track annotations thrown in for the bargain. The awe-inspiring Chronicles still gives you the most bang for your buck, but if you consider yourself a Creedence fan, you’re probably going to want to own these, even (especially?) if you already own the old CD versions. Crank up the live version of “Fortunate Son” (download) that comes with Willy and the Poor Boys, then visit the Amazon links below for full reissue information:

Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968)

Bayou Country (1969)

Green River (1969)

Willy and the Poor Boys (1969)

Cosmo’s Factory (1970)

Pendulum (1970)