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Creedence Clearwater Revival's Cosmo's Factory 50th Anniversary LP Reissue

11-10-2020 | By Tom Gibbs | Issue 112

Craft Recordings continues their 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of Creedence Clearwater Revival with this new LP reissue of their seminal album, Cosmo's Factory. Starting in July 1970, Cosmo's Factory quickly rose to the top of the US Billboard album charts and was propelled to quadruple platinum status in the US alone on the strength of no fewer than three top-ten singles: "Travelin' Band"/"Who'll Stop the Rain" peaked at No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100, "Up Around the Bend"/"Run Through the Jungle" punched its way to  No. 4, and "Lookin' Out My Back Door/Long As I Can See The Light" peaked at No. 2 on the charts. For all practical purposes, double the exposure the album got from those three singles, because the B-sides of the singles all became rock radio classics in their own right. The album is still a staple of classic rock radio, and plays like a veritable greatest hits collection for the band, with virtually every song on the record getting extensive airplay. The album's popularity continues a half-century later, and this new LP reissue pays tribute to what was definitely a high-water mark for the band both creatively and commercially. Cosmo's Factory enjoyed an extended run of nine weeks at the top of the 1970 US album charts, eventually outlasting and outselling The Beatles' swan song album of the same year, Let It Be.

Cosmo's Factory gets its unusual name from the band's drummer, Doug "Cosmo" Clifford, who often referred to the group's Berkeley warehouse practice space as "the factory," mostly because of band leader John Fogerty's insistence that they maintain such a rigorous practice schedule there. Clifford was quoted in a 2013 interview, saying that "John knew the press would be all over us for the album, so he said that he would name the album after me and that I would have to deal with it. He wanted the pressure off of him. It was our biggest album ever and I tell people that they named it after me, so it had to be a hit. That's a joke!" The album debuted to a torrent of critical acclaim, although legendary Bay area rock critic Ralph Gleason had been less effusive in his level of praise for the band in general, having referred to them in the recent past as an excellent example of the "Third Generation of San Francisco rock bands." Implying that they weren't as good as perhaps, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, or Quicksilver Messenger Service. Clearly displayed on the impromptu front cover of Cosmo's Factory is a handwritten cardboard sign that reads "3rd Generation," an obvious poke at Gleason's opinion of the band!

As Cosmo's Factory catapulted into the American rock consciousness, highlights on the album include the usual mix of CCR originals and blues-inflected covers delivered with a surprisingly honest level of emotional intensity. John Fogerty was very much in touch with the burgeoning Bakersfield (California) country music community, and his "Looking Out My Back Door" was a microcosm of that Buck Owens-fueled scene, even giving Buck himself a shout-out in the lyrics. The country was still deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War, and several of the songs here like "Run Through The Jungle," "Travelin' Band," and "Ramble Tamble" have been featured prominently in many movie soundtracks chronicling the period. And dominating the album with its eleven-minute runtime, CCR's bluesy—and slightly acid-drenched—cover of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" is probably only surpassed by Marvin Gaye's classic 1968 Motown version. Arthur Crudup's "My Baby Left Me" is one of the more lively of the four covers delivered by the band here, and despite an effective and soulful rendition, the tune has the distinction of being essentially the only song on the entire album that didn't get extensive airplay, and isn't currently part of the ongoing classic rock radio pantheon.

The source tapes for this Craft Recordings LP come from the 2018 CCR catalog remastering that Fantasy Records undertook in remembrance of the band's 50th anniversary; the master tapes were all transferred to high resolution digital, and then were transported to legendary Abbey Road Studios, where engineer Miles Showell cut them to 180 gram LPs at half-speed. Originally released as a 7-LP boxed set, the individual titles are now being released separately for those without the means or inclination to grab the big box. Cosmo's Factory is getting a bit of an extra push here, being simultaneously released by Craft Recordings as a 180 gram standard black LP and also by Vinyl Me Please as a 180 gram translucent blue vinyl LP. The latter version just showed up as my review copy, and in a muddled sea of LP reissues, it's about as beautiful an LP as one could rightly expect to ever get their hands on. 

So for those likely to create a fuss, the bad news is out in the open: the reissue isn't an AAA, all-analog reissue, as it's sourced from high-resolution (24-bit/192kHz) digital files. I'm basically going to unzip my fly here and make this a bit of a mission statement: does it really, really matter that the LP is sourced from a digital master? In this age of countless LP reissues—many of questionable, or unverifiable provenance—does it really matter that the source is digital versus analog? Especially when the digital files were remastered at such a high level (24/192)—I know this is probably sounding like blasphemy to analog purists, so go grab your pitchforks and torches—but this new remastered Cosmo's Factory from Vinyl Me Please actually blows away my Fantasy original in every key area of playback! Digital has come a very long way in a very short period of time, easily rivaling analog's vaunted "effortless, more organic musical presentation." And digital source files for LP mastering is rapidly becoming the industry standard, so just get over it, people!

After a recent bad experience with another VMP colored vinyl title—the recently released Peanut's Portraits LP (you can read my review HERE)—I wasn't expecting much for Cosmo's Factory either. What a shocker; the LP arrived unscathed, was packaged in a beautiful, heavyweight, glossy tip-on cover, and even came in a rice-paper inner sleeve—does it get any better? The translucent blue LP was absolutely beautiful to hold, with exceptionally glossy and scratch-free surfaces—it's amazing what a nice touch like a rice-paper inner sleeve can do to help preserve the pristine delivery of an expensive reissue like this! Reissues often arrive in stiff paper inner sleeves, are generally injected with tons of static electricity upon insertion into the sleeve, and if they're not scratched silly by the insertion process, they generally get scratched trying to extract the highly staticized LP from the paper sleeve. And get smothered with paper dust in the overall process—a rice-paper sleeve adds maybe $.25 to the overall cost of a premium LP, but it's really shocking how many still arrive in stiff paper sleeves, greatly heightening the chance that they're already damaged, or will be shortly after arrival. The LP didn't require anything other than a dusting from a carbon-fibre brush, and playback was absolutely perfect, with nary a pop or tick throughout the proceedings. This is definitely how it should be!

My listening was done through my usual analog front end, which features a ProJect Classic turntable fitted with a Hana SL moving coil cartridge, with the signal fed into a Musical Surroundings Phonomena II+ phono preamp that's powered by a Michael Yee linear power supply. That signal is then fed into my PrimaLuna EVO 300, EL-34 based tube integrated power amplifier; its signal gets output via my Zu Audio Omen loudspeakers. It's a pretty nifty analog setup, and it offered playback of Cosmo's Factory with consistently thrilling and immediate sound. And definitely caused me to pause and reflect on what a great and well-recorded album this is; even though I don't listen to a ton of CCR these days, it's clear that Cosmo's Factory offers a glimpse of the band at their absolute apex.

Another winning effort from Craft Recordings and Vinyl Me Please; if you're a fan looking to upgrade your vinyl collection, I'd definitely check this new LP release out. The Vinyl Me Please translucent blue version was limited to strictly 750 copies, and is currently listed as completely sold out, but you may be able to track one down online or at your local indie record shop. This is the vinyl reissue game at its very best—and Cosmo's Factory comes very highly recommended.

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Cosmo's Factory (50th Anniversary LP). 180 gram LP: $29.99 MSRP.   

Available from Craft Recordings and Vinyl Me Please.

All photos provided by Craft Recordings and Vinyl Me Please