With 52 tracks and a three-hour-plus running time, Ultimate Creedence Clearwater Revival lives up to its billing. The first and second discs cover the big hits, AOR favorites, and deep tracks, while the third is made up entirely of live material. Nothing here is previously unreleased, though much of the live stuff will surely be new to many casual fans. As far as introductory packages go, this new Concord Music Group compilation is simply outstanding.
The tracks are all mixed up in terms of chronology, but considering CCR didn’t cover much range stylistically over the five-year timespan their albums covered, it doesn’t really matter. Highlights from each of their seven studio albums are spread out over the first two discs. All the obvious tunes are here, including the immortal hit singles “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Green River,” “Down on the Corner,” “Up Around the Bend,” and more. There’s also their full 11-minute cover of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” John Fogerty’s emotionally expansive, yearning ballads “Wrote a Song for Everyone,” “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?,” and possibly his most perfect composition, “Long as I Can See the Light” are all present.
In other words, it’s hard to imagine a more cost-effective, comprehensive way to acquire an instant CCR collection. As many times as anyone who has listened to classic rock radio over the last few decades has heard these classics played to death, Ultimate goes far beyond the standards. Have you heard “Bootleg” or “Porterville” lately? Unless you already own the entire CCR catalog (in which case you won’t need this set), the answer is probably no. Yes, most of the studio cuts are also on the venerable Chronicle compilations. But with Ultimate you’re getting a sonic upgrade, plus a disc of killer live cuts. Most of the live performances are short, punchy, and to the point, but the band stretches out with a nine-minute “Keep on Chooglin’” and a nearly 12-minute “Suzie-Q.”
The tri-fold digipak is simple and attractive, with each disc stored fairly loosely in its own pocket. I’m not generally a fan of sliding CDs in and out of cardboard sleeves, but this packaging is pretty easy to handle. The liner notes booklet is rather annoyingly glued to the packaging, meaning you have to unfold the case every time you want to access it. But the new essay by Alec Palao is a welcome inclusion. For under twenty bucks you get 190 minutes of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Kudos to Concord for such a great deal.