Lets just jump into the meat of this review because there is no need to explain in great detail the influence of these revered late 1960s recordings by Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). Here we're going to look at new half-speed Abbey Road-made remasters including their self titled debut Creedence Clearwater Revival and sophomore release, Bayou Country.
I will explain however a detail many younger collectors of vinyl records may not know: clean "original" (aka "OG") pressings of CCR albums are very difficult to find for numerous reasons. First and foremost, these records were played a lot as they were primo party records back in the Hippie-driven turn of the decade. So most used copies you find out there in the wilds of record collecting are pretty well worn.
Secondly, Fantasy Records had some issues with quality controls which were, well, out of their control. Like Motown Records, Fantasy -- from everything I've been told over the years from other collectors -- used RCA to press its albums in the late 60s. This was great when RCA was using thick quality vinyl but with the advent of its Dynaflex formulation in the early 1970s, most Fantasy albums from that period are pretty flimsy and often noisy. Late 70s pressings weren't much better due to the oil crisis at the time. Bottom line: it could take you a long time to find that crisp minty "OG" pressing. I know this because to do so it has taken me decades and multiple upgrades over the years. It's just not that easy.
Thenew reissues celebrating the 50th anniversary of the band are welcome as they have been lovingly half-speed mastered by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios in England from high resolution digital transfers off the original analog tapes. There is a nice brief promotional video of Mr. Showell talking about his experience working on these CCR remasters, so if you are interested in checking that out, please click here.
Some nitty gritty details: the vinyl on these remasters is thick, weighing in at 180-grams and feeling pretty much like some of my original pressings weight wise. The color on the label is not quite exactly the same as the original (a sort of deep teal vs. the bright royal blue on the original) but at least the design of it is pretty accurate!
Most importantly it sounds pretty dang great! It took me but a moment of crude A/B comparison to get sense of what the differences were. The new edition has a much brighter high end than the original pressing I have and offers a nicer sense of midranges and low end balance too. You can really feel this when you turn up the volume on your amplifier.
The vinyl is dead quiet which is fabulous to NOT hear because -- again as I mentioned earlier -- Fantasy's albums were frequently quite noisy.
On Bayou Country, I really liked how the acoustic guitar sounds on the song "Bootleg." The ride cymbal on "Keep on Chooglin'"rings more naturally and has some air around it vs. the somewhat boxy feel on the original. All in all the new versions sound bigger delivering more definition to the bass guitar as well.
The first eponymously titled album, Creedence Clearwater Revival, sounds fuller and punchier than my original pressing. This is especially noticeable on tracks like the swampy groove jam, "Suzie Q."
These are nice reissues. If you've been frustrated with your search for original pressings or simply want to hear these recordings in higher fidelity than you may have heard in the past, these Half Speed Mastered Abbey Road editions may be just what you need.
As I was going to press on this review I noticed that all of the Creedence Clearwater Revival albums can be found on Tidal in MQA "Master" quality format (streaming at 96 kHz, 24-bit resolution). I haven't spent any significant time with these streams but a quick taste leads me to believe they sound quite good. I noticed a fair amount of tape hiss, which I view as a positive thing as it indicates, at minimum, that these versions may not have been messed around with too much. Whether the streams are better than the vinyl presentation, I can't comment on that at this point. But for now, its good to know they are up there for those of you interested in hearing this music in the digital domain (click here to jump to the Complete Studio Albums boxed set version).
Keep on chooglin', y'all...