Craft Records Reissues on Vinyl Creedence Clearwater Classics Green River and Willy and The Poorboys

Though you could argue that Bayou Country containing "Proud Mary" and "Born on the Bayou" was a better album, I'm going with Green River as a stronger, more consistent overall album (you remember albums, don't you?), which also had some hits like "Bad Moon Rising" (with it's refrain "there's a bathroom on the right"), "Lodi", which at the time made me wonder why Fogerty was writing about New Jersey and of course the title tune. In retrospect, despite the New Orleans musical setting, much of what Fogerty wrote was about his life growing up in Berkeley, Calfornia. But I digress.

In any case, Fogerty and the group were as hot as a proverbial Tom Port "hot stamper" at this point in their career, having issued three albums in 1969: this one plus the aforementioned Bayou Country and later Willy and the Poor Boys. So these two are at the heart of the catalog.

For our purposes we will skip over Fogerty's unfortunate relationship with Fantasy Records and its then owner Saul Zaentz, which Fogerty memorialized in a song about a pig (though remember the late Zaentz also won 3 Best Picture Academy Awards), but again I digress!

The point is, here are two great American classics reissued by Fantasy's current owner, Concord Music. The original Fantasy releases of albums recorded at Coast Recorders (eponymous debut), RCA, Hollywood (Bayou Country, and Wally Heider's (Green River and Willy and the Poorboys) and all mastered by George Horn were obviously no sonic slouches! If you have clean originals of those pressed on thick vinyl, you are pretty much all set. If you have the Analogue Productions reissues from 2006 cut by Kevin Gray with Steve Hoffman's assistance you too are all set. Is the reissue better than the original? It's a toss up at 33 1/3 but if you have the 45rpm box, that's even better and the prices of those like the bad moon, keep rising.

So how are these two reissues cut by Miles Showell at Abbey Road 1/2 speed from high resolution digital files? First off, the tip on jackets and artwork reproduction are "top shelf". Pressing quality at I think Optimal too is "top shelf". Miles Showell's cutting is also "top shelf" and pays all respects to the original sound and intent.

If you don't have these records and buy the reissues, both of which belong in every collection of Americana rock records, you will be happy. The sound is clean, clear, full-range, with excellent bottom end clarity and transparency, and entirely enjoyable. However if you have clean originals and/or the Analogue Productions reissues, you will admire Showell's work but you will also hear how the digits degrade image focus and in the end, believability. Can't be measured but can be heard! Can be heard and it diminishes the illusion of being in the studio with the musicians. It just does.

It's very similar to what happened to Reference Recordings' reissues cut from high resolution digital at 45rpm. They sound great—until you hear the originals! Like Nojima Plays Liszt. I played both for a crowd at last year's Tampa Audio Show in a big room with spectacular sounding large Von Schweikert speakers. The original produced the impression of a live performance with an actual piano in the room, in startling focus. The one cut from digital totally lost that illusion! In the case of the Reference Recordings, they tell me the tapes are too fragile to use for cutting and I have to believe them.

Is that the case here? Or is Concord's position, "well it's easier and more convenient to digitize at high resolution and Dropbox or WeTransfer the files to Miles rather than shlep the tapes somewhere, or cut them 'at home', and it will sound as good if not better because it's cut 1/2 speed at Abbey Road and Abbey Road has such caché etc.".

I don't know. And if the tapes are too fragile to use for cutting, Concord gets kudos for doing the best possible job with the files because these do sound really good. But if it was done for expediency sake, too bad for us and you because cut from tape, these could definitely sound better and produce the startling "there" that the originals and Analogue Productions reissues deliver that take me by surprise every time I play them and explain why the AP reissues' moon is still rising.

I have no animus towards Concord, though after what I wrote about the company's Sonny Rollins Way Out West debacle, they might think so. I'm supposed to meet with someone from Concord to talk about all of this and to explain that my loyalties are with you the reader, and not with Chad Kassem and Analogue Productions and certainly not with Concord Music! I'd be happy to play all of these records for the Concord peeps. They might conclude that whatever differences there are don't make much if any difference—and probably not to the "average record buyer", but I'm dug in that they do! And I'm dug into this: if the tapes are good and can be used for cutting, use the fucking tapes! And if not, have Miles do it because he does it really, really well as you'll hear if you buy these. And if you do, you will enjoy listening, just don't, no matter what you do, compare them to the AAA versions!

As for the photo, those are 3 versions of the back cover off Green River. One's the original, ones the AP reissue and one's the new one. Which color is correct? I don't know. The original is probably not correct because printing back then was a crap shoot. Today, digital printing and prep produce superior results and greater consistency and accuracy. However, in terms of sound, the claim that digitization is a transparent process remains a lie or at best a misconception.

TommyTunes's picture

These are great sounding albums, I have both the AP set and clean originals. Those would be hard to beat. Michael did you ever hear the Tape Project’s issue of Willie and the Poor Boys. As good as the lp’s are the tape cannot be believed.

Michael Fremer's picture
I’m sure it’s great and if they could dupe it for their tape reissue I assume tape’s in good enough shape..
Jay's picture

I was just thinking the same thing myself. After the Universal debacle record companies may have gained a new appreciation of the value of their master tape libraries, but if the tapes can be played to create a digital master then why can't they create a 1/2" 30ips tape copy at the same time?

jeffrosen's picture

Thanks for your review. I was wondering if I should "triple dip" and buy these yet again. You saved me some dollars.

analogdw's picture

Hear hear! And also ha ha! Well said as always Michael.

richiep's picture

When will they get it, after another FU. Searched for the great AP versions before they disappeared or priced out of site, and have my original Green River we played almost everyday in 1970 along with Are You Experienced at school in the AV room, it still sounds great, who said we were nerds rolling in the 8 mm films for class, if they only knew what freedom we had to do in the auditorium attic!

DietChapstick's picture

If you talk to Concord, maybe you can ask them what they did with the original OJC metalwork from the 80s and 90s (many titles done by George Horn and cut from tape) and why they insist on reissuing OJC records cut from iffy sources and pressed at low-end, iffy plants. Digital glitches have even made it into some of these. Maybe you can also ask them why they are repressing OJC CDs as CD-Rs disguised as real CDs.

Michael Fremer's picture
In fairness to Concord, metal parts don't always get treated by pressing plants with the respect they deserve. They are often scrapped. Crazy, right? Yes. But true.
gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I remember Miles Showell doing an interview and I am sure he stated that half-speed mastering worked better with digital files than with analogue tapes and gaves reasons for it.

James, Dublin, Ireland

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I found the piece, it was an interview Miles Showell did with Michael Fremer...

The greatest variable in all of this is the replay of the master on the tape machine. Just about all of the limitations of analogue cutting from tape are made twice as bad at half-speed. For this reason I firmly believe careful and sympathetic high-resolution digital capture from a well-cared for and customised (i.e. improved) American tape machine will ultimately yield better sounding records which is the sole reason for this series of releases. There is no perfect solution, but I feel by some distance this is the best way to proceed.

The full interview is here...

There was a half-speed boxset of the seven Creedence LPs with a beautiful 84 page booklet released in Europe late 2018. An absolutely beautiful presentation.

Rashers's picture

Manage to cut their vinyl remaster at half speed without going digital. Half speed mastering was relatively common in the vinyl era, so it’s a strange argument.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

Miles Showell is saying that cutting half-speed from a digital file doesn't have as many issues as cutting from tape. Sounds plausible, but as usual the fruit of the pudding is in the eating!

Rashers's picture

getting the message. The recent Craft reissue of John Lee Hookers' "The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker" was AAA remastered by Kevin Gray from the original master tapes. The CCR albums, were, of course released last year as part of the box set. I understand that the forthcoming Chet Baker box set has similar provenance.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

I bought the Miles Showell half-speed mastered 7LP boxset because I got it at a great price. I agree with Michael that in its own right it sounds really good but when compared to originals or the AP reissues it doesn't compete. I am not a lover of half-speed mastering at all, I just liked the quality of the boxset with an 80-page booklet thrown in (had a bit of cash to spare and got a rush of blood to the head) and the sleeves as Michael has said are excellent.

Unfortunately the individual titles Bayou Country and Green River are woefully expensive over this side of the pond. I bought the boxset for €200 but the individual titles are €45 each, multiply that by 7 albums and it is a whopping €315!

James, Dublin, Ireland

jon9091's picture

is even less beneficial than 180gm (or heavier) vinyl IMO.


Showell is a hack. Everything he does is missing the analog sound. The Police album it terrible. Sounds slightly better than a CD. BTW I bought one of the RR records Fremer mentions. They are the worst 45 double LPs made.Sorry but it's true.