Doug Clifford achieved fame as the drummer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, a band he put together with his friends Stu Cook, John Fogerty and the late Tom Fogerty. They were in junior high school when they started playing and achieved worldwide success after signing with Fantasy Records in 1967. Although best known as a drummer, Clifford sang harmony vocals and contributed songs to the Creedence catalogue. He’s been singing, writing songs and making music for as long as he can remember.
After a lifetime on the road – five years with Creedence and 25 years with Creedence Clearwater Revisited – a band he put together with bassist Stu Cook to play tunes from the Creedence catalogue – he’s ready to make his mark as a singer and songwriter. He’ll be releasing Magic Window, a solo album he recorded in 1985 and updated in 2020 on April 24, 2020 via CD Baby and all streaming platforms.
Clifford wrote the songs sitting at the piano in his Lake Tahoe, Nevada home. During his downtime, he’d gaze out at the lake and mountains and write, sometimes alone, sometimes with collaborators. “I had an analog studio with a good tape deck, so I could try out ideas without looking at the clock. I’d invite friends in to jam and experiment. I made Magic Window with Russell DaShiell on lead guitar. He’s also a good engineer and co-produced the sessions with me. I was going to use it to look for a record deal, but I got busy with other projects and forgot about it.”
Some of those projects included producing albums for Doug Sahm of the Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornados, playing in Steve Miller’s band and then joining Stu Cook to play Creedence hits as Creedence Clearwater Revisited in 1995. That group performed worldwide for 25 years, amassing many fans and crossing multiple generations to bring the wonderful CCR hits to people. They also released a Platinum certified live hits album. After putting Revisited to rest, Clifford was cleaning out his garage last year and found the tapes for Magic Window. “I’d forgotten about these tapes, but they were in great shape. We were able to transfer them to digital and warm things up. I discovered more than 100 songs.”
Clifford continues, “Music’s always been a medicine and a meditation for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m down or up. It works both ways. We’ve seen some trying times in the last few years and we can all use some love and magic. I put my heart and soul into the positive messages on this album. This is a good time to share them with the world.”
The songs on Magic Window took shape organically, over several years. When it was time to record, Clifford invited three friends to his home studio for the freewheeling sessions. Russell DaShiell played lead and rhythm guitars, synthesizer and sang harmonies. Chris Solberg contributed bass and keyboards and Rob Polomsky added rhythm guitar to several tracks. Says Clifford, “I grew up in the years rock was evolving. Blues, rockabilly, country, rhythm and blues and folk music were all around me, so I don’t think about genre when I’m writing. I think about groove; the songs all evolved from the groove.”
The first single “Just Another Girl” features dreamy synth laying the foundation for the power ballad which features an R&B rhythm, poetic lyrics and an ardent vocal from Clifford. The b-side of the single is a more up tempo track, “Born on the South Side” which finds Clifford laying down a Southern Rock, eighth note beat to remind people of his roots. Solberg’s syncopated bass line and DaShiell’s inventive fills compliment Clifford’s sturdy lead vocals. “You Mean So Much To Me” is a delicate ballad, with synthesizer accents, subtle guitar work and an inventive drum pattern that accents Clifford’s heartfelt singing. Other outstanding tracks include “Don’t Let Go,” a celebration of rock’n’roll with a killer hook, and the pure pop of “Don’t Leave Me Alone Tonight.”
People may be surprised by the power and presence of Clifford’s lead vocals, but he’s been singing most of his life. “I don’t like to sing and play drums at the same time. The singing gets in the way of moving around the way I like to. Before I made this record, I worked on my vocals. When we recorded, I played drums and talked through the tracks. Once we had all the instruments and overdubs done, I sang. I processed the vocals a bit, ‘cause it was the 80s and very contemporary at the time. The same with the synth toms I used, but I stayed true to the ethos of my background and kept things sparse. If a note is added, it has to have the same value as the notes that surround it. When you don’t jam too many notes in there, it creates tension, and that keeps people listening.”