George Starostin's Reviews

CREAM

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Introduction

<Quarrymn@aol.com> (23.03.2000)

What the hell do have against Zepplin anyway. I just finished reading your litte story on Cream. Now, I love Cream, I think they are great. But, what was the constant bashing of Zepplin in this story of CREAM! Its like you are out to prove to the world that they are better(and while I do think Zepplin is better by a tad) that doesnt matter. Who cares who invented HARD rock first all that matters is those hard rock bands were( by the most part) great. Just stick to what you have to say about the band or artist you are reviewing and maybe you will enjoy life a little more....ey?....!

collins.invercargill <collins.invercargill@xtra.co.nz> (26.07.2000)

Put yourself back to 1967. You're 17, the local radio plays the Hollies,Beatles, Sandi Shaw which does nothing for you. Then one day instead of all that tinny brit pop comes 'I Feel Free', 'Hey Joe', 'White Rabbit','Arnold Lane'.. your pimples dissapear. your voice deepens. Out of all the great music that came out during the late 60's the Cream had probably the biggest impact on me. I loved their poppier bits because it was different, Disraeli Gears helped lead me to San Fransico and the Airplane,Dead, Country Joe(Electric Music for the Mind and Body,there's a great period piece) Moby Grape etc,but best of all their use of blues in their extended live sets took me on a journey throug Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf to Robert Johnson,Son House right back to Charlie Patton, Ma Rainie and Blind Lemon Jefferson. I still think that Cream's version of 'Crossroads' is the best guitar work that Clapton ever did where he plays with a passion that has rarely surfaced since.There are times when i hate Ginger Baker for introducing the drum solo, the worst part of that legacy sitting through 20 odd minutes of 'Moby Dick' live at Earls Court in 1975. I have all the Cream albums including what I think is an Australasian only compilation called heavy Cream which is a sort of best  of double set. But for the real Cream enthusiast the best deal around right now is the four cd set Those Were the Days which combines all their studio work including some outakes along with 2 cd's of live work. In some parts of the universe this set sells for the price of 2 normal cds which makes it one of the box set bargains. There's even a web site devoted to it http://www.penrithcity.nsw.gov.au/usrpages/Pat/cream/thosewere.htm for those who want more info.

Like all the best things that happen Cream were a classic case of the right people,ideas and time and the fact that people still want to listen to them after 30 years and are still being influenced by them says enough. I just wish i could get back to '67 and experience again that blast the first time i heard them on the radio.

Morten Felgenhauer <Morten.Felgenhauer@kvaerner.com> (15.01.2001)

I can't understand why people don't like Jack Bruce's singing voice. The were a rock'n'roll band after all and Jack's purpose here in life was not to perform Schubert's lieder. I think the way he sings those songs cannot be improved upon, with that power and stinging vibrato. Clapton was at this point a bit insecure of his singing and his charming vocal spots and harmonies in Cream cannot be compared to his forceful singing on Layla, some years later. Their virtousity is undeniable, although I prefer it in destilled form, as in "Crossroads". Musically they did very much of lasting value in the short span of time they were together and an investment of their complete works should be considered for all aspiring rockers.

Glenn Wiener <glennjwiener@hotmail.com> (17.06.2001)

Undoubtedly one of the most influential bands from the late sixties. These guys were among the first guys to record extensive instrumental jams on record. Whereas Clapton, Bruce, and Baker were all talented musicians in Cream, a lot of their jamming bordered on excess. In addition, much of their music had a limited flavor. How often can you play heavy rock blues cranked up to maximum volume? Eric Clapton heard the Bandís Music From Big Pink LP and heard all sorts of special keyboard sounds and colorings. He then endured some more excessive bickering between Bruce and Baker and had enough. None the less, in the two years or so that this band was together, they left an imprint on rock n roll that can never be denied.

brosmello <brosmello@earthlink.net> (13.02.2002)

Couldn't we use a little Cream these days? Some catchy pop like "I Feel Free" or "Take It Back"; the hook-filled, nonsensical lyrics of "SWLBR"; the power riff of "Sunshine of Your Love"; or maybe the jaw-dropping wah-wah licks of "White Room"; or better yet, an honest-to-goodness live performance like "Crossroads". Yes, in a day and age when music SUCKS big time, when nothing is remotely memorable (George, it's even worse now than in the '80s!!!), there are still these gems from 30+ years ago (!) that can brighten our day.

I'm not a fan of any one band in particular, I'm only a fan of good songs, and Cream had a good deal of those. Funny, isn't it? 99.9% of the so-called "supergroups" don't live up to the hype, but as far as I know this is the only "supergroup" that lived up to that hype and surpassed it. As a matter of fact (and this is only my humble opinion), these guys were third behind the Beatles and the Stones, and just a bit ahead of the Who (as far as British pop-craftsmanship is concerned), during that incredible time of 1966-68. Pity they lasted such a short time...

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (07.03.2002)

Cream is the ultimate story of dashed success...the first power trio, one who would, in their performance ferocity, inspire heavy metal itself, these trois musicians were a time bomb of forceful sound on their first release and onstage during their 1966-68 stage performances. Unfortunately, the band would pattern all supergroups to come by gradually breaking up because of growing tension between talented, solo-worthy members. But during their career, the remarkable Clapton (the greatest guitarist of all time, hands down, next to protégée Bill Nelson), who could've just as easily made it on his own and eventually did, group mastermind Jack Bruce (a highly underrated performer and songwriter), and drummer extraordinaire (except when going off on his skins) Ginger Baker played together with such unpredictable cohesion and harmony, the results were pure magic. It's a testament to the boys' abilities that live sides have been more plentifully released since their breakup; in the studio, they made one classic jazz-blues album (Fresh Cream, yep), one good album marred by some overblown psychedelic moments (Disraeli Gears, yep again), one ambitious cosmic rock piece of difficult-to-tolerate mediocrity (Wheels of Fire, yep once more), and a terrible palette of leftovers in light of the breakup that's best left untouched (Goodbye Cream...hell, it doesn't even deserve a "yep"). So enjoy, to an extent...I didn't quite. I'd give these guys a band rating of 3 if I could issue those, but I'm just a lowly commentator...

Pete Schlenker <peteschl@yahoo.com> (07.08.2002)

Before I start ripping people's opinions outright, let me preface this by saying that I absolutely love Cream. I started buying CDs, gosh, 12 years ago, and Best of Cream was the 2nd CD I got after Led Zeppelin's IV. And I loved those discs when I was in junior high, and I got back into Cream when I first started college, but I never really had the urge to get into solo Clapton that much, with a few notable exceptions. I agree with a statement somewhere here that Jack Bruce was the glue that held Cream together, and it is his quality bass work combined with Ginger Baker's effort (I think his solo career consisted of doing drugs... he was pretty messed up for a long time) on the drums, along with Clapton's guitar that made Cream great; it wasn't just a "Clapton and Company" group, it was a group of musical equals.

Now, let the ripping begin.

Clapton, IMHO, was not "the best guitar player ever", in fact, I think EVERYTHING he has done post Cream to be musically inferior to it (with the possible exception of Layla, and the great solo there is ALL Duane Allman anyway), and while I dig Clapton Unplugged a *lot*, it's no Disraeli Gears. Heck, it's not even no Goodbye. I can name, off the top of my head, at least 10 other guitar players who's skill and ability (not to mention style) top Clapton: Zappa, Hendrix, Santana, Fripp, Duane Allman, Mark Knoffler (yes, you read that, I think that Mark Knoffler is a better guitar player than Clapton-- they've been basically playing the same music for the past 15 years, and MK's sounds better, dammit), Stevie Ray Vaughn (the only person I've ever heard cover Hendrix well), Jimmy Page, Alex Lifeson of Rush (let the flames begin folks, let them begin) and David Gilmore of Pink Floyd. And I'm not even getting into blues or jazz guitarists, but BB King, Howlin' Wolf, Albert King, Buddy Guy, etc were all better *blues* guitarists than Clapton (Mick Taylor wasn't half bad either, but then he joined the Stones and got worse), and Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, John McLaughlin, etc are all better at what they do than Clapton is at what he does. George, you state (approxmatley, lemme see if I smell you on this) that Clapton plays with more emotion than most/ any guitar player. I can't disagree more, unless he is in "boredom" mode from the early 70s on.

And think about it. I once heard Clapton called the 2nd biggest waste of talent in rock n roll after Billy Joel. And while I'm not here to discuss the merits of his body of work, I agree that Clapton is not all what he appears to be cracked up to be. He is a good, but not great, guitar player. And the reason why I rate people like David Glimore and Alex Lifeson above him, is because they have seemed to get better, or maintain consistency, over the length of their careers. Clapton, after Cream, got bad. I can't stand most of his solo stuff, in part because it got rather lyrically mind-numbingly insipid ('Wonderful Tonight' grates my nerves something fierce), but also his solo work drags. Slowhand just never takes off. So why am I rambling on about Clapton here in the Cream section, instead of bouncing my way over to the solo Clapton page? Well, to make a point. If Cream had stayed together, or if Clapton had surrounded himself with other equally talented musicians, he would have made himself into a fierce rock guitar player, instead of a average rock guitarist, and an average blues guitarist. Cream was a jam oriented rock band that played rock versions of blues tunes ('Crossroads', for example, is not NEARLY as fast and as "barnburning" in the original Robert Johnson version, as it is when Cream covers it) and played them well. But no, after Layla, the creative juices sapped out of Clapton, and he made mediocre record after mediocre record, never again coming close to touching the talent that he displayed for these few years. And who am I to begrudge him that? He played less challenging material, and became a pop star.

A couple side notes for you Clapton fans, as you've probably already started sending the flames my way.

- The London Howlin Wolf sessions has Howlin' Wolf singing, with Clapton playing guitar and the rhythm section of the Stones (Watts and Wyman). Great disc.

- No, I can't remember which rock critic slammed Clapton as such, but I remember reading it in a book somewhere, in a used book store in Ann Arbor, Michigan. No I don't remember anything about the book, and yes, I doubt the book is still there (I actually think the store might be gone, for all I know).

Let the ripping begin.

George Starostin (07.08.2002)

May I please begin the ripping myself? Pleeeaaase?

Okay, to be serious. I've heard all these arguments spoken many many times before - nothing here comes on as a surprise to me, and yes, I've heard them many times before writing the Cream and Clapton pages. Now let me first reiterate what I already stated on the solo Clapton page: I don't consider Eric a great or even good songwriter (he's had his little share of excellent songs but so has almost everybody else). Nor is he a great lyricist, nor is he - in his solo career - a fabulous experimental music-maker. Where he stands out is exclusively in the guitar playing medium.

Now the other thing that might have escaped somebody is that my main emphasis is on Clapton's live playing. Since his return from heroin heaven in 1974, his studio recordings have all been intentionally modest on guitar playing - he doesn't "let rip" too often. That said, "flashy" playing isn't everything, and I sincerely get much more pleasure of Eric's playing in the studio than of, say, Alex Lifeson's playing. Just because Lifeson "rocks" and is more intent on stunning the listener with his technicality does not make him a better guitarist - in fact, he hasn't done more interesting things with his guitar in his Rush career than Clapton did in his solo one. He's a great "note-waster" as well. I see Peter complaining about how Clapton is not a 'fierce' rock guitar player - well let's see, how much more "fierce" rock guitar players do we need? Eric made a legitimate choice in 1974 - he did not want to be a 'fierce rock guitar player', he wanted to be a laid-back rock guitar player. What's wrong with that?

Next - Eric's live playing. To truly appreciate the man's greatness, I say one needs to hear Derek & The Dominos Live At The Fillmore, E.C. Was Here, Just One Night, From The Cradle (mostly recorded live-in-the-studio) and maybe visit one of his concerts. After sitting through all these albums and a live show, any complaints about Clapton not being "fierce" ought to be going out of the window. Maybe his latest studio records suck ass (Pilgrim, yuck), but I actually saw the man doing 'River Of Tears' live and I've never heard anybody being more "fierce" on the guitar.

All the guitarists that Peter mentions out there are among the best of all time, for sure. But most of them rely on special, particular gimmicky styles of their own to be that good. Santana has his wild mind-blowing arpeggios; Fripp has his array of colourful guitar tones; Vaughan has his Hendrix-imitating technique; Gilmore has his "heavenly high distortion" thing (aka "dentistry"). What has always amazed me about Clapton is that the man plays with no frills whatsoever. He doesn't have a unique playing style that could be pigeonholed and immediately recognized - yes, from a technical standpoint he plays "generic blues". But somehow he has managed to play "generic blues" all these years and still be the uncrowned king of guitar playing in the rock world. How is this possible? Either there's a lot of brainwashing going on (which is way too naive a theory to suggest) or he simply has more soul and feeling in his music than anybody else, and he's able to express it without resorting to any sort of devices or peculiar techniques. So what if his material is less 'challenging'? If 'more challenging' equals 'better', I guess we have to name Henry Cow as the best rock band of all time. I don't consider him "best" for being 'challenging'; I consider him "best" for being able to shatter my emotional barriers more than any other guitar player in the world.

Brian Sittinger <bsitting@mail.math.ucsb.edu> (03.09.2002)

One of my favorite rock bands of all time, perhaps the best psychedelic band ever (sorry Jimi; The Doors are in a category all their own). Not coincidentally, The Best of Cream (btw, an excellent intro to the band, covering all their 'essential' songs, minus "Dance the Night Away") was the first CD I ever bought.

This may have been the first band with all band members being accomplished players. From this point on, professsionalism would come become more and more important, peaking with progressive rock, and taking a nosedive somewhere around disco and punk (In fact, one may argue Cream was a huge influence on prog (musicianship, experimentation, lyrics...), but we'll save that for another time.) Also, they were among the first to make jams (for better or worse) fashionable. For me, this is where Eric Clapton's guitar 'worship' is firmly grounded; it would be a trickier case to argue this on solely his post- Cream work, though he has definitely had his moments.

Unfortunately, they only released three albums (excluding Goodbye), all of which were solid. I'm kind of torn if this was a good thing or not. Perhaps, it was, seeing that they could have severely tarnished their legacy by releasing tons of music...

Steve Potocin <epoggi@cox.net> (18.12.2002)

First I'd like to refer to the 2nd readers comment, from Collins. First of all, Beatles, Hollies, SANDIE SHAW??? Hey, how about Cream, Airplane, and Merrilee Rush& the Turnabouts! I thought you were going to redeem yourself when you mentioned San Fran, but instead of CCR & Sly, it's Airplane, Country Joe, etc, etc, zzzzzz. The songs you site 'I Feel Free', 'Hey Joe', 'White Rabbit', and 'Arnold Layne' all have one thing in common: they are all catchy pop songs, inferior to the singles being released by The Beatles & Hollies during 67- 68 period. Now that that is off my chest, I like Cream! Badge, [naturally] 'White Room, Strange Brew', 'Crossroads', everybody knows em. For a Rock, Blues band they had good songs, and that along with their superb playing even has a jangle, melody, harmony freak like me digging their records!

<MaadMatt@aol.com> (22.03.2003)

What do Jack Bruce and cheap coffee have in common?

They're both really bad without Cream!! hahahahahaha! :P

<SpaceClown@aol.com> (15.06.2003)

When I first saw that you gave Cream a rating of 4, while giving both Led Zeppelin and Steely Dan a rating of only 3, I decided that one day I would write you a flame (a low-burning flame, mind you, because I generally respect your judgment) and say ... "George, you're seriously giving Cream four stars? Are you a dumbass? Get real, this is a THREE star band."

Then I thought to myself that it's been awhile since I really listened to any Cream. I was big on Cream in my teens, because Clapton was one of the biggest rock and roll heroes of my youth, maybe even THE biggest for a while back there ... ever since I heard his cover of "I Shot the Sheriff" when I was 8, I've been hooked. But that was then, and as I grew older I sort of wandered away from Clapton's stuff, Cream included, for other (not always better) pastures. In my early and mid 20s, I would hear something like "I'm So Glad" or "Strange Brew" on the radio, and roll my eyes and turn the dial to find something more 70's sounding ... you know, like "Dream On", ha ha. Anyway, after reading your Cream reviews and seeing how much you praised them, I picked up a 19-song Cream hits CD (The Very Best Of Cream ... not the old album with the vegetable drawings on the cover, this one is fairly new) and took another good long listen to their music. And after playing it several times, I went back and changed my flame to ... "George, you're seriously giving Cream four stars? Are you a dumbass? Get real, this is a FIVE star band!!!"

Heh heh. Forgive me my indulgence, George. I don't really want to flame you, at least not for Cream anyway (as for your all too low rating for Frank Zappa ... well, that's another matter). I only included that would-be flame up there to emphasize the positive effect your site has had on me. Your reviews of Cream compelled me to actually start listening to Cream again, really LISTENING to them, rather than just playing them as background music on the radio. And you're right, they were truly a phenomenal band, and during their all too short career, they did some INCREDIBLE things with the blues. In short, they did what Willie Brown said at the end of that movie "Crossroads" (named after the Robert Johnson song, and later the Cream cover, of the same name) ... Willie Brown (who, in the movie, is meant to be the "poor Willie Brown" that Robert Johnson mentions in the song) says something like "You have to take the music beyond where you found it."

Whenever I remember this line, I tend to think of Cream. They took the music WAY beyond where they found it, crossing the rudiments of Delta blues with everything from bubbly 60's pop to protofunk to full-fledged acid rock and beyond ... rarely losing touch with the actual essence of the blues, as so many others have over the years. Before Led Zep ripped off the old blues masters and added a raw metallic edge that sometimes sounded out of place and tacky ... before Hendrix twisted the blues into an acid-drenched feedback-shrieking freakout, as he often did ... before all that, we had Cream, and they were already light years ahead of the pack. Not to knock Led Zep or Hendrix ... in my book, Led Zep and Hendrix both get the same overall rating as Cream (four stars at least, and possibly five). But when it comes to successfully fusing hard rock with the blues and turning the resultant product into GOOD SONGS, I believe that Cream pretty much deserves first prize. Notice that I didn't say Clapton ... I said Cream. Clapton is a phenomenal guitarist, a true virtuoso of the blues, and his solo stuff - at least the stuff he did in the 70s - is pretty good overall, but who are we kidding ... his solo career never came close to his all-too-brief stint in Cream, which was his absolute highpoint as an artist, whether or not the man is comfortable admitting it nowadays.

--- Hey, a brief aside : speaking of present-day Clapton, have you that single from his new release Reptile? At age 8, I though both reptiles (especially dinosaurs) and Eric Clapton were very cool, and it was awesome to see my old idol (a dinosaur himself now, so to speak) finally coming out with a recording named Reptile after all these years (for me, it's like a wacky sort of déjà vu or something). So I'm thinking - Wow, awesome! Then I heard the first single off of it. I still don't know what the song is actually called ... something about "do you believe in blah blah blah" I think ... the experience was too harrowing for me to remember exact details (think "horrible auto accident flashback" if you know what I mean). It's so fucking BEYOND elevator music that any elevator it was played in would probably snap its own cables and plunge to destruction to spare itself the sheer embarrassment of this sonic shit-missile. Calling the thing "pedestrian" would be too kind a compliment for it. Thinking "this is the same man I idolized as a kid" while you listen to it is a little like your immortal soul getting a flaming case of hemorrhoids. Pardon the image ... I just can't say it any other way. I want to take a baseball bat to the radio every time I hear half a picosecond of it. Everyone makes mistakes, and I still respect Clapton a great deal, but if he keeps churning out these musical equivalents of an enema backwash, I think he's going to lose a lot of his old school fans. That ultra-lethargic acoustic version of "Layla" he tossed out was damning enough. ---

But I was talking about Cream. Sorry, I lose myself sometimes. Okay then, Cream. Well, Cream is definitely one band I wish had stayed together for ten more years. If The Yardbirds could evolve into a rock-n-roll monster like Led Zeppelin (it's true ... Jimmy Page originally called Led Zep "The New Yardbirds"), just think what Cream might have become in the madhouse atmosphere the 1970s ... boggles the mind, don't it? Then again, we could just as well say "What if Jimi hadn't taken those barbiturates?" or "What if Mama Cass had grabbed for a yogurt instead of slamming down a ham sandwich?" So I guess it's pointless to speculate. Still, you gotta wonder

This has already gotten too long, and I probably haven't said half of what I wanted to say about Cream. So I guess I'll save the rest for the album reviews, if I ever get my lazy ass around to writing some. I'll end this review with something that I think is quite important about Cream, and a strong point in their favor -- out of all the hard rock giants, they were overall a very GOOD influence. Led Zeppelin was a great band but (as you already pointed out, George) they were a horrible influence, inspiring maybe a handful of good bands among a teeming hoard of brain-dead forgettables. The same can be said of Deep Purple and especially Black Sabbath, among numerous others. Good bands, baaaad influences. But Cream, emerging as they did in the mid-60s, inspired a lot of these aforementioned good bands, and came out at just the right time to spark rock music into a sudden and startling evolution. I've reached the conclusion that without Eric, Jack, and Ginger, 70s rock music would never have really happened ... or at best, would have happened entirely differently. And I just wanted to thank you again for reminding me how vital and important and essential their music is, George. I must have been suffering from minor dementia there for a while to have forgotten this fact. Maybe all that grunge I used to listen to in the 90s fried a few of my synapses, or something :)

Keith Dalgleish <Keith.Dalgleish@snh.gov.uk> (16.07.2003)

Mate.... get of the fucking Cream trip! Have a listen to Wheels of Fire and tell me its brilliant!! QMS Happy Trails at least tries to create its own sound. Disraeli Gears better than Hendrix -ha - you've got no soul my friend. Away and join Clapton at his golf club or something. Get a new job (and try listening to some music played not played by right wing, white boys)

Jay Freer <jwfreer@bellsouth.net> (09.05.2006)

I'm an old fart - 46 years young. I still think Cream is the best music I've ever heard from the 60s. Your comments on the albums are interesting and mostly well thought out - lucid. What I think you miss is the soul of these three artists. You are right on that they are like a three headed hydra at times - but to me there is no more perfect example of them playing at their height, than their live version of Crossroads from Wheels of Fire. The way that Clapton switches from rhythm to lead and back is outrageous and each lead gets better and better - focused - no wandering - there's a laser clarity to how the three of them played this particular track. And Jack Bruce takes up the rhythm section when Clapton switches to lead - seamlessly I might add - and Ginger's drums round out the wall of sound that never seems to fade. This is an astounding performance, and I would defy contemporary musicians to play with such artistry.

I didn't quite know what to think of the reunion, but there are performances from the concert that blow my mind. Jack Bruce once had an astounding voice, and given his health issues lately, he sounded remarkable to me. I listen repeatedly to all of Cream's music - I think the We're Going Wrong (a very weak studio recording) is powerful beyond description. There is a longing and a haunting quality to Bruce's singing and Clapton plays so well. People used to write that this song was Bruce recognizing that Cream was breaking up - he says that isn't the case at all - it's a song he wrote while walking around thinking about love. It is my favorite cut - BUT Sleepy Time is great, Rollin and Tumblin is tight and fun, NSU is refreshing in it's optimism and youthful energy (wish I could have seen them perform this when they were younger), Sweet Wine and Stormy Monday are great - and Deserted Cities of the Heart rounds out the best. I was less impressed with the known "hits" because they lacked the punch energy-wise. I can't quite tell if this is my expectation of them playing more youthfully or just disappointed in the performance in general - I write a few years later about this after I've had some time with them. Odd to me that the songs I love on the recording are the lesser songs of Cream.

For me, there will never be another great band like Cream for me. There recordings are fascinating to listen to - really listen to - listening to the individual instruments, the way the three fight each other while at the same time creating a type of music that was unique and distinctive. A Great Band. I wish they had recorded the MSG concerts - I hear they played even better there - along with Tales of Brave Ulysses.

Tagbo Munonyedi <grimtraveller@hotmail.com> (09.05.2006)

At the start of this year, I taped a "classic albums " programme here on auntie Beeb ( the BBC ) on Cream's " Disraeli Gears ", one of the psychedelic surprizes of '67 ( remember this phrase ) and it was brilliant. In it Bruce, Baker and Clapton, along with Pete Brown { one of the great lyricists and acid casualties who, thankfully, made it back to earth and normality } and connected associates of the times gave their recollections of the making of the album and the genesis of the songs. It's a shame Felix Pappalardi wasn't around ( he was hugely influencial in their development in the studio ), but one can't have everything { or everyone }. I always set the video to run 5 minutes or so extra in case a programme starts / finishes late and in this case, I got about 15 minutes of this Cream re - union gig at the Royal Albert Hall from last summer. I couldn't usually be bothered with gigs on TV { always better to be there, I feel } but the sheer ferocity, emotion and skill of their playing on just one song { I'M SO GLAD } was phenomenal. I also remember in either the late 80s or early 90s seeing this documentary on Eric Clapton and in one section he gets together with Jack Bruce and they jam together and a caption came up underneath that said " they haven't rehearsed these and they are playing together for the first time in 20 years ". Those two examples sum up Cream for me.

It's funny, at the time of their break up, lack of a definite direction was cited as the main reason for the split, that is, no one within the group could decide exactly what sort of band they actually were. With the benefit of some serious hindsight, I would say that is why they were so influencial and why they made such innovative and lasting music. Sometimes, searching for a direction makes you more musically open than when you actually have a firm direction ( it was that way, for example, with Pink Floyd ). I think at the time of their inception, when asked what sort of band it was, Bruce said they'd play what he referred to as " sweet and sour rock'n'roll " and Clapton interrupted and said he was thinking of something along the lines of old blues guitarist Buddy Guy's trio. If there was ever an argument for the benefits of creative confusion, Cream are it. In later years, Bruce half jokingly said " Cream was a jazz band, we just didn't tell Eric ! ". I say half jokingly, because that was a mightilly accurate summation of Cream that few have seemed to genuinely consider. As well as being the first really significant heavy rock signpost { heavy rock wasn't an invented music, but an evolved one, beginning in 1964 IMHO with fuzzy guitar elements found in the Stones' version of I WANNA BE YOUR MAN, the Kinks' YOU REALLY GOT ME and the Nashville Teens' TOBACCO ROAD }, they were also probably the first band ( or certainly one of them ) that could be accurately termed " jazz - rock ". Not one of the posts mentioned the centrality of jazz to Cream's music and usually, other than remarking that Baker and Bruce came from jazz backgrounds, it's not something one associates with Cream. As a lover of jazz and it's hybrid children { particularly jazz rock, or 'fusion' as it is more commonly referred to }, I have to say that, certainly in their live guise, Cream were a jazz band too. Everything about them oozes jazz and a listen to LIVE CREAM VOLS 1 & 2 more than confirms this. Jazz with electricity. ( Though to some extent Hendrix was an improvisor and by extension, a jazzer too, Noel Redding was not - a crucial difference in the two bands, live ). Remember, though these were posthumous albums, the actual recordings came about before the end of '68 and it is absolutely no coincidence that jazz rock took off big style from '69 on. The Fourth Way could also lay claim to have been the first actual jazz rock aggregation to make a record in what went on to be seen as jazz rock fusion - all the players were already established jazz players ( their THE SUN AND MOON HAVE COME TOGETHER was released in '68 - a good year before John McLaughlin's EXTRAPOLATION, Miles Davis' IN A SILENT WAY and Lifetime's EMERGENCY which are generally accepted as the first fusion recordings) but Cream put a different spin on it in that they took the loud guitars and bass and played improvisational games like few could imagine. And theirs weren't like the other groups like the Who, for instance. When Cream went off on their instrumental trips, it wasn't a case of the bass player doubling the riff and keeping the rhythm while the lead guitarist was the star who did the real improvising { with good splashes here and there from the drummer }. For all the brilliance and creativity of the Who and the Jimi Hendrix experience { and by golly they were fantastic }, neither band fired and constantly created ON EACH INSTRUMENT ( !!! ) through a song in such a consistent way when they played live. Many call it self indulgent but most jazz has to be. I don't mind self indulgence as long as it makes for good music. I mean, Cream didn't release TWO VIRGINS or LIFE WITH THE LIONS ! Their stuff was nearly always attractive although it does take getting used to. Jack Bruce sang beautifully but always gives the impression that it's just a prelude to the real stuff of the night and he took ( I believe ) a cue from John Entwistle in doing things with the bass that no Brit was doing at the time. He helped to liberate the bass from being a standard background noise to a lead instrument - but one that created counter melodies rather than just chord outlines. But Bruce took this several thousand miles further and somehow, managed to play melodic, powerful, riffing, rhythmic, propelling lead and rhythm bass, often simultaneously. And it was never so abstract that you couldn't follow it, nor did his playing ever pull you away from the song, yet it's often a feature in itself. It must've seriously fazed Ginger at first coz he had endlessly criticized him for being " too busy " in his playing when they were with Grahm Bond. But he soon learned to play with him and in turn, developed a pretty busy, poly - rhythmic way of playing that was unheard of in rock. Even Keith Moon wasn't doing it THAT way. It was unheard of in rock coz it was more of a jazz trip.That's why everyone thought he was such a fantastic drummer ( and between him and Ringo, you got psychedelic drumming, which led to progressive rock drumming - but that's another story for another time ). And back to the jazz thing for a minute, it's also no coincidence that one of fusion's foremost architechts, John McLaughlin, played with Baker and Bruce in the Bond Organisation, or that between the end of '64 and '67, amplification improved a hundredfold and the development of new guitar tones { even before Hendrix } was one of rock's most exciting signs of progression. So much was going on at this time and Cream, in their influentially shambolic way, tapped into all this and were one of the period's foremost representatives. Oh yeah, and the drugs. The drugs played a significant part in tying certainly Bruce and Clapton to the musical mores of the psychedelic era and Bruce's sojourn with Manfred Mann hadn't done his pop sensibilities any harm either. The drugs played their part with Clapton, acid and ganja mellowing him out and opening him up and making him a little more pliable, less the inflexible blues purist. Don't forget, a year before Cream, he'd left the Yardbirds for making a commercial pop single which was like selling your daughter to a pimp, for him{ such a purist was he that he refused to play on it, which is to be admired in some ways }.

I've focused on the jazzier side of their sound, background and influence because the rock, pop, blues and psychedelia has been well covered by George and many of the reviewers on this page. That's also why I referred to their second album as a psychedelic surprize. Jazz played a largely uncredited role in the psychedelic era. But when all is said and done, few of us like bands coz of who they influenced or who they were better than or how big they were or the memories they evoke. We like them coz of their music, their songs. The context can be important from an interest point of view and I love history, but it's only as important as each person wants it to be. It's the music that lives on. What they've done musically since '68 is of less interest to me though I have seen Eric live { he was good but an evening of blues.....nope, find me a volcano to jump down ! } and half followed Jack for a bit { when he played in Lifetime with McLaughlin, Larry Young and Tony Williams, they were immense, but never fulfilled their promise - he's on their LP TURN IT OVER } and I half heartedly see what they're up to from time to time. I can understand why it must be irritating to someone to keep going on about a particular point in their life, but hey, that's what 'impact' does. And Cream were a band that made one heck of an impact.


ALBUMS 
FRESH CREAM

Fredrik Tydal <f_tydal@hotmail.com> (03.09.2000)

I know a lot of people love this album, but I just don't get it. A rather mediocre debut and certainly no sign of what to come. First, I don't care much for "I Feel Free" - rather clumsy and rambling, if you ask me. "Spoonful" pales in comparison to Howlin' Wolf's menacing original. It has no edge. I don't mean to be a purist, but Jack's not just the right man to do such a number. I guess "Rollin' And Tumblin'" is all right, but why revisit such an old blues standard once more? That's perhaps one of the reasons why I appreciate their nice take on Robert Johnson's "Four Until Late", not one of the most covered songs in Johnson's small catalogue. "I'm So Glad" shows what gentlemen the Cream guys were, in the sense that they credit it to Skip James, who's most commonly associated with it but didn't really write it since it's an old standard. They probably thought the old bluesman needed the royalties. See there, some white boys paying tribute to the old masters in more ways than one. As for "Toad"; well, at least it's just five minutes... I'd give this one a six out of ten.

mello <brosmello@earthlink.net> (31.12.2000)

Yeah, this is a half-baked affair. You can almost hear their manager, Robert Stigwood, in the background saying, "...let's make a Beatlesque album, and do it NOW to get you on tour".  I do agree with your observation, that the guitar solos seem out of place in the context of the songs (especially on 'NSU'), but I think that gives the songs an interesting charm that I'm sure was not their intent. Also, the energy levels are pretty uneven, unlike Disraeli Gears. The high points on the album are 'NSU', 'Sweet Wine', 'Spoonful', 'I'm So Glad', and 'Rollin and Tumblin'.  But the fillers are either pretty bad or lack energy; 'Dreaming' is an abomination; you can hear Baker and Bruce yawning on 'Sleepy Time Time'and 'Four Until Late'; and 'Toad' is just that, a filler, and set a bad precedent for the future (unintended, I'm sure!). The whole album sounds like a rush job, and you can tell that Cream hadn't yet jelled as a group...

Glenn Wiener <glennjwiener@hotmail.com> (17.06.2001)

Thought I submitted some commentary on this site on this lp but I donít see it now. Maybe it was Prindleís site. None the less, this lp has some very good numbers and some throw aways. Truthfully 'Four Until Late' is one of the stronger tracks with an easygoing shuffle. Eric Claptonís vocals suit my ears and the harp solo is pretty cool too. 'Dreaming' is a nice divergence from the heavy rock elsewhere on this record. And itís short enough that it does not offend. 'Sweet Wine' has a killer guitar solo as does 'Sleepy Time Time' even if the later lacks some good lyrics. 'N.S.U.' is pretty captivating as well. The weaknesses start with 'Cats Squirrel' and 'Toad'. Both are overdone jams. 'Iím So Glad' has some limited musical ideas. Your rating is pretty fair as there are some good musical ideas but better things would come next.

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (07.03.2002)

A surprisingly good album for the inconsistent band, considering the usually surpassing acclaim the Disraeli Gears/Wheels of Fire twosome have always gained. But in actuality, Fresh Cream really truly lives up to its title, featuring the dynamic new band injecting some real performance fire into great jazz and blues standards (before ridiculous psychedelic tendencies and self-indulgence would render them stale). "I Feel Free" is a stunningly perfect (arrangement/production/playing-wise) introductory recording, which makes up for the highly inferior other originals (the hilariously stupid "N.S.U." the only exception). The "Spoonful" cover is a classic performance, with a delightfully bluesy vocal performance by the usually underrated Jack Bruce, "Sleepy Time Time" and "Dreamin'" are carried effectively by the band's instrumental prowess, and "Rollin' and Tumblin'" is the most effective example of Cream's oft-recognized pioneering of heavy metal--just listen to that wicked, redundant guitar riff, nearly banal, muddy vocal yelping, and furious cymbal crashing! Besides the tossoff originals like "Sweet Wine" (ick), only weak, repetitive jams like "Cat's Squirrel" and "Toad" (Ginger Baked shut up please) bring the album down somewhat. It's really Cream's best record overall. A high 8 for it.

Brian Sittinger <bsitting@mail.math.ucsb.edu> (03.09.2002)

A rather deceptive debut, especially if you know them mostly for their prime Disraeli Gears/Wheels of Fire material. (Well, Eric Clapton's guitar tones and maybe "I Feel Free" pave the way to the future!) They more or less stick to standard pop/blues for mat through most of the songs. One thing that isn't mentioned too much is the group's harmonies; they actually work together quite well, especially on "I Feel Free" (also a great lead-in to the rest of the record). Sometimes, the songwriting can be a bit iffy, but the band's masterful playing saves the day (see "I'm So Glad" for proof of this; they don't say much more than the title!) "N.S.U." is my other favorite from this album (anyone, what is the title short for?). 8(12), as none of the songs are bad at all; better things were to follow.

Pat Shipp <perfectpitch@sbcglobal.net> (13.12.2003)

I can't believe that you didn't mention "Sleepy Time Time", George, being the Clapton fan that you are. This is an outstanding blues tune. Here, Clapton delivers the most beautiful, exquisite guitar licks that I've ever heard him play. Some of those phrases are enough to make my heart ache with pain and tears drip from my eyes. It's amazing.

And I also can't believe that you didn't go into more detail about "Rollin' And Tumblin'", HANDS DOWN the best song on the album. The sheer amount of balls and energy completely blows away any other blues/rock band. I tell you, no other band had the guts to jam like that in 1966. The Beatles? The Stones? Forget about it. They both sound like babies when compared to this monster of a song. Jack rips out a breath-taking harmonica solo, and Baker pounds on his drums with such ferocity that it sounds like a freight train crushing everything in it's path. You almost begin to wonder if they passed out from exhaustion when the song was over.

The other songs are great too, of course. I consider "Spoonful" to be horrendously overrated, however, but still a decent jam. "I Feel Free" and "Four Until Late" are nothing special. However, I adore "Cat's Squirrel", it's an awesome instrumental. When the harmonica and guitar play that riff simultaneously, I'm in Heaven. "Dreaming" is a splendid little love song. "Sweet Wine" has some of the most vicious Clapton soloing on the album, and "N.S.U." is spectacular. "I'm So Glad" is alright, but it gets very monotonous after a while. And "Toad" is excellent. Baker wallops those drums in such a way that leaves you mesmerized. If you ask me, only Ian Paice from Deep Purple can rival him.

<Spreznib@aol.com> (27.11.2005)

The guy who said he hadn't heard hard rock harmonica until this album - and everyone who agrees with him - has GOT to look up Little Walter's older stuff - before Elvis let go of his mommy's apron strings, Little Walter was playing ROCK - it's just that it was played to blues chord progressions by black men. Distorted guitar, distorted harmonica, all the aggro you'd want in dance music, kickbutt drumming - it's all there, in 1952.


DISRAELI GEARS

John McFerrin <stoo@imsa.edu> (21.10.99)

Ok ... I gave it many, many more listens, and finally decided that you're right. It is a damn good album. I'm not sure I would give it a 14 on your scale, but a 13 would be fine. It's not that any of the tracks are bad, persay, but a couple of them ('We're Going Wrong', 'Outside Woman Blues') don't really do anything for me. Still, 'Sunshine of Your Love', 'Dance the Night Away', 'SWLABR', and 'Tales of Brave Ulysses' are all classics, and enough by themselves to give it a 10

jemster <jemster@ix.netcom.com> (12.11.99)

Actually, this is only half true. The first, what, seven tracks are all right. 'Strange Brew' is a perfect album starter, a modest electric classic, and probably the most Clapton-solo-sounding on the album. 'Sunshine' is a real classic--duh!--even some children I know can sing the refrain without even knowing where they heard it! A great song. Then of course, we've got the psychos. Just like the far more psychedelic "Passing the Time" and "As You Said", "Dance the Night Away" and "World of Pain" (I know I've got 'em reversed) are considered the worst on the album. Actually, I love these. 'World' is beautiful, and 'Dance' is pure Axis-era Hendrix (I hated that album, too). Two classics, again.

What's wrong with Baker's "Blue Condition"? He sounds like he can sing, it's beautiful and bluesy and melodic, and so why is this song bad? For Pete's sake, it's definitely a classic.

Of course, no excess Cream (Hey! That sounds funny!) can match the sheer raw energy and zaniness as on the selections on Strange Brew: The Very Best Of Cream. That album introduced me to real rock'n'roll, and, to an extent, Electric British Blues. Back before that, all I was listening to was Billy Joel and Elton John (speaking of which, where's that 1-star Joel page of yours? I happen to think he at least deserves a 2)! Anyway, "SWLABR" is the best of those. It means nothing, and it is so raw, you can't even hear a stupid echo! That is power! Plus, they perfectly mingled it with the whole psycho thing on the absolute best song, "Ulysses". Need I say more? No!

OK, then it gets bad. I know what "We're Going Wrong" is about, but it absolutely sucks. The music part is about as bad as, what, "Pressed Rat and Warthog", but even that had great lyrics! I HATE that stupid falsetto voice singin' the same thing over and over again. Heck, I even memorized it! Now if I could just remember how many times it was repeated.

The there's "Outside Woman Blues". Let's see, how did that go again? I'm orry, I just tend to forget songs that are meaningless or unmemorable. Not bad, just meaningless and unmemorable. MEANINGLESS AND UNMEMORABLE!!!

"Take it Back" is nice, but it's still just a Fresh Crream jazz days leftover. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Wouldn't have been a good closer, either. Shame.

'Mother's Lament'. HA!!!!!!

Overall, this is sure a great album, maybe even worth a 9. Those first seven songs shoulda been released on their own. Save the others for Wheels of Fire.

Fredrik Tydal <f_tydal@hotmail.com> (05.03.2000)

Right on, George. This is a truly great album and certainly measures up to all those other incredible records of 1967. My favourite track has to be "Dance The Night Away", just one of those songs you've never heard before. And there's so many other outstanding songs; "Strange Brew", "Sunshine Of Your Love", "World Of Pain", "Tales Of Brave Ulysses", "Swlabr", "Outside Woman Blues" (I actually like that one)... Hmmm, almost the whole album. Ah, well; this is essential stuff to any record collection.

<FoxCurator@aol.com> (05.07.2000)

'Strange Brew' was actually sung by Eric Clapton, and not by Jack Bruce.

Paul Stadden <paul@stadden.com> (07.10.2000)

Oh, man, you could not be more right. This album was a gem, something that I believe to be the peak of these musicians' talents. Yes, Clapton would go on to be in Derick and the Dominoes (I can't stand Layla), Jack Bruce would do many a project with people like Cozy Powell and other musicains that were in everybody's band at one time or another, and Ginger Baker would start a solo career and finally get to be the ringleader, but Disreali Gears was the pinacle. The ultimate in psychodelic music.

<nicholas.green@NTL.com> (14.10.2000)

rather perplexed that you find Cream psychedelic and in any way 'out there'. bar the cover of said second lp, I would describe this record as about as far out as the New Vaudeville Band, and though it is still nevertheless a fine album, I find it pretty much a pop record.

Brian Adkins <badkins@mail.calltech.com> (13.12.2000)

I just wanted to give some justice to 'Outside Women Blues' since everyone pretty much agrees with me on the other songs. This was my favorite tune when I first heard the album and it still is after probably close to 100 listens. The lyric are good real life kinda things. If you lose your money great GOD dont lose your mind and if you lose your woman please dont fool with mine (pure brilliance, brings a smile to my face every time). Claptons riff is awesome here in my opinion and Bakers drumming gets me bangin my head every time he gives that triple threat to the bass drum. Adjust your balance completely to the right and you tell me this isnt a good drum beat. I dont think Bruces bass is anything spectacular here but hey he cant be better than good all the time. Well thats all I wanted to say so you people stop acting like you dont love a great song.

mello <brosmello@earthlink.net> (01.01.2001)

I'm not ashamed to admit that I enjoy this album much more than Sgt. Pepper's. Unlike Fresh Cream, this is a consistent album all the way through, the sound of all instruments is sharp and powerful, and the whole disc crackles with energy. Even the weakest song, 'Blue Condition', is catchy enough to overcome Baker's weak vocals. I'm sure that even Eric Clapton was surprised that his bluesy runs and fills worked so well in what essentially is a pop album.  Listen to the guitar fills in 'SWALBR'...how does he make just a few notes roar with so much power (and it's not just the volume)? At first hearing, 'We Are Going Wrong' sounds shrill, but (vocals aside) after a few times you appreciate the way it builds tension. 'Take It Back' is what 'Four Until Late' in Fresh Cream tried to be, a hell of a catchy tune, in which Baker, Clapton, and Bruce actually had fun. A lot of people don't seem to like 'Outside Woman's Blues', but the bluesy riffs are memorable and understated, making it a 'cool' song. 'World of Pain' is outstanding, as is 'Dance the Night Away'.

The whole album was able to overcome Cream's main weakness, vocals, with great, solid songs, and unlike their debut album, Cream sounded confident and tight. Clapton was in top form, going beyond his blues shell. This album was finished before Sgt. Pepper's, but Cream's record company released it at the end of '67, and by that time its impact was greatly diminished. Nevertheless, this is a must on anyone's collection of great rock/pop albums...

David Lyons <d.t.lyons@btinternet.com> (07.01.2001)

Now, don't get me wrong but...

Odd, isn't it, how many of my comments start thusly? Maybe you could insert it automatically for me, to save my typing fingers. Perhaps it's my drive to make it to the leaderboard and it's resultant effect of leading me to comment on bands we agree on (I just *have* to find something discordant to say - I'd get sick of just typing 'oh, absolutely bang on with the review there, George old fellow'). Either way, even with Cream and, more particularly, Disraeli Gears, there is always a but, even if it be a small one.

And that but is, I hear very few people call. Well, is it just me, or do some of the songs sound a teensy bit, well, similar? In context, not such a bad thing as there is nothing wrong with being similar to a great tune (because that makes it a nearly great tune by definition), but even so it's irksome on track 5 or 7 (or possibly 6, I forget - the perils of CD's, just numbers on a LCD as opposed to sitting by the turntable feverishly clutching the album sleeve) when I keep wanting to spontaneously sung 'Sunshine Of Your Love' around about chorus time because it sounds so infernally similar. A bit like trying to hum the theme to Superman - you always end up with Star Wars instead.

Anyway, that said, it's still a fine album, by a fine band. In fact, the highest compliment I can pay to them is that if I suspend disbelief for just a moment, I can pretend that it isn't Eric Clapton I'm hearing (from a myriad of artistic insults, I choose 'The Hawker' from the celluloid version of 'Tommy' to condemn him to eternal hellfire for).

Kevin Baker <bakerspread@computron.net> (14.03.2001)

This is what flower power music is all about, baby! Disraeli Gears is as indicative of 1967 as Saturday Night Fever is of 1978. But what's better, the music on it kicks butt! My favorite has always been, and will likely always be 'Sunshine Of Your Love'. What a riff. WHAT A RIFF!!!!!!! Everyone knows that riff. I have a friend who doesn't even listen to secular music who knows that riff. That's saying something. Best song of 1967 as far as I'm concerned, and '67 was a really good year for music. But most of the other songs are far-out as well. 'Tales Of Brave Ulysses' is fantastic, with enough psychedelic imagery to go around. 'SWLABR' is another personal favorite of mine. The guitar makes the song, plain and simple. I don't care for 'Blue Condition' much; Ginger Baker's voice just gets on my nerves. I do, however like 'We're Going Wrong' and 'Outside Woman Blues'. Why, I don't know. That's the mystery of this album; I like most of the stuff, but I don't know WHY. Sure, the guitar tone is cool and Clapton is (duh) a great guitarist, but Jeff Beck's a good guitarist too and I dislike much of his music. There is a certain magic about this album. And that's all I have to say about it.

Billy Williams <konner3@yahoo.com> (19.05.2001)

I agree with you, George, this is a superb album, and arguably the pinnacle of Clapton's. "Sunshine Of Your Love" is a classic. "Strange Brew," "Dance The Night Away," "World Of Pain," and "Tales Of Brave Ulysses" are all memorable. I also like the much-maligned "Outside Women Blues." I don't get why people hate this song. It's got a good riff and is very catchy. The low point on Gears is "We're Going wrong." I can't stand this damn track. It's so boring and plodding. In my opinion this is the best LP of '67.

Glenn Wiener <glennjwiener@hotmail.com> (17.06.2001)

A true all time classic. Eleven great tracks. Not a single weak spot. I like 'Blue Condition' in spite of Ginger Bakerís limited vocals and simple chord structure. The woman tone of Eric Clapton is in full force and Jack Bruce gives us some fine vocals particularly on 'Weíre Going Wrong'. However Bruce DOES NOT sing 'Strange Brew'. This is clearly Ericís voice. Just compare it to any Eric Clapton solo song and you will see the voice is the same. None the less, this record is universally a work of art.

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (07.03.2002)

Damn overrated. Unfortunately, the talented Cream that demonstrated promise on their assured debut Fresh Cream succumbed to muddy psychedelia on this record, and that sadly warrants an imperfect release. Somewhat on the contrary to George's opening statement, I don't think there ever really was an authentically good "psychedelic" album, and so far, my hopes for so-classified LPs like Butterfly, Between the Buttons, and Revolver have been sadly dashed when looked at from a critical standpoint. (Wait--is Are You Experienced? a psychedelic album? The Velvet Underground and Nico? Sgt. goddamn Pepper's?). Anyway, this album's trippier tendencies give birth to such idiotic anthems as "Sunshine of Your Love" (when recognizing this classic riff, some should also acknowledge how dumb it sounds played over and over in a song--once again, Cream give rise to heavy metal!), wishy-washy dreck like "Blue Condition" and "Dance the Night Away", and lesser, but still annoyingly acid-drenched, offenses like "Tales of Brave Ulysses"--actually, I like that last one (and the tiny purple fishes, yeah) because of that invigorating wah-wah part handled so wonderfully by Clapton. But the true gold comes in the form of the blues numbers--blues, of course, being a genre all three members were experts in. "Strange Brew" is a frigging excellent slice of plugged in boogie, and "Outside Woman Blues", "Take it Back", and the straight-rocker "SWLABR" are quite well-done (and, although it's not blues and pure psychedelia, I like "World of Pain", too--quite nice production on that one). All in all, a weaker album than it's predecessor, but I have to acknowledge that, for a psychedelic album, it has some absolutely great moments. A low 8.

How about Freak Out? Is that psychedelic?

Brian Sittinger <bsitting@mail.math.ucsb.edu> (03.09.2002)

What a jump form the debut! This is how I know and love Cream. Eric Clapton's guitar tones have become even more intersting, and he has discovered the wah- wah (!). Not to emphasize that this album screams psychedelic; from the album cover to the guitars themselves to even decipherable lyrics ("Sylabr").

This is all fine and dandy, but what about the songs themselves? Only two tracks, really don't do it for me one bit; "Blue Condition" due to Ginger Baker's singing, and "Mother's Lament" primarily since it's mainly a throwaway (though a bit amusing). Everything else more or less rules, having one killer riff after another! "Strange Brew" is fundamentally blues, but with crazy lyrics and a cool guitar tone. "Sunshine of Your Love" features one of the most well-known riffs in rock (esp. for guitar players; even I learned to play this one!). "Dance the Night Away" is a rather forgotten gem, your assessment on it is right on; probably my 2nd or 3rd favorite here. "Tales of Brave Ulysses" features the first brandishing of the wah-wah. Finally, I like the sorrowful atmosphere to "We're Going Wrong". Ginger Baker really propels this song along. An EASY 10(14)!!

Alexis von Sydow <eddi.vonsydow@swipnet.se> (15.09.2002)

Nice little psycho-excourse. All of these songs have something to offer. Examples: "Sunshine": Well, that riff is sure recognizable. "SWLABR": I sense the roots of hard rock here. Cool drumming. "We're Going Wrong": Actually my least favourite here, but Baker sounds like Keith Moon in concert (well, not quite, but you get my drift), and that is always (always? okay, not always, but here it actually fits) a good thing. "Mother's Lament": Okay, I know that one's a joke, but it's a damn good joke. It's so good a joke that I almost laugh my head off everytime I hear it. They sound like Monty Python. A 14 is a suitable rating. Cream's best. All songs are good.

Nick Vesey <nickvesey@comcast.net> (22.10.2002)

I'll only listen to this album about once every two months these days, due to my over-listening to it the last couple years. And thats really a shame, to have burned myself out on such an album! I love the atmosphere of the Gears, the music perfectly reflected by the cover... while it isn't as hullucinogenic as what was being put out by Pink Floyd or Arthur Brown at the time, the music definitly could be the score to a day-glo world with clocks, flowers, splashes of color and vibrant rays of light. These days my favorites have to be 'Strange Brew', 'World Of Pain' and 'SWLABR', but they're all great. I used to be bothered by 'Blue Condition' too, but I've gotten to appreciate it with time. I actually once had a friend who was truly addicted to the song, and would play it dozens of times in a row. Imagine that, heheh...

Jaime Vargas Sanchez <jaivarsa@hotmail.com> (26.04.2003)

Hmmm, I see a little controversy about who sings in "Sunshine of your love".pay a closer attention: it's a duet!!! On each three-line verse, Bruce sings the first and third lines, and Clapton the second one, and they do the chorus in harmony; and they repeat the alternating voices thing in the last chorus.

Charlie Neil <chn@lanl.gov> (04.12.2003)

Eleven. For example, "'Twas naught but an skelington covered wif skin". Now that's lyrics.

Guilherme Nettesheim <deyeomeedeez@yahoo.com> (01.02.2004)

How is "Tales of Brave Ulysses" psychedelic? Isn't it based on Homer's "The Odyssey" were Ulysses is Odysseus' Latin name?

Brian Adkins <Brian.Adkins@Enerwise.com> (20.02.2004)

It was not easy to stand-out in 1967, which is my favorite year of music, but this album did and still does. Just the fact that The Doors, Pink Floyd and Hendrix all released their debut albums in this year says quite a bit. That's without going into what The Who, Beatles, Stones and numerous other talented bands were doing.  Is it the production of the album (drums in left ear, rhythm in right and all else swirling in the middle), is it Clapton's adorable "wah-wah" guitar, is it Baker slamming his drum set, is it Bruce's incredible base, is it the combination of everything, who knows? The only downfall for me is the lyric. Some I just don't understand ('Brave Ulysses') and some simply show that they didn't put a whole lotta thought into them ('Blue Condition'). Maybe they were too busy perfecting the instrumentation and atmosphere and kind of forgot about the lyric? Anyway, it is a great album that seems to offer something new with each listen. My newest discovery is in the left speaker on track 11. When you listen to it in headphones, it sounds like they're singing the lyric with their mouths pointed down the drain that the baby went down and you get this echoic sound going on, give it a listen, it's pretty "cool".

As far as the previous comment of "How is "Tales of Brave Ulysses" psychedelic?"................have you bothered listening to the song or do you just struggle understanding what makes a song "psychedelic"?

Justin Yates <motogpboy@gmail.com> (18.10.2005)

I can't stand it when everyone puts down "We're Going Wrong". I may sound crazy but I think it's the best song on the album. Not only is the chord progression extremely catchy, but Clapton's blues solo in the latter part of the song is one of his best in my opinion. He makes the guitar sing, no, he makes it cry. No it's not as complex as some of his other guitar work, but I think it's one of the best written


WHEELS OF FIRE

Freek van Ee <vanee.mdijk@consunet.nl> (12.06.99)

Why does everybody keep calling the lyrics to 'Pressed Rat and Warthog' on Cream's Wheels Of Fire album "goofy"? Am I the only person alive who instead thinks they contain some lovely surreal imagery that combines with the song's medieval atmosphere to create a contrast to the rest of the album, making it more than a "filler"? Apart from that, I think the whole thing is just bloody hilarious - like 'Mother's Lament' which I believe to have been intended as "goofy" and which I therefore see as highly succesful in its purpose. You can't have been serious when you said it had "groovy lyrics"; I mean, come on, it's a folklore thingy, you know, part of the ancient cultural heritage, wossname, a... Oh never mind...

Nick Karn <glassmoondt@yahoo.com> (15.10.99)

I agree with the 7 - this collection is indeed a pretty patchy affair. It's too bad I haven't heard anything else from this band to compare it to (particularly Disraeli Gears)... The riff-based songs "White Room" and "Politician" are definitely phenomenal, with a whole lot of instrumental life to 'em, while I actually love "Passing The Time" - how it rocks out convincingly and then all of a sudden gets really nice, "As You Said" (great ballad) and "Pressed Rat And Warthog" - it is dumb, but there's some kind of charm to it in a corny way that I find highly enjoyable, and the surreal backing music makes it somewhat more than a novelty tune. I find the blues covers uninspiring and generic, while the rest of the tunes on record one are just really good, not amazing. I would give it an 8 were it not for the live half, but unfortunately it does exist. I don't mind "Crossroads" of course, as it really showcases Clapton's talents without being long, but the other three are too awful and endless to put into words!! So I feel like giving it a 7 is a gift because of it, but hey, the studio album is great, you don't have to listen to the live one, do you?

Valentin Katz <Valka324@home.com> (31.12.99)

I think the problem with all the people that look at your website and yourself is that you guys only appreciate pop songs. When in reality pop songs gave birth to great classic rock. Pop was ok in the '50's and early 60's when rock 'n roll was just beginning, but it has definately evolutionized and that is my problem with modern music. Its not evolving at all, just rehashing itself over and over again into stupid pop songs. When I read from you and your reviewers about the terrible live album, it truly makes my blood boil because obviously you have good musical taste to listen to Cream. But the essense of music is jamming!!! The improvisation during live performances is the heart and soul of music. Isn't that your biggest problem with Pink Floyd that their live concerts just recreate the studio work? Those live songs are truly incredible and that is exactly what I'm looking for when I listen to live stuff. The emotion, the improvisation of the greatest guitarist of all time and one of the most revolutionary bands of all time. Its common knowledge, when they broke up, rock died! Hendrix was on the verge of death, Zeppelin was ushering in the heavy metal hair era (not that this is bad!). If you enjoy pop music, listen to some "Better than Ezra" or "Smashing Pumpkins" who just produce pop single after pop single, but keep your reviews off an incredible bands performance.

mello <brosmello@earthlink.net> (03.01.2001)

This album is an interesting premise (studio and live cuts) that, unfortunately, doesn't work. There are just too many fillers ('Passing The Time', 'As You Said', 'Pressed Rat & Warthog', and 'Those Were the Days'), and the live cuts (aside from 'Crossroads') are just way too long! Instead of a double record, this could have worked much better as a single disc, but I'm just guessing that Robert Stigwood and Atlantic Records wanted to milk the success of Disraeli Gears to the max, no matter how tired or demoralized the members of the band felt at the time. Still, in the best cuts, Cream managed to live up to their reputation and instrumental prowess: listen to the final verse of 'White Room' and Clapton's wah-wah lines, which are even better then the solo before the fade. Very few guitar players have approached Clapton's taste and originality when it comes to using the wah-wah pedal. 'Deserted Cities of the Heart' is a great, dark song, and has excellent acoustic guitar work from Bruce. But listen to Clapton's heavily vibratoed solo; it's extremely melodic, almost like another mini-song within the song structure; this guy is too much! In 'Crossroads', aside from Clapton's legendary final solo, note Bruce's bass work, where he is playing another lead, yet doesn't obstruct Clapton's runs. I agree with you, 'Politician' has a great riff, and 'Sitting on Top of the World' and 'Born Under a Bad Sign' are good, solid rock interpretations of blues tunes. All in all, this record is a pretty uneven effort, and after the triumph of Disraeli Gears, a letdown for such a talented group. And why did management and the record company go for such a ghastly, psychedelic cover when the 'psychedelic' movement had already run its course?

<stray_toasters@juno.com> (27.01.2001)

Forget the whole album, I'm just gonna talk about 'White Room'. Calling this the ultimate song would be inane, but it is surely a contender. There's that almost operatic intro that reprises itself twice, at two-and-a-quarter and once more at three-and-a-half minutes. And that isn't orchestration or studio gimmickry or anything...that's just the band, right?! Wow. That onslaught of guitar and bass and drumming, leaping all over each other, just grabs me and throws me from left to right, it does. Then there's that dreary, yet uplifting bubbly "cosmic" sound that comes on when Jack Bruce sings the chorus, "I sleep in this place where the sun never shines", which I can only assume is Eric Clapton's guitar. It is, isn't it? And while that goes on, Ginger's drums just thump and thump and Jack's bass just chops and chops, further throwing me to the other side, of, well, wherever the 'ell I am, only for Eric's first guitar wah-wah to stop me dead in my tracks as I awe at...well...how they do it all again one more time. But they could've done it for ten-minutes, for all I care. They should've made this their 'When The Music's Over'. This song is really bi-polar in resonance. The music sounds uplifting on the surface, but it creates this sorrowful atmosphere. The lyrics sure help. They don't sound pretentious...well okay, they do, but it's justified pretentiousness. They're not dead unhumorously serious like Yes, but they're not all jolly-good-unserious-humor like Genesis. They don't keep me in a middle-road, they throw me from one side to the other, while bouncing me up and down. The wah-wah solo at 3:13 is a good example: they take me to heaven, then jab me at the back of my neck to remind me that I could fall at any moment. Talk about post-orgasm depression. Also, I love Jack's singing. I wouldn't say it's for amateurs. Sure, he sounds like he owes Bob Dylan one, but it's a beautiful voice in it's own right.

Funny thing is, I never appreciated 'White Room' in full when I heard it on the radio. Only when I began listening to it on Wheels of Fire did I marvel at its sheer beauty and complexity. Of course, the radio just wants me to consume the song and then move on to the next bit of fodder. Isn't that like watching a slideshow of Renaissance-era paintings?

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (07.03.2002)

Ooh...quite a disappointment. Well, we should've known that eventually, Cream would topple under their ambitions, although it's a plus that the band was finally commited to vinyl playing live, which was their noted forte (as we all know). The studio side has some great tunes--"White Room" is the best Bruce/Brown chestnut yet, and "Born Under a Bad Sign" and "Sitting On Top of the World" are classic blues covers--but most of these suffer from production that's either too raw, or ridiculously over the top. Meanwhile, all of the following are absolutely terrible pieces of music: "Passing the Time", "As You Said" (to a lesser extent, actually), "Pressed Rat and Warthog" (what the hell?), "Politician" (Cream inspires blunderous heavy metal again), and "Those Were the Days". And "We're Going Wrong"--that's on Disraeli, but I forgot to put it in my comment for that record...er...anyway, the live record is interestingly divided. "Crossroads" is concise, and a nice Clapton spotlight, and "Spoonful" is certainly one of the best jams the group ever came up with, but the other side is just pointless--"Traintime" doesn't have any Clapton...it has Bruce, but he's on harmonica...this is barely even a Cream jam. Why put 7 minutes of it on a Cream record?!! And "Toad", once again, gives us more Ginger Baker then we'd ever need to survive. This is the rockiest Cream would ever get--at least, until the next album. A middling 6.

Brian Sittinger <bsitting@mail.math.ucsb.edu> (03.09.2002)

They still have that psychedelic vibe going (another interesting album cover!). This time, Cream is further experimenting in the studios: eastern influences/rising falling climaxes ("Passing the Time"- yeh!), violins and acoustic guitar ("As You Said"- yikes!, "Deserted Cities of the Heart"-yeh!), and trumpets (the bizarre yet somewhat amusing "Pressed Rat and Warthog"), and funk ("Politican", good riff!). As for the rest, "White Room" is a well- deserved wah-wah masterpiece, "Those Were the Days" is a very catchy 'pop' song (another good riff), and "Born Under a Bad Sign" and "Sitting on Top of the World" are more blues-based songs, with more great solos from Clapton. (Boy, am I starting to sound redundant!)

As for the live stuff, "Crossroads" is easily the best out of the bunch, with Clapton really shredding. The others are goos enough, if not a bit wearisome, ESPECIALLY "Toad". All and all, a 9(12) [(9.5 + 8)/2] overall.

RAUL VALENCIANO <raulvalenciano77@hotmail.com> (13.12.2002)

I have to admit that I used to think of Wheels of Fire as an Lp which deserves the same consideration as Disraeli Gears. Although it´s gone down a little bit in my steem, I nevertheless think it´s still a great effort to keep the same sucessful line they achieved with their previous album. 'White Room' is absolutely amazing, with a superb work of Clapton on guitar ( his use of wha wha is terrific); 'Sitting on Top of the World' is a generic average blues which does not seem so great to me, though it´s always nice to hear Mr Slowhand playing blues. 'Passing the Time' creates a perfect contrast between the nursery style beginning and the psyquedelic "Kick-ass" middle section, which blows you away just to end where as it started. I Don´t get what´s wrong with "Pressed Rat...". I actually find the instrumental work very interesting. It´s worthwhile listening to it on your earphones in order to apreciate the fantastic rythm section. Bruce´s goes up and down his bass fretches like mad, and Baker almost never repeats the same beating of his drumkit, and the beat is far more complicated than it seems at first listen. 'Those Were the Days' has a very nice catchy melody, and 'Deserted Cities' just make me tremble everytime I listen to it. Bruce is a bass god. Surely he´s no Enwistle, but he comes close to the Ox ( though both styles are different ). As for B side, I think 'Traintime' is the only filler here. Bruce is no John Mayall, and harmonica is clearly not his forte, though the song is "listenable" ( something that many fillers lack ). 'Spoonful' epitomizes the kind of stuff the group used to play on stage, and it´s far superior to the studio version, and I agree "Toad" may seem to be too long, but hey!! It´s Ginger Baker playing in here!! He ( unlike Keith Moon ) can make a solo ( though I still prefer Moon´s approach to drums, more erratic but riskiest and innovative, if you know what I mean ), and it´s not more boring than "Moby Dick" ( which is a sort of rip-off of the former, with the same "guitar riff intro- drum solo -guitar riff ending structure ), though less known.

Mike Healy <shadesbelow@yahoo.com> (31.05.2003)

One slightly forgotten touch to this album is that when it was originally released, the outer album cover was printed on thin silver foil, on which the graphics looked a lot more convincing. It really made your eyes hurt when contrasted to the bright fluorescent eyes in the gatefold inside when you opened it up! These copies are very hard to find in decent shape these days without spending way too much for it.

Pat Shipp <perfectpitch@sbcglobal.net> (16.12.2003)

I couldn't disagree with you more about this live version of "Spoonful". How can you call Eric's solo 'mind-numbing'? Sure, some parts of it are kind of trite, but overall, it's truly breath-taking. And when it approaches the 12-minute mark (approximately 11:40), Eric brings it to an UNBELIEVABLE climax, unleashing an orgasmic tidal wave of notes that just twists your insides in a knot. Why nobody ever mentions this is a mystery that I'll never understand.

And then, of course, there's "Crossroads". No 10-minute solo here, Eric just gets straight to the point (although I still prefer the solo on "Spoonful" because of that glorious climax). This is one of the few radio classics that ISN'T overrated. 

Personally, I don't wanna hear another person ramble on about "White Room" like it's a masterpiece or something. Sure, it's a cool song, but hardly one of their best. Their best studio song was definitely "Rollin' And Tumblin'" from the first album. "White Room" sounds like child's play in comparison.

However, I simply LOVE "Passing The Time" and "As You Said", both of which feature marvelous vocals from Jack (never let it be said that he wasn't a good singer). The warm, Christmas-ey feel on the former is particularly enthralling.

And then you have your blistering blues in "Sittin' On Top Of The World" and "Born Under A Bad Sign", and even some psychedelia in "Those Were The Days" and the dopey "Pressed Rat And Warthog".  "Deserted Cities Of The Heart" is nothing to write home about.

Oh, and the live versions of "Traintime" and "Toad" are pretty dull

<CreamJeans@Jovi.Net> (06.06.2004)

The only case of Wheels of Fire as two separate records to my knowledge was when two siblings, going their separate ways, cut the double album down the middle so each could go off to school with a piece of divine vinyl -- and it's SHINY MIRRORED SILVER, I've seen the gray cover you have only on cheap bootleg copies.

Yeah, Cream is godlike but without the haze of lust and acid, I don't know if I could explain to a stranger. Genesis, Yes, Zep oh maybe one or two others but nothing beats Jack Bruce playing old Cream songs backed up by a couple of hot young jazzmen, who needs Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, Pete Brown's lyrics yummy!

So who else is good. Jonathan Richman. Jojo is seriously hip. Staying up all night cruising rock'n'roll sites, bald, old with lawnmower jetfighter grinding screeching ears ever dull & loud, is it the heavy metal, the mercury dental fillings or the heat? Sigh, best sign off now before I fall to twitching incoherence.

Peace --Devon

PS: Martin Sharp wrote the lyrics of "Tales Of Brave Ulysses" and designed the covers of Disraeli Gears 1967 and Wheels of Fire 1968 which got the New York Art Director's prize for Best Album Design 1969 however I cannot find the back cover of DG nor the inside cover of WoF so if anyone has 'em please scan 'em and put 'em online!


GOODBYE CREAM

jemster <jemster@ix.netcom.com> (12.11.99)

Look, it's got three great songs. 'Badge' is an obvious 10, the only one in the style of early, raw Cream, with more piano. 'Doi'n that Scrapyard Thing' is half autobiographical and half nonsense, with more piano. But it's still great! An 8. Then comes 'What a Bringdown', which is the most powerful and...excellent, dare I say...song since Ginger ever started writing. A 10. How come these got snubbed off the Greatest Hits (1995) in favor of such jazz fluff crap as "Wrapping Paper"?

Heck, these may be silly opinions, or at least seem like them, but I'm entitled to 'em. At least I didn't have to keep ranting on about eleven tracks like I had to do with Disraeli Gears.

mello <brosmello@earthlink.net> (07.01.2001)

Oh boy, this is a record that should have never been released. To be fair, the live cuts are very good, and should have been included instead on Wheels of Fire. The performances are (mercifully) short, and one gets an idea of Cream's improvisational skills (listen to Clapton and Bruce going at it on 'I'm So Glad'...awesome!). I especially liked the rocked-up version of 'Sitting on Top of the World'. But the studio material...that's another story. 'Badge' is excellent, with another great Clapton solo. The lyrics are nothing special, but this is another chestnut in Cream's songbook of great pop songs. 'Anyone for Tennis' is not a bad song, but you hit right on the mark, it sounds out of place in a Cream record. 'Doing That Scrapyard Thing' and 'What A Bringdown' are fillers in the tradition of 'Pressed Rat and Warthog' or 'Dreaming'. With this record the once-mighty Cream roar is reduced to a pitiful squeak. Sad indeed. I'll give it a 5...

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (07.03.2002)

The burnout, which set the pattern for burnouts in all supergroups to come (Cream, of course, being the first). The live sides are terrible, the primo example of ugly, diffuse indulgence, and nearly unlistenable in their meandering nature. Then again, Clapton's "Badge" is an unexpected classic, foreshadowing a career's worth of songwriting success from the young guitarist (although this particular song was written with his pal George)...I like "What a Bringdown"--it's unexpectedly accomplished for Mr. Baker, who in the past gave us the unfortunate "Blue Condition", "Toad", and "Sweet Wine". But "Scrapyard Thing" is just ugly, and highly derivative of Paul McCartney, sans the literacy...Bruce would do better on Songs for a Tailor. Overall, the one album that was intended to be the most representative of Cream ends up being the most un-Cream-like of them all, which is a truly depressing thing in light of the promise the band displayed at the beginning of their career. It's a good thing they tacked that delightful single onto the end of the remaster. A low 5.

Mark Nelson <marknel@attbi.com> (29.09.2002)

First, the lyric on Badge is "I told you not to wander round in the DARK". Badge is one of my all time hated songs. Stinks. Up there with "She's leaving home" from St. Pepper's. The only thing I liked about the goodbye album is how stoned they look on the back cover. As for the live tracks on Wheels on Fire, it doesn't really capture how great it was to see Cream in concert, but it sure helps to put you back there and let your memory fill in the holes!


LIVE CREAM

Tim Cotter <tcotter@ala.net> (21.07.99)

The song "Lawdy Mama" was also performed previously by Junior Wells on his Hoodoo Man Blues album. It has Buddy Guy on guitar throughout the whole record. It also has the version of "You Don't Love Me" that influenced the Allman Brothers Band version. Just thought I'd throw that bit of information in.

Tagbo Munonyedi <grimtraveller@hotmail.com> (09.05.2006)

When I lived out in Nigeria, circa 1980, a great way of acquiring records was to get the guys in the record shop to tape them for you. For a fifth of the price of a regular disc, they'd do two albums ( or a double album ) on a 90 minute tape and given that the cost of the tape was included, it was a great way to build a record collection. I did also buy records when I could raise the 'dukla prague', but most of my collection at this time came from these priceless guys in their half hidden shacks ( for the most part ). I got tons of albums that way that I might never otherwise have heard and if anyone wanted to get me presents, it was a cheap way of gratifying me. My mum got me this album for xmas '80 { backed with Black Sabbath's debut }. I'd first heard of Cream about 18 months previous in a book I was reading about soul music [ I kid you not ! The chapter was entitled 'rock and soul' ] then my uncle's girlfriend bought me three books - one was a book on the history of popular music [ it was talking about supergroups jamming at the concert for Bangla Desh and said Cream pioneered this and gave a description of their music ], one was a book of album covers that featured FRESH CREAM, DISRAELI GEARS [ one of the best covers I've ever seen, one of the few downsides about CDs is that cover art is all but dying - and GOODBYE ] and the third was a biography of Eric Clapton. I was mildly intrigued but I didn't go out of my way to look for any stuff by Cream. Even after reading the NME encyclopedia of rock, I didn't particularly look for their stuff. In fact, when I did get the album taped, it was more for the Sabs and I needed to get the other side of the tape filled. When I listened to the album, I barely "got it". By then, I was used to long tracks by Floyd, Zep, Purple, Wishbone Ash and others. What I didn't comprehend at the time were improvisations, much less lengthy ones ( in saying that though, INTERSTELLAR OVERDRIVE is one such. In those days I used to cut it down from 11 minutes to just the riff - about 2 and a half minutes ). I liked the way SWEET WINE and NSU started but the long jams just lost me. So when I got back to England in 81 and started actually buying the records I'd had on tape, this wasn't one of them. But in 83-84 I really got into jazz and this went even further in '90. I got loads of records and coz much of it was jazz fusion, I thought I'd give Cream another whirl, having not listened to them in 9 years and now appreciating some of Jack Bruce's work with Lifetime. My life had changed immeasurably and my musical tastes had matured and broadened. When I listened to it again, this time I listened with both ears, with the mind of an improvisor ( I'd been playing bass for a while ) and LIVE CREAM became a whole new deal. The author of " All you need is love ", that history of popular music, said that Cream played a song until physical or mental exhaustion brought it to an end. Well, it ain't that drastic, but the songs here are definitely an acquired taste. LAWDY MAMA, I never liked. It always sounded odd to me in the midst of live recordings. I still can't be bothered with it. ROLLIN' AND TUMBLIN' is a piece you either take or leave - and I've left it ! Funny thing is that it has all the ingredients that I would ordinarilly like. I suppose some of it is ok but if I never heard it again I can't say I'd be slitting my wrists......Jack's harmonica is kinda cute on it though. He was Cream's secret texture weapon. SLEEPY TIME TIME is one that I've always dug. I must admit, from a conceptual point of view, white English blues doesn't sound like real blues at all; it has the form, but it just doesn't have the anguish, no matter what them old bluesmen say ( Memphis Slim once said that all blues singers are liars !! ). But I much prefer it coz English " blues " was always multidimensional and for the most part, not stereotypical, like it's original inspiration. Pete Townshend made an interesting point when he said that the English taking up R&B / blues was significant coz it gave the British a new way of writng pop music. I heartilly agree and SLEEPY TIME TIME is one of those better examples of British pop craft. On this recording, they really sound lethargic and sleepy { as opposed to drugged } and yet it's a loud track, and well played. NSU starts all weird, like the band is just warming up, then Bruce and Clapton throw in a lovely harmonized wail { I think both men, because of their instrumental prowess, were woefully underrated as singers } then Cream launch into one of those great jazz rock or rocking jazz improvisations that took me so many years to ' get '. As I can dig it now, I find it remarkable, the way the piece is constantly recreated. Both the guitar and bass take their turn at leading the melodic charge. Pretty much ditto with SWEET WINE, which for me is the highlight of the album. Without the lengthy jam it would be a great track; with it, it's a major piece. It kind of reminds me of alot of Indian music, in the sense that it's hard to tell where one segment ends and another begins, yet, the energy, craft, rhythmic intensity and excitement is not diminished. As magnificent as the two guitarists are, it's Baker who really contributes the power and the glory here with some serious octopus drumming, kind of like Keith Moon with maturity. Definitely one of the master influences in progressive rock drumming, and indeed, progressive compositions per se, he helped lay out the kind of pieces that could be written coz he showed that with a drummer like him, the imagination need not be rhythmically constrained.

It's probably not the most important album to have in one's collection, but it's worth having if you're planning to live until you're about 85.


LIVE CREAM VOLUME II

Valentin Katz <Valka324@home.com> (09.12.99)

I know you like Cream a lot, as do I but I believe this is one kick ass record. Every song on here is full of energy and absolutely incredible guitar playing. Hendrix was king of the riffs, Clapton was and is the master of riffs and long solos. 'Deserted Cities of the Heart' is much more up-paced and darker than the studio version and in my opinion the best song on here, since I'm not referring to 'Steppin' Out' as a song but more as a jam. Not one average song, every song is amazing and even though there aren't a lot of them. This album is an extremely concentrated effort that deserves much better than you give it credit for. And I truly do believe that you're not deep enough to appreciate Jack Bruce's wailing voice, its contrasted perfectly with Eric's "wah wah" guitar and super-smooth voice. If you want to hear Cream at their absolute best listen to 'Sunshine of Your Love', the epitome of the Cream sound. If you want to hear Eric Clapton at his best, listen to 'Steppin' Out'.


VIDEOS 
FAREWELL CONCERT

Mike Healy <shadesbelow@yahoo.com> (02.11.2002)

There were two different versions of this film when it came out. One was an 83-minute theatrical release called Farewell To The Cream, and the other was a 48-minute television special, with interviews with the band members. Obviously, the one we've known and seen on video for years is the latter. It's fun and interesting, particularly if you're turning someone onto them for the first time, but definitely not something you will watch more than once.

The songs are all sort of cut in half, mostly coming into them at the halfway point. Plus, the two shows were shot on video, then transferred to film, so the sound quality isn't great, just like The Doors Are Open (On Clapton's MTV "Rockumentary", they used a clip from the final show from the video master, and it looked great, they should use this someday).

It's a shame that the 48-minute version was put on DVD. The longer version of the film should definitely be put out, and that's more than likely where the version of "Crossroads" came from, only in color! Well worth looking for, if only a bootleg copy!


FRESH LIVE CREAM

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