Posts Tagged ‘Cream’

Cream

Cream, live at the Sports Arena, San Diego on 20th October 1968 Worn out by touring and personal disagreements, Cream agreed to disband after a farewell tour in October 1968. Recorded in outstanding fidelity for broadcast on KPRO-FM, this outstanding gig features a cross-section of their best-loved material, and clearly indicates why they were regarded as the pre-eminent rock band of their day. It’s presented here together with background notes and images.

Cream were a 1960s British rock power trio consisting of drummer Ginger Baker, guitarist/singer Eric Clapton and bassist/singer Jack Bruce. The group’s third album, “Wheels of Fire” (1968), was the world’s first platinum-selling double album. The band is widely regarded as the world’s first successful supergroup. In their career, they sold more than 15 million copies of their albums worldwide. Their music included songs based on traditional blues such as “Crossroads” and “Spoonful”, and modern blues such as “Born Under a Bad Sign”, as well as more current material such as “Strange Brew”, “Tales of Brave Ulysses” and “Toad”.

Eric Clapton – guitar, vocals Jack Bruce – bass, vocals Ginger Baker – drums, percussion

2LP – Double 180 Gram Red and Purple Marbled Vinyl in Hand Numbered Gatefold Sleeve. Limited to 1000 Copies.

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Bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp I feel free…Jack Bruce’s voice in this is great and sets the tone of the song. The song charted in the UK at #11 in 1967.

British poet Pete Brown had helped the band write the lyrics. Brown, who was a beat poet, had worked with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce before. He also wrote lyrics to “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “White Room.” Eric Clapton played a borrowed Les Paul guitar on this track, as his Beano one had been stolen during album rehearsals. It was plugged into a new, 100-watt Marshall amp.

This was the second single from Cream, who despite the rather modest reception to their first single, “Wrapping Paper,” were almost guaranteed success in England based on what their members had done with other groups. Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce had been in The Graham Bond Organization, and Eric Clapton was in The Yardbirds. and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

This was one of the first times Eric Clapton used what he called the “Woman Tone.” He turned the amp all the way up, boosted the treble, cut the bass, and played a sustained guitar note.

Al Kooper’s Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards says right there on page 82 that Cream’s American debut was a ten-day stage show starting March 25th, 1967, called “Murray the K’s Easter Rock Extravaganza.” He recounts an exchange between himself and Cream member Ginger Baker, asking “What do you think of America so far?” Baker replied, “How the f–k should I know? I’ve only been ‘ere thirty-five f–king minutes, ‘aven’t I?” Kooper reports that their relationship went uphill from there: “By the last night of the show, we were throwing eggs and whipped cream at each other, that old American rock ‘n’ roll ritual that denotes mutual respect.”

Live… Stockholm 1967

Cream, live at the Konserhuset, Stockholm, Sweden November 14th 1967. Just after the release of Disraeli Gears, Cream embarked on a Scandinavian tour on November 11th 1967, following dates in Denmark and Finland, they reached Sweden on the 14th. This explosive set, broadcast on Sveriges radio, was performed at Stockholm s Konserthuset that night, and captures them at their peak, stretching out on a selection of classics old and new. It s presented in full here, together with background notes and images.

Setlist:

1. Tales Of Brave Ulysses 2. Sunshine Of Your Love 3. Sleepy Time Time 4. Steppin Out 5. Traintime 6. Toad 7. I m So Glad

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New releases for this week Kamasi Washington 4LP set, we’ve not managed to give it a full listen yet but what we’ve heard so far sounds really good. There is a brand new Nine Inch Nails album is also out tomorrow, we’ve heard just one track but can’t wait to get stuck into it tomorrow. If you missed out on the limited green vinyl for the Sleep album, now’s the chance to get the black vinyl LP version, it’s now in stock.

Also out are new albums from Panic At The Disco, Princess Nokia, Gang Gang Dance, Soulwax, and our favourites The Wave Pictures, an EP from Stella Donnelly . The best of the weeks releases are some really good reissues out tomorrow too from The Cure, Garbage, King Crimson, The Pogues. 

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Stella Donnelly –  Thrush Metal EP

The Thrush Metal EP originally came out last year, self-released by the artist on tape and digitally. Stella Donnelly quickly became one of Australia’s buzziest young singer-songwriters and now Secretly Canadian release the EP on Vinyl. Boys Will Be Boys is the standout track. Atop delicate, singsongy acoustic fingerpicking, Donnelly confronts a man who raped her friend and takes to task the accompanying victim-blaming. “Why was she all alone? / Wearing her shirt that low / And they said boys will be boys / Deaf to the word no,” she coos in the chorus, a slight vibrato flaring up at the corners of her lovely voice.

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 Warmduscher. – Whale City

The second album from Warmduscher. South London recidivists Warmduscher include members of Paranoid London, Fat White Family and Childhood. There is power in repetition. Longtime Warmduscher biographer Dr Alan Goldfarb describes Whale City as “a rock opera so vast in magnitude that – were in not for my being strapped naked to a chair in a garage – could send a man hurtling towards the outer perimeters of uncharted space.” It’s difficult to argue with. The characters that inhabit Whale City are, as the title suggests, larger than most aquatic life forms. A cast of millions. Pretty Lilly, Whale Jimmy, Uncle Sleepover, Ice Cream Keith, Disco Minny. The people you walk by late at night with bottles in their hands and money in their pockets. The woman with bright red lipstick and straight razor smiles. Thrill seekers to a person. Powerful. Intoxicated. Intoxicating. In the words of Clams Baker, Whale City is “a playground for the people that have stepped above and beyond their comfort zone.” What are you waiting for? If you love the repetition of the Fall, the chaos of Fat White Family and own a Pebbles or Nuggets compilations – then this a must have.

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The Wave Pictures  –  Brushes with Happiness

As one of the UK’s most prolific and beloved bands, it has become expected – nay, the fans have demanded – that The Wave Pictures release several albums a year. This year, they are releasing two albums and they’re kindly letting us know well in advance, so that we can set our calendars and save our pennies in anticipation. Starting with the spontaneous, recorded in one-day, minor-key, epic masterpiece that is Brushes with Happiness in June, the trio of Jonny Helm (drums), Dave Tattersall (guitar and vocals) and Franic Rozycki (bass), will be following up with a more up-beat party album, Look Inside Your Heart in October. Brushes With Happiness sees The Wave Pictures in contemplative and expansive mood. Mellower and more reflective than last year’s rock’n’roll surf-garage-rock collaboration with Charles Watson from Slow Club, as new band The Surfing Magazines, or 2016’s blues driven Bamboo Diner in the Rain or 2015’s Billy Childish produced Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon. This album is more akin to 2016’s acoustic release A Season in Hull, which, like Brushes With Happiness, was recorded live in one room in a single January day.

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Nine Inch Nails  – Bad Witch

Nine Inch Nails release Bad Witch, completing the trilogy that began with 2016’s Not The Actual Events and 2017’s Add Violence., Nine Inch Nails will launch COLD AND BLACK AND INFINITE NORTH AMERICA 2018 on September 13 with support The Jesus and Mary Chain. The band will bring their “musical, visual, emotional sensory onslaught,” as hailed by The New York Times, to some of the most iconic venues in the USA.

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Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson  –  Apart

Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson’s 5 Track EP Apart is the follow up to their critically-acclaimed 2009 album Break Up. The EP features four brand new recordings and a new version of Tomorrow, a song that originally appeared on Yorn’s last album, 2016’s ArrangingTime. Scarlett Johansson adds, “Being able to revisit this project with Pete in a totally different context but within the same creative parameters is a unique artistic opportunity for me. It is always a pleasure to sing with Pete because I think our voices and stories complement each other.”

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The Cure  –  Mixed Up

A reissue and remastered version of the Cure’s 1990 remix album Mixed Up. Featuring 11 remixes of their hits including; Lullaby, Close to Me, Pictures of You, Love Song and Why Can’t I be You?

3CD – Expanded Deluxe Edition with a second CD of long deleted remixes from 1982 to 1990 and a third CD containing 16 brand new Remixes done by himself, Torn Down: Mixed Up Extras 2018.

CD – Standard CD Version.

2LP – Double 180 Gram Vinyl housed in Gatefold Sleeve with Download. Half Speed Double Vinyl Mastered by Robert Smith and Tim Young at Metropolis Studios, London.

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Cream –  Live In Detroit ‘67

Cream, live at the Grande Ballroom, Detroit, MA on October 15th 1967. White-hot from two months of touring the US, Cream played this remarkable show shortly before the release of Disraeli Gears. Regarded by some as the finest live document of the trio in existence, it typifies their explosive chemistry, with some outrageous wah-wah from Clapton, thunderous bass from Jack Bruce, and virtuoso drumming from Ginger Baker. This show from Detroit’s Grande Ballroom on October 15th 1967, originally broadcast on WRIF-FM, is presented in full here, together with background notes and images.

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Spacemen 3  – For All The Fucked Up Children of This World We Give You

Space Age Recordings are pleased to announce the first official limited edition vinyl release of the album For All The Fucked Children Of This World We Give You Spacemen 3 (Sonic Boom a.ka. Peter Kember (Spectrum / E.A.R.) and Jason Pierce (Spiritualized). For All the Fucked Up Children from the neo-psychedelic trio Spacemen 3 was first released as a bootleg record in 1995. The record consists of Spacemen 3’s first ever recording session from 1984. The music itself sounds like a primitive version of what the group were to become; the dominating sound of the record is a slow, droning psychedelic blues performed with sparse instrumentation. A drum set is matched with a pair of distorted electric guitars, all of which provide a swirling foundation for Jason Pierce’s vocals. The album’s liner notes replicated here are actually an early review of the band by Gary Boldie, where he contemplates the city of Rugby and finds it an odd source for this new sound, and he declares Spacemen 3 as the “all singing, all dancing answer to the problems of a grey 1985.”

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Sorry  –  Showgirl

Sorry are back with a new 7”, following their previous 7” singles, Wished / Lies from last year and2 Down 2 Dance earlier in the year. The ferocious Showgirl is the third and last instalment of the band’s early singles period, produced by Frank Ocean and James Blake collaborator Sean Oakley, who also helmed the band’s 2017 debut single, Lies. Showgirl is a sordid and seedy 90’s sounding nugget with breathy and addictive vocals and spidery guitar work. Sorry just keep getting better and better.

Today also saw the announcement of the new Mogwai album

There’s also new albums coming from Death Grips (with an indie stores only limited clear vinyl LP), The Jayhawks, The Pineapple Thief, The Internet, Menace Beach, Pram,Villagers, Bellini, Rise Against, Helena Hauff, Tirzah, Kate NashThe Amity Affliction, Wild Nothing

There are five Flaming Lips albums coming back out that have not been on vinyl for years. We have the next Tom Waits reissue out on 13th July with ‘Foreign Affairs’ . There’s a set of Moody Blues 180g vinyl reissue coming soon, some of which will feature bonus tracks for the first time. and U2 wade in with three strong albums in ‘Achtung Baby’, ‘Zooropa’ and ‘The Best Of: 1980-1990’.  Also coming soon are reissues from Mick Ronson, REMand a ‘Best Of’ fromThe Libertines.

This Week’s Releases

The Cure – ‘Mixed Up’ black vinyl 2LP reissue
The Cure – ‘Torn Down’ black vinyl 2LP reissue

Stella Donnelly – ‘Thrush Metal’ 12″ EP
Richard Edwards – ‘Verdugo’ limited coloured vinyl LP
Richard Edwards – ‘Verdugo’ LP

Field Division – ‘Dark Matters Dream’ silver vinyl LP
Gang Gang Dance – ‘Kazuashita’ limited red vinyl LP
Garbage – ‘Version 2.0’ limited deluxe 3LP box set
Garbage – ‘Version 2.0’ orange vinyl 2LP reissue

King Crimson – ‘Discipline’ LP reissue
Danni Minogue – ‘Neon Nights’ 2LP reissue
The Nextmen vs Gentlemen’s Dub Club – ‘Pound For Pound’ LP
Nine Inch Nails – ‘Bad Witch’ LP
The Orb – No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds’ 2LP
Panic At The Disco – ‘Pray For The Wicked’ LP

The Pogues – ‘The Best Of’ LP reissue
Princess Nokia – ‘A Girl Cried Red’ limited red vinyl LP
Sleep – ‘The Sciences’ black vinyl LP
Soulwax – ‘Essential’ 2LP
Spacemen 3 – ‘For All The Fucked Up Children Of  This World’ LP reissue
Various Artists – ‘The Songs Of Elton John & Bernie Taupin’ 2LP
Kamasi Washington – ‘Heaven & Earth’ 4LP set
The Wave Pictures – ‘Brushes With Happiness’ limited coloured vinyl LP

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Wooden Shjips  –  V

Wooden Shjips, long-time leaders of the contemporary psychedelic movement, expand their sound with V. On their fifth album the quartet of Ripley Johnson (Moon Duo), Omar Ahsanuddin, Dusty Jermier, and Nash Whalen augment their already rich sound with laid back, classic summer songs. Inspired by the tumult of the modern world, and the desire to offer a contrasting vision of peace, the band has created a record that lters their trademark hypnotic grooves through an optimistic lens, resulting in music that is bright and vital. Each song shimmers with a distinctly Wooden Shjips sound, a relaxed summer vibe. This was a conscious choice, an atmospheric goal that in uenced nearly every detail: the tones, the delay types and reverbs used, as well as the synthesizer elements that color the songs. The band’s members collectively share a love of classic rock from the Velvet Underground to Neil Young, as well as more overt love of the San Francisco scene of the 60’s. This commonality in their formative musical years binds them even as they live in different cities. Wooden Shjips has with V. created the most concise, laid back songs of their career. Their music is a balm of sorts, a respite from the insanity that, through its regenerative abilities, empowers continued, calm resistance. A reminder of the simple power of peace and beauty, V. is brimming with optimism and a peaceful energy, aptly timed for release at the height of spring.

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Halo Maud  –  ” Je Suis Une Île “

Halo Maud’s first release on Heavenly is a recap of the story so far ahead of an album release later this year – three tracks of this EP originally came out on a Canadian label last year, with the difference that Du Pouvoir now features some English lyrics, and À La Fin andDans La Nuit cropped up on a La Souterraine compilations in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Maud Nadal has been a member of both Moodoïd and Melody’s Echo Chamber’s live bands, and of course at times there are comparisons to be drawn with Melody’s Echo Chamber, with both teetering on a crystalline peak where extreme joy and despair meet. But if anything Nadal’s own melodies are even more indelible, and her voice turns them into vapour trails.

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Gretchen Peters – Dancing With The Beast

Dancing with the Beast, the new album from Gretchen Peters, puts female characters at the fore, from teenage girls to old women. And intentionally so. With the 2017 Women’s March and the #MeToo Movement as bookends to her writing time, Peters knew that a feminist perspective would be the critical core of the record. She admits, “You can trace the feminist DNA in my songwriting back to ‘Independence Day’ and probably before. The thing that 2017 did is just put it front and center.” Though Peters doesn’t consider herself a political writer, she is politically minded and, therefore, knew she had to address the 2016 election and all that has happened since… but in her own way. There’s a bittersweet beauty to the passing of time – the changes it brings are just as often heartbreaking as they are heartwarming. The inevitable tension that arises from that sway is Gretchen Peters‘ most trusted muse. With melody supporting that melancholy, the songs on the new album combine to lift the effort over the high artistic bar set by her last outing, 2015’s award-winning Blackbirds.

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Wand  –  Perfume

If the emblem of Wand’s Plum was the stark blue cloud a condensation, a linking between longing molecules, data hungering for more data, a flotilla of vapor between eye and sky – then Wand’s new EP reeks of something more forceful, more seductive, more intoxicating, more insidious: this is Perfume. Here are six electric hues, shocks of light that flagrantly provoke the dark, a posy’s clutch of purple, fuchsia, green and snowy white that curl against a stench of plague. Recorded between tours and fire seasons in Grass Valley, CA by Tim Green, Perfume’s potent, expansive tunes were mixed in Woodstock, NY by Daniel James Goodwin. The band features Sofia Arreguin, Evan Burrows, Robbie Cody, Cory Hanson and Lee Landey. There’s a kind of return here, a haunting, the deja vu you only take in through a curious nose. Your nose invites the world inside your skull. A familiar fragrance finds you when you thought you’d let a lover go, but it won’t linger like a lover, flickering away with the breeze toward a yawning future.

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Judee Sill  –  Songs of Rapture and Redemption: Rarities and Live

Judee Sill may not have been commercially successful in her short recording stint, but her influence looms large with recording artists such as Warren Zevon, Andy Partridge, Liz Phair, Beth Orton, Bill Callahan, Bonnie Prince Billy and more having covered her songs. The Turtles recorded Lady-O in 1969, two years before Sill’s 1971 debut album on Asylum Records contained that song. This brand new collection includes demos and live recordings that are making their debut on the vinyl format and have never sounded better. With new artwork, liner notes and deluxe packaging, this limited ROG release should not be missed.

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Cream –  BBC 1966 – 1967

Clapton, Bruce, and Baker are responsible for some of the most classic BBC live recordings of the 60s. Recorded for several different programs between November ’66 and October ’67 there are raw versions of classics likeStrange Brew, andTales Of Brave Ulysses, as well as great blues covers and a fascinating series of interviews with Clapton, these are essential live sets for any serious Cream collector. Limited edition splatter vinyl LP.

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The Smithereens  –  Covers

The Smithereens – Pat DiNizio, Jim Babjak, Mike Mesaros and Dennis Diken dip deep into their archives to present Covers, a tribute to the songs and the artists that shaped their career. The album presents a heavy dose of British Invasion paying homage to the Kinks, the Beatles, the Who and T. Rex. The Smithereens were also influenced by a fair number of homegrown heroes too including Springsteen, Sinatra, Iggy Pop, The Beach Boys and more. The Smithereens are known for writing and playing catchy 1960s-influenced power pop. The group gained publicity when the single Blood and Roses from its first album was included on the soundtrack for Dangerously Close, and the music video got heavy rotation on MTV. During the course of their career the Smithereens racked up 2 platinum albums and 1 gold record.

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Jenny Hval  – The Long Sleep

The follow-up to Jenny Hval’s acclaimed 2016 album Blood Bitch is The Long Sleep, an adventurous new EP that sees the Norwegian multidisciplinary artist embracing an instinctive, even subconscious, approach to creating meaning. In contrast to Hval’s more explicitly conceptual work, The Long Sleep foregrounds the act of composition itself, letting the melodies and structures reveal the other elements of the songs. All of the songs on the EP recycle the same compositional motives, but manipulate them into very different shapes that take them further and further out of their original, “life-like” context. Hval recorded The Long Sleep with longtime collaborator Havard Volden and producer Lasse Marhaug, along with an ace new supporting cast of talented players from the jazz world — Kyrre Laastad on percussion, Anja Lauvdal on piano, Espen Reinertsen on saxophone, and Eivind Lønning on trumpet. Hval calls them some of her favorite contemporary musicians, and their musical background helps to give the songs on The Long Sleep their intuitive, improvised feel.

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The Heads  –  RKT

Timely reissue of the first 3 releases The Heads put out on the Rocket label, from their first split 7” release (with Lilydamwhite) in 1998 to their much lauded Sessions 2 freakout 12” from 2002… compiled here in their remastered glory, the Heads were quite prolific back in the late 90s / early 00’s, and in between the Everybody Knows We Got Nowherealbum andUndersided album they released their jams and raw rehearsals via the burgeoning Rocket Label. Compiled here with extensive sleeve notes from Rocket founder Simon Healey, this limited 3LP (1000 copies) and 2CD (1000 copies) set captures the band at their most laconic and free… psychedelic sprawling morass or sound and aural distortion grooves akin drawing from their wide influences…also from simply plugging in and letting go. LP and CD both come with booklet

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Pink Floyd  –  BBC 1967 

Performing on 4 different dates in 1967, the year they released their first album, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, this is Pink Floyd at their early, psychedelic, and raw best. Their showing in May of that year, for the program The Look Of The Week, was probably the earliest live video recording of the group and includes amazing versions of Pow R. Toc H. and Astronomy Domine. Two more recordings for the program Top Gear, which showcased the underground hipster scene of London, and one for Tomorrow’s World round out this amazing collection of early Floyd, including great versions of Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Flaming and Vegetable Man. Essential live recordings of Pink Floyd during their greatest era! Limited edition splatter vinyl LP.

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Cream ‘Nineteen Sixty-Seven’ features a fantastic live recording made for Swedish radio in March 1967 and previously un-released BBC radio sessions. It provides a unique picture of Cream in-concert and live in the studio in the period leading up to their classic 1967 album Disraeli Gears.

TRACK LISTING:

01: N.S.U. / 02: Stepping Out / 03: Traintime / 04: Toad / 05: I’m So Glad / 06: Sleepy Time Time (“Saturday Club”, Recorded 8 November 1966 – Broadcasted 11 November 1966) / 07: I’m So Glad (“Saturday Club”, Recorded 8 November 1966 – Broadcasted 11 November 1966) / 08: Traintime (“Saturday Club”, Recorded 10 January 1967 – Broadcasted 14 January 1967) 09: Toad (“Saturday Club”, Recorded 10 January 1967 – Broadcasted 14 January 1967) / 10: Tales of Brave Ulysses (“Joe Loss Show”, 14 July 1967) / 11: Take it Back (“Joe Loss Show”, 14 July 1967)

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In March of 1968, Cream were about halfway through a long tour of the U.S., their popularity on the burgeoning psych-rock scene approaching climax. Their second album, 1967’s Disraeli Gears, had been a huge success, charting high in both Britain and America behind totemic songs like “Strange Brew,” “Tales of Brave Ulysses” and “Sunshine of Your Love.” Their third, the double-album Wheels of Fire was set for a summer release and would land with another thunder clap, with the near-unprecedented talents of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker evolving into further experimental territory. But all was not well with the band. Baker and Bruce couldn’t stand each other, and Clapton complained that the band’s shows were devolving into garish displays of one-upsmanship. It hadn’t even been 18 months since the release of their debut LP Fresh Cream, but the trio had been hurtling forward with such speed and force that they were already out of gas. In May, they decided to break up for good, stunning the music world. As it turned out, this tour of America would be their last.

On March 9th, 1968, Cream were at the Winterland Ballroom for the penultimate performance of a two-week run in San Francisco. For this show, the band broke out a few songs from Fresh Cream, including “N.S.U.,” “Toad” and “Sleepy Time Time.” Even if the band was on the verge of collapse, they sounded no less powerful, with all three members locked into a power groove that couldn’t be equaled at the time, and maybe since. Listen to Cream play the molten blues on this date 50 years ago.

CREAM – 1966 – This band wasn’t called Cream for nothing. They were three top-notch musicians who had cut their teeth in bands like the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Manfred Mann and Blues Incorporated. They sprung fully formed in London in 1966 and quickly became the first successful supergroup. For two years they reigned, but their volatile personalities finally got the best of them and they packed it in as a group. But not before leaving behind some electrifying live performances with powerful solos from Clapton and Baker on guitar and drums respectively. In fact, their third album “Wheels of Fire,” (the live part – record two) was recorded at the Fillmore in San Francisco and was the world’s first platinum-selling double album. The band was the model for every power trio that followed it, beginning with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Cream was short-lived but one of the best of its kind in Rock history.

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Founded by drummer Ginger Baker when he recruited Eric Clapton, followed by Jack Bruce to form a new band, Cream would quickly become one of the most influential groups of the 1960s, changing the landscape of blues and rock ‘n’ roll simultaneously. Volcanic onstage, Baker and Bruce were equally volatile offstage. Despite antagonistic history between the two, Clapton convinced them to set aside their differences and Cream was born in 1966, becoming the prototype power trio, fusing the blues and rock ‘n’ roll into a powerful new brew. Three technically gifted musicians with a penchant for volume, Cream’s live performances made a strong impression in Europe, making all but a select few bands sound lightweight or tame by comparison. Although all three members, especially Clapton, had established reputations in Europe, none of them had ever ventured to America. Other than Clapton, who had a modest reputation from import recordings by the Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, the members of Cream were unknown commodities in America.

This all changed over the course of six months, with San Francisco and the city’s primary concert promoter, Bill Graham, playing a major role in making it happen. The band’s initial visit to the States occurred in March of 1967 and was not an auspicious start. Cream played nine dates at Brooklyn’s RKO Theater for Murry The K, who presented five shows a day featuring Mitch Ryder, Smokey Robinson, Wilson Pickett, the Blues Project, and the Who, in addition to the virtually unknown Cream. As such, Cream were first relegated to playing three songs per show, which was soon paired down to a single song, “I’m So Glad,” which they were required to play five times a day.

Not an inspiring first visit, but Cream would return to the States in August of 1967, when they would embark on their first American tour and experience an alternate universe flourishing on the other side of the country. Much had changed in the past several months, both culturally and musically. The Beatles had released Sgt. Pepper and the Summer Of Love was in full swing when Cream landed in San Francisco, a city that would have a profound impact on the band. Cream’s first residency at Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium occurred the last week of August and the first week of September. For the first week, Graham presented the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Southside Sound System (which featured Charlie Musselwhite and Harvey Mandel) as openers to create a truly incredible triple bill of modern blues. The following week was no less impressive with jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton’s group (which included a young Larry Coryell on guitar) and the newly formed Electric Flag, featuring Mike Bloomfield, opening the shows.

Graham’s inspired billing and the great influx of young people that had descended on San Francisco at this time meant these shows were packed to the hilt. The Fillmore Auditorium had a legal capacity of 900, but somewhere between 1400 and 1500 people were reportedly crammed in for these shows, making Cream’s initial San Francisco residency a huge success. What they experienced in San Francisco, both culturally and musically, had a profound impact on the band. In turn, Cream’s performances had a lasting impact on the music scene now flourishing in the city. Faced with a more demanding performing experience, Cream began improvising more and incorporating spontaneous jams into many of their songs, some stretching out to nearly 20 minutes. The 1967 audiences in San Francisco embraced experimentation and sensory exploration and Cream took both to new levels on stage. With many of the key up-and-coming San Francisco musicians attending this run of shows, Cream had a significant impact, inspiring groups like the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver, and countless others to further embrace spontaneity in their own performances.

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Thanks in large part to this initial run of 1967 Fillmore Auditorium performances, word of mouth spread rapidly. Cream established a reputation as one of the most exciting live acts to ever hit the city, which in turn increased album sales and demand for their performances in America. Early the following year, Cream returned to the States to record sessions for their third album at Atlantic Records New York City studios and to embark on their second US Tour. With much of the studio recordings for Wheels Of Fire just completed and with their new single, “Sunshine Of Your Love” just hitting the airwaves, Cream hit San Francisco for a second extended stay. With their reputation preceding them this time around, demand for tickets was now much greater. To address this, Bill Graham presented Cream at the significantly larger Winterland Ballroom (5,000 capacity) for three nights, followed by a fourth night at the more intimate Fillmore Auditorium, with the Loading Zone and Big Black opening all four nights. These concerts—which began on February 29th and continued through the first three nights of March—were a huge success, and following a few days off, Graham presented an additional four nights. These shows would go down in history as the peak performances of Cream’s career.

Image result for cream live at winterland 1968 posters

Atlantic Records and the group’s producer, Felix Pappalardi (who would soon team up with Leslie West to form the Cream-influenced band Mountain) were wise to capture the band’s onstage energy this time around, and much of Cream’s live legacy is based on the results of these recordings. Cream’s final run of San Francisco ballroom shows, which occurred on March, 7, 8, 9 and 10, 1968 would end up providing nearly all the evidence of Cream at their peak on stage and would also become the source of decades of confusion among fans, historians and collectors. For this final run, Bill Graham would reverse the approach of the following week, beginning with one night of two performances at the intimate Fillmore Auditorium, followed by six shows over the course of three nights at the much larger Winterland, this time with the James Cotton Blues Band and Al Kooper’s new outfit, Blood, Sweat & Tears opening. For this final four-night run, Cream producer Felix Pappalardi hired Wally Heider’s mobile unit and engineer Bill Halverson to record all eight performances. Essentially an eight track recording studio on wheels, Pappalardi and Halverson’s tapes from these nights would provide the incendiary live recordings fueling the second Wheel’s Of Fire album and eventually be mined for the posthumous Live Cream and Live Cream Volume 2 albums in the years to come.

Wheels Of Fire (Remastered)

Cream’s double album, Wheel’s Of Fire, would achieve astounding success, becoming the first double-record to ever sell a million copies, due in large part to the live material recorded by Pappalardi and Halverson during the final four nights in San Francisco. Herein also lies the initial source of confusion surrounding the official notation of these gigs, as the liner notes in Wheels Of Fire attributed the second disc of the set as Live at The Fillmore, despite the fact that all but one of the tracks was actually recorded at Winterland. At the time, this made marketing sense, as the Fillmore had far greater name recognition thanks to the local cultural scene receiving so much attention in the media, especially in Life and Time Magazine, as well as Crawdaddy! and the bourgeoning Rolling Stone magazine, which had recently launched out of San Francisco.

The confusion surrounding the venues on these recordings was further convoluted as the years went by and subsequent releases and reissues (including Cream’s own recent career retrospective box set – Those Were The Days) identified some of the material from these recordings as being from Fillmore West, a venue the band NEVER played. For the benefit of those questioning the validity of this statement, the reality is actually quite easily explained. In March of 1968, which is when these live San Francisco recordings were made, Fillmore West did not yet exist. Graham had opened Fillmore East in New York City (that same week, in fact) but he was still in the early stages of pursuing the 2800 capacity venue in San Francisco, which was then known as the Carousel Ballroom. Graham would not present concerts there until June of 1968, which is when he moved operations and christened the venue Fillmore West. Three times the capacity of the intimate Fillmore Auditorium and an entirely different experience, Cream never got the opportunity to perform there. By the time they returned to California on their farewell tour in October of 1968, they were playing huge sporting arenas like the Forum in Los Angeles and the Oakland Coliseum in the Bay Area, having already outgrown the likes of Fillmore West or Winterland. Despite this, incorrect information persists in authorized biographies, official release liner notes and is ubiquitous in much of the online documentation surrounding the March 1968 recordings. Because these Fillmore Auditorium and Winterland recordings were utilized as individual tracks on multiple albums over the course of the next several years, much date confusion surrounds the individual songs as well. With Pappalardi and Halverson’s recording logs as a guide, much of this has been rectified during the past decade, as reissues have begun documenting individual live song dates accurately, but the incorrect Fillmore West notation persists.

Since the Pappalardi/Halverson recordings have only been released as individual song edits, spread out and re-sequenced over several different releases, it is difficult, if not impossible, to enjoy an accurately sequenced continuous recording of Cream at their peak, unless one pursues poor quality audience recordings of the era. All of which makes this 40-minute two-track board recording from Bill Graham’s archive quite fascinating. Recorded at the early show on March 10th, 1968, the final night of this historic run, this particular set includes the performance of “Crossroads” that forever cemented Eric Clapton’s reputation and presents an extended sequence from one of the group’s greatest performances. Being a direct board recording of the house mix, rather than a post-production multitrack mix, provides a significantly different listening experience that in some ways is a more satisfying one, despite the less polished nature of the recordings.

Live Cream Volume 2 (Remastered)

The recording begins with the first song of the set, “Tales Of Brave Ulysses,” well underway. This is the performance that would later surface on Live Cream Volume 2 and features some of the greatest wah-wah guitar soloing ever played by a white man. Written by Clapton, Cream is in fine form right off the bat, setting the stage for the incendiary performances to come. It’s difficult to believe that the versions of “Crossroads” and “Spoonful” that floored so many on the Wheels Of Fire album could have occurred so early on in a set (and during an early show to boot!), but indeed they did, although Pappalardi wisely chose to reverse their order on the album. Here one can experience both songs in context of the larger performance, beginning with that monumental version of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful.” This is a prime example of Cream at the peak of their exploratory powers. Despite “Spoonful” being based on a very simple riff, the trio has the ability to improvise both tonally and rhythmically and the results burn for a solid sixteen minutes. It’s an extraordinarily daring performance that displays the intricate interplay and innate chemistry of these musicians. At approximately 10 minutes in, this performances heads for the stratosphere, with all three musicians furiously improvising, taking a basic blues soaring into regions few had ever explored.

This is followed by the now definitive Cream performance of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” possibly the greatest live encapsulation of Eric Clapton’s strength as a guitarist. This is a blistering performance, in which Clapton, Bruce, and Baker all seem to be soloing simultaneously. “Crossroads” is a dazzling display of the fury and bravado when Cream was at the pinnacle of their powers. This raw two-track recording also dispels several long-standing myths regarding “Crossroads” on the Wheels Of Fire album, which is indeed this performance. Many have claimed Clapton’s blistering solo a result of studio overdubbing, but here it is, fully intact, exactly as it went down, proving that one of the most blazing guitar solos of all time was indeed done spontaneously live on stage. Several noted historians have also claimed “Crossroads” to be an edited amalgamation of only the best parts, but that too is clearly not the case, as Cream really did manage to compress that much finesse and energy into a little over four minutes.

Taking a few seconds to catch their collective breath after “Crossroads,” the band next tackle Jack Bruce’s “We’re Going Wrong,” which many listeners will find fascinating as it has never seen official release. This is another fiery performance that slowly builds in intensity over the course of nearly eight minutes, well over twice the length of its studio counterpart. Here Jack Bruce displays what a passionate singer he could be, while simultaneously playing extraordinary bass lines. A hybrid of blues, rock, and a dose of psychadelia, this is another exciting performance that demonstrates Cream’s unique chemistry onstage. Along with the Jimi Hendrix Experience (arguably Cream’s only competition at the time) this music clearly foreshadows the “hard rock” sound that would come to dominate in the following decade.

Following “We’re Going Wrong” the band take a minute or so to debate what to close with. If one listens closely, Clapton can be heard suggesting “Cat’s Squirrel,” but Baker vetoes the suggestion, and since they’ve yet to play one of his songs, they pursue “Sweet Wine,” one of Baker’s contributions to their debut album. Although the tape runs out six and a half minutes in, this still provides another excellent example of the group building up a powerful performance based on the collective strengths of the individual members. Bruce and Baker are particularly impressive here, playing with a relentless fury that is well beyond what any rhythm section was attempting at the time. Clapton wails in response with seemingly boundless creativity.

Reaching the pinnacle of their collective strength, Cream wouldn’t last much longer and within a few short months; the constant bickering between Baker and Bruce would take its toll, leading the group to split up before years end. For the not quite three short years they were together, Cream was a prolific unit, releasing four (five if you count Wheels as a double) albums that set a new standard for rock musicianship. Despite their personal volatility (or perhaps in part, because of it), Cream burned brighter than most and left a lasting impression. Ginger Baker’s jazz-influenced drumming and Eric Clapton’s blues guitar stylings, combined with the complex bass lines and extraordinary voice of Jack Bruce, created a distinctive sound that would have a lasting impact. In many ways, Cream is largely responsible for creating the basic blueprint for rock music, with their heavier (and much louder) fusion of blues and rock ‘n’ roll. Much of the recorded evidence of their power on stage is sourced from these San Francisco performances and it’s doubtful they ever played with more conviction or invention than they did on the final night at Winterland, March 10th, 1968.

thanks to Alan Bershaw

Eric Clapton – guitar, vocals; Jack Bruce – bass, vocals, harmonica; Ginger Baker – drums

Winterland was one of the most well known and legendary venues of the late 60’s and early 70’s. All of the major bands of the time played there, just like they did at the original Fillmore Auditorium, Fillmore West and Fillmore East. What did these venues have in common? The late great Bill Graham. From 1966 he rented Winterland as it could hold more people than the nearby Fillmore Auditorium, and he needed it for the larger concerts he was putting on. Originally the venue was called the New Dreamland Auditorium when it opened in 1928 and it was used for ice skating and concerts, as the venue could be easily changed between the two.

However it wasn’t until 1971 that the venue was just a music venue, after Bill Graham had it fully converted to one. But in 1968 the venue certainly rivalled the nearby Fillmore Auditorium as one of the premier venues in the United States. Other acts that graced the stage included The Allman Brothers Band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and The Doors to name just a few. Basically, rock royalty.

When Cream took to the stage on the 10th March 1968, the band had already been in San Francisco for 11 days. On the 29th February and the 1st/2nd March they played their initial run at Winterland followed by two shows at the Fillmore Auditorium on the 3rd and 7th. On the 8th they were back at Winterland for three additional days of shows with two performances on each day. An unbelievably hectic schedule for any band. But this was Cream in their prime and the shows from the 10th March 1968 are legendary as far as Cream recordings go

This release is available soon through Amazon UK  no info as yet so which show ? 7th or 10th March 1968, or maybe an alternative date from among these shows listed . Hoping they finally get around to releasing the awesome version of We’re Going Wrong they performed on run of shows at Winterland & The Fillmore.

Tracklist:

1. Tales Of Brave Ulysses 2. Spoonful 3. Crossroads 4. We’re Going Wrong 5. Sweet Wine 6. Sunshine Of Your Love 7. N.S.U. 8. Stepping Out 9. Traintime 10. Toad 11. I’m So Glad

If 1967 was a year of introduction and innovation in rock ‘n’ roll—from Monterey Pop to to the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band and the launch of Rolling Stone Magazine  1968 was a proving ground, when a handful of the stars who had sprouted in the “Summer of Love” came to full flower in the psychedelia age. Artists from both sides of the pond, including The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Aretha Franklin, Cream, Traffic and Jefferson Airplane felt free to chip further away at old molds and pursue a daring new musical muse. It was an epochal year for established artists as well. The Beatles splintered in the studio, but their individual contributions to a self-titled double LP, the so-called “White Album”, amounted to some of the band’s greatest work and, in retrospect, unlocked a few imminent solo careers. It was a double album released by the Beatles  containing strong flavours of blues and rock’n’roll, Does this now mean the Beatles are taking a step backwards? As Ringo Starr philosophically remarks: ‘It’s not forwards or backwards. It’s just a step.’

John Wesley Harding

The year started out with what may well have been the finest album of the year, Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding. Midway through the year some tapes of Dylan’s were uncovered which were equally brilliant. Several of the songs on them came out on an album by The Band, Music From Big Pink. The best things on their album were not the Dylan songs, most of which sounded forced and strained, and by no means as good as Dylan’s own version of them on the tape. Rather, the highlights were the songs written by lead guitarist Robbie Robertson. “The Weight” was typical of the group’s low-down, country-soul, rock and roll performing and was one of the finest recordings of the year.

Bob Dylan also sets an anomalous tempo, established early in the year with the bucolic minimalism of ‘John Wesley Harding’. Dylan’s continued absence from the promotional scene allows him to move with a freedom not permitted his British contemporaries, and his absence creates a vacuum that myth, and under-the-counter recordings, step in to fill. British groups like The Who, meanwhile, grasp the opportunities of America. So effectively in fact, that their live shows were stupendous as they were chaotic.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers

The Byrds continued to go through personnel changes at least four times a year but in between times came up with two of the year’s great albums: The Notorious Byrd Brothers and Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The latter was a fine, straight country album with gorgeous, free harmonizing and excellent material. The former was perhaps their best album to date, and surely one of the five or so best of the year. David Crosby made some brilliant song-writing contributions, but the album was mainly Roger McGuinn’s and neither he nor anyone else in rock has often equalled such cuts as “Get To You” and “Artificial Energy.”

The Grateful Dead bored a lot of people with their much awaited second release, Anthem of the Sun and Moby Grape disappointed those who know that they are (or at least were) one of the finest live bands in the country with a very mediocre second album, Wow. On the other hand, the Rascals, long thought of as a teeny bopper group, continue to mature and develop and had at least one fine single this year: “People Got To Be Free.” 

Among individual artists, Laura Nyro began to receive the recognition she deserves, and many idolize her Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. Johnny Winter, a recently discovered white Texas blues singer has already created a large following on the basis of a few guest appearances in New York. San Francisco concert promoter Bill Graham rents a vacant New York theater and opens the Fillmore East concert venue.

Canadian rock band Steppenwolf release their debut album including the single “Born to Be Wild” and San Diego Rock band Iron Butterfly releases the album In A Gadda Da Vida considered to one of the first incarnations of the genre heavy metal albums.

The Rolling Stones grew out their roots with “Beggar’s Banquet”, while The Kinks and The Zombies took giant leaps forward with new and imaginative masterpieces that forever altered their trajectories. Plus we were introduced to a bunch of new faces to the pantheon:  The Doors, Sly Stone, Fleetwood Mac, Tim Buckley and, oh yes, Led Zeppelin. British rock and roll this year was dominated by blues bands. Ten Years After managed to kick up a lot of dust, Procol Harum continued to grow into its style and came up with a fine album, Shine on Brightly.

Pink Floyd lead singer and song writer Syd Barrett is checked into a psychiatric hospital and the band replaces him with David Gilmour.

Rock ‘n’ roll was at its most free in the pre-Woodstock glow of 1968. The Beatles went to India, Johnny Cash went to Prison at Folsom with one of the great live albums ever released, the Rolling Stones put a mobile studio in a truck, The Monkees went off the air. But it couldn’t ignore what was happening in the world riots, assassinations, war, a doomed election, space travel, poverty, drugs, Civil Rights, women’s liberation. All of it seeped into the art of the free-love counterculture with that strange combination of militant idealism and comical self-regard, as though it were clear that humanity would one day look at 1968 for a generation’s heroes and villains. Fifty years later in 2018 we are in the midst of a modern drug epidemic, a tarnished presidency, a growing underclass and a renewed vigor for social progress.

Here are some of the best albums of that momentous year in no particular order.

Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

The Byrds,  – Sweetheart of the Rodeo’

Even though David Crosby was booted from the Byrds in late 1967, the band had a pretty great 1968. In addition to the excellent ‘Notorious Byrd Brothers’ album, the restructured group released ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo,’ the granddaddy of all country-rock records. Credit goes to newcomer Gram Parsons, who helped steer the Byrds in this new direction. By the time the album came out in August, Parsons was gone and most of his vocals had been replaced (you can hear his recordings on the various reissues). But it didn’t matter in the long run — his, and the album’s, influence still resonates today.

Dock Of The Bay

Otis Redding, The Dock of the Bay   Released: February. 23rd

In some ways, 1968 began with a great sadness. On December. 10th, 1967, the blossoming soul star Otis Redding was killed in a plane crash in Wisconsin that also claimed the lives of four of his band members. The tragedy had taken not just one of the era’s most distinctive singers, but an artist standing at a new horizon for R&B music. Days before his death, Redding had recorded a new composition ”(Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay,” a lilting ray of sunshine that found a winsome Otis Redding unwinding his tight groove sound and opening up new worlds for his soul.

Released posthumously in February 1968, The Dock of the Bay showcased Redding for the mainstream audience he had courted at Monterey Pop the previous summer. “Let Me Come on Home” was the hard-driving, horn-happy rocker; “The Glory of Love” the arpeggiated slow burn; “Tramp” the naughty call-and-response with Carla Thomas. It wasn’t the album Redding was supposed to make in 1968, but it nevertheless served as the crossover breakthrough he always had in him.

Cheap Thrills

Big Brother & Holding Company, Cheap Thrills  – Released: August. 12th

Cheap Thrills, the second album featuring Janis Joplin, marked the emphatic emergence of the Texas-born singer in the San Francisco band that had already found some local success without her. Propelled by a star-making appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 that netted the band a deal with Columbia Records, Janis Joplin’s wavering, powderkeg voice quickly dominated the band’s psych-blues repertoire and raised the bar for practically every fiery vocalist to follow. Album entries “Summertime” and “Piece of My Heart” became signature songs, the vehicles with which she stunned the pop world with her grit and femininity, fusing her inner torment and strife with her public persona. Cheap Thrills topped the charts, one of the few products of San Francisco’s emerging underground to earn a mainstream embrace. The album’s cover, by illustrator R. Crumb, remains one of the most iconic of the era.

Truth

Jeff Beck,  –  Truth  

Jeff Beck’s first solo album following his departure from the Yardbirds in 1966 picks up where he left off with the influential British blues rockers: covering blues classics, standards from the Great American Songbook and even one of his old band’s songs. The guitar hero’s group on ‘Truth’ — including singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood  would get co-billing on the follow-up album, 1969’s ‘Beck-Ola.’ They deserve it here too.

Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake

Small Faces, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake  –  Released: May 24th

Marking a definitive break from Small Faces’ early mod and R&B underpinnings, the two-act Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake was a bold move into the realms of stylish psychedelia and the eccentric affectation of late ‘60s English invention. Although more than a hint of Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane’s Cockney humor was inescapable—the whimsical “Rene” and “Lazy Sunday” being obvious examples—two bold anthems, “Song of a Baker” and “Long Agos and Worlds Away,” predated Led Zeppelin’s arch bombast by several months.

At the time, the round album cover, made to resemble a tobacco tin, and the sidelong gibberish of “Happiness Stan,” a pseudo fairytale narrated by English actor Stanley Unwin, also garnered plenty of attention. One of the first concept albums ever envisioned (and basically unplayable live), Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake remains a little appreciated musical masterpiece. Small Faces would disband the following year.

Wheels Of Fire (Remastered)

Cream, Wheels of Fire  –  Released: August

Wheels of Fire had a hard precedent to follow, coming as it did on the heels of Cream’s 1967 sophomore breakthrough, Disraeli Gears and the blues-embossed psychedelia that preceded it. Nevertheless, laden with such classics as “White Room,” “Politician” and a sterling remake of the Robert Johnson classic “Crossroads” that became a microcosm of Eric Clapton’s entire career as a blues-nicking guitar deity, it managed to express the full potency of this startling supergroup (with Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums) and ensure their immortality. By taking the idea of a double disc to a new level of productivity—half live, half studio—Wheels of Fire also made full use of the trio’s songwriting chops and their ability to improvise onstage. Rarely has there been such a sprawling effort capable of bringing out that ability with such flourish and finesse. This was Cream’s last real album-length musical document, with only 1969’s abridged Goodbye to follow.

We're Only In It For The Money

Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention  –  We’re Only It for the Money

More so than any other record on our list of the Top Albums of 1968, the Mothers‘ third record is the one with the most direct link to ‘Sgt. Pepper’s.’ And not just because its original parody cover photo — which ended up inside the LP after the Beatles’ management objected — is a fierce slap to the earlier record. Frank Zappa and crew’s concept album satirizes tons of Summer of Love standbys, including hippie idealism, left-wing thought processes and over-the-top concept albums.

Traffic (Remasters)

Traffic, Traffic  Released: October

A follow-up to their excellent and eclectic debut, Traffic’s eponymous sophomore set found a fully congealed ensemble. The on-again, off-again participation of Dave Mason was now fully present, if only temporarily for this effort. Indeed, this was the album that represented Traffic’s transition from woodshed romanticism to forerunners of new iconic invention, a sound simultaneously purveyed by The Band in their early Americana guise. Several of the standout songs—”40,000 Headmen,” “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring,” “Pearly Queen”—offered druggy swirls of hippie-rock and tight soul embodied by Steve Winwood’s preternatural tenor and organ playing. Mason’s highlight, “Feelin‘ Alright,” would become a rock-radio smash for Gospel-tinged covermeister Joe Cocker the following year, and remains a mainstay in Mason’s live repertoire to this day. The definitive Traffic album, Traffic is another underrated monument of 1968.

Odyssey & Oracle by ZOMBIES (2011-01-21)

The Zombies, Odyssey and Oracle  –  Released: April 19th

One of the ‘60s great unsung masterpieces of that hallowed decade, the Zombies’ Odyssey and Oracle followed on the heels of the group’s early hits “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There,” while marking a giant leap forward. It was a set of songs flush with bold experimentation and baroque innovation, a concept not unlike that of Sgt. Pepper and other ornate musical ventures of the day. Ironically, The Zombies had broken up by the time Odyssey came out, and with its eventual smash hit, “Time of the Season,” it became a sad swan song that failed to reap the appreciation it deserved. Al Kooper championed its release in the U.S., but tepid label support doomed it to the cut-out bins practically from the get go. The original band recently reconvened (sans the late guitarist Jim Atkinson) to play the album live in its entirety, helping regain the critical kudos that evaded it originally.

At Folsom Prison (Legacy Edition)

Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison  –  Release: May

When Johnny Cash arrived at Folsom Prison in California on January. 13th, 1968, he was fortunate that he was there to perform for inmates and not join them behind bars. Cash had spent much of the previous few years in a drug spiral, watching his career and his life circle the drain. He was looking to revitalize his waning career, and a prison concert seemed the ideal vehicle—if Cash had always empathized with jail-bound convicts and the lonely despair that comes with the life, now he felt he could speak directly to them on terms everyone could understand. He had recorded the “Folsom Prison Blues” single back in 1955, and here was an opportunity to put faces to names. Proving that the concert was directed at a very specific audience, Cash performed a set of songs (two sets actually, which were combined into one 15-song album) that resisted self-help bromides and spiritual guff. “Dark as a Dungeon,” “The Long Black Veil” and “25 Minutes to Go” evoked the cynicism and gloom of living in captivity. Little did Cash expect, it also resonated loud and clear with a global audience who for one reason or another felt the sting of living in bondage even as they walked free.

Astral Weeks

Van Morrison, Astral Weeks   –  Released: November

After attaining his initial success back in Belfast with the band Them and a couple of hits (“Gloria,” “Here Comes the Night”), Van Morrison launched his solo career with a bang in the form of the ubiquitous soul-blaring 1967 hit “Brown Eyed Girl,” off his debut LP Blowin’ Your Mind! But it was the followup that proved to be his magnum opus. Charting new experimental terrain, he initiated a sound that was open-ended and had more to do with jazz, folk, elegiac imagery and pure stream of consciousness. “Cyprus Avenue,” “Sweet Thing,” “Ballerina” and “Astral Weeks” are unbound folk songs lit up with bells, strings, flutes and Morrison’s assured vocal wail. All but ignored in Northern Ireland, the album struck a chord with critics who admired Morrison’s meditative musings and the songs’ cerebral settings. Today, it’s widely recognized as one of the most influential albums of the era and an adventurous chapter in what would be a long and varied career.

The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society

The Kinks, Are the Village Green Preservation Society  –  Released: November. 22nd

The Kinks were never rabble-rousers in the truest sense of the word. For every proto-punk attempt at slash and burn with songs like “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night,” Ray Davies and Co. were able to offer softer laments like “Waterloo Sunset” and “Set Me Free.” With an astute eye for detail, Davies could probe the absurdities of life and turn them into woeful tales of middle-class misery. He found full flourish with the lovely and graceful Village Green Preservation Society, a wonderfully wistful song cycle about idyllic England in more innocent times, flush with nostalgia, nuance and a gentle chiding of civility and sentiment in a storybook world. If Ray Davies chose to look at life through rose-colored lenses, no one could blame him for attempting to engineer this imaginative escape. It was The Kinks‘ sixth album, and final record by the original quartet, bombed when it came out in November 1968 . But it’s now considered the band’s best LP, a straight-faced concept album about Victorian-era mores. It’s lush, pastoral and brimming with gently strummed songs about small-town England that rank among the best songs that Ray Davies has ever written.

Bookends

Simon & Garfunkel, –  Bookends  –  Release: April 3rd

The most fully realized album of Simon and Garfunkel’s middle-period career, Bookends showed that the duo were capable of more than merely poignant, introspective balladry. Only their fourth studio effort, Bookends was fashioned as a concept album that imagined life’s progression from youth to old age. “Old Friends,” a song that more or less became synonymous with the duo’s often stormy relationship, encapsulated that trajectory, but several others stood apart as future standards, including “America,” “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” “At the Zoo,” and an encore performance of “Mrs. Robinson,” culled from the soundtrack to The Graduate, released the year before. At the same time, Bookends would prove an ideal lead-in to Bridge Over Troubled Water, which would follow two years later and elevate the duo to their grand crescendo.

Music From Big Pink

The Band, Music From Big Pink  –  Release: July 1st

The Band’s debut record took an entirely different path from 1967’s candy-colored psych-rock explosion. Bob Dylan’s former backing group stripped down and excavated a form of American roots music that was somewhere between country and folk. Dylan had a hand in some of the songs, but the quintet proved to be one of the most significant groups of their time.

By the time The Band released their debut full-length, they were already a well-known, road-tested outfit who’d played behind Dylan during his infamous electric breakout. But their emergence as architects of archival Americana arrived with Music From Big Pink, an album borne from jams, rehearsals and songwriting sessions at the album’s namesake house in upstate New York. Though elevated in stature at the time thanks to the presence of a few Dylan compositions, the finished album found Robertson, Helm, Hudson, Danko and Manuel tossing off their musical shackles, mixing up instrumental and vocal duties, and creating a vintage variety of folk and country that seemed as effortless as it did brilliant. It was that emphasis on rural roots—the band boasted four Canadians and and Arkansan—that inspired the souped-up backwoods persona they purveyed in both sight and sound. The songs stand the test of time, and indeed, “The Weight,” “This Wheel’s On Fire,” “Tears of Rage” and “I Shall Be Released” stand among the most indelible expressions of heartland music ever recorded.

Lady Soul [w/bonus selections]

Aretha Franklin, Lady Soul   –  Released: January. 22nd

It says something about how rare and electrifying Aretha Franklin was in 1968, as a 26-year-old singer making her third album for Atlantic Records, that she could claim the title Lady Soul and not only pull it off, but then wear the crown undisputed for the next 50 years. Aretha Franklin had scored a defining hit—for both herself and women everywhere—the previous year with her cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” then mourned Redding’s death in December. Her mix of exuberance and despair, crying and shouting with every twist of a wounded relationship that haunts the album, courses through Lady Soul.

There’s gospel bliss on ”(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and down-hearted blues on “Good to Me As I Am to You.” She also fearlessly reimagines songs by her most famed male contemporaries, including a simmering cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” which had been a hit for The Impressions. Franklin’s once-in-a-century siren of a voice always powerful, always under complete control—is backed all the way by a crack New York headlined led by organist Spooner Oldham, saxophonist King Curtis and guitarist Joe South.Beggars Banquet

The Rolling Stones, Beggar’s Banquet  –  Released: December. 6th

Following 1967’s critically panned Their Satanic Majesties Request, attempt to cash in on psychedelia, the Rolling Stones revealed their essence on Beggar’s Banquet—a dirty, raw, set of originals that injected some country twang into the band’s R&B obsessions and set the mold for the iconic Stones sound that would stretch on for another 50 years.

Like a few other artists on our list of Albums of 1968, unplugged and settled into a more gutsy rock ‘n’ roll groove for their seventh LP. Acknowledging, but without directly borrowing from, the usual R&B and blues influences, the Rolling Stones crafted an album that’s simultaneously raw, scary and sinister. More than that, it launched a staggeringly fruitful creative period (which continued through 1972’s career milestone ‘Exile on Main St.’) when the Stones more than earned their title as the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Band.

Containing at least three certified Stones classics—“Street Fighting Man,” “Salt of the Earth (featuring a rare lead vocal from Keith Richards) and the signature song “Sympathy for the Devil”Beggar’s Banquet marked the first entry in a four-album run—followed by Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street—that would go down as maybe the greatest winning album streak in rock history.

Sadly, it also marks the final album with Brian Jones’s full participation, and his reliability at the time was clearly in question. The original cover image, featuring a graffiti-strewn lavatory, was rejected by the record label and replaced with an unadorned invitation image that drew instant comparisons to the Beatles’ White Album, which had come out three weeks before. Nevertheless, the inner gatefold, depicting an enthusiastic food fight, ensured the Stones’ depravity wasn’t diminished.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland  –  Released: October. 16th

Jimi Hendrix  radiated genius from the get-go with Are You Experienced? and Axis Bold As Love, his first two albums with the his band Experience in 1967. On Electric Ladyland, he took that extraordinary innovation into entirely new realms that were difficult to define then and remain so now. The trio, with its British rhythm section and American front man, was perfectly suited to their era, and with a supporting cast that included Traffic’s Steve Winwood, Dave Mason and Chris Wood, as well as drummer Buddy Miles and Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady, Electric Ladyland redefined the concept of modern rock within a progressive posture. The album boasts everything that Hendrix (who produced it) did well: slinky psych-soul (“Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” the title track), explosive electric blues (“Voodoo Chile”), melodic pop (“Crosstown Traffic,” “Long Hot Summer Night”) and tripped-out sonic explorations that take the listener under the sea (“1983… A Merman I Should Turn to Be”) and into the heavens (“And the Gods Made Love”). His version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” showcased his ability to put an indelible mark on any popular music of the day, making it little wonder that even now, half a century later, the final studio effort recorded in Hendrix’s lifetime continues to set an almost unattainably high bar. Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland was the only two record set of the year that made it in my book. He is the authoritative lead guitarist, the coolest showman, an excellent songwriter, and a constantly improving vocalist. He has one of the finest drummers in pop music working with him and an imagination of touring performers on the scene that day, Hendrix is tops and 1968 was his year.

The Beatles (The White Album)

The Beatles, The Beatles  –  Release: November. 22nd

After the critical success of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the rapid follow-up of the equally colorful and hallucinogenic Magical Mystery Tour, this expansive double-disc allowed the four Beatles both to stretch out artistically and reconnect with their roots in a way that would be further explored with the bare bones concept for their 1970 swan song, Let It Be.

A series of solo excursions made by an increasingly fractured band, the so-called White Album collected songs composed while the Fabs were meditating in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It mostly resisted the pressure to address the social upheaval swirling outside the doors of EMI Studios (later called Abbey Road) and focused instead on wide-ranging song craft, with each member managing to create some of his most lasting work despite—or maybe because of—the infighting and tension that plagued the recording sessions. Lennon emerged with “Dear Prudence,” Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” “Sexy Sadie” and “Revolution 1”; McCartney composed “Martha My Dear,” “Blackbird,” “I Will” and “Helter Skelter”; and Harrison contributed “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Long Long Long” and “Savoy Truffle.” Taken together, they form what many consider to be among The Beatles’ greatest collection of songs.