Posts Tagged ‘Jack Bruce’

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Robin Trower is one of the great English grandmasters of the guitar. A musician and songwriter with a celestial blues sound and deep spiritual roots, he achieved star billing in the 1970s when he scored a string of Top 10 albums in America. Trower grew up in Southend-on-Sea, where as a teenager he formed The Paramounts with singer and pianist Gary Brooker. A band that straddled both the beat and blues booms of the 1960s, The Paramounts enjoyed an early minor hit single with Poison Ivy in 1963,

You didn’t have to be a guitarist to appreciate Robin Trower’s talent. In the mid 1970’s, Robin Trower released a string of albums that rivaled everything else being released in the rock god guitarist genre. Smoking solos, killer riffs and great tunes defined the Robin Trower sound.

Trower joined old classmate and bandmate Gary Brooker in his new band Procul Harum in 1967 replacing departing guitarist Ray Royer. Trower played on the band’s first five albums, including “Shine on Brightly,” and “A Salty Dog” But he had an epiphany after hearing Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight in August 1970 and left Procul Harum in 1971. After a short stint in Jude, a power trio with his future bass player and lead singer James Dewar, Trower formed the Robin Trower Band in 1973, with drummer Reg Isidore  (later Bill Lordan), and Dewar. After releasing “Twice Removed From Yesterday in 1973, Trower and the band hit the jackpot with a trio of Top 10 albums beginning with “Bridge of Sighs,” in 1974.

The title track was densely textured with a great opening riff that was a theme throughout the dark, ethereal song. “For Earth Below,” followed in 1975 and “Robin Trower Live,’ in 1976. Trower’s guitar work became more Hendrix-like over the years and the power trio gave him room to spread his wings in that direction. He closed out the 70s with the great “Caravan to Midnight,” (1978) with some powerful soloing on “My Love (Burning Love)” and “Fool.” In the early 1980s, Trower hooked up with Cream bassist Jack Bruce and his two former drummers Lordan and Isidore for two high powered albums “BLT,” (1981) and “Truce (1982).

These discs are well worth seeking out for the interplay between Bruce and Trower. Album sales began to flag after the 1983 release “Back it Up,” with Dewar returning to his lead vocal duties, and Trower was dropped from his label. But no matter, he had built up such a huge following that he has continued touring and recording to this day. Robin Trower is a titan – a guitar slinger extraordinaire.

 

Trower has nevertheless endured. Still writing and recording, he has always sought fresh horizons, and has just released and another new album, Time And Emotion. And he continues to tour, proudly showcasing a repertoire from the 1970s that runs like a thread of steel through the core of British blues-rock culture.

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Bridge Of Sighs – Chrysalis, 1974

Robin Trower’s breakthrough album, Bridge Of Sighs peaked at No.7 in the US and remains one of the pillars of his repertoire to this day. “Bridge of Sighs,” was a blockbuster album for Robin Trower. The album reached the top 10 album charts in 1973. Every track on the record was killer.

The song’s opening bass and drum groove sets in motion a monster rocking riff that is one for the ages, The dramatic time shift in the middle of the song set the way for another incredible Robin Trower guitar solo.

Beginning with the stuttering riff of Day Of The Eagle, the album combines urgency with gravitas. ‘A cold wind blows and gods look down in anger on this poor child,’ Dewar sings as the title track unfolds with a vast, slow momentum, like a planet drifting through the void. The song’s opening riff is classic Robin Trower. What separated Robin Trower from other rock guitarist like Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, Brian May, and so on was the way Trower used 9th’s and 11th’s in such a slick groove based way without shoving them down the listener’s throat. It was such brilliant playing.

Perhaps Trower’s most famous album is Bridge of Sighs (1974). This album remains one of the pillars of his repertoire to this day. Beginning with the stuttering riff of Day Of The Eagle, the album combines urgency with gravitas., along with his first and third solo albums, was produced by his former Procol Harum bandmate, organist Matthew Fisher. Lady Love is an irresistible, cowbell-grooved rocker and Too Rolling Stoned romps along until the incredible five-minute, one-bass-note run-out groove. Stoner blues‑rock redefined.

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For Earth Below – Chrysalis, 1975

With Matthew Fisher producing for the third time and Bill Lordan taking over on drums, this is the album where everything came together for Trower. Dewar is at his best on Fine Day and Gonna Be More Suspicious, while Lordan takes the band to a new level of rhythmic sophistication with the intricate cymbal figures and funky snare and hi-hat combinations of A Tale Untold and Confessin’ Midnight.

After the success of “Bridge of Sighs”, Robin Trower came roaring back one year later with another rocking blues infused album that was every bit as good as Bridge of Sighs. Robin Trower’s For Earth Below was even more successful than Bridge of Sighs as the record For Earth Below hit the number five-spot on the Billboard top 100 albums. “Confessin’ Midnight,” knocked listeners out with a heavy lick that resonated throughout the song and laid the groundwork for another blistering Robin Trower explosive guitar solo’s.

Trower’s songwriting and soloing takes the three musicians soaring across the musical cosmos, especially on the slow blues of the title track and the keening outro of A Tale Untold. Take a listen again to the standout track “Shame The Devil.” The killer album opener was simple proof that Robin Trower was on fire during the mid seventies.

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Long Misty Days – Chrysalis, 1976

Trower, Dewar and Lordan consolidated their magic touch with this bold and confident album. Emerging as a sure‑footed songwriting team, Trower and Dewar are co-credited on every song, apart from a gritty cover of the Sutherland Brothers’s epic singalong “Sailing”.

With its dense wash of overdriven guitar sound, the title track is testament to Trower’s skill as a manipulator of sonic textures. Delicate and graceful yet executed with crushing power, this sound influenced future generations of bands, from Hüsker Dü to Smashing Pumpkins. From the opening moments of this incredible piece of music, you know you’re in for something special. Robin Trower’s “Caledonia,” is among our favourite Robin Trower studio recording. The fast funky guitar riff that balances itself between Robin Trower’s solo guitar licks will make you want to buy every Robin Trower recording ever released. It’s that good and easily one of the best Robin Trower songs ever released on vinyl.

The Robin Trower song “Long Misty Days,” was the title track to Robin Trower’s fourth album. The record Long Misty Days was released in October of 1976. Of all the Robin Trower songs nestled in a slow blues groove, “Long Misty Days,” stand out among the best of them. This is a slow blues song, but there is this sublet driving force that fuels the groove into an arena of specter undiscovered by most artist. It’s what made Robin Trower so special.

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Twice Removed From Yesterday – Chrysalis, 1973

It may have been a pure coincidence that Trower’s first album was released in the same year Free split up, but the timing couldn’t have been better: it marked the arrival of a new guitar hero who evoked the spirit of the late Hendrix, together with a vocalist (Dewar) with an R&B timbre redolent of Paul Rodgers. Trower retained Dewar as his bassist, who took on lead vocals as well, and recruited drummer Reg Isidore (later replaced by Bill Lordan) to form the Robin Trower Band. Robin Trower’s “Sinner Song,” was released on his first solo album, Twice Removed From Yesterday.

The Robin Trower band was essentially a trio that consisted of Robin Trower on guitar, James Dewar on bass and lead vocals and Reg Isidore on drums. It could be argued that James Dewar might have been the most popular rock singer of the 1970’s that most people had never heard of. If you had never seen Robin Trower live, than you would have probably assumed that it was Robin Trower also handling the lead vocals. However, that was not the case and Dewar probably never got the recognition he deserved for the killer vocals tracks he recorded with the Robin Trower trio both in and out of the studio. Stevie Ray Vaughan had given much credit to Jimi Hendrix as inspiring so much of his playing. But if you are aware of both Robin Trower and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s catalogues, you can’t help but notice that Stevie Ray Vaughan was probably also listening to Trower.

The slow, drifting menace of opening cut I Can’t Wait Much Longer established an unhurried, Free-like template that carried through to songs such as Hannah, a reworking of BB King’s Rock Me Baby and the exquisite track Daydream.

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Robin Trower Live! – Chrysalis, 1976

Robin Trower Live would probably be among the top the list of live rock albums. Of there is The Rolling Stones Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out, Foghat’s Foghat Live, Led Zeppelin’s soundtrack to The Song Remains The Same, Rush, All The World’s A Stage, Lou Reed’s Rock and Roll Animal and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s One More From The Road but the 1975 Live album that Robin Trower released was one of the most smoking guitar records ever issued. This one cranks past eleven. The airy opening to “Daydream,” is a bit reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” However, the song than takes on its own spellbinding groove that simply mesmerized the audience. The songs unbelievable second solo will drop your jaw and bend your knees.From the opening high-energy rip through Too Rolling Stoned to the dense thundercloud chords of I Can’t Wait Much Longer, this Stockholm recording concert recording captures the classic Trower trio at an early, elemental peak of power.

Along with fast, muscular run-throughs of Lady Love, Alethea and Little Bit Of Sympathy, the album boasts the definitive recorded version of Daydream, with Trower lovingly sculpting the individual notes like clay on a potter’s wheel, and then whipping them into clusters in a swirling blizzard of sound.

The guitar work on the live performance of “Little Bit Of Symphony,” and “Rock Me Baby,”  was just so outstanding that it made it impossible to pick between these two killer performances. Both live tracks were released on Robin Trower’s magnificent earth shattering, Robin Trower “Live” album. The Live album stemmed from a radio broadcast from a stadium show in Sweden in 1975. The band is as loose at they could get and the interplay between Robin Trower and bassist James Dewar is astonishing.

On “Rock Me Baby,” , Robin Trower sounds as if he is playing lead guitar through the entire track. We would say this is Robin Trower’s peak moment, but the man has continued to perform and record brilliantly 40 years onward. However, if you’re looking to buy only one Robin Trower CD or at east looking for a place to star, we highly recommend Robin Trower Live.

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B.L.T. – Chrysalis, 1981

This was the first of many occasions when Trower teamed up with ex-Cream legend Jack Bruce. Their collaborations always produced something thoughtful and off the beaten path. With Bill Lordan on drums, the three-way musical interplay on Into Money and What It Is is strong, supple and undeniably funky.

Bruce applies his Glasgow bawl to tunes and lyrics mostly written by Trower and Keith Reid. No Island Lost has a Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) vibe, while Life On Earth recalls some vintage Cream moves. One of the great overlooked power trio albums.

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20th Century Blues – V-12, 1994

After a period of extended line-ups in the 1980s, Trower returned to the trio format with Livingstone Brown (vocals/bass) and Clive Mayuyu (drums), and got back to basics with 20th Century Blues, the first album released on his own V-12 label.

Brown’s voice and bass are modestly positioned in the mix, but he provides a solid backbone for Trower’s immense guitar excursions on songs such as Extermination Blues and Lowell Fulson’s Reconsider Baby. The rhythm section gets funky on Prisoner Of Blues while Trower plays some Shaft-style wah-wah.

A portrait of Robin Trower

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Jack Bruce  was asked “What do you think these days, about the Cream songs you wrote?” the reply: I don’t call them Cream songs. I call them songs that I wrote at that time. OK, tell me about “White Room,” for example. I’m really happy with that song, because it’s paid the rent for a while. It’s quite a daring song in that it starts in 5/4 and was a huge hit. There aren’t many of those—Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass” has bars of 7/8 in it, that was a good song.

I think it’s important that writers take chances and risks. Record companies and a lot of people underestimate the public tremendously, so you end up with a public that doesn’t know. But if you reckon that the people you’re playing for are fairly hip, then they’ll really get into it. “White Room” has some of Ginger’s best drumming—when he brings in that extra bass drum at the end, it’s a whole new dimension.

How about some of the Cream gigs? Or should I say the gigs you played at that time. I think your debut was at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester in 1966. You were still playing your Fender VI, before you got the Gibson EB-3. I don’t know who suggested the Twisted Wheel. It might well have been Ginger. But why not? One of the better clubs in Britain, without any doubt. I think it was a pretty good gig. We had a big American estate car, which blew up on the way to the Twisted Wheel. I don’t remember how we got there in the end.

So then we got our Austin Westminster band car. There’d be the driver and roadie, Ben Palmer, and three in the band, two Marshall stacks, and the drums. That’s what we’d get in with any relative comfort and spliff-rolling capabilities. We’d drive there and come back the same day.

What do you recall about playing the Flamingo in London?:

I did the all-nighters there a lot, that was one of my very early gigs. I played the Flamingo with Alexis, too, a bit, but mainly the all-nighters with pickup bands, usually Ginger on drums, Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor sax, and Johnny Burch on piano. The band room of the Flamingo in the early ’60s was the centre of the universe, really. It had a pet rat that used to run in the rafters above. Just a fabulous place to hang out. The Marquee was good, the 100 Club was good, but the Flamingo was the hip place. A guy called Ronnie Chambers used to look after the Flamingo. He’d get excited sometimes and rush on stage waving his gun about if the music was particularly good. His line was, “Hey, you want a watch?” And he’d pull up the sleeve of his suit and he’d have all these watches up his arm. Those were really great days, quite innocent really.

I’ve got a copy of a contract here for a 1966 Cream gig in Stockton [northern England] for £75.

Seventy-five quid? Well, that’s pretty good bread for then. I remember the first big-money gig we got with the Graham Bond Organisation, a bit earlier, I think Newcastle or Durham University or something, we got £40. We thought, Wow! We’ve hit the big time! A few of those and we can retire. Bearing in mind that people were probably earning a quarter of that as a decent weekly wage. So I don’t think Cream was making very good money at first from gigs—I think that came much later. I’m afraid I’m very vague about anything financial.

How about the early American gigs, maybe the Fillmore? . The Fillmore was great in San Francisco, and obviously 1967 was the year to be there, really. It would take off some nights, and this was when we first started doing the extended improvisations in Cream. It was new to the band. Up to this series of gigs, we just played little songs live, very short: three, four, five minute versions of the songs. And since there were only three of us, it wasn’t like: “You do a solo, then I’ll do a solo, then you.” It was: “Eric, do a solo.”

“Our albatross was having to do very long solos when you maybe didn’t feel like it. Mixed blessings, really.” We would sometimes strip it down to where Eric would play completely unaccompanied, for quite a long time [laughs]. And I remember him doing some quite incredible stuff, quite amazing. But they weren’t recorded.

The change was, quite simply, that we were fed up with doing that, and the audience was so great at the Fillmore, they were all so out of it, all sort of laidback, and would say, “Just play!” They wouldn’t let us go. So we just started playing, jamming as it were, and that turned into what we became known for. We didn’t sit down and have a big discussion: “Oh, let’s do this.” I think it was the same way that The Who became known for smashing up their equipment and all of that, and that became their albatross.

Is your academic musical background of use to you?

Yes, because if I’m sitting on a plane, say, and I have an idea, I can always write it down. I can write all my own horn parts, as on my new album, I can write my own arrangements. In fact, thinking back to “I Feel Free” and “White Room,” I was much closer to the academic days—which in fact were very shortlived. I did A-level music and then I went to The Royal Scottish Academy of Music, studying composition and cello, part-time and then full-time. And then we sort of threw each other out. They didn’t like me because I was improvising.

When I left the Academy, I was playing acoustic stand-up bass, and I heard about this band in Coventry, guy called Murray Campbell, it was a Mecca dance band. I was playing bass with Andy Park and some local people in Glasgow—he turned me on to Thelonious Monk. I just wanted to go out there, I wanted to be the next Scott LaFaro. Not much hope of that, but when you’re young you’re very ambitious. Ambitious, certainly, and also with some strong jazz roots, it seems.

The roots thing is very important to me. I think the difference between my roots and someone else’s is that I didn’t come from rock ‘n’ roll, I came from jazz, basically. I was playing with Ginger and Graham Bond, we were an alto–acoustic bass–drums trio, very much in the style of what Ornette Coleman was doing in the late ’50s, Charlie Haden and so on. That was my roots.

Anyway, I left home at 17 and went down to audition for this band I’d heard about, because they were playing Maynard Ferguson, Dizzy Gillespie big-band arrangements. The audition piece was Dizzy’s “One Bass Hit.” It’s a very difficult piece, so it was sorting out the men from the boys. And even though I was 17, I got the gig. A very good band.

I travelled around the country playing with jazz bands—I played with Chet Baker, and then with a fairly good cocktail-jazz band on the American Air Force bases, which was great because it introduced me to Mingus. They had these great record collections, and I steeped myself in Mingus records. It completely changed my life, because that introduced me, though I didn’t know it at the time, to the blues. Because really, what Mingus did was to bring country blues to jazz. Then I came to London and joined Alexis Korner.

Well, there was a place in London called “the street,” Archer Street, round the back of Piccadilly Circus. One day a week at lunchtime, all the musicians would go down there and you’d get work. Hundreds of musicians hanging out with their little books, getting their weddings and bar mitzvahs, this whole street would be thronged of musicians. That’s how I got the cocktail-jazz job, and Chet Baker. Then I tried to make it as a jazz bass player in London and had some tough times. I was playing with this band called Jim McHargs & His Scotsville Jazz Band. And Jimmy McHargs was the bass player, so how I got that job I still haven’t worked out.

This was 1961, ’62, and we got a gig at a Cambridge May Ball. And then I hear this amazing sound emanating from a cellar they had there. I went down, and it was Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax, Kathy Stobart singing, forget who was on piano, a guy called Morris on bass, and the guy on drums was called Ginger Baker. I went and asked to sit in, and they said they didn’t encourage that. I think they may have thought I was a student, though how they could have thought I was a student at Cambridge I don’t know. But anyway, I persuaded them, and they did the old trick of what jazzers do when someone sits in, which is to make them look stupid. So first they played something with very difficult changes at an incredible tempo.

So then they played a ballad and said: “You play the tune.” So OK, did that. And then I put the bass down and left. And Dick Heckstall-Smith spent two or three weeks trying to find me, and somehow he managed, and he asked me to join Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. It was a good job he managed to find you.

Yeah. I might still be living in that terrible room in Willesden [north-west London]. You never know. So I joined, and Charlie Watts was on drums. I became good mates with him, often slept on his couch. And Dick Heckstall-Smith I regard as a musical father in many ways. He turned me on to a lot of things. The legendary Cyril Davies was on harmonica. It was very much a rhythm and blues band.

Cyril was a panel beater by trade. He and Alexis used to play interval spots with Chris Barber, playing Lead Belly things. I haven’t heard a harp player like Cyril. OK, Little Walter is obviously the man of all time, James Cotton is good, but Cyril had something. He was so good that when Muddy Waters heard him over here, he asked him to join his band and go back and live in Chicago. Unfortunately, poor old Cyril had leukemia and didn’t have very long to live. But I don’t think he would have given up his panel-beating business anyway. Muddy doesn’t, er, pay well.

I was a terrible musical snob. I thought progressive jazz was all there was—Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, post-bebop but still with the roots. Very much what you would call modern jazz. Talking ’62, so a lot of interesting stuff was about, Blue Note was happening, Riverside was happening. I remember hearing Tony Williams for the first time around then, he made a record with Eric Dolphy called Out To Lunch which is still something I play once a week. It was Dick that explained to me that it was possible to keep your musical ideals, but apply other things to it. Fusion, in other words. You could have a great country-blues harmonica player playing with a modern jazz tenor sax player, and that it didn’t demean anything, and in fact that it was much more modern than playing an imitation Ornette Coleman. At this time there were some great fusion bands, specially the Miles Davis band, the original Return To Forever, Weather Report in its heyday. Lifetime was the fusion band. Lifetime I consider to be definitely the best musical experience of my life. [Jack played on the 1970 Tony Williams Lifetime album Turn It Over.] Anyone who was lucky enough to hear that band would tend to agree with me. Played some great gigs over here, played the Speakeasy which people still go “wow!” about. That was a great band. We all knew it was very, very special. For me, it was great playing with people up to my standard—and that’s going to sound terribly big-headed.

Lifetime was a three-piece band at that time, Tony Williams [drums], Larry Young [organ], and John McLaughlin [guitar]. John brought Tony along to this gig—Jimi Hendrix was there, we had a great time—and Tony said, “Hey, I’m recording tomorrow, would you like to come down and play on a track or two?” So I went down, and he presented me with this very complicated written part, thinking probably this guy is a rocker. So I sight-read it, because I’m trained in that way. But the thing was, we clicked rhythmically.

Oh, Miles! Miles likes Cyndi Lauper. Miles is a completely open individual, as every musician should be. There’s a lot of people in rock music that I know—I won’t mention their names—who are snobs as well. They think that if it’s not two guitars, bass, and drums, and maybe a keyboard, well, forget it. There’s a sort of inverted snobbery there that I find and that I have suffered from. And there’s a problem with guitar players in the States who all want to play like Yngwie Malmsteen. They all want to play scales very fast up and down the neck of the guitar, and they aren’t interested in finding the roots of the music. They probably go as far back as Van Halen, and think that’s the beginning, instead of where Eric went back to: Robert Johnson, Albert King, and so on.

I’m roughly the same age as Mick Jagger, John Lennon—we were all little boys who were really influenced by the very beginnings of the commercial success of early rock ‘n’ roll music. It was there in our consciousness. So we can now look back as an overview, a lot of people of our generation, and a lot of younger people, too. It’s there. You can get the entire output of Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, or somebody. In the ’60s when Cream was happening—let’s say in 1967, when we had our first real success in America—we played the Fillmore in the hippie summer and it felt like the whole world was being reborn, and musically I was so excited.

Ginger Baker and myself were really a hot jazz rhythm section, and even when Eric was playing, Cream was basically a jazz band. We never told Eric that, but that’s another story. Well, I don’t mean we were playing jazz. We certainly weren’t. We were playing improvised music, and some of the improvisations were damn good, even the recordings that were released. Which were not the best. You never get the best live stuff recorded, I’m glad to say.

Because it’s almost a pity when it’s recorded. Because live music should be something that happens and disappears, and you go home from the concert going, “Wow, that was great!” And you know you’ll never hear it again. The musicians love that magic that happens every so often. Also, I think if you stick up a microphone and you know it’s being recorded, it’s going to stop the real magic happening anyway. And I think there’s got to be something wrong with the people who go to the trouble of recording every gig.  When I listen to live Cream records now, I’m struck by the sound you got. I think if we were to play now, it would be a lot better. That side of it would be a lot better. Two of the bands that I’ve played with, at least, the great pity was that we were ahead of the technology—they were Cream and Lifetime. They hadn’t invented the real PA system yet. We used to play baseball stadiums with little 200-watt PAs. The problem that Cream had was that none of us were technically minded, in the sense that we knew what to do about it..”

You only have to look at old films of Ginger playing. I saw something recently of him playing with Blind Faith, and he was using two mics for the drums. In Hyde Park! Jimi suffered very badly from equipment, too. In Lifetime, we were playing light-years-ahead music—very fast, very loud—and that was the loudest band I’ve ever played in. Cream wasn’t that loud. Volume is a very relative thing. I think even symphony orchestras are playing louder now. People are going deaf! In those days, if you had 100 watts for the guitar and 100 watts for the bass and 200 watts for the vocals, that was damned loud. In Alexis Korner’s band, we all went through one little amplifier and two speakers either side of the stage—and people thought that was loud! People have got used to louder things. And, of course, we now have more sophisticated sound equipment, which in those days just did not exist. The first time I played electric bass was for Island Records with a guy called Ernest Ranglin, a Jamaican jazz guitar player. We recorded an EP called Ernest Ranglin And The ‘G.Bs’. It was Ernest, Graham Bond on Hammond, Ginger on drums, and me on a bass guitar that I borrowed from some music shop.

I’m a very stolid person. It takes me a long time to change, so I was against bass guitars. But that session was all it took. God, I thought, it’s loud, and I can play so easily. I can play louder than Ginger! He didn’t like it. I was totally convinced, so I went out and bought my first electric bass, which was a Top Ten [he means the Teisco-made Top Twenty brand], a Japanese bass—and “Japanese” didn’t mean very much in those days. It was all I could afford. Sounded pretty good to me. Kept giving me terrible electric shocks, though.

Marvin Gaye came over here. He’d just had his first few hits, must have been ’65. Graham Bond got the job of putting the band together to do a TV show with Marvin, we were playing things like “How Sweet It Is,” and I was going so he asked me to join, but unfortunately—unfortunately? Fortunately, I was getting married and I couldn’t go.

But that did encourage me that I was on the right track, because I was having a lot of problems, specially from Ginger who thought my bass playing was becoming too busy. It was just that he could hear me now. Suddenly there was a bass, and I was playing melody.

I’ve always thought that good music is not a melody and a block and boom-boom. To me good music is all melody—the drums should be playing tunes, the bass should be playing tunes, it should be counterpoint. I like to be able to listen to a lot of things going on, as opposed to one block—unless that’s what you want. I like moving parts, and that’s what a lot of the great Stax and Tamla things are. A lot of great soul music is very contrapuntal. So James Jamerson to me was Tamla Motown, as much as any of the great singers. He’s what made it great, this bass player.

What’s your feeling these days on the way Cream ended? I mean, why did the band break up? The kind of theoretical reason given is that we all wanted to go our separate ways and do different things. The real reason was the greed of the management. They never gave us a minute’s rest, because they drove us into the ground. We were all exhausted, and we hated each other. We were selling more records than The Beatles; the first platinum album; all that stuff. So they thought, let’s get these guys happening, you know?

And so we used to make records, we’d do the recording but wouldn’t be at the mixes. We wouldn’t know what was going to be on the records sometimes. We’d drive past some record shop, go in and buy our record to see what was on it. That’s the way it was in those days. I think most of the Cream songs are alright, there’s just not enough of them, for those reasons.

That final Cream tour in 1968 must have been a weird one. I suppose vaguely I thought it wasn’t our final tour. Mixed feelings. The height of success that we’d had, and we were splitting. Very strange feeling. Some of it was fun, because a lot of the pressure had gone. The Madison Square Garden gig was done in a very joke way, using the house PA, the same one that comes down from the ceiling where they say, “And in the blue corner—” And on a revolving stage. People who saw that gig couldn’t believe it. You’d get a big loud bit of Eric, then a big loud bit of Ginger, then Eric would disappear and I’d arrive, you know.

I remember getting the platinum discs at Madison Square Garden. Robert Stigwood and Ahmet Ertegun got on stage to present us with these in the middle of the set, and the audience just went “Booooo!” Very embarrassing. Very nice to get those, though. I wonder where mine is? I remember bringing it back to England, proudly, and they wanted me to pay duty on it.

The success is nice. But then the feeling is that it’s going to end. I had other things going on in my life. I wanted to have a kid, I wanted to have a house, the different things that people do, as opposed to living out of a suitcase. So there was that to look forward to. It was a good time, really, and I think some of the gigs on that last tour were really, really good, considering. I think we had something slightly better organized sound-wise. I remember one of the first big gigs on that tour, maybe it was Oakland, I remember going with Eric right up to the very furthest-away seats you could go to, and these tiny little dots where we would be, and going, “Fucking hell! We’ve come a long way from the Twisted Wheel.”

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Fresh Cream is the debut studio album by the British rock band Cream. The album was released in the UK on 9th December 1966, as the first LP on the Reaction Records label, owned by producer Robert Stigwood. The UK album was released in both mono and stereo versions, at the same time as the release of the single “I Feel Free”

Given the reputations of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, the feverishly anticipated debut album from this power trio was always going to struggle to live up to expectations. And even though it didn’t, it is still one of the most important albums in 60s blues rock, and its influence on what came afterwards is immense. “Fresh Cream” is a melting pot of ideas, many of which would subsequently be developed and combined with flair and vision to some stunning effect in the following decade. There’s the colourful, musically informed psychedelic pop of Dreaming; the stripped-down, energetic Rollin’ And Tumblin’ powered along by Bruce’s bluesy wailing vocal and honking harmonica; a bouncy reworking of Robert Johnson’s Four Until Late; and six and a half minutes of Willie Dixon’s Spoonful on which Cream give a taste of their improvisational skills and Clapton shows flashes of real brilliance.

The real rough diamond, though, is Sweet Wine, in which Clapton gradually builds a dense, swirling psychedelic cloud of feedback and sustain that remains as stunning today as it was original then. Bass player Jack Bruce later said that the opening song “N.S.U.” was written for the band’s first rehearsal. “It was like an early punk song… the title meant “non-specific urethritis. It didn’t mean an NSU Quickly – which was one of those little 1960s mopeds. I used to say it was about a member of the band who had this venereal disease. I can’t tell you which one… except he played guitar.”

Fresh Cream and Cream were the sparks that ignited the blues rock explosion, and without them who knows how many of rock’s family jewels would not exist today.

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This special edition of Cream’s album “Goodbye, Goodbye Tour – Live 1968”. This is the first authorised release of these four historic complete 1968 concerts. Each concert features previously unreleased tracks and the Royal Albert Hall show hasn’t featured on CD until now. Having decided to call it quits whilst on tour in the US during May 1968 by way of a farewell Cream agreed to undertake more live shows, predominantly in the US later that same year plus 2 final UK dates at the Royal Albert Hall that November.

Originally released in February 1969,“Goodbye” originally mixed live performances from those last tour dates with a handful of studio recordings and rose to the UK no.1 slot and no.2 on the US Billboard. Goodbye Tour – Live 1968, as the name suggests expands the recordings from the 3-piece powerhouse’s last tour.

This historic collection was produced by Bill Levenson. The Oakland Coliseum, Los Angeles Forum and San Diego Sports Arena concerts were mastered from the original 1968 analog mix reels by Kevin Reeves at Universal Mastering, Nashville, TN. The Royal Albert Hall concert was mastered from the original 1968 analog transfer reels by Jason NeSmith at Chase Park Transduction, Athens, GA.

The set features 36 tracks of which 29 are issued for the first time.

Ginger Baker 1939-2019

Ginger Baker, drummer and co-founder of 1960s blues-rock supergroup Cream, died on Sunday (October. 6th), his family confirms. He was 80 years of age.

He’d been struggling with failing health for some time and had been hospitalized after falling “critically ill” last month.

“We are very sad to say that Ginger has passed away peacefully this morning,” a brief statement on his Facebook page announced. “Thank you to everyone for your kind words to us all over the past weeks. Baker’s death follows a 2016 fall in his home and subsequent open heart surgery after being diagnosed with a heart condition, and the news follows recent posts on his social media channels that he was hospitalized in “critically ill” condition.

Baker leaves behind a legacy as the drummer for Cream, his 1960s power trio with guitarist Eric Clapton and bassist Jack Bruce that tossed up the blues with sunshine-pop, with “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room” in 1968. The band split in 1968 and reunited in 2005 for a residency at the Royal Albert Hall, captured that year on the live album Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005.

His first professional band, Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, where he replaced Charlie Watts (who left to join the Rolling Stones) and met bassist Jack Bruce, with whom he’d play in the Graham Bond Organisation and then form Cream in 1966. From almost the start, their relationship was a tumultuous one, with the mercurial Baker often lashing out at his bass-playing bandmate.

Later in life, Baker often appeared in the press as a lovable, irascible grouch, living in South Africa with his Zimbabwean wife, Kudzai, while treating his emphysema and degenerative spine condition. During Cream’s brief reunion, he sang his oddball interlude “Pressed Rat and Warthog”.

“It’s a knife-edge thing for me and Ginger,” Bruce was once quoted ,“Nowadays, we’re happily co-existing in different continents, although I was thinking of asking him to move. He’s still a bit too close.”

The son of a tobacco shop employee and a bricklayer who was killed in WWII, Baker was enamored early on with jazz legends like Art Blakey, Max Roach and Philly Joe Jones. He made the rounds in traditional jazz combos in the mid-1960s before coming into orbit of British blues nuts Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. The former was fresh from the Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers; the latter would jam with Baker in the blues-jazz band the Graham Bond Organization. Considering themselves the “cream of the crop” of British bluesmen, they called themselves Cream and released their debut Fresh Cream in 1966.

Apart, the members of Cream were good-to-great blues sidemen. When they got together, they were dynamite. Their riff-heavy originals like “Sunshine of Your Love” inspired riff-mongers from The Allman Brothers Band to Lynyrd Skynyrd. When they tackled the blues, they were reverent, staying true to the melodic backbones of Skip James’ “I’m So Glad” and Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” while giving them a fresh, modern feel.

Cream released two more albums during their run, 1967’s Disraeli Gears and 1968’s double-disc Wheels of Fire, and 1969’s Goodbye, a mix of live and studio recordings, followed after their split. Despite existing for only two years, Cream sold over 35 million records over their lifespan. Cream one of the period’s biggest bands. His self-penned instrumental “Toad,” which was on the group’s debut album and credited as one of the first rock drum solos on record, became a concert centerpiece, often stretching to 20 minutes.

With Cream in the rearview mirror, Baker and Clapton started another blues-rock supergroup, Blind Faith – featuring bassist Ric Grech and Traffic keguitarist Steve Winwood — in 1968. The band burned out even quicker than Cream, releasing a 1969 self-titled album and undergoing one tour before going their separate ways. In 1972, Baker released two solo albums, Ginger Baker at His Best and Stratavarious, in which he dabbled in jazz fusion and Afrobeat.

From 1980 onward, Baker briefly joined space-rock agitators Hawkwind, one of over a dozen drummers in the band’s history. “Ginger fitted the band like a glove,” their guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton said in the 2004 biography The Sage of Hawkwind. “His style was just right for it.” During the dawn of metal, Cream’s heavy blues was sometimes cited as an influence, which made Baker irate.

Baker went on to stretch beyond blues-rock, playing on Public Image Ltd.’s 1986 album Album and in a jazz trio with Bill Frisell and Charlie Haden. In 2009, he published an autobiography, Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Drummer. He stayed behind the kit until heart issues laid him low in 2016. “Just seen doctor… big shock,” he wrote on his official blog. “No more gigs for this old drummer. Everything is off. Of all things, I never thought it would be my heart.”

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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. In October 1968 Cream were pretty much coming to an end, apart from the remaining tour dates which would end with two final shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London on the 26th November. Mentally they all knew the musical journey they had embarked on in 1966 was coming to an end. Including this show, they would have 20 dates left until the end of Cream as a band.

The band is widely regarded as the world’s first successful super-group. 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”. The band’s biggest hits were “I Feel Free” (UK number 11), “Sunshine of Your Love” (US number 5), “White Room” (US number 6), “Crossroads” (US number 28), and “Badge” (UK number 18).

The band made a significant impact on the popular music of the time, and, along with Jimi Hendrix and other notable guitarists and bands, popularised the use of the wah-wah pedal. They provided a heavy yet technically proficient musical theme that foreshadowed and influenced the emergence of British bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. They also had an impact on American southern rock groups the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Recorded barely a month before the band’s much ballyhooed “Farewell Performance” at the Royal Albert Hall in November 1968, this October 4th show provides sound documentation of the monumental impact Cream had on the world of rock ‘n’ roll in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

The band opened the set with “White Room” which at this point in time was the standard setlist opener. Before the band launch into the song you can hear the excitement and anticipation in the crowd right up until that opening G minor chord rings out through the coliseum. It’s a good version but you can tell the band are still warming up to begin with, at least until Eric’s roaring solo three quarters of the way through this performance. That wah-wah tone is fantastic, and everything you associate with Cream during 1968. White Room is followed by Politician and Jack is the runaway star here, he really sings like a man possessed.

Crossroads is the third song and this is probably the biggest difference when compared to the famous version recorded at Winterland on the 10th March 1968. What you hear here is a slower version and as a result it lacks any of the fire the Winterland version contains. The song plods along more than it flows, however it does picks up when Clapton takes up his first solo. It doesn’t help that the song started slower than it was meant to and when you jump to the end you can instantly hear that the tempo has increased as the song has gone on, and as a result the song ends better than it started.

When you think of Sunshine Of Your Love as a live song, you think of the length of the song and what the band did in that space of time. It was common for the band to jam on Sunshine for over 10 minutes but during the US Farewell tour of 1968 the song was considerably shorter. This version clocks in at just over 5 minutes but thankfully it contains just as much fire as a 10 or 15 minute version. Eric’s playing on this song was always fantastic during his time in Cream and here is no different, with his unique tone hitting those familiar breathtaking heights. You do feel like the song could have gone on for longer. Spoonful follows and there’s no worrying about this being shorter. Standing at 17 minutes in length, it doesn’t get any better than this. Spoonful is a song that probably best showcases Cream as a band and as a live unit. That riff is infectious and you’re just waiting until the band switch into improvise mode . This was Cream at the top of their game, no-one could do jamming and improvising as well.

Deserted Cities Of The Heart comes next, from the then recently released Wheels Of Fire album. This particular version featured on the Live Cream Vol. 2 album released in 1972 (as does White Room and Politician) and contains an explosive solo from Eric. It’s followed by Passing The Time/Toad but only the music from the former features, not including the basic backing vocals which Jack and Eric sing together. But before Passing The Time gets going the guitar and bass cut out and you’re left with eight and a half minutes of Toad. It is sometimes tough to listen to long versions of Toad drummer Ginger Baker was and will always be and why he deserves to be named up there alongside the best drummers of all time. The audience erupts out of satisfaction when Toad comes to an end. The last song, I’m So Glad, begins after a short comment from Ginger in which he says the following:  We must apologise for being a little rusty. We’ve all been on holiday. Thank you very much. We’re now going to do I’m So Glad, thank you.

Ginger’s comments definitely make sense after a fairly scratchy Crossroads and a shorter than usual Sunshine Of Your LoveYou get the feeling Eric and Jack take notice though because I’m So Glad is a step up in playing compared to the rest of the show.Overall it’s a great bootleg album, Saying that though this certainly isn’t the best show that Cream played, especially when you compare it to other shows like Winterland from the 10th March 1968 or the unbeatable Grande Ballroom shows the band played in October 1967.

For energy, virtuosity and expressive cohesion, few bands could top Cream in their heyday; and perhaps fewer can today. The group, for all their professional and personal conflicts, were still able to fill any performance space with a richness and a soulfulness that was distinctively their own.

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

Setlist: 1. White Room 2. Politician 3. Crossroads 4. Sunshine of Your Love 5. Spoonful 6. Deserted Cities of the Heart 7. Passing the Time 8. I’m So Glad 9. Crossroads (*) 10. Sunshine of Your Love (*) (*) Recorded at the Forum, Los Angeles, on November 18, 1968

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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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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