Posts Tagged ‘Jack Bruce’

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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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.

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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

Cream’s Ray Of ‘Sunshine’

In their short time as a band the supergroup, Cream were one of the top album bands on the British, and indeed the world, rock scene. But they also amassed quite a sequence of hit singles, and in this week in 1968, they debuted on  with one of their signature songs, ‘Sunshine Of Your Love.’

The trio had four previous UK singles chart entries to their name, including two top 20 hits, but ‘Sunshine’ gave them their first-ever appearance on the charts. In their own country, ‘Wrapping Paper’ announced their arrival in the autumn of 1966, reaching a modest No. 34, after which ‘I Feel Free’ hit No. 11 and ‘Strange Brew’ No. 17. ‘Anyone For Tennis’all spent three weeks on the survey in June of 1968, reaching No. 40.

‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ was composed by the prolific Cream writing team of bassist Jack Bruce and his lyric-writing collaborator Pete Brown with Eric Clapton. Clapton’s brilliant guitar solo on the recording contains a conscious reference to the Marcels’ rock ‘n’ roll classic ‘Blue Moon,’ highlighting the song’s amorous theme of a “dawn surprise.”

 

This classic rock anthem was introduced on Cream’s second album Disraeli Gears late in 1967, then became Cream’s biggest transatlantic single and their one gold-selling single in the States. It first reached No. 36 there in a 14-week run starting on 13th January 1968, but re-entered the top 100 in July and climbed all the way to No. 5. It later won a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

That US success prompted the UK release of ‘Sunshine,’ as a single the better part of a year after Disraeli Gears appeared. But the track has become a rock standard, performed live by both Bruce, before his passing, and Clapton on countless occasions. The classic status of ‘Sunshine’ has also been underlined in scores of cover versions, by everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Santana.

Legendary performance, live at the Grande Ballroom, Detroit. Recorded live includes the complete WRIF-FM broadcast, Digitally remastered for greatly enhanced sound quality, This is an explosive show by Cream very early in their career. It seems to be the entire performance which is also a big plus. I tip my hat to the fellow who took the time to remaster a wealth of great Cream shows on tape. It’s not an excellent soundboard recording as is suggested. It sounds like a couple of generations back from the original as the crispness and clarity of most master board recordings is missing. Because of the slightly muddy sound quality this one loses a couple of points but overall is still a must-have for any Cream fan, fanatic or casual, simply because of the blistering performance and completeness of the recording. Clapton’s licks here are exciting. Ignore the above review because this is one of Cream’s best-ever concerts. It seems that so many people jump on the bandwagon when it comes to live Cream–“Oh, this is soooo self-indulgent,””Oh, these jams are too long and Clapton is too excessive,-you know what? Many people like to say that because for decades, ignorant, hack rock critics have come up with the stereotype of Cream as a self-indulgent live band who made studio albums that were far better. Critics don’t play on the level of Clapton.

Cream is truly underrated when it comes to jamming. They didn’t do pot or acid to get them jamming (although they did do other drugs, but not to intentionally effect the music), like the Dead or Quicksilver. They were musicians who listened to each other and created some of the best improvisational jamming in rock.

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 the album “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

 

Disc One
1. Tales Of Ulysees2. N.S.U3. Sitting On Top Of The World4. Sweet Wine5. Rollin’ & Tumblin’,
Disc Two
1. Spoonful2. Steppin’ Out3. Traintime4. Toad5. I’m So Glad,