Cream – The Music Of Cream

As there has been a couple of episodes of the podcast looking at the later years of Eric Clapton’s career, I thought it was time to have a look at one fo the seminal bands he appeared with during his early career. 

Ah Cream, one of the first supergroups. Famous for the inventing the power trio, their proficiency with their instruments, their extended solos and producing some the greatest music of all time. The existence of the band was always going to be a limited affair due to volatile nature of the relationship between bassist (plus loads of other instruments) Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker. Having played together in a previous band, Baker and Bruce had been known for their quarrelling, on stage fights and damaging one another’s instruments. Baker had had Bruce fired and Bruce only stopped turning up for gigs after Baker had threatened him with a knife. It was Clapton though who wanted Bruce in as he had played with him in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. Even though Bruce and Baker were reluctant, they decided to put their differences aside and took they name, Cream. The individual members did have reputations at the time as being the best around but taking that sort of name still meant they had to prove it. 

The band initially played a tight set but soon expanded the songs they were playing, mostly down to the fact that initially they did not have much in the way of original material. It was also agreed that the band would split songwriting duties between them and that Bruce would be the main vocalist. Fresh Cream, the band’s first album clearly shows this as both Baker and Bruce contributed material, but Bruce sang all the lead vocal parts except on Four Units Late, which Clapton sang. Clapton was not very confident about singing at this stage and as far as I can tell, not written any original material. Out of all of the albums Cream produced, Fresh Cream could be argued to be the most focused. The songs are mostly blues based and to the point even though the beginnings of the extended jam material can be seen here with the inclusion of Spoonful and Toad, both of which clock in at over 5 minutes each. The first two singles were also not included on this album, the rock classic I Feel Free and the ‘are you sure that is Cream’ debut record, Wrapping Paper.  

Disraeli Gears, the second effort is most probably their most famous record. With its memorable sleeve and including such classics as Sunshine of Your Love, it is let down by two of the weakest efforts in the band’s catalogue. Blue Condition and Mother’s Lament. When a box set and deluxe edition of this album came out, there were a number of songs that had been demoed for this album but these were not put on the record because the record label thought of them as uncommercial. Surely a song needs to be good, not just commercial? The majority of the music for this compilation comes from these two albums, and they are the best. After this, the standard of the music on the LPs in my opinions diminishes somewhat. 

Wheels on Fire did include the classic White Room, but after that, the original material is possibly a bit too experimental, or just not good enough for me. The live album suffers from the same problem that most records of that nature suffer from, in that a three piece has a big hole in the sound once the lead guitar player goes for a solo. There are also limitations in what you can do with a three piece, and when it sounds like all of them are taking a solo at the same time, it is no wonder that they turned the sound up so they could hear themselves. Goodbye sounds as though it was knocked out to fulfil their contract, with each member supplying a song each and the rest of the record containing more live material of songs released on their previous albums. This album also included Badge, a song that would would become one of the bands most famous pieces but was not included on here as I don’t like it. 

This is the problem I have with Cream. They have a great reputation and can be said to be one of the precursors for heavy rock/metal, but for a band with such a great reputation, their recording legacy does not quite match up. Yes, they produced some classic songs which are still played on the radio today, but there was so many that were not very good. There is also their reputation as a live act, which I have also struggled with. I bought all of the live recordings up to a point but after a while, the constant soloing can become quite hard to listen to . When they got it right, as shown here by the covers of Steppin’ Out and Crossroads, they were great. Most of the time, it was just too self indulgent for my tastes. However, there was enough material for me to compile a CD and I am sure there will be those that will disagree with this playlist and feel other songs should have been included, or that I have been a bit harsh on their live reputation, but its just my opinion folks.   

  1. Wrapping Paper
  2. I Feel Free
  3. N.S.U.
  4. Cat’s Squirrel
  5. Four Until Late
  6. Dreaming
  7. Rollin’ & Tumblin’
  8. Strange Brew
  9. Sunshine Of Your Love
  10. Steppin’ Out
  11. Crossroads
  12. World Of Pain
  13. Dance The Night Away
  14. Tales Of Brave Ulysses
  15. White Room
  16. Born Under A Bad Sign
  17. The Coffee Song
  18. SWLABR
  19. Outside Woman Blues
  20. Take It Back
  21. I’m So Glad
  22. Doing The Scrapyard Thing
  23. Deserted Cities Of The Heart
  24. What A Bringdown

The cover is taken from https://www.redbubble.com/shop/cream+band+posters

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