Gifted, erratic and incredibly powerful, Cream were probably the most important band to emerge from London's mid 60's R&B scene. Faced with a peer group of brilliant guitarists including Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Peter Green & Jimi Hendrix, a host of other world-class musicians such as Rod Stewart, John Mayall, John McVie & Steve Winwood, and a huge number of other less well known but equally gifted back-up players - all touring the same small club circuit night after night - Cream exploded into this scene in mid 1966 as a group deliberately conceived, as their name implied, to be "the best".
To understand how good they were you had to see them live during the short period in which their lofty ambition came close to fruition. They were... "the best" and, after stamping their authority in the UK, they switched to the USA to blow their home-grown competition off stage. Imploding in well documented strife by mid 1968, those who saw them during this brief period were privileged indeed. For those who didn't there's little on offer. The group's recordings are at best a shadow of what they were live, with the few real gems spread across their four albums - "Fresh Cream" (a fair encapsulation of where they were in mid 1966); "Disraeli Gears" (a studio album with a couple of real highlights and much mediocre stuffing); "Goodbye" (even more so) and, "Wheels of Fire" (probably the closest you'll get). The subsequently released live albums add little more.
But... one track says it all. "Crossroads": possibly the best interaction of three musicians at the peak of their powers ever committed to tape. Eric Clapton's breathtaking guitar solos are matched, virtually note for note, by Jack Bruce's brilliant "lead guitar" bass lines and Ginger Baker's power drumming. Live, because it had to be to capture it. As DJ John Peel said after playing this track on its first UK broadcast: "now tell me they're human". It's here, surrounded by some of their best recorded music, and it's priceless!