On the studio set, although with their roots very strongly in the blues (their playing and sensibilities were steeped in it), this really was rock music. The power trio format is heard at its greatest on lead track, Jack Bruce and Pete Brown's "White Room". Never were the three players so perfectly harnessed – Eric Clapton's scorching lead over Bruce and Ginger Baker's watertight rhythm section. The arrangements are stunning throughout – from folk to metal with instrumentation such as cello and recorder. However, Ginger Baker's contributions range from the great – "Passing The Time" to the not so great – the Ian Dury presaging "Pressed Rat and Warthog."
There is no such focus on the live side – aside from the extraordinary, defining reading of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads", the lengthy cuts – including Baker's 16 minute drum solo, "Toad" – show just how excessive the group could be in demonstrating the players' very obvious virtuosity.
The album topped the charts in America and reached No.3 in the UK. Although 1967's Disraeli Gears may be more succinct appraisal of the group, Rolling Stone described the album as "the most representative slice of the Cream legacy," which is absolutely true. --Daryl Easlea
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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!
It is difficult to describe Cream's albums because there are not enough superlatives. My father first played me "white Room" when I was 4, and I have hailed it as one of the best rock songs ever recorded.
Because this was the band's third album, they were definately more experimental, introducing tympani, glocks and cellos, but still the album is fantastic. "Passing the time", "As you said" and "Pressed Rat and Warthog" are certainly not what you would expect from cream, judging by their first two albums but if you persevere, they become just as good.
The rest of the album contains their classics; White Room, Politician, Deserted Cities of the Heart, Born under a Bad sign and Sitting on top of the world. All of these are examples of some of the best blues paying ever recorded.
On the live album, their ability as a band to Jam and interact with each othe are showcased, with Crossroads and Spoonful being some of the greatest songs ever cut.
My advice is to get this album and prepare to be blown away. It is well worth it.
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