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Know what to expect or you'll be disappointed
on 8 February 2011
Looking at the reviews of this album, it's interesting to note that the vast majority of those who rave about this album got into it in the 60s, or roughly at the time it came out. There is always a danger in such a case of not rating something objectively, as the emotional connection often overrides the actual quality of the music. I too feel the same way about some of the albums I grew up with. Now I have all the albums from the name bands of the 60s, and a vast amount of psych, blues and 60s/70s rock in my collection, so although I expect some negative comments on my review, please understand this is not the criticism of a novice, newbie or metalhead.
If you're expecting the following, you're going to be very disappointed with this album:
(1) Mind-blowing guitar-playing: compare the guitar-playing on this to Hendrix' 'Are You Experienced' (1967) and 'Axis:Bold As Love' (1968), to Johnny Winter's first album recorded in 1968, or Jimmy Page's playing on the first Led Zeppelin album (recorded late '68), and there's a vast, vast difference in the level of guitar-playing. It's like comparing someone reciting the alphabet with someone reading Shakespeare. If you're an electric guitar-player, you may spend years with your guitar, the sheet-music to Axis:Bold As Love, and the album itself without being able to duplicate much of what Hendrix does, especially on the rhythm side. But the advantage of being a Cream fan is that Clapton's licks, solos, and rhythm on this album are well within the reach of any amateur who sets his mind to it. Note that I don't say Clapton can't play well, but ability on this album is downplayed in favour of effects and attempts at psychedelia. Which brings me to the next thing not to expect...
(2) Mind-blowing psychedelia: One of the best things about Disraeli Gears is no doubt the album cover, and that alone has led to many mistaken purchases of this album in my experience. Some of these songs are borderline psychedelia, but generally it's more like pop-blues with some psych elements coming from the use of fuzz and wah. Finally, don't expect...
(3) Excellent blues: listen to Hendrix' 'Red House' (the original version from Oct 1966 found on the newer versions of 'Are You Experienced' or on the 'Blues' album), or Johnny Winter's 'Be Careful With A Fool' from his first album. As I've stated above, to anyone who knows anything about good guitar-playing, who actually plays themselves, or who've tried to work on songs by these guys and Clapton, there's just no comparison. Winter and Hendrix still make the mouth drop with their playing, while Clapton's playing sounds tired and cliched today, and generally relies on effects on this album.
I'm not writing this review to irritate Clapton fans, although that is bound to happen, but I'm also not writing it just to collect positive votes. Instead, if I can warn one person away from a mistaken purchase for every ten who give me a negative vote, then I consider my job done. As a consolation to Eric's fans, let me just say that I recently saw that all-star concert from a couple years ago where he plays live with Stevie Winwood, etc, and was pretty much blown away by Eric's playing. The man can play! And better than he ever did in the 60s! While poor old Johnny Winter can't hold a straw to him now...
If you absolutely must have some Cream in your music collection rather go for the old Best of Cream compilation. That has most of the best songs on this album, and you're not forced to listen to the weak tracks like World of Pain or Dance the Night Away, or the embarrassing ones like Blue Condition or Mother's Lament.