Although ‘Cream’ were known as the first Supergroup this
certainly was not their intention when they formed in 1966. Eric Clapton who
had made his name as a guitarist of undoubted ability first in the
‘Yardbirds’ and then in ‘John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers’ was looking
around for a new gig. One night Ginger Baker, ex Graham Bond’s Organization,
sat in on a ‘Bluesbreakers’ gig, afterwards suggesting to Eric Clapton,
“How about getting a band together?” To which Clapton responded, “Ok, How
about Jack Bruce?”
Now here was the first problem as Jack Bruce and Ginger
Baker had already played together in ‘The Graham Bond Organization’ and had
hated each other so much that during one physical fight Ginger Baker had
actually tried to stab Jack Bruce with a knife. But Eric Clapton wanted Jack
Bruce and would not budge without him so bridges had to be built.
Even though they never got along personally, musically as a
rhythm section Bruce and Baker were a match made in rock ‘n’ roll dreams.
Add to that Bruce’s stunning voice and harmonica work, you have the perfect
foil for Eric Clapton’s mercurial guitar histrionics. When they started out
the idea was to be a blues trio to play small clubs like Buddy Guy with a
decent rhythm section.
But in 1966 the whole world was turned on its head with
‘Psychedelic’s, Hendrix’, ‘Sergeant Pepper’s’, etc. Baker, Clapton,
and Bruce, calling their trio ‘Cream’ naturally rose to the top. They only
actually lasted for twenty eight months from July 1966 until November 1968 when
they walked off stage at the Albert Hall for the last of their farewell tour
gigs, after which three of them did not share the same room for 35 years. But
during those short sweet months they achieved so much.
They had three hit albums: ‘Fresh Cream’ (1966),
‘Disraeli Gears’ (1967) and ‘Wheels Of Fire’ (1968) a double album,
half live, half studio, which went number one all over the world. This
astonished their record company Atlantic so much (that they had a band that
could sell over two million dollars worth of product with one album), they
invented the Platinum album as a tribute to them. Their final tour of the
United States of America grossed over 540,000 dollars in six weeks, and it is
not surprising a lot of company executives cried when they split up. You must
put in context how much a million dollars was in 1968 to get a real grip on how
huge ‘Cream’ was at the time.
In the three years after the band had finished, Atlantic put
out four more albums. The contractually binding ‘Goodbye Cream’ (1969)
which included three live tracks and three studio cuts; ‘Badge’ being one
studio track co-written between Eric Clapton and George Harrison never played
live by the band until this reunion. ‘Badge’ is probably one of the songs
‘Cream’ were later best known for. ‘Best Of Cream’ (1969), which was
followed by ‘Live Cream’ (1970) and finally ‘Live Cream Volume Two’
(1972). These were all top ten hit albums worldwide. There have of course been
hundreds of compilation and exploitation albums since.
In 2004 Eric Clapton mooted the idea to Baker and Bruce
about a possible reunion. Both at first were resistant to the idea, but arms
were twisted, and eventually a meeting was arranged. Time had, as is often the
case, healed old wounds, and it was decided to hire a rehearsal studio just to
see! It went well.
The Albert Hall was booked for four nights in early May 2005
(The tickets sold out in minutes, and swapped hands for thousands on e-bay).
The risks were musically staggering, time has moved on so much (we are talking
thirty seven years here), would a power trio be able to cut the mustard in
today’s age of technology, backing tapes, click tracks, etc? Would Ginger
Baker kill Jack Bruce during rehearsals, or vice versa? Could Eric Clapton
still put the hammer down on the electric guitar as of days of yore?
Actually, the only problem was an attack of nerves by the
normally nerveless Baker who wanted to pull out two days before the first
concert, but was talked round by Clapton. To top it all this was a band that
was volatility itself, one night the best in the world, but on another day ...
Oh dear. What if the first night was not all it should be! Would any of them
turn up for the next night?
This DVD is positive proof that nothing like that happened.
They saunter on stage for opening number ‘I’m So Glad’ on the first
night, and the old magic bounces between the three musicians. All four nights
were recorded; afterwards the band watched the tapes and decided which was the
best version of each song and put it out as a complete concert in its correct
running order. (If they could not make up their minds which night was better,
they simply tacked it on as a bonus track to the DVD.) You know which night
each song was taken from as a little sign pops up at the beginning of each song
to let you know.
All of the great ‘Cream ‘songs are here, including the
never before played ‘Badge’ and the wonderful Ginger Baker sung ‘Pressed
Rat and Warthog’, both from ‘Goodbye Cream’. There is even a version of
Ginger Baker’s drum solo number ‘Toad’, which may have been cut from its
seventies length twenty minutes, but at over seven minutes still shows that
Ginger Baker is not ready to pass on his greatest jazz/rock drummer title yet.
Jack Bruce’s vocals and Harmonica playing are better than
they ever were, whilst his bass playing remains as inspirational as ever. Can
Eric Clapton still give every rock guitarist in the world a run for their
money? After only one song there is only one answer: a huge big yes. All of the
playing is simply better than you could possibly wish for.
Cream are and always will be
Eric Clapton: Guitar, Vocals
Jack Bruce: Vocals, Harmonica, Bass Guitar
Ginger Baker: Drums and Vocals
I’m So Glad
Outside Woman Blues
Pressed Rat And Warthog
Sleepy Time Time
Rollin’ And Tumblin’
Deserted Cities Of The Heart
Born Under A Bad Sign
We’re Going Wrong
Bonus Tracks Disc One
Sleepy Time Time
We’re Going Wrong
Sitting On Top On The World
Sunshine Of Your Love
Bonus Tracks Disc Two
Sunshine Of our Love
Interviews with Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton