Ginger Baker - drums, vocals; Jack Bruce - bass, vocals; Eric Clapton - guitar, vocals
Recorded barely a month before the band's much ballyhooed "Farewell Performance" at the Royal Albert Hall in November 1968, this October 4th show provides sound documentation of the monumental impact Cream had on the world of rock 'n' roll in the late 1960s and early '70s.
They were the first super group, before anyone had even used the term, featuring former members of the Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, Alexis Korner's Blues Band and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. But, more importantly, they introduced the extended jazz jam session to the conventionally structured pop formula of verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus.
When most contemporary bands broke into jam segments midway through a hit single, the playing would often turn into a heaping, self-indulgent mess. Not so with Cream. Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton soared as three soloists working within the loose configuration of a rock 'n' roll band to achieve a sound that was distinctively organic. When they clicked, no band sounded as much like a solid, cohesive unit; when they lifted off as individual musicians, however, each entered musical orbits all his own.
Hit singles such as "Crossroads" and "Sunshine of Your Love" remain relatively faithful to the studio arrangements, but by the time they dive into the bluesy Willie Dixon standard "Spoonful," the magic is in full effect. The set concludes with an energetic version of Skip James' "I'm So Glad," originally recorded on the band's debut, Fresh Cream.
For energy, virtuosity and expressive cohesion, few bands could top Cream in their heyday; and perhaps fewer can today. The group, for all their professional and personal conflicts, were still able to fill any performance space with a richness and a soulfulness that was distinctively their own. And for many of us, thanks to recordings such as these, the cup continues to overflow.
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