Another live album this week, and another album from Eric Clapton’s back catalogue. He’s been a part of so many fantastic bands in his time, it’s extremely difficult not to include them in this feature. I love them. Cream are my favourite band, real innovators of music and masters of improvisation. They were called ‘Cream’ because each of the musicians in the band were the best on that instrument. Eric Clapton is widely considered as the first virtuoso guitar player and one of the best guitarists of all time, Jack Bruce plays bass guitar like a lead instrument which didn’t happen much at the time and still doesn’t today, and Ginger Baker hits the drums like a demon. To call the band tight would be the understatement of all time. They knew each others playing intimately and these live tracks really show that.
- Deserted Cities Of The Heart – (Oakland Coliseum Arena)
- White Room – (Oakland Coliseum Arena)
- Politician – (Oakland Coliseum Arena)
- Tales Of Brave Ulysses – (Winterland, San Francisco)
- Sunshine Of Your Love – (Winterland, San Francisco)
- Steppin’ Out – (Winterland, San Francisco)
The opening track ‘Deserted Cities Of The Heart’ is a Bruce/Brown number which was originally released on the ‘Wheels Of Fire’ album. It’s been widely said that this live version is superior to the one on the album due to how much the band are in tune with each other and the electricity flying between them when playing live. It’s a fantastic song with a lot of attack and drive. The second and third songs ‘White Room’ and ‘Politician’ are from the same gig in Oakland, and are as electric as the opening song. The show in Oakland was one of the dates of Cream’s farewell tour of America and this could be a reason why the band were on fire. The band were always stunning live anyway, but being on a farewell tour obviously had a huge effect on them.
Tracks four to six were recorded 7-8 months earlier at Winterland in San Francisco and are just as fantastic to listen to. ‘Tales Of Brave Ulysses’ is a song written by Eric Clapton and released on Creams’s 1967 album ‘Disraeli Gears’. It was the first track to feature a wah-wah peddle on a recording, and it’s used to great effect. Jack Bruce’s bass playing is fantastic in this rendition, you can really hear how he plays the bass like a lead instrument instead lurking in the background. Each of the members were dominant players who played their instruments this way.
‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ is one of most recognised songs ever recorded due to that guitar riff, and it’s a brilliant live track as well. Whereas the studio recording is more laid back, the band really attack this song when playing live and this version from Winterland is the most well known.
The final track ‘Steppin’ Out’ is 13 and a half minutes of pure brilliance. An instrumental track that the band never recorded in the studio, it became one of Cream’s standard songs at every show. If this track doesn’t show off their abilities as musicians then I don’t know what does. You can hear why audiences who went to see Cream just sat in silence during songs like this, listening to every note, every beat, just listening intently. Beautiful.
It’s a massive shame that shows like these don’t happen much these days, if at all. The level of creativity in the sixties was unbelievable, as was the standard of playing. There were just three musicians in Cream but they made themselves sound much much bigger. These guys seemed to be genuinely interested in the instrument they played, taking playing to new heights and they definitely achieved this.