CREAM — Live Cream

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CREAM - Live Cream cover
3.92 | 6 ratings | 1 review
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Live album · 1970

Filed under Jazz Related Rock


A1 N.S.U. 10:13
A2 Sleepy Time Time 6:50
A3 Lawdy Mama 2:47
B1 Sweet Wine 15:08
B2 Rollin' And Tumblin' 6:36


Eric Clapton / guitar, vocal
Jack Bruce / bass, vocal
Ginger Baker / drums

About this release

Polydor ‎– 2383 016 (UK)

All the selections were recorded live, with the exception of "Lawdy Mama" which is a studio recording

Thanks to snobb, Chicapah for the updates


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The break up of Cream was traumatizing enough for me and their millions of supporters but just imagine what it was like for the suits at ATCO Records. The band had been a golden-egg-laying, triple-headed swan for the label with each of their four albums making them a fortune and then suddenly one day they were gone with the wind. Facing the hard, cold fact that there would be no more studio tracks to sell to their legion of adoring fans they took advantage of the only option left. They dug back into the live tapes that producer Felix Pappalardi had been smart enough to preserve and put together “Live Cream” in order to harvest from their heartbroken admirers ripe profits still dangling on the vine before the next big thing captured their fancy and their pocketbooks. If you think that’s a harsh assessment don’t kid yourself. They didn’t refer to it as the music “business” for cosmetic reasons. As in any industry, money was the bottom line and they were out to milk every penny out of their investment in the trio while the iron was still hot from the dying embers. Yet for the avid follower of Cream it was a welcome consolation prize. It didn’t matter what the capitalist pigs’ motive was because the quality of the recordings was excellent and being able to acquire for posterity the phenomenal magic they created on stage helped to wean us off our addiction to them. It was a win-win situation for all involved.

Cream did the music world a great service by almost single-handedly bringing the concept of jazzy improvisation into the heavy rock and roll terrain. Not by their studio works (although those tunes are splendid and better in many ways than what other psychedelic blues groups were putting out in the late 60s) but by what they conjured up spontaneously in concert. Most bands of that era tried their best to replicate the sound they manufactured in the studio when out on tour but in that aspect of their craft Cream had a split Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. Aping their hits didn’t interest them in the least but seeing how far they could push each other and their audiences through open-ended and unrestricted jamming was of supreme importance. By generously including live performances on their albums starting with the electrifying “Wheels of Fire” they educated their future paying customers on what to expect from their shows. By doing so they went out on the road having effectively weeded out the pretend fans from the fanatics, eliminating any potential opposition to their boundless vamping and freeing them to run wild. These tracks, recorded in March of ’68 at San Francisco’s Winterland and Fillmore auditoriums, capture them at their peak and demonstrate why they had such a huge effect and influence on the still-embryonic field of jazz-related rock.

As if to make up for some of the inherent stiffness their debut disc understandably contained, this record is made up almost exclusively of songs from that album and they put what I consider the finest cut first, the playful “N.S.U.” The great thing about this rendition is that their familiarity with the tune cultivated through performing it night after night gives it more excitement and character than the original had. Eric Clapton’s combination of fiery licks and space-filling chords insures that there’s not a dull moment to be heard while Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker rumble through like side-by-side freight trains. “Sleepy Time Time” is next and it’s a perfect example of how even a slow blues number can be energized by a ton of swagger. Jack’s inimitable vocal style is powerful but never out of control and while he and Eric’s voices couldn’t be more different they form a unique blend. Clapton’s guitar solo is so charismatic that you can’t take your ears off of it and Bruce’s bass ride is just plain cool. For who knows what misguided purpose, those in charge of this project included a dud at this juncture, “Lawdy Mama.” It’s “Strange Brew” with alternative lyrics, a lukewarm guitar lead and a muddier mix that only serves to demonstrate how timid Eric was as a singer in the early going. It’s as out of place as a turd in a punchbowl.

The quarter-hour version of “Sweet Wine” gets the locomotive back on the rails, however, and it’s another case of the live rendition beating the jeans off the one they laid down in the studio. Jack plays his bass like a man possessed by a demon and, aware of his dangerous fury, Clapton is content to competently back him up while he rages. This epic performance has more ups and downs than a motorcycle ride through the Texas hill country as it continually morphs from melodic to dissonant at will. I can only describe it as being an ever-evolving work of art crafted by three virtuosos totally in tune with each other. Their drums, guitar and harp cover of Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” closes out the album and what it lacks in content it more than makes up for in unbridled passion. Bruce is no slouch on the harmonica and his intensity is second to none. I haven’t mentioned Ginger much but it’s fascinating how he can embellish a basic 4/4 beat to the point where it sounds like there’s a fully-staffed percussion section sweating it out behind him. He was the glue that held this volatile ensemble together on stage.

Released in April of 1970, long after Cream was dead and buried, you’d think that only the die-hards would’ve bought this live set. Wrong. It was the #15 album in the United States, evidence that their legacy was still alive and well even after almost two years had passed since they announced their permanent separation. They produced their share of hit songs that will reverberate for eons to come on classic rock radio and they should be commended for that. But in concert they were men standing among boys and all who witnessed their thunder in person will never forget the experience. “Live Cream” is the next-best thing.

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