CREAM — Live Cream, Volume 2

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3.12 | 6 ratings | 1 review
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Live album · 1972

Filed under Jazz Related Rock
By CREAM

Tracklist

A1 Deserted Cities Of The Heart 4:32
A2 White Room 5:39
A3 Politician 5:05
A4 Tales Of Brave Ulysses 4:44
B1 Sunshine Of Your Love 7:22
B2 Steppin' Out 13:42

Total Time: 41:16

Line-up/Musicians

Drums – Ginger Baker
Vocals, Bass, Harmonica – Jack Bruce
Vocals, Guitar – Eric Clapton

About this release

Polydor ‎– 2383-119 (UK)

This album was recorded live. B2 is mislabeled "Hideaway"

Thanks to snobb for the updates

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Chicapah
Cream’s astonishing popularity took a long time to wane. Three years after their “Goodbye” album served as their official headstone and epitaph, demand for their music was still running unbelievably high so in March of 1972 ATCO assembled yet another collection of in-concert recordings and put it on the market. It promptly rose to #27 on the LP chart, proving once again that the public, usually possessing a very short memory, couldn’t seem to get Eric, Jack and Ginger out of their minds and that’s another telling testimony to what an indelible impression this threesome made on civilized culture in their two and a half years together. They were able to bring the basic concept of jazz improvisation into the volatile world of rock & roll more efficiently than most any other group of that era and that trait is never found to be as evident as it is in their live performances that were, thankfully, captured and preserved.

One contrast between this one and the first “Live Cream” album (released almost two years earlier) is that all of the recordings on that disc happened before they’d decided to disband in mid-’68. On “Volume II” half of them were taped in October of that year so it’s my opinion that the first three cuts reflect a lame duck band that was, to some extent, dutifully fulfilling their contracted obligations and had no long-term aspirations or a pressing need to impress their audience. I’m not accusing them of mailing it in, I’m just convinced that, human nature being what it is, there’s a notable difference in the energy being generated in that half of the numbers. It’s no secret that Bruce and Baker weren’t even speaking to each other after they’d opted to call it quits so it stands to reason that those two weren’t exactly focused on providing the tight rhythms that can be heard on the live cuts contained on “Wheels of Fire,” for example.

The disc opens with the three weakest tunes, recorded in the fall of ’68 at an arena in Oakland towards the end of their final American tour. Jack’s “Deserted Cities of the Heart” starts things off and, while the studio version (one of my favorite songs on “Wheels of Fire,” by the way) has an exceptional amount of drive pushing it there’s also a tactfulness involved that gives it a cool personality. On stage it turned into a virtual steamroller that lacked any semblance of dynamics. With the exception of the brief jazzy interludes there’s not much finesse to be detected, just an all-out assault on the gathered throng’s ears. At this point in their career the crowds that bought the tickets justifiably expected to hear the band’s big hits recreated for them and few tunes were more in demand than the radio staple, “White Room.” They provide a bland but decent rendition of the song and Bruce takes some interesting vocal liberties with the melody line but the sound quality leaves a lot to be desired. The blend of guitars and drums in particular seems to undulate erratically and it detracts from the impact the recording may have had. Jack’s “Politician” is next, one of my top five Cream numbers due to its creative meld of blues and rock. It gives Clapton a chance to riff all over the place in the spaces between Bruce’s snarky vocal lines and he does a swell job here but I prefer both the original studio take and the exhilarating in-concert rendition included on “Goodbye” to this one simply because they’re both more cohesive and powerful.

The last three cuts were taped pre-dissolution in March of that same year at the Winterland in San Francisco and the difference their still-striving-to-please attitude makes is striking. Eric’s iconic “Tales of Brave Ulysses” from “Disraeli Gears” is performed with gusto. They play a deliciously heavy-handed version and it shows the dramatic presence they regularly projected from the stage into their audiences, especially when you hear them improvise freely as they do toward the end of the number. Whereas the earlier “White Room” is practically devoid of excitement, their performance of their signature song, “Sunshine of Your Love,” is electrifying in comparison. It’s a faithful rendition of the tune structurally but Eric tricks it up a bit by abandoning his well-known guitar solo and taking off on a more spontaneous tear in the middle. The elongated wall of sound ending is immensely intense and galvanizing. These guys could knock down stone fortifications with their collective fury. But the best, because it’s the most authentic, is saved for last. Their almost 14-minute cover of James Bracken’s blues instrumental, “Steppin’ Out,” contains everything that made Cream so worthy to be included in any discussion of the evolution of jazz/rock music in the 60s. No doubt, this song was intended to be a time-filler that would allow the acknowledged guitar God Clapton to stretch his wings and give the folks what they came to witness. It begins as a spirited jam but after a while both Jack and Ginger drop out as Eric continues to shred his fretboard unabated as if he was oblivious to whether the other two members were backing him or not. It’s here that you get a chance to realize what a spontaneous and utterly melodic guitarist he was. Baker slowly eases back in behind him and commences to embellish and enhance every lick that Clapton unleashes from that moment on, resulting in some of the most spectacular and aggressive off-the-cuff vamping you’ll ever experience. It’s jaw-dropping good stuff.

It’s hard to convey to the younger generations the enormous influence that bands like The Beatles, Stones, Who and Cream had on those of us who came of age in the 60s and how important they were to our well-being. We took bands like this VERY seriously. When this trio broke up it was a tragedy on par with the assassination of JFK and it took us years to get over it. Perhaps albums like “Live Cream, Vol. II” will give you hints as to why we adored them so. On stage they created magic out of thin air and took us on journeys that stimulated and fed our passion for music that knew no restrictions or boundaries. While this album is inferior to its predecessor, there’s still enough in its grooves to make it worth your while.

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