i feel free




Just to prove that not all Clapton-related material is bad, here's Cream, who didn't suck. They just never knew when to shut up and stop playing generic blues.

lineup: Ginger Baker (drums [right channel only], vocals on his crappy songs); Jack Bruce (vocals, bass, harmonica, keyboards); Eric Clapton (vocals, guitar).

review index: Fresh Cream / Disraeli Gears / Wheels of Fire / Goodbye / Best of Cream

missing albums: Live Cream

apex: Disraeli Gears
nadir: Fresh Cream
overlooked: Goodbye

Fresh Cream - 1966

Rating: *1/2
Best songs: I Feel Free, I'm So Glad, N.S.U.
Worst songs: I won't even start on this one!


Bleah, this one's too bluesy. And half the record is made up of cover tunes! What's up with that? Well, "I'm So Glad" is a classic, and "Spoonful" is a lot better than the other blues songs on here, but the rest of the covers I can totally live w/o. And the originals? "N.S.U." ain't bad, but "Sleepy Time Time" sure is aptly named! Hahahahahahaha!

Sorry. Anyway, there's not really that much in the way of interesting material -- "I Feel Free" stands out above the rest so much, it's kinda hard to go past track one. And why does Jack Bruce think his harmonica playing is so great, we need to hear it on several of these songs? Avoid this one like you avoided me at the last office Christmas party.

Disraeli Gears - 1967

Rating: ****
Best songs: Strange Brew, Sunshine of Your Love, SWLABR, Dance the Night Away
Worst songs: Outside Woman Blues, Blue Condition


If you're going to just buy one Cream album (aside from a compilation), this is most likely your best bet. The blues is cut to a minimum (just the crappy "Outside Woman Blues" -- "Strange Brew" is a little too poppy to really be considered blues), and the album instead concentrates on light psychedelia and pop. Oh, except for the riff-rocker "Sunshine of Your Love", a total classic -- even people who don't listen to rock music will recognize that one.

"Dance the Night Away" features far less in the way of rockin' guitar leads than I'd expect from a song that shares its title with a Van Halen song that wasn't written for another 11 years, but it's still a pretty good listen. The only really crappy tune on here (aside from the blues song) is, you guessed it, the Ginger Baker song "Blue Condition". Ugh, were these guys too high to notice how bad his songs are, or what?

Speaking of the singing, is it me, or does the singing on "Tales of Brave Ulysses" sound a lot like Greg Lake? Anyway, other highlights include "SWLABR", the hilarious acronym for 'she walks like a bearded rainbow'. And people wonder why the 60s are revered so much. Also, the album ends with the incredibly silly "Mother's Lament", which proves that for once the guys were able to take the piss out of themselves. Pretty good, and it's only like a half-hour long, too! (maybe that's why it's good)

Oh, you might not want to listen to this one through headphones -- the crappy early-years-of-stereo production keeps the drums in the right channel. Thanks a whole lot, producer and future Mountain bassist Felix Pappalardi!

Wheels of Fire - 1968

Rating: ***
Best songs: White Room, Crossroads, Passing the Time, Those Were the Days
Worst songs: Sitting on Top of the World, Politician, Pressed Rat and Warthog, and the rest of the live disc


Cripes! Not the 1968 double-album!

Well, thanks guys. If we can discount the entire live album (except for the brilliant performance of "Crossroads"), we're left with 40 minutes of studio time. Unfortunately, time is eaten up by a couple blues yawnfests ("Sitting on Top of the World" and "Politician" -- both of which would be reprised on the following album!). Luckily you also get the wonderful psychedelic staples "White Room" and "Passing the Time".

Elsewhere on the record: "As You Said" is amusingly trippy, but the vocal histronics near the end almost ruin it, Ginger Baker is inexplicably allowed in front of the vocal mic again in "Pressed Rat and Warthog", and the album ends with a few not-too-bad songs which I will not describe, lest I spoil your precious listening experience.

Oh, okay: the live album is horrid ('cept for "Crossroads", but I already said that). Fifteen minutes each of "Spoonful" and "Toad"? Jack Bruce honking on a harmonica for seven more? What the ef?

Goodbye - 1969

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Badge, Doing That Scrapyard Thing, I'm So Glad, Anyone for Tennis
Worst songs: Politician, Sitting on Top of the World


Hey, not a total disaster! The live tracks are half good ("I'm So Glad" features some fierce jamming) and half bad ("Politician" and "Sitting on Top of the World" are, unsurprisingly, boring blues jamming). The studio tracks feature one of Cream's greatest hits, "Badge", as well as a goofy keyboard-driven tune ("Doing That Scrapyard Thing"), a Ginger Baker song that doesn't suck, and "Anyone for Tennis", which has those cute ocarina (?) and viola parts. Still, it's only like a half hour long, so don't pay too much for it.

Best of Cream - 1969

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: it's so hard to choose!
Worst songs: erm, Spoonful is kinda boring


Very short (about 35 minutes), but it does feature most of the Cream songs casual observers will want to hear: "I Feel Free", "Sunshine of Your Love", "Badge", "White Room", "Crossroads", and "Strange Brew", as well as the more-obscure tracks "SWLABR", "Tales of Brave Ulysses", "Born Under a Bad Sign", and "Spoonful". Points deducted for not being very complete, and not having a couple good lesser-known tracks, like "Anyone for Tennis" and "Dance the Night Away" (though I guess having half of Disraeli Gears on the album wouldn't be a great idea).

This one's not available on CD or cassette or whatnot, just vinyl: it's the one with the pictures of vegetables on the front. Don't ask me why. If you don't like vinyl, or just don't feel like looking for it, pick up 1995's The Very Best of Cream, which has all the tracks mentioned here with ten more! Whee!

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