Drummer Ginger Baker, aged 26. had come from a trad jazz background with Acker Bilk and Terry Lightfoot before moving into the burgeoning R&B scene in the early '60s with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated and the Graham Bond Organisation whose jazz-tinged R&B gained them a strong reputation in musical circles and the club circuit.
Bassist Jack Bruce, aged 23, had studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and had already played with Baker in Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated and the Graham Bond Organisation. He'd also briefly coincided with Clapton in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and as part of an all-star session band that also featured Steve Winwood and Paul Jones before a short spell in the pop limelight with Manfred Mann.
They even found a viable commercial formula for their second single, "I Feel Free" (with lyrics supplied by underground poet Pete Brown), compressing their talents into a three-minute swirl of rhythms, vocal harmonies and controlled feedback guitar. It got them to Number 11 in the charts and onto BBC Television's Top Of The Pops where they found themselves on the same show as Jimi Hendrix who was performing "Hey Joe". Their careers were to run in parallel but while Hendrix's flamboyance gave him the edge in terms of media exposure, particularly in Britain, it was Cream that would make the first breakthrough in America.
Having tightened themselves as a group with gigs around Britain and Europe during the first part of 1967, Cream set their sights on America, Their initial attempts were somewhat misguided - a week-long 15-minute slot six times a day in front of screaming teenagers on DJ Murray The K's "Music In The Fifth Dimension" show at the RKO Theatre in New York with Hermans' Hermits, The Loving Spoonful and The Who was notably unsuccessful. But once they were put in front of audiences who wanted to listen rather than scream they were guaranteed a rapturous response.
|Cream Publicity Shot For Polydor|
Like them, Disraeli Gears perfectly catches the spirit of the moment which was epitomised by Martin Sharp's quintessential British flower-powered cover artwork. Cream had spent much of the summer of '67 playing concerts around Britain, including another appearance -this time top of the bill - at the Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival, but the last four months of the year were mainly spent in America, touring to increasing critical and popular acclaim as Disraeli Gears made the US Top 5, selling a million copies and fuelling the band's ascent to superstardom. The gilt edge to their rising status was provided by San Francisco which fervently took the band to its breast alongside its own myriad local heroes headed by The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.
Sessions for Cream's third album, Wheels Of Fire, were spread over the course of a year from mid '67 to mid '68, with some basic tracks being laid down at London's IBC Studios before the bulk of the work was completed back at New York's Atlantic Studios, again with Felix Pappalardi and Tom Dowd, The relatively extended time the group were able to spend in the studio allowed them to sound more comfortable which was in turn reflected by the more sophisticated production. In addition the group's internal musical dynamic was changing. The Jack Bruce/Pete Brown partnership supplied four of the album's nine tracks including the monumental "White Room", Cream's other great anthem with its portentous descending chords and driving wah-wah guitar, the biting, stiff funk of "Politician" and the florid escapism of "Deserted Cities Of The Heart".
To this studio album, Cream added a second album of live tracks recorded in San Francisco in March 1968 called "Live At The Fillmore" (even though three of the four tracks were actually recorded at the Winterland). It included a monstrous 17-minute version of "Spoonful" that defined the term "rock jam", "Toad" a 16-minute drum solo and a 4-minute 14-second exquisite encapsulation of the power and musical dexterity that was Cream at their very very best -"Crossroads". Robert Johnson's stark, eerie masterpiece was given a different but equally compelling intensity.
By the time Wheels Of Fire was released in August 1968, resplendent in another magnificent Martin Sharp design, Cream had effectively ceased to exist as a group except when they were on stage together. That did not prevent the album from being an instant smash hit, however. It topped the album charts in the US for four weeks. In the UK, Wheels Of Fire was released both as a double album and as a single "studio" album and both versions made the Top 10 - at Number 3 and Number 7 respectively.
Clapton, Bruce and Baker had had enough each other, however. Cream were finished, They agreed to a farewell tour, which started in America in October and bowed out in style at London's Royal Albert Hall on 26 November.
Just before their last tour, Cream recorded three tracks at London's IBC Studios including "Badge" which featured George Harrison (credited as "L'Angela Mysterioso" for contractual reasons) on rhythm guitar and Clapton on the trademark bridge riff (or "badge" as he misread it on Harrison's lyric sheet). These tracks, together with three more live tracks, made up the Goodbye album released in March '69, topping the UK charts and reaching Number 2 in the US.
By then, the three members of Cream had moved on - Clapton and Baker into Blind Faith and Bruce into his solo career.
The 5 songs were later broadcast on Sveriges Radio's "Konsert Med Cream"
This bootleg has been promoted as an "excellent" quality recording. While it is good it does have some problems. Of the three "excellent' quality versions I have heard, all are sped up. The worst ranges from 7-15% over speed.
The performance includes the five songs that would become the closing elements of their extended improvisational sets later in the year.
It is interesting to note that Ginger Baker's name is advertised as 'Peter Baker' on this Swedish billboard poster, and his nickname was probably unknown in European countries at that time.
This post consists of FLACs ripped from a Koine CD (sourced sometime ago from cyberspace) and includes limited artwork. I have also chosen to include artwork from some alternative releases that also include live tracks from other concerts during their 1967 tour, and are readily available on the internet if you search Google.
Track reviews below by Graeme Pattingale
01 - NSU (Bruce) 4.06
Starts with Baker sounding like he's been slowed down but in fact he's marking time while Jack sorts out some hardware problem. EC joins in to fill out time and then jack joins in. Not a significant variation on the 'Klooks' or "Fresh Cream' versions except its harder and the solo starting to adopt the three way jamming elements.
02 - Stepping Out (Bracken) 4.09
A brief performance but shows Eric's continuing growth and increased interaction between all three.
03 - Traintime (Bruce) 5.55
The Graham Bond Organisation piece revived in a reasonably extended performance. Jack and Ginger have been doing this for years and its really a bravura piece for both of them.
04 - Toad (Baker) 6.52
Short and close to the 'Fresh Cream' recording. The later extended versions were criticised as excessive but this lacks the excitement of the musical development of those versions. Baker was not a teller of short stories.
05 - I'm So Glad (James) 4.58
This song was usually the frantic closer of their sets later in the year. This is a proto-rendition ending with the guitar feeding back as Eric leaves it leaning against the stack.
Eric Clapton - Guitar / Vocals
Jack Bruce - Bass / Vocals
Ginger Baker - Drums
Cream Swedish Radio Sessions FLACs (181Mb) New Link 02/05/2020