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Cream

Although Cream were only together for a little more than two years, their influence was immense, both during their late-'60s peak and in the years following their breakup. Cream were the first top group to truly exploit the power trio format, in the process laying the foundation for much blues-rock and hard rock of the 1960s and 1970s. It was with Cream, too, that guitarist Eric Clapton truly became an international superstar. Critical revisionists have tagged the band as overrated, citing the musicians' emphasis upon flash, virtuosity, and showmanship at the expense of taste and focus. This was sometimes true of their live shows in particular, but in reality the best of their studio recordings were excellent fusions of blues, pop, and psychedelia, with concise original material outnumbering the bloated blues jams and overlong solos.

Cream could be viewed as the first rock supergroup to become superstars, although none of the three members were that well-known when the band formed in mid-1966. Eric Clapton had the biggest reputation, having established himself as a guitar hero first with the Yardbirds, and then in a more blues-intensive environment with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. (In the States, however, he was all but unknown, having left the Yardbirds before "For Your Love" made the American Top Ten.) Bassist/singer Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker had both been in the Graham Bond Organisation, an underrated British R&B combo that drew extensively upon the jazz backgrounds of the musicians. Bruce had also been, very briefly, a member of the Bluesbreakers along with Clapton, and also briefly a member of Manfred Mann when he became especially eager to pay the rent.

All three of the musicians yearned to break free of the confines of the standard rock/R&B/blues group, in a unit that would allow them greater instrumental and improvisational freedom, somewhat in the mold of a jazz outfit. Eric Clapton's stunning guitar solos would get much of the adulation, yet Bruce was at least as responsible for shaping the group's sound, singing most of the material in his rich voice. He also wrote their best original compositions, sometimes in collaboration with outside lyricist Pete Brown.

At first Cream's focus was electrified and amped-up traditional blues, which dominated their first album, Fresh Cream, which made the British Top Ten in early 1967. Originals like "N.S.U." and "I Feel Free" gave notice that Cream were capable of moving beyond the blues, and they truly found their voice on Disraeli Gears in late 1967, which consisted mostly of group-penned songs. Here they fashioned invigorating, sometimes beguiling hard-driving psychedelic pop, which included plenty of memorable melodies and effective harmonies along with the expected crunching riffs. "Strange Brew," "Dance the Night Away," "Tales of Brave Ulysses," and "S.W.L.A.B.R." are all among their best tracks, and the album broke the band big-time in the States, reaching the Top Five. It also generated their first big U.S. hit single, "Sunshine of Your Love," which was based around one of the most popular hard rock riffs of the '60s.

With the double album Wheels of Fire, Cream topped the American charts in 1968, establishing themselves alongside the Beatles and Hendrix as one of the biggest rock acts in the world. The record itself was a more erratic affair than Disraeli Gears, perhaps dogged by the decision to present separate discs of studio and live material; the concert tracks in particular did much to establish their reputation, for good or ill, for stretching songs way past the ten-minute mark on-stage. The majestically doomy "White Room" gave Cream another huge American single, and the group was firmly established as one of the biggest live draws of any kind. Their decision to disband in late 1968 -- at a time when they were seemingly on top of the world -- came as a shock to most of the rock audience.

Cream's short lifespan, however, was in hindsight unsurprising given the considerable talents, ambitions, and egos of each of the bandmembers. Clapton in particular was tired of blowing away listeners with sheer power, and wanted to explore more subtle directions. After a farewell tour of the States, the band broke up in November 1968. In 1969, however, they were in a sense bigger than ever; a posthumous album featuring both studio and live material, Goodbye, made number two, highlighted by the haunting Eric Clapton-George Harrison composition "Badge," which remains one of Cream's most beloved tracks.

Clapton and Baker would quickly resurface in 1969 as half of another short-lived supergroup, Blind Faith, and Clapton of course went on to one of the longest and most successful careers of anyone in the rock business. Bruce and Baker never attained profiles nearly as high after leaving Cream, but both kept busy in the ensuing decades with various interesting projects in the fields of rock, jazz, and experimental music. Cream reunited for a handful of live shows in 2005 at London's Royal Albert Hall and New York City's Madison Square Gardens, but no further reunions were forthcoming, and Bruce died of liver disease in Suffolk, England in October 2014. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
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Selected Discography

Comments

I've got this album in its first pressing my uncle gave it to me.Great
1 kiss your left hand
2 say your crush's name
3 close your hand
4 pick a school day
5 say your name
5 post this on 15 different songs and the day you pick your crush will ask you out
Remember the 1st time I listen to them. On vinyl.
Don't read this cuz it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday possible by the one you love of your life. Tommorow will be the best day of your life. However if you will die now that you started reading this you can't stop. This is scary. Post this on five songs in 134 minutes. When done press 6 and your lovers name will appear in big letters. This is so scary cuz it actually works
kevin-burns9
Cream simply very progressive phenomenal!! t a l e s of braves Ulysses!!!pk b 4 5
carl_ashley_ 1 9 9 9
The very first time I heard Cream, that was after I found out who Jimi Hendrix was it was that time of Buddy Miles and the late mid 60's & Early 70's those were the early Masters Thank God then I roll back to the 40's& 50's an I didn't know that it all started in the 1800's Wow.
nelsonmatt62
GINGER BAKER
Lots of talent
Disraeli Gears, my favorite Cream album! Kicks major a**!!
R.I.P
one of the FIRST true power house trio's good night mr.bruce see you on the b side
Log fire = rain
Good Bye Jack Bruce, you and your Music lives on!!
Really good bass player
All hail Jack Bruce
Eric Clapton was in like 4 or 5 different bands
lwbbear
I make a rocknroll station and they keep pushing country.What s up PANDORA?
Rip
Heaven is not boring any longer r.i.p j.b
R.I.P. Jack Bruce
Jack Bruce!!!!!! See you in the after life!!!!!
Goodnight Jack.rest well
hroberts500
Best bass player in rock, rip Jack.
Go to that great gig in the sky jack!
Was saddened last night when I heard the news. May you RIP Jack. Thanks for being such an influence to me on bass .
jimdurst
may jack RIP !
I was at that concert at Anaheim Convention Center
saw them in 68 at Anaheim Convention Center...you n g man in those day!
Key players in my high school/colle g e sound track--wore out my Fresh Cream and Disraeli Gears records.
hereafter was great
Has annoys ever head jimmy Zaleski
It don t get any better
B**chin
Like rain ? Then burn natural wooden logs in a free air enviroinment like outside and after two days, it will begin to rain and our drout will be no more, all in season of course
Amazing they were around 44 years ago, they are phenomenonia l
dlambert489
I've got three words.....WH E E L S OF FIRE
I've got three words..... CLAPTON IS GOD
Took the bus and went downtown L. A. to Wallis Music City and bought one of the best tunes ever, Cream and Sunshine of your love.
They are so awesome.....
I, ll, Say, It, Again, Eric, Go, Man, Go
Seen Clapton many times. Always cool to hear him do Cream songs.
I like them.
beverly.plan t e
Real fine for sure.Pete Spurgeon
One of the Very, very best..and yes, way ahead of their time. Too bad they just don't make 'me like that anymore.
way ahead of there time
noice
Crossroads guitar festival best musicians I've heard in a long time . + Chicago deep dish pizza pies are F awesome.
Classic song. Best song i ever heard
Smooth, slick, a joyful rediscovery. One of the best bands - ever!
johndosen0
Wow amazing slow hand and the rest never before. Never again thank yoi
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