Many fans of Classic Rock have quite clearly stated that the live performances by Cream were amazing to hear. Cream was one of the first rock supergroups that made some interesting tunes that are now seen as classics. Of course, their albums, especially Disraeli Gears were also instant classics in Rock and Roll history. This album was released in 1970, sometime after Cream was disbanded, but it should be an interesting and exciting listen regardless, given the backdrop. There are four separate live recordings and a reworked track on this album, so without further hesitation, let’s take a listen to this album and hear what we have got.
N.S.U. – Live at Winterland, San Francisco / 1968 begins this album with some pounding drums and guitar in the right channel. This sounds excellent and exciting from the start. Jack Bruce begins singing nicely away, and we are in for a blissful listen. This is straight-up very decent and amazing, and Eric Clapton’s guitar playing reigns supreme. A wonderful delivery for this song, Jack Bruce’s singing is also good. Soon enough, the band go into an instrumental mode with some amazing and great musicianship from all three members. Eric Clapton’s playing in particular is outstanding, he sounds like he is on fire here. Jack Bruce plays some nimble bass guitar and Ginger Baker keeps the drums going well. It is fairly obvious that Eric Clapton is the real star of the show here, all the same, he just sounds on top and amazing to listen to. This is quite a lengthy piece at 10 minutes long, but despite that, this really does sound amazing and excellent listening throughout. Clapton has dialled in the “woman tone” (a certain tone setting on a guitar) and he sounds like he has never stopped playing for a moment in his life to get his chops down nicely. The intricacies and playing between the three young men here are fantastic, and in a way, it points ahead to the future of Rock music in the 1970s. In the second half, things get a bit more subtle and Progressive, whilst keeping this excellent jam vibe going. Cream is definitely underrated, and the Gibson guitars Eric Clapton plays here are totally fantastic. As this piece progresses, it enters a unique world of its own. There is no doubt that Progressive Rock got its ideas from here, this is very great playing and improvisation by the entire band. Some amazing guitar licks are throughout, and the whole thing builds up in intensity as it gradually progresses to the end. A great listen, without doubt, or question. Towards the end, things get subtle before the final song section enters with a load of suspense. The piece finishes with the ending of the song and ends with a lot of chaotic sounds, followed by applause. Brilliant.
Sleepy Time Time – Live at Winterland, San Francisco / 1968 begins with the iconic tune in standard, rather than the original tuning on the recording. It still, sounds fantastic and is a great listen from the start. An enjoyable and listenable piece with some great singing from Jack Bruce, this is a gorgeous piece of music to listen to. The guitar played by Eric Clapton is manic, along with the rest of the band’s playing. It just sounds really awesome and fantastic and shows how underrated Live Cream is. A very nice piece of well constructed and played song work, it quickly launches into a truly great guitar solo by Eric Clapton which sounds really fantastic. If this doesn’t make you smile, nothing will. A great instrumental and fantastic Rock delivery, this is really top and awesome. Eric Clapton sounds like a masterful musician and player throughout, playing some really awesome Blues inspired soloing, but in an updated and original context. Soon enough, there is some subtly from Clapton as Jack Bruce plays some great bass guitar. The interaction between these amazing players is truly awesome. Soon enough, Jack Bruce gets singing again towards the end of this song, and the whole group are fantastic musicians who really can play. A really insanely great performance, it ends with some great drum rolls and open chords. Nice work guys.
Sweet Wine – Live at Winterland, San Francisco / 1968 is a much longer piece at over 15 minutes long, being the centrepiece of this album. It begins with some slower sounds present, with singing and simple playing throughout. Jack Bruce sings the song away with some excellent playing by the group behind him. Soon enough, it launches into a more uptempo jam where Eric Clapton takes centre stage. His playing is nothing short of miraculous on the guitar, it really does sound brilliant. With searing leads and beautiful melodies, he really is worthy of the “Clapton is God” graffiti statements that were seen in London around this time. Soon enough, a repeated guitar riff occurs and Ginger Baker does some more intricate drumming. Nice palm-muted guitar work by Eric Clapton is here to match the clever drumming. Jack Bruce plays some more nimble bass guitar whilst the others keep going, and all three members really shine here. An outstanding piece of live music, and something that is frequently ignored today. The tone of Eric Clapton’s guitar, along with his playing, is fantastic. Pounding drums then enter, which keeps this suspenseful number going. True brilliance in live performance is present on this album, and Cream deserves credit here for that. Soon enough, the drums get audibly louder as each group member fights for space. It is an amazing musical statement throughout and just sounds really excellent. A fine and interesting composition that has not aged one bit, Cream were musicians extraordinaire. Soon enough, it goes to a more subtle phase with much emphasis on hi-hats in the drumming, whilst Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce fight for subtle attention as well. Some unusual and likely improvised riffs then enter, which sound really excellent. It is followed by some great playing and expertise in doing so, these guys obviously knew how to impress. A great combination of structures and sounds is here. Soon enough, some pounding tom-toms enter and Jack Bruce plays a repeated bass part whilst Eric Clapton solos over the top. A great and interesting piece of music, this is essential listening for Classic Rock fans. A really awesome piece of music that sounds rhythmically tight and melodically expressive, this is mindblowing in its skill level and delivery. Some more rolling snare drums then follow, and Clapton continues to play in God-like mode. The whole thing gets somewhat more subtle and hushed as the end approaches, with some interesting drum patterns, partial bass guitar and great guitar leads. Not a wasted moment is present in this piece. It quickly speeds up a little and has a fantastic groove to match. Jack Bruce’s bass guitar playing on this is fantastic, and he comes across as an underrated musician. Soon enough, the song resumes to complete this tune, and Jack Bruce sounds a little like Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd singing here. The song ends just as well as it started. A really great listen, well done. It ends with a load of drum rolls and loud guitars. Brilliant.
Rollin’ And Tumblin’ – Live at Fillmore West, Los Angeles / 1968 begins with some loose snare drum hits before this piece goes into the bluesy madness of the original song. This, once again, sounds great and interesting from the start, with a wild harmonica from Jack Bruce and great Eric Clapton guitar playing that sounds really awesome. A very good and interesting listen from the go, the song section is really awesome and enjoyable on here. It quickly launches into an improvised jam session that does wonderfully. Really excellent sounding, this is a pure and Blues driven live piece that sounds superbly wonderful and really fine. The interaction between Jack Bruce’s harmonica and Eric Clapton’s guitar playing is ridiculously good, it just sounds like these guys had an almost psychic connection. A really fun tune to listen to, this is an instrumental extraordinaire. Clever and decent playing is here, and no doubt anyone who loves guitar-based music will certainly love this song. An amazing and different piece of fine instrumentation and playing. Soon enough, the final verses return to be heard and this song eventually goes back into a more traditional setting. If this music does not impress you, then very little will. It ends with a nice finish and huge applause. Great.
Lawdy Mama – Version 2 is a rework of the Strange Brew song on Disraeli Gears. It does sound different to the original but is a nice and short addition to this live set of songs. It sounds very amazing and gloriously good and is awesome proof that Cream, live or studio, had magic happening. The song is somewhat different to the finished product. All the same, this is a really great and excellent listen and is a good addition to a fantastic album. Not bad overall, a good way to conclude.
This is a very top album, superb in all ways. Yes, it is mainly a live instrumental album, but it is so well done that you need to hear this superb listen, particularly if you are a fan of Classic Rock. Sure, it’s rather for those who have a Progressive Rock taste, but nothing stops this album from being amazing. Seek this one out today.
Clapton is God.