Betwixt journeyman stints with the Yardbirds and John Mayall and decades of laurel-resting, guitar god Eric Clapton was but one competitive third of what remains rock's most compelling power trios. Cream's penchant for incendiary live excess was legendary, a fact that makes the release of these 22 live-in-studio recordings for the BBC (which span just over a year of the band's early, brief career) all the more interesting. Powered by Ginger Baker's complex rhythms and the kinetic bass lines and burnished vocals of Jack Bruce, Clapton's playing is focused and intense, with the trio bringing a pop-smart economy to its slate of over-amped blues ("Rollin' and Tumblin'," "Cat's Squirrel") and originals that veered from nascent pop-psychedelia ("Strange Brew," "Sunshine of Your Love") to music-hall kitsch ("Wrapping Paper," "Take It Back"). The tracks here--fully 20 of them previously unreleased--offer extensive contemporary live previews of Disraeli Gears
and even more compelling early workouts of material that would appear on Wheels of Fire
. Though the collection's four Clapton interview excerpts come at the expense of Baker and Bruce, their musical accomplishments here can't be denied. It's as taught and focused a primer on the oft-overblown world of '60s blues rock as one is likely to find. Cream, indeed. --Jerry McCulley
22 live-in-the-studio performances by Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, only two of which have been released before! Includes renditions of then-current singles like I Feel Free , previews of upcoming album tracks like Sunshine of Your Love and versions of concert favorites like Crossroads , all recorded between November 1966 and January 1968. A major find!