23rd March 1968
Hunter College, March 29, except for the Les Paul,
Brandeis is a small and relatively new University in Massachusetts and as such is not a member of the Ivy League. Flying in from Indiana, they didnt arrive until the early hours of Sunday morning. Only a few hundred out of the 2,900 audience had left the gymnasium even by the 2.15am start. Clearly their reputation had spread through the underground music scene. Cream responded to the enthusiasm of the young audience and continued to explore the facets of extemporisation. Ginger Baker is in dominating form providing a very powerful rendition of "Toad" plus a relatively short but potent solo on "NSU". One can only assume that he had achieved a high state of enthusiasm after an intake of the requisite chemicals. Notably, "Sunshine of Your Love" is given an extended and high powered work out.
Brandeis was recorded on a good quality stereo tape recorder at 3.75ips. Mikes were positioned centre stage resulting in clear drums and reasonably balanced guitars. Vocals are somewhat distant but clear. The reverberation of the gym is clearly obvious. I suspect that the recorder and his friends were drum freaks.
The audio quality is not as good as "The Grande Ballroom" but still very good based on a new version released in 2002. The quality of performance once again overcomes the audio limitations.
Note: Times approximate and include between song breaks, intros, talk etc
Tales of Brave Ulysses (4:50)
A rough tape start. The warm up receives another excellent work out with a very strong ending coda containing some of Erics best wah-wah work. Strangely, it really does contain the seeds of heavy metal.
Jack thanks the audience for staying on .."one of the nicest things thats happened to us.." The riff is played on the bass drum to call:
Sunshine of Your Love (12.00)
Its a powerhouse and extended treatment. This is the best available version with Ginger absolutely powering it on. The middle solo has Jack doing endless variations on the riff. The final jam has all three in full solo-in-ensemble mode. Eric blasts the place.
Launched with thunderous tom toms and moves into a ferocious jam. Baker, at times, plays with overwhelming power and speed. Its one of those jams that has to be listened to to be believed. Just as they sound like they are moving to the final vocals with one of Erics trademark riffs, Ginger is left to solo. It is tight, structured and very different to Toad (barely 5 min). Guitar and bass rejoin for the transition to the vocals. NSU seems to always bring the best out of them.
Sitting on Top of the World (6.50)
Eric and Jack produce another excellent version underpinned by superb drumming. The vocals are quite clear as the recording mikes directly pick up Jack - confirms the incredible power of his voice. Eric is up loud and soaring. Heavy rock blues doesnt come any better than this.
Stepping Out (14.30)
Just a great performance with Eric and Ginger in symbiosis. In my review of the official released version I said that "this style of performance doesnt really suit Erics sensibilities". Well, at this time it certainly did. He was fully exploring the potential of this approach. Ginger went with him: responding and prodding with brushes and bass drums. Clapton at his finest!
Another good version but one can only take this song and format so far. Unfortunately Jack is too technically limited as a harmonica player to really pull this off repeatedly, in terms of repeated recordings. Extending Stepping Out with a bass/drums duet would have ultimately been more satisfying. Though, for most of those in this young audience, a long harmonica solo was a new experience. To me, its the drums that keep it working.
Baker is in such great form, what more really needs to be said? The instrumental intro has Jack taking the lead as Eric sounds like hes lost an amp. Toad has been much criticised over the years but those carping critics should listen to this audiences response!
This concert was critically reviewed by Jon Landau in 'Rolling Stone'. Clearly I don't agree with him. Unfortunately Eric took the review very seriously.
© 2002 by Graeme Pattingale