In February 1968, Cream returned to California to launch their 1968 USA tour. They had just completed an extended studio session in New York recording "Wheels of Fire". They performed a few warm up gigs before settling into a residency at Bill Graham's Fillmore and Winterland. When this was completed they had also recorded the material that was to form the second LP of "Wheels of Fire". Now the long haul of the road confronted them.
A new recording has just recently become available. The Anaheim show of 18th March is an excellent, but incomplete, show with reasonable-good sound quality. It is reassuring that new material can still be found. The San Jose show of 25th May has been around for some time and can only be classed poor-reasonable sound quality.Anaheim, California On 18th March they played the Anaheim Convention Centre. It was a very large auditorium, which was now required to meet audience numbers and pay Cream's performance fee. It would be reasonable to expect a decline in enthusiasm due to the virtual completion of the recording of the next album and the escalation of tensions between them, but on the California leg of the tour they were in high energy.
This night they opened with a long "Spoonful" which seems to have been the new approach for this part of the tour - warm up with a long jam! And this is an excellent version with a superb end chorus. "Sunshine of Your Love" was now high on the charts so it became a performance fitting. Once again it is a fascinating contrast to the Fillmore/Winterland rendition with an extended jam on the coda .
At the end of two numbers, over 26 minutes of the set had expired so they followed with the contrasting "Rollin' & Tumblin" and they really ripped it up! Jack is in power shout mode and Eric also cranks it up. Better then the official release!
The set moves into the solo pieces but "Traintime" was missed and only the end of "Toad" was recorded. "Stepping Out" is complete and is an energetic rendition with Clapton exploring his bag of blues licks. After the ending fragment of "Toad" they perform the standard set closer of late '67. Once again it is a another great version of "I'm So Glad". Something in its structure or genesis allows them to collectively improvise at the usual high tempo.
This very newly discovered recording shows that Cream were still a hot concert proposition in March '68. This one is among their best concerts available on bootleg despite being incomplete. Sound quality is reasonable-good.
San Jose, California
In April, Cream forced a break from their exhausting tour that
had crisscrossed the USA and involved almost daily concerts. They returned refreshed, but
the grind started again. For this leg of the tour the venues and audiences were usually
the biggest available and fees were often $25,000 a show. Jack and Ginger loved playing
and the money was great after so many years of scrambling. But for Eric, its was becoming
a drag as the role of guitar God thing began to pall.
Hunter College, NY, March 29
Note: New Stacks, the tiny PA, EC on Les Paul
Eric wastrying to escape from the psychedelic image so he stopped using the painted SG and reverted to a Les Paul and then increasingly to the Firebird I. For this concert he played the Les Paul.
As aprt of their 2nd stage of the tour they once again played extensively through California. On the 25th May they appeared at San Jose's Civic Auditorium. The show opens with a routine warm up of "Tales of Brave Ulysses". It is followed by a solid "Sunshine of Your Love" with Jack in great vocal form, Ginger driving as usual but Eric restrained. "I'm So Glad" is next and is quite excellent but lacking real fire.
"Sitting on Top of the World" is at a slower tempo but within the usual length - a most unusual version. Eric is playing it in quite a different mode and the others respond - Jack slows the vocals and Ginger maintains the beat impeccably.
As was standard on this tour they move into the solo show cases. "Stepping Out" is surprisingly strong as Eric seems to have warmed up and was working hard. Its not one of the great ones but the difference in tone/sustain/attack of the Les Paul is noticeable. "Traintime" remains worn out and really should have been dropped for something better or "Rollin & Tumblin" substituted. Baker is in fine form on a long "Toad" which is not quite complete due to tape run out.
This one belongs to Jack and Ginger who are still getting off playing live. Eric plays well but is not pulling the trigger, he is holding back. All-in-all a good show that wouldn't have disappointed the audience (or us bootleg listeners) but it was clearly on the downside slope. The California inspired fires that started in August '67 were now almost extinguished.
Sound quality is barely reasonable as it was recorded on an 8 track cartridge recorder.
Norwood Price, 2000.
Anaheim Convention Centre, 17th May 1968 (not March!).
Note the size of the venue - Cream, at this time, were one of the few bands that could fill such a venue.