One Spoonful Too Much
Dallas Memorial Auditorium
25th October 1968
By Ray Mulesky
(Updated, in italics, Aug 25 2001 based on a new Digital Remastered version of much superior quality)
At Dallas EC played the Firebird I not ES335 as 1st thought
Even before the start of the USA "Farewell" tour, the Cream, as a cohesive, creative, tri-partite, musical frienship was well over. Ginger puts it bluntly, "Short of murder, we couldn't solve a problem between us." So why did they bother with this tour - to acknowledge and thank the American record- buying public, was the advertised reason. The real reason, as always, was money.
"Wheels of Fire" was released in June with a flow on stimulous to the back catalog and "Sunshine of Your Love" high in the singles charts. As a money earning machine, Cream was now, ironically, at the peak. They now commanded top dollar in the Rock Concert world and the temptation was too great for them, let alone management and record company. To all concerned this was certainly "milking it". To me, all the more reason for the general surprise in the professional quality of their performances, after the opening Oakland Concert.
Dallas was 11th date of the tour and everyone was well into the groove with a static set list. The tour is well documented on boot and on the 'Goodbye' and 'Live Cream II' albums. Generally, the Dallas concert has been panned as long and boring. I understand this view, but disagree as I contend that this reputation has occured, in part, by accident.
Many Cream fans know the Dallas concert through a single number grafted onto the popular and widely distributed 'Creamset' bootleg of the 1967 Grande Ballroom concert. Unfortunately 'Creamset' tags the Dallas track onto the fabulous Grande Ballroom performance. Not only does it suffer in comparison, most would, but it is completely lucklustre perfromance of Spoonful that unfortunately misrepresents the Dallas concert as a complete body.
Looking at Dallas, in its own context and relative to other farewell tour concerts, one finds a very professional and entertaining performance with some very fine musical passages. If the ponderous Spoonful is excluded, the performance may be considered above average in absolute Cream terms.
In adhering to the rigid set list, Spoonful was fired up and it dragged on forever. Cream should have called it quits after 60 hard minutes - Ginger was totally pooped after "Traintime' and "Toad". Even worse, Eric was plainly out of ideas which left Jack to supply any creative spark for the number. Unfortunately, Cream's "Spoonful" doesn't work that way. It is not an easy number to work with as the tempo is fairly slow for a long improvisation. It is one where Eric needs to be at his best and to control the direction. It didn't happen and neither did the number.
The Dallas bootleg is lowly rated because there are so many 'superior' performances available. But we aren't going to get any more Cream concerts to enjoy. Even if they did reunite they simply would not play in this vain - Eric just doesn't play that way any more, Ginger likely couldn't physically keep up for too long and even Jack is less frenetic [not always - Ed]. That means that any concert from this time is worth squeezing for the last delicious drop even if it is just milk rather then sweet cream. In that vein, I recommend you relisten to Dallas as a whole, but feel free to skip the last Spoonful.
Cream were supported by The Terry Reid Group (not Vanilla Fudge which was 30th March gig)
Song by Song
The standard bootleg stretches onto 2 CD's even though it is in total just over 82 minutes. A new version has edited down the opening 3 minutes of noise (which on the new version, is clearly all audience noise and the roadies nailing down Ginger's drums and some tuning up) to fit it nicely onto one CD. This removes the annoying CD change between Traintime and Toad.
White Room (6.27)
Jack turns in a mostly workmanlike performance, though mixing up some of the lyrics. The bass is dominant and Eric's solo is similar to the album version without much exploration. A pretty standard warm-up from that tour. The guitar is clearer and more prominent on the new version
Sunshine of Your Love (6.22)
Ginger turns up the muscle and begins his "hammers-of-hell" approach. He is absolutely thwacking them to heard over the stacks while, miraculously, maintaining touch and taste on the downbeat. The drums are now clearer but clearly still undermiked compared to the stacks. Eric's solo is great, being quite aggressive and is superior to the official live release from March.
I'm So Glad (10.21)
Ginger lazily announces, "We'd now like to do a number, I'm So Glad you came [chuckles]". By far the best number of the concert, which seems to be common on this tour. It is also my favourite rendition - Eric rips a great solo through 3 minutes, announces the basic chords again, another two minute stretch, returns to the chords. Then at 6 minutes he suddenly and totally drops out, Jack and Ginger are taken aback, realise there's been equipment failure and then lock note for note in an amazing high-speed duet for more then a minute - fantastic! Eric tumbles in, on one stack, for the race home.
Sitting on Top of the World (6.03)
Eric is so comfortable he makes it go by himself alone - pure expression, another great solo and back on both stacks. Jack holds the line creatively with very strong vocals while Ginger alternately floats and hammers. Certainly a very good performance even if not quite divinely inspired this time around.
Jack announces, "Now we'd like to do one that Eric did on 'Disraeli Gears' by Robert Johnson, its called "Crossroads" ". The audience calls out "Wheels of Fire", Jack, "Oh yeh, you're right, yeh", giggles all around.
Ginger opens with what I call the chooglin' beat - hitting 8th notes during the characteristic final tour instrumental signature variation (definitely allegro). Eric's first lead break contains the shadow elements of the legendary Winterland performance while the second break is new and a bit less exciting (but its Eric mind you!). With actual playing time about 3.50 this is compact and less venturesome but still very much worth the listen. It is arguably the best version on all the farewell tour boots.
No "Stepping Out" on this tour just straight into the other members solo pieces from side 2 of 'Live at the Fillmore', which Eric makes quite clear "We'd like to do another number from the live album and features Jack on the harmonica called "Traintime" ". Yes its too long, no there's nothing new and it is boringly tired. Ginger's brushwork is reasonably audible, bass drum quite clear but by now Ginger could phone in his performance on this. Jack is clearly hell-bent on deafening everybody. You'd never guess that the band was finished by the amount of enthusiasm Jack blows, sings, shouts and gasps into this one. You really had to cut the volume to survive when listening to the boot (Now tamed on the latest version as it had been wound up on the previous versions). Eric joins in on the final chord.
This is also one of my concert favourites. You can clearly hear the left-foot hi-hat time-keeping as he pounds ahead during the group intro. After the riff, Jack and Eric start improvising quietly, both musically and in volume, barely playing at some points, playing with each other, but they keep building, slowly, slowly...Ginger picks up the thread, they play variations against each other, in one passage Ginger plays some hi-speed paradiddles on the snare rim, then they end after a 6 minute play-along - absolutely unique recorded rendition, as far as I know.
The solo is a good one - powerful, creative, with several novel elements, several older elements and several elements that he'll develop into "Do What You Like". A tape change of unknown length occurs at about 13 minutes (now quite nicely tidied up on the new boot version) which seems to have been pretty quick swap.
After a long and powerful Toad, Ginger is pooped. To me this is where the problem starts, as he has no energy to goose a disappointingly lethargic Eric. This leaves Jack as the only one left who really wants to play this number. It shows.
Eric starts with a typical jam lead in but then works in fairly repetitive, narrow ranges for large portions of the song - 'blues noodling'. Ginger sparks very occasionally. Jack does some nice vocal variations and tries to kick them into gear with some powerful bass work. To no avail - it is the most lackluster performance of this song that I have heard.
About halfway through some things start to happen, but quickly falls apart. This song needs Eric to fire, but he's clearly out of ideas or become bored (even scating along on guitar at one stage!) - pity he wasn't in a hurry to get off stage. Jack brings the whole affair to end with a 5 minute vocals passage that, at least, holds some interest.
Note: a distracting tape surge around the 7.45 mark has, thankfully, been removed on the new release
You've got the crux of my premise by now - one Spoonful too much. Had they called it quits after "Toad" and had this number never shown up on Creamset, I think this concert would have rated a lot higher.
From a recording perspective a heavily and cleverly edited "Spoonful" could provide a possible recovery in artistic consideration. If you totally ignore Spoonful then this is a good performance by any Cream standards. By the standard of the other final tour performances it is very good mainly because of Eric's relatively high level of aggression.
The newly rematered version shows that this is a stage side recording - all previous versions must have been well removed from the master. The sound balance favours the bass but the guitar is quite clear and the drums reasonable clear except for the kick-drums. The PA for the vocals is quite good but clearly the drums were minimally miked at low volume setting - noticably clearer on Toad as they turned them up. Baker has to really hammer the drums to have any chance in these large venues. There are considerable volume variations with Eric quite prominent on "Sunshine", recessed on "White Room" with the best balance on "Sitting on Top of the World". Overall the bass is high involving some hall boom (or Jack playing very loud?) but the guitar is clear with plenty of attack and the drums audible most of the time. The latest version smoothed the bass a bit by reducing the hall boom. [a future page on this volume issue - Ed].
[Like most bootlegs the sound lacks presence being recorded well back in the hall. The sound balance favours the bass but the guitar is quite clear and the drums drowned out. The PA for the vocals is quite good but clearly the drums were minimally miked at low volume setting - noticably clearer on Toad as they turned them up. Baker has to really hammering the drums to have any chance. There are considerable volume variations with Eric quite prominent on "Sunshine", recessed on "White Room" with the best balance on "Sitting on Top of the World". Overall the bass is dominant - hall boom or Jack playing very loud? The latest version has got the bass down a bit by reducing the hall boom but it remains prominent [a future page on this volume issue - Ed].]
© 2001 by Ray Mulesky & Graeme
updated August 25 2001