San Francisco

Live at the Fillmore

March 3rd March 1968

Cream was now one of the major concert acts in the Rock world. On their 1st US tour they had, on occasions, played to small audiences. On this tour promoters had to provide the biggest venue possible to meet demand. Bill Graham had also extended his operations to predominantly use the Winterland Ice Rink which held 5,000–6,000 and Cream only appeared at the Fillmore on 3rd & 7th.

It had been decided to record them during this residence to provide the 2nd album of ‘Wheels of Fire’.but that was later on. There were the usual two sets and this bootleg comprises the full 1st set but only "Stepping Out" from the 2nd. Parts of "Spoonful", "Toad" and "Traintime" exist but they are literally fragments and sound quality is extremely poor.

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Another superb photo from Jim Marshall (Winterland March '68)

The Concert opens with NSU being performed in a very different mode to what we are used to with extended slow tempo passages and great dynamic variations. The most stunning thing is Clapton’s free-time playing as he seems to be making maximum effort to keep away from fours. He even seems to be trying to break out of the pentatonic scales to achieve some jazz-like (but not jazz!) playing. Naturally Baker and Bruce just respond and coax and suggest and prompt.

"Politician" is the most interesting inclusion as we at last can hear it as they performed it in the golden period. Unfortunately they are still not comfortable with it and it is a stiff performance but, never the less, quite excellent with Eric’s beautiful tone from the Les Paul SG and Ginger’s syncopation.

"Sunshine of Your Love" is a medium length intense rendition and much, much superior to the flat official release. Eric opens the solo in beautiful sustained woman tone quoting "Blue Moon" then roles through one of his ‘architectural’ solos. The ending jam is fascinating as they start at a furious tempo and then drop into a slow tempo with Eric playing fractured licks in sustained woman tone and then chording and ….

"I’m So Glad" was the set closer and they rip it up over 14 minutes. The jam commences at the usual tempo but once again this night it moves through great variations in tempo and dynamics.

This boot, as effective listening, ends with "Stepping Out". Once again it is vastly superior to the official release.

Unfortunately this is variable quality with Stepping Out being marred by low frequency noise. Basic balance is good because of the quality PA. However the bootleg has been doctored with crude bass lift (all the versions I have heard). The sound is thus drastically effected which also compounds Stepping Out’s problems.

Conclusion

This recording shows that the official releases contain more conservative playing as a result of the ‘being recorded for posterity’ factor. Luckily the last date of the 10th had some tensions which engendered an excellent performance. But, compared to the 3rd, they were not as inventive. Eric is at his most inventive and the leader this night playing at unusually restrained tempos and trying some interesting harmonic variations.

Winterland

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March 10 1968

 

 

Poster Courtesy of my friend
from Melbourne, Mark Wakeham

Large version (130KB!)

This was the final night of the live recordings. More than likely they were not satisfied with what was already in the can – audio and musical. So this night they planned to do a classic set including the solo features. An unexpected source of tension was the late arrival of Baker - out of his car and virtually straight onto the stage.

This bit of drama added a tension to the performance that was to produce the best of the official live releases: "Tales of Brave Ulysses"***, "Crossroads"*, "Spoonful"*, "NSU"** and "Sweet Wine"**. "Stepping Out" is credited as also being from this night, it isn’t.

The actual song order for the two sets is: "Tales of Brave Ulysses", "Spoonful", "Crossroads", "We’re Going Wrong", "Sweet Wine", (2nd set:) "Sunshine of Your Love", "NSU", "Stepping Out", "Traintime", "Toad", "I’m So Glad". A classic set list reminiscent of 2nd half ’67. The bootleg recording is not complete as only the start of "I’m So Glad" was recorded, "Traintime" having a few severe drop outs, and Toad largely incomplete though I have a copy which has a cleverly inserted extension which works quite well.

"We’re Going Wrong" is a rare recording from this period, this was probably its only performance over their residency.

Once again we hear a superior version, to the official release, of "Sunshine of Your Love". This wasn’t used because Jack starts with the bass too loud and has to adjust

"Stepping Out" is another great version and why it wasn’t used is a mystery. The only thing I can hear is Eric makes a few ‘mistakes’ and pauses a couple of times to gather his thoughts. The official release unerringly flows but is firmly in the conservative blues changes mode and rhythmically rigid - flat and dull. They roll into a potent "Traintime" and then a powerful "Toad". It is also superior to the official release as it doesn’t lose momentum and includes some interesting variations.

Sound quality is good, for an audience, with the guitar somewhat recessed but clear. Probably recorded left stage resulting in clear bass/drums and vocals – a good PA.

* Wheels of Fire - Live at the Fillmore    ** Live Cream    *** Live Cream Vol II

Graeme Pattingale 1999