Disraeli Gears was recorded over two sessions at Atlantic Studios, New York in 1967: April 3-4 & May 11-15th. On April 3rd two versions of "Lawdy Mama" were recorded one of which was reworked by Felix Pappalardi and became "Strange Brew" after new overdubbs on the 4th.
In May they returned to complete an album and provide the B-Side to the "Strange Brew" single. The tight studio time resulted in concentrated and focused recording sessions. Songs were selected, worked on and built into the released versions. Without doubt there were the inevitable false starts, stuff ups, jams and possible tryouts of a few other songs. Unfortunately we will never know the Atlantic Tape Archive fire of 1975 destroyed all of them.
After recording Gears, Cream flew to Germany for the usual short but intense tour. On the 19th they mimed "Strange Brew"on The Beat Club for German TV. They returned to the UK on the 22nd and appeared on Dee Time on BBC TV. Then on the 23rd they performed at the Marquee Club and premiered "Disraeli Gears". Unfortunately rehearsal time was very limited and their performance showed it. Audience reaction was very hesitant and only became responsive when they returned to their standard repertoire. A plus is that the bootleg has quite reasonable sound.
While Eric tells the audience that they worked hard preparing for this performance, the evidence is to the contrary. Jack clearly hasnt memorised the lyrics to "Tales of Brave Ulysses" and they were still coming to grips with it musically.
Eric performs a credible rendition of "World of Pain" but it was a song that they really couldnt do much with. "Outside Woman Blues" is quite good though Erics playing is not as polished as one normally expects this could have been worked up to be a regular in the repertoire. "Dance the Night Away works surprisingly well and again it could have evolved into staple especially with its untypical harmonic structure.
After this they revert to the Fresh Cream repertoire to a vastly improved response from the audience. Clearly they are also more comfortable and provide a tight if unspectacular performance. "Sleepy Time Time" has now evolved into the arrangement we are familiar with including the bass solo. The most notable variation is Erics use of the Wah Wah in his solo in Sweet Wine. "Rollin & Tumblin" is a good version with the drums nicely prominent. "NSU" is incomplete with the start missed, its probably the opener of the 2nd set. . It is quite an aggressive performance as they are clearly starting to chaff in the bounds of the song format.
They were both using double stacks Jack loses one during Tales and there is a
noticeable drop in volume but it has been replaced for NSU.
On May 27th Cream performed at the Oxford May Ball and also presented some songs from Gears. Most appropriate was "Dance the Night Away" and sadly, as far as is known, the last performance of that minor classic. Jimi Hendrix was the headliner on the next gig at Spaulding on May 29.
The Tulip Bulb Auction Hall, was a cattle auction shed. It was a gig put together by the all-too-common rip-off promoter. The venue was not suitable for such a purpose and the number of tickets had been massively oversold. It was packed, hot, stuffy and very tense. The tension between the band and the audience is quite clear. Equipment problems were rife including a faulty or, at the very least, inadequate PA. The combination of circumstances, unsurprisingly, produced a hesitant and distracted performance. Ian Sippen set up to record the band and unfortunately, like them, he had equipment problems resulting in a recording with almost non-existant bass guitar and distant vocals, unlike his superb Ricky Tick tape.
Ian Sippen set up his quality equipment to record Cream. Unfortunately the left mike failed and the recording is dominated by the guitar and the drums. The loss of bass is partially compensated for by the magnificent, very present sound of the drums. Jacks vocals are largely heard by direct acoustics rather then through the PA.
"NSU" is hesitant as they try to sort out the gear on the fly with the PA dropping out and the guitar amps being adjusted. "Sunshine" follows and is no better with: Eric starting way too fast and pulling back, Eric & Ginger struggling to hear Jacks vocals and Ginger laying down a very basic beat one can see him glowering at the roadies as they desperately tried to sort things out.
|Eric tells the audience to quietn down before they
perfoym a quite superb "Were Going Wrong". It really worked quite
well live once they had got it sorted out. The longer gestation time definitely helped
with this one.
A short "Stepping Out" is performed but with amp problems for Eric followed by "Rollin & Tumblin" with a just audible harp (well the drums are nice and clear!).
Obviously it is "Toad" that benefits with the very audible drums. It is comparatively short - Baker clearly didnt want to hang about. "Im So Glad closes the set but by this time Erics Marshall is really breaking up and he just manages to finish before it totally cracks up.
Both these recordings leave something to be desired (a couple of rehearsals wouldnt have gone astray) however they are important as they display the new psychedelic Cream rather than the blues band. Within three months the next break through would be made at the Fillmore.
© Graeme Pattingale, 2000.