Live Cream

Felix Pappalardi

Recording Engineers: Bill Halverson, remix by Adrian Barber (except for the studio track – see below)

Released: UK – 6/70, US – 4/70.

Highest Chart Position: UK – 4, US – 15.

Eighteen months after their demise and 12 months after the last official release ("Goodbye"), these new live recordings were released. They had probably been prepared for the consideration for the proposed live album of the "Goodbye" double set. The reasonable chart success showed the continuing demand for Cream’s music.

In terms of ensemble playing this is, in totality, superior to "Live at the Fillmore" with the sound better balanced, especially the drums. It’s the best production job of all the live albums. The Winterland Ballroom had better acoustics than the Fillmore.,

The studio track is utterly irrelevant in this context (see the Disraeli Gears review). Why did they include this when there was a superior alternate version available? See the track review for more caustic analysis.

Track by Track

NSU (Jack Bruce)

Eric – lead guitar, harmony vocals; Jack – bass, lead vocals; Ginger – drums.

[Recording: 10th March 1968 (2nd show), Winterland, San Francisco, Bill Halverson eng; Adrian Barber, remix]
Note: Different version on "Those Were the Days" (not an unedited version of this as other sources led me to believe) .

The syncopated opening is now extraordinarily effective with the amplifier power of the live performance. Once they finish the vocals they move into their unique ensemble improvisation playing: Eric is just as intensely creative, if not as compressed, as on "Crossroads, he just does it for longer and with more interaction with Jack & Ginger.

Jack and Ginger interplay between themselves and with Eric at a level that defies description. Their individual playing is stunning but it is within the group dynamics that they are incomparable.

With every listening it seems to get shorter!

Sleepy Time Time (Jack Bruce/Janet Godfrey)

Eric – lead guitar; Jack – bass, lead vocals; Ginger – drums.

[Recording: 9th March 1968 (1st show), Winterland, San Francisco, Bill Halverson eng; Adrian Barber, remix]

An extended version of the strong riff based blues from Fresh Cream. Not spectacular but a style of rock blues that few others could carry out as effectively. The strong Freddie King influence in Eric’s playing on the original has now been absorbed into HIS own style. Jack is in full shout mode playing endless subtle variations of the bass riff while Ginger just syncopates, fills and pounds the bass drum in his inimitable style. A too short bass solo, [Dave Walzer:] great Clapton cool dominant 7th comping , and totally searing bluesy, melodic, solos on this cut.

[Vinyl Side 2]

Sweetwine (Ginger Baker/Janet Godfrey)

Eric – lead guitar, harmony vocals; Jack – bass, lead vocals; Ginger – drums.

[Recording: 10th March 1968 (1st show), Winterland, San Francisco, Bill Halverson eng; Adrian Barber, remix]

I’m probably going to upset some fans but I think the improvisation is better then Spoonful, which was also from this show. This was the final song for the show (therefore the "see you later" at the end) and they are interacting and interplaying at a more refined level. It is a very jazz performance in that the dynamics of the playing shift between them and they are clearly responding to each other. Dan Tingstrom: "particularly that part in the middle where everything gets quiet and subdued and Ginger goes to the hi-hat (alternating open and closed) and the cowbell, while Eric is hitting a high group of notes or a chord....and Jack does the little solo thing that is so prominent!!!!"

This performance probably exemplifies Cream’s style and strengths as an ensemble. The vocals/basic song are just bookends to the real business of the extended group improvisation. That improvisation involves complex interplay between the three with Eric being the lead but Jack and Ginger, individually and in combination, pushing and pulling him down alternate paths. Eric has never, except for Duane, again played with ‘backing’ musicians of this caliber who were clearly Eric’s equal and in some aspects his superiors. Eric is jazzy on this, if only he played some jazz progressions! He has rarely been as instrumentally creative since, excepting the Layla album.

Rolling and Tumbling (Muddy Waters)

Eric – lead guitar; Jack – harmonica, lead vocals; Ginger – drums.

[Recording: 7th March 1968 (1st show), Fillmore West, San Francisco, Bill Halverson eng; Adrian Barber, remix]

Eric’s twin Marshall stacks juice this up compared to the original. Just like the studio recording it rips along with all three providing the unflagging energy. Ginger’s use of brushes is unusual in Rock, especially live, but listening to this it makes one wonder why. Jack’s harp playing is more effective in this group context then on ‘Traintime’.

In terms of the album it would have been better if it preceded Sweet Wine instead of as an "encore" which it obviously wasn’t. The beauty of CD is you can now reprogram it.

Lawdy Mama (Trad arr.Eric Clapton)

Eric – lead & solo guitar, lead vocals; Jack – bass; Ginger – drums.

Producer: Robert Stigwood & Ahmet Ertugen, Recorded: 8 April 1967, Atlantic Studios, New York, Recording Engineer: Tom Dowd.

This is the take that Felix reworked into Strange Brew (see Disraeli Gears review). It was a song that they had been playing for a while. This version is noticeably unspectacular, even compared to the Fresh Cream blues standards, indicating that something new was definitely needed. Interestingly, the other finished version from these sessions, produced by Ahmet (remixed/mastered by Felix?) but Creams preferred arrangment, on "Those Were The Days" and "The Alternative Album" is much superior with the better arrangement. That version wouldn’t have been such an obvious clash with "Strange Brew".

While the comparison between this and "Strange Brew" is interesting from my point of view as an aficionado, it is shoddy to have included it on this live album as it’s just, at best, padding, but it increased Stigwoods royalties. Inclusion on a set like "Alternative" is more appropriate especially if at a discount CD price. Another example of industry sensitivity to the artist and fan alike!

Updated and corrected 14th Oct 1997

EC with Reverse Firebird I

Dual 100 Watt Marshall Stacks,
4x12 cabs, foldback PA

1997 by Graeme Pattingale