Late '67 - early '68
Loud & Louder Pt4

In  September 1967 Cream returned from USA tour.  After a short break they recommenced touring UK and Europe to promote the delayed release of Disraeli Gears.  After criss-crossing the USA there gear was stuffed - transformers loose, capacitors leaking etc etc.  They replaced their gear.

Nice new 1959 Superleads - single stack for EC in small venue

The new gear can be seen on the photos from the Swedish tour.  Major change was Jack changing to a 100 Watt superlead from the 200 Watt Major.  The thinner cabinets are clear in many photos  and confirmed on "Fresh Live Cream" video.  This was not a downgrade.

The 200 watt majors produce 200 Watts but without much headroom (ie spare power), the KT88s are near max in electrical terms and can't be pushed too much further.  Jack was now using the new EL34 powered 100 Watts with higher plate voltage (560 instead of 440) plus new Dagnal transformers (still through two stacks).  These are the config that could generate 100watts clean (less then 2% distortion) or 180 watts at 10% distortion (ie normal rock mode).  Couple these with the uprated Celestions C12M30 of improved efficiency, and Jack was just as loud if not louder.  

Eric still used KT66 powered Superleads with the original Drake transformers thus retaining the distinctive sound that configuration produced.  Interestingly some photos show a tremolo model (8 knobs instead of six) - probably bought for studio effects but tremolo effect not used live.

In February 1968 they returned to the USA for a very long tour.  They were recorded at the Fillmore and Winterland, which represents the classic sound of Cream that everyone talks about, especially for Clapton.  But was it?  

Winterland Soundcheck - gear looking well worn and plugged into single head

Jack had drastically changed his rig from KT88 powered Major to EL34 powered Superlead with different transformers.  He still powered through the two speaker stacks.  His sound, however, remained the same as it was more a product of his playing style (heavy finger picking) and the EB3 itself (the light gauge strings through the small bridge pickup).  The Marshall contributed to the sound but it was less significant than the other factors. The amp was run at a high distortion level, which accentuated the basic Jack Bruce sound.

Eric's sound over the recordings and vs bootlegs is inconsistent. The only available full power recording from the early live sessions, "Sunshine of Your Love" from Fillmore of March 7th, shows a very loud and very thick sustain/distortion on the guitar like the '67 bootlegs (Rolling & Tumbling & Toad were always played with volume backed off vs harmonica and drums respectively).  The later recordings show a more restrained sustain notably on Stepping Out and especially when he resorted to the "Woman Tone". 

Recording at The Fillmore on 7th: Left amp is tremolo and both are on

Upper (for reinforcement) & Lower (for recording) well worn cabs are miked, 
interesting cabling arrangement (for switching the wah?)

The official "Stepping Out" is interesting as you can hear Eric instinctively waiting for singing sustain and then seemingly fluff a note because it doesn't occur.  Also the echoing sound is like it was distance recorded because the recording mike is on a blown speaker - they then move the mike and get a much tighter sound.   My speculation is that EC was playing through one head spread over two stacks which reduced the sound pressure levels on the mikes (allowing for closer miking) and reducing the bleed into the drum mikes.  But the one head reduced the sound field effects, which EC tried to counterbalance by standing directly in front of the stacks, which he rarely did when they were both on. By the last night he has adjusted to the problem and produces a much more controlled sound but with limited use of Woman Tone.  The bootleg also shows a much stronger rendition of Stepping Out. This is why the recordings of the 10th produced most of the Live releases.

After the San Francisco gigs, Cream re-equipped for the extended tour.  The existing gear would have been getting flaky after the European tour and initial US gigs.  Also Marshall was getting heavy promotion in the US and the distributer would have wanted their premier user to be a suitable advertisement.  The pristine new gear is clear in the March-April photos including speaker cabs on wheels. EC, however, retained his heads but I suspect that the fragile KT66 valves were progressively replaced by the more robust EL34s. So that by April:

All amps 100 watt Superleads with EL34 valves,  Jacks with Dagnal transformers 560 Volts and Eric's with Drake's and 440V on the EL34s.  Speakers C12G30M.

29th March: new cabs but same amps as Fillmore with left tremolo with part Marshall logo, no wah.

No change for Jack but for EC a considerable change. The EL34's overloaded with different distortion characteristics and the speakers didn't compress as they had better power handling,  But most significantly the EL34's were not fully overloaded as they were on a lower voltage.  I believe that Eric could not get his sweet sustain for the woman tone because of this and the EL34's different microphonic characteristics.  The bootlegs from March-April have less use or much more restrained woman tone.  In early April they took a rest and returned to England.

March 26 - Jack with clean amp and cabs (Bass model)


Graeme Pattingale, 2003