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Paul McCartney
Chaos and Creation In The Backyard

Cream

Tales of Brave Ulysses

Cream. Disraeli Gears [click for larger image]

This was the break through album. Recorded in two sessions for a total of 6 days with the experienced and inventive producer Felix Papallardi in the legendary Atlantic New York studios. Cream was transformed from a blues based band to a member of the psychedelic movement; from British blues heroes to rock legends.
Atlantic Records was a ‘race’ record company with many black music giants under contract. These studios and engineer Tom Dowd were legendary among white blues/R&B aficionados like Eric Clapton. For Tom it was virtually his first recording sessions with a loud white pop/rock band – these guys turned their big amps up to 10! But as a very experienced and talented engineer (and soon-to-be producer of rock band recordings) he adjusted and got a distinctive, clean, balanced sound. The key change was the involvement of Felix who reoriented the sessions towards the Bruce/Brown songs and away from traditional blues. This was begrudgingly accepted by Ahmet Ertugen of Atlantic as they needed to get some US chart success in a rapidly changing music market. For Eric and, especially, Ginger it represented a change in band dynamics with Jack dominating the creative process. But it was the right move musically and financially.

Producer: Felix Pappalardi

Recorded: 3-4 April 1967, 11-14 May 1967 at Atlantic Studios, New York

Recording Engineer: Tom Dowd

Released: UK –  November 1967, US – December 1967

Highest Chart Position: UK – 5, US – 4.

Cover Art: Martin Sharp

Mother's Lament
(trad. arr. Cream)
 

Are we rolling? a one, a two, a three, a four...

A mother was washing her baby one night;
The youngest of ten and a delicate mite.
The mother was poor and the baby was thin;
’twas naught but a skeleton covered with skin.

The mother turned ’round for a soap off the rack.
She was only a moment but when she turned back
Her baby had gone, and in anguish she cried,
Oh, where has my baby gone? the angels replied:

Oh, your baby has gone down the plug hole.
Oh, your baby has gone down the plug.
The poor little thing was so skinny and thin,
He should have been washed in a jug, in a jug.

Your baby is perfectly happy;
He won’t need a bath anymore.
He’s a-muckin’ about with the angels above,
Not lost but gone before.
Do you want to do it again?

a note: Mother's Lament is a traditional Cockney music hall song (or ditty) - incongruous in this context but hey it was the acid acid.....

Tracks and Explanations

Strange Brew (Eric Clapton/Gail Collins/Felix Pappalardi)

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

The basic harmony is written to suit Felix’s falsetto style, who provides some of the harmony vocals on the chorus, but Eric makes a good fist of it, which is the harbinger of things to come. The creative process of this rock song is a perfect example of the plundering of Black American music in the creation of the Pop/Rock music industry. However, Eric largely tried to ensure correct crediting of songs, and payment of royalties, unlike the record companies and managers.

Sunshine of Your Love (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown/Eric Clapton)

Eric – lead guitars, lead vocals; Jack – bass guitar, lead vocals; Ginger - drums

An instrumental and lyrical milestone in rock music : a song that launched a million guitarists, bass players and drummers all over the world. The heavy riff was born with the Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’, but ‘Sunshine’ brought it of age. ‘Got Me’ has one guitar/vocal riff where Sunshine has three: the guitar/bass, the vocal chorus and the drum pattern. It is the combination that absolutely hooks you.

Its genesis was at the end of a less than fruitful, night long, song writing session with tempers fraying: Jack leapt up and started playing the riff on his acoustic bass, Pete looked out the window and the lyrics started flowing (see how much sense they really make now, after this anecdote!). Based on the strength of the recording, they had been working on it for a while.

The recording is uncomplicated, well balanced with minimal overdubs. Opening with guitar and bass performing the riff in unison, but not identically, then joined by the drums back-beat pattern. Jack then Eric take alternate verses and harmonise on the chorus. Eric’s superb note rich, high distortion overdubbed solo just launches (quoting "Blue Moon") without bursting in. It then ends with a return to the riff for a few bars before vocals (excellent production with the solo replacing the vocals then ending to reestablish the riff before recommencing the vocals – perfectly balanced transition). It finishes with the fade out jamming. They don’t come any better!

When released, this was the break through single in the US. While it initially only reached 36 (in mid 1968 it returned to reach 5) it did get air play and was noticed by those who could hear, including lots of their US peers (Jimi Hendrix regularly played it live). Its success was critical for the hugely successful touring in 1968 and the sales of Gears.

World of Pain (Gail Collins/Felix Pappalardi)

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

In a word wah wah – the effects pedals first appearance on this album as Eric counterpoints to his bar chord rhythm line. Jack does the alternate verses in falsetto with Eric joining him on the chorus. Eric does a multi-dubbed solo break and ending fade out. The song is pretty routine, especially the lyrics, and not really suited to Eric’s voice having been written to suit Felix’s falsetto. It strengths are the excellence of the production and Eric’s guitar work

Dance the Night Away (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown)

Eric – lead & solo guitars, harmony vocals; Jack – bass guitar, harmony vocals; Ginger - drums

Opens with Eric’s ringing 12 string guitars, backed by cymbals. Jack and Eric sing the whole song in harmony with Ginger propelling it through a series of climaxes. A mature peformance, especially Eric’s guitar overdubbing, that would not have been out of place on ‘Wheels of Fire’.

Blue Condition (Ginger Baker)

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

Disappointingly Ginger’s only composition is a mundane slow blues (or dirge?). The only saving grace of this filler is the incongruity of Ginger’s monotone vocals, which proves that anyone can have a go.

[Vinyl side 2]

Tales of Brave Ulysses (Eric Clapton/Martin Sharp)

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

Opens with a group entry (guitar & bass sustained note, cymbal/toms), then descending bass figure for two bars, then joined by warm rippling wah wah guitar for another two, then the initial verse and all backed by shimmering cymbals – a truly heroic beginning for an epic musical voyage.

The masterful wah wah guitar and deep bass* playing the descending chords, with the rolling drum patterns, are over laid by one of Jack’s finest vocal performances. Eric’s lead breaks are simply magnificent. They’d been working this up for a while.

This is one of those ‘one-in-a-lifetime’ songs that songwriters dream of and, thankfully for us, it was only the start for Eric. The poetic lyrics of Australian artist Martin Sharp, while unquestionably ‘tripy’, stand the test of time in the context of the song. Eric shows his maturity by the ‘group’ introduction, which relies heavily on the bass guitar but also, perhaps, his insecurity by handing the vocals to Jack. His decision was entirely correct and shows how truly inspired he is.

* The full bass sound (compared to the higher sound of the Fender six string) of Jack’s new Danelectric longhorn is used to full advantage

SWLABR (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown)

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

Eric’s woman tone, much cleaner on the Gibson SG, is heard to superb effect. Ginger’s always varying rolling drum patterns are worth the price of admission alone. But what does the title mean? – She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow.
And what does that mean? Think about looking up into the light with someones head in the way - a rainbow effect but with a beard! Don't read too much meaning into Pete's lyrics.

We’re Going Wrong (Jack Bruce)

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

This is basically a duet between Jack and Ginger in 6/4 time and sounding like it was written with/for bowed cello. Eric plays bar chords plus a short, appropriately atmospheric, solo. How daring if Jack had done the solo on bass? Ginger’s superb drum patterns on the toms, using felts, are just mesmerizing as counterpoint to the vocals. Only the very best can pull off a song/performance like this - it really belongs to Ginger.

Note: this is the other song Ginger believes he should have received co-composer credit (check out BBM's "Why does love (have to go wrong)")

Outside Woman Blues (Arthur "Blind Willie" Reynolds)

Eric – lead & solo guitars, lead vocals; Jack –bass, humming; Ginger - drums

Sounds like an early session song – a blues. Felix makes it a solid filler by using Eric’s new guitar sounds and developing technique (distortion, sustain, bends, finger vibrato, extra notes). Eric’s vocals show his continuous ability to grow/change/regenerate. After listening to it (several times) for this review, it’s really crawled into my brain – better than I originally thought!

Take It Back (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown)

Eric – rhythm & lead guitars, vocals; Jack –bass, lead vocals, harmonica; Ginger - drums

Sort of a jump blues with overdubbed audience sounds for ambience. Jack takes the solo on harp. Its not great but it swings.

Mother’s Lament (Traditional Arrangement Cream)

Eric - harmony vocals; Jack – piano, harmony vocals, Ginger - harmony vocals.

A traditional Cockney music hall song (or ditty) - incongruous in this context but hey its acid days!

Disraeli Gears 1967 [click for larger image]
Reaction 593/4 003. 1967 SC 5

side 1

Strange Brew
(Clapton/Collins/Pappalardi)
 
Sunshine of Your Love
(Bruce/Brown/Clapton)
 
World of Pain
(Collins/Pappalardi)
 
Dance the Night Away
{Bruce/Brown)
 
Blue Condition
(Ginger Baker)
 

side 2

Tales of Brave Ulysses
(Clapton/Sharp)
 
SWLABR
(Bruce/Brown)
 
We’re Going Wrong
(Jack Bruce)
 
Outside Woman Blues
(Arthur "Blind Willie" Reynolds)
 
Take It Back
Bruce/Brown
 
Mother’s Lament
(trad. arr. Cream)

back cover 1967 [click for larger image]

Cream.1967

related internet links

for the very best in
British Blues music

original, vintage
full length tracks from
Charley Patton, Memphis Minnie,
Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson
plus many others.
a truly amazing find

a book by music journalist
Chris Welch
 recommend it as the best Cream
resource yet published.

the original page at our
Layers of the Onion website
 

a book by music journalist
John Platt, published in 1998
it covers Cream's full history
with emphasis on the
Gears sessions.  a very well
researched  book and it clears
up the one time confusion over
the recording sessions dates. 
Also the pre-Cream and early
days are also well covered.
now, alas, out of print
but a must for die-hard Cream fans

our website about Cream
and their music

our roots music website
with six pages of blues
music and blues history
and bographies of
Charley Patton
Memphis Minnie and
Robert Johnson.

a very unique and useful 
webpage indeed
 

designer of the Disraeli Gears cover
and the lyricist of
Tales of Brave Ulysses

The cover centre piece came
 from about here.
from Robert Whitaker
the taker of the pictures

Oh Yes They Were!
an extremely detailed website
full of information on Cream
and the goings on by them,
for them, around them

Cream 1967

Where's Eric !

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