Friday, March 19, 2010

Cream - The Story Behind Their Four Classic Albums

By Jim Hofman

Cream, rock music's legendary power trio, produced four albums in their short 29 month existence. The group, consisting of legendary musicians Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and Eric Clapton, still influences musicians to this day. Here is the story behind Cream's four classic albums...

When Cream formed in late spring 1966, it was the brain child of ace drummer Ginger Baker. Bored and frustrated in his previous band, Baker approached guitarist Eric Clapton, whom he knew from London's music scene. Clapton suggested virtuoso bass player and vocalist Jack Bruce to round out the trio, and Cream was born. After a short European tour to polish their sound, the three men entered the studio to record their first album.

Fresh Cream

The band was signed to the famous Atlantic Records label, headed by the prominent Ahmet Ertegun. Ertegun thought Cream was a blues band and suggested they cover some hidden blues gems. Little did he realize that Cream's members were already hatching bigger and better plans. Fresh Cream did showcase a few relatively unknown blues standards that Cream essentially made their own. One such track, "I'm So Glad", highlights each member equally, with Bruce and Baker supplying a driving rhythm over Clapton's soaring lead guitar. Another is "Spoonful", a Willie Dixon song that later became a staple during concert performances. Both were played by the band during their 2005 reunion concerts. The band's first successful single, "I Feel Free", was a pop song composed by Jack Bruce and lyricist Pete Brown. The song still receives heavy air play on classic rock radio.

Disraeli Gears

Perhaps Cream's best known album, the album cover of Disraeli Gears was a psychedelic themed artist rendering of the band by Martin Sharp. Sharp also co-wrote one of the album's best known songs, "Tales of Brave Ulysses" with Eric Clapton. Recorded in New York in late spring 1967, the album's name came from one of the band's roadies, who mangled the term for the brakes on racing bikes. The band was amused by the pun and it stuck as the title. Disraeli Gears also featured two of Cream's most popular songs, "Sunshine of Your Love" and "Strange Brew", both co-written by Clapton. The album is ranked as one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

Wheels of Fire

Released in 1968 at the height of the bands popularity, Wheels of Fire reached #1 in the U.S. charts and was the first platinum selling double album of all time. The double album consisted of two sides of studio tracks and two sides of live tracks recorded in San Francisco in March, 1968. On March 10th, the famous version of "Crossroads" was performed and recorded. The song is instantly recognizable to even the most novice music fans. Another well known track is "White Room", a soaring five minute multi layered composition showcasing all three band members. Jack Bruce takes the lead vocal, with Ginger Baker supplying a unique 5/4 drum beat which gives the song its signature rhythm.


By late 1968, Cream was in the process of breaking up. The aptly titled "Goodbye" was released in early 1969, a few months after their last concert performance. One side consisted of live tracks recorded during their farewell tour of the United States. The second side included one track written by each member. The most famous song from this album is "Badge", written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison. When Cream reunited in 2005, it was the first time they had played "Badge" live together.

In subsequent years, several repackagings and live albums were released. The most recent Cream recording is taken from their live reunion shows at London's Royal Albert Hall in May, 2005. During these shows they covered songs from each of their four original albums.

The music of Cream continues to influence musicians and music lovers alike. Though their initial shelf life was relatively brief, their legacy is enormous. Learn more about rock's original power trio by visiting us at:

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