Review Summary: Eric, Jack and Ginger are just getting started...Cream
were a truly compelling act. In their merely three year of existence, they have left an influence and legacy unmatched by not many other groups. The first actual ‘power trio’ rock supergroup, Cream was formed by guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker in the mid/late-60’s. Their sound was and has remained ever unique: combining the trippy, psychedelic atmosphere typical of the era with the formidable guitar skills of Clapton, the intense bass playing and dreamy vocals of Bruce and tireless drumming of Baker, Cream created a one-of-a-kind experience. These three musicians getting together was only made possible through the spirit of the time; Bruce and Baker actually got along very badly, and yet they worked together for the same goal, which is something rarely seen these days. It was also the reason for the eventual breakup of the group, but in the time they were together, they created some of the very finest tunes in rock music.
was their first album, and it is exactly what a debut should sound like: this is a talented formation, but they are clearly somewhat getting used to playing with one another. Still, the potential displayed later to a much greater extent is already here. Jack Bruce is very much creative leader at this point, as he either wrote or co-wrote the majority of the songs, and Clapton’s massive abilities are not as prominent as they would later become, and his singing is not used in the frontlines either. His playing is calmer and more restrained, where in the future he would go all-out and therefore become better. Baker never catches and would never catch as much interest as the other two, because his psychedelic, endless pounding on the drums may perfectly fit Cream’s sound any time, but never became a standout factor.
The album is also a typical debut in the sense that the band still covers a great deal of the material; an musical ethic not at all uncommon at the time. Muddy Waters
, Robert Johnson
, Skip James
: a lot of famous traditional blues artists on whom the whole rock sound in Britain was based are heard. While these tunes are adequately performed, they are nothing extraordinary. The moments where the group hints at its prime sound a year later are actually very sparse. Opener I Feel Free
, for example, is a great and catchy poppy song which showcases the dreamy appeal to Bruce’s voice perfectly, and N.S.U.
is a very psychedelic moment with little lyrics and a trippy atmosphere. These were the 60’s, and Cream were just as stoned as everyone else, which was definitely another key factor in the creation of their sound.
A tradition on every Cream album is one tune with Baker in the main role, the on this album being Toad
, which is a drum solo basically the same as what John Bonham would do a some years later with Moby Dick
. While not very different from what Baker usually does, it is more intense and allows the drummer to do his own thing, which, considering the aforementioned talents of both his band mates, isn’t a bad thing at all.
The remainder of Fresh Cream
dabbles much into the heavily blues-inspired sound the band built upon. As the group’s first album, it is logically not as good as what would later follow. How much of its value is historical rather than actual is debatable, but it is not at all inconsistent. It just lacks a certain sense of accomplishment that would be seen on the group’s two next, and best albums. Any Cream fan will want to acquire this though; after all, the threesome only made four albums. Each of these are distinctive enough: Fresh Cream
is the raw sound of a young band finding their tune in ’66. Don’t expect another Disraeli Gears
or Wheels of Fire
if you’ve already heard those, and you’ll find it’s another great addition to your collection.
The Wonderful Trippy Experience Known as Cream Was:
- Eric Patrick ‘Slowhand’ Clapton ~ Guitar, Backing Vocals
- John Symon Asher ‘Jack’ Bruce ~ Lead Vocals, Bass Guitar, Harmonica, Piano, Cello
- Peter Edward ‘Ginger’ Baker ~ Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
I Feel Free
I’m So Glad