Cream
Live At the Royal Albert Hall


4.5
superb

Review

by temporary USER (14 Reviews)
May 16th, 2006 | 19 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist


2005 was a great year for Classic Rock fans. God-awful Superbowl performance aside, the Stone's did launch yet another sold out tour, Queen recruited ex Free/Bad Company shrieker Paul Rogers, Pete Townsend announced his plans to tour once again with The Who, and Neil Young and Deep Purple effortlessly banished the shroud of impending age with great new albums. But bigger than this, perhaps bigger even then Roger Waters playing a set with Pink Floyd for the first time in over twenty five years, was Cream's reunion.

Though they were together scarcely more than two years, Cream left us with a legacy that is impossible to forget. They were the first true 'rock 'n roll supergroup.' The combination of the massive bass sound and bluesy vocals of Jack Bruce, the powerful drumming of Ginger Backer, and a young, brash Eric Clapton on guitar would create a musical ensemble few have challenged, let alone surpassed. Though their studio work was strong, it was in a live setting that Cream really took off. Though rarely thought of as a jam band, Cream's jams remain as some of the greatest ever recorded (just listen to their infamous rendition of Willie Dixie's Spoonful on the live disk of Wheels of Fire and you'll agree.) So its quite a surprise to learn that Cream broke up a mere three years after they first formed. After Cream, Clapton obviously went on to great success in Blind Faith (were he was joined by Baker) Derek and the Dominoes, and his solo work. Though Baker and Bruce never broke back into the mainstream again, they remained active musicians.

For whatever reason, Cream chose to reunite just last year, and play a total of seven gigs, four at the Royal Albert Hall, and three at Madison Square Garden. As with any reunion, no one could deny the tremendous questions of "could they pull it off", "would they be to old", etc. And quite fortunately, the answer is a resounding "YES!" Of course, its not like the group is still twenty. Ginger Backer looks near seventy, but is clearly having a great time behind his kit, and there's no denying that the man hasn't lost a thing. Jack Bruce is often seen leaning against a high chair, but his bass is as monstrous as ever. And Clapton finally breaks out of the mold he's dug himself into as of late, shattering the 'complacent rock star' image, delivering fiery performances on the dime.

There is one major flaw, though, and that is the groups vocal ability. Though never known for it, Bruce possessed a great voice back in the day, and could also harmonize with Clapton very well. With the onset of age, neither singers are what they once were. But honestly, I don't really care if Bruce's voice isn't as strong as it once was, because as long as he plays his bass, then I'm happy, and play his bass he does.

Old Cream standards like Spoonful, with its bluesy licks and signature chemistry between Clapton's wailing guitar and Bruce's thumping bass, N.S.U. with its pounding drums and catchy chorus, or the energetic opener I'm So Glad sound truly inspired. The band also aires out quite a few songs which never quite made it as live staples (often because they were simply released to soon before the disbanded.) The sleazy riff of Politician, the psychedelia of Sleepy Time Time or We're Going Wrong and a surprise cover of T Bone Walker's working man's anthem Stormy Monday all get the deluxe treatment from Clapton's guitar. Sceptic of the man will easily be won over by his emotive improv.

The setlist on a whole, in fact, is superbly picked, though there are a few glaring omissions (I Feel Free, Strange Brew, Tales of Brave Ulysses, or SWABLR anyone?) Jack Bruce gets his harmonica workout on Rolling and Tumbling with its energetic verses and upbeat tempo. And for the first time ever, the band plays Badge in a live setting. And like just about every Cream concert, Ginger Baker gets his signature solo spot with a ten minute rendition of Toad which show that even in his sixties, the fire is still very much Mr. Baker's heart. One disappointment, though, is the rendition of the band's signature song Crossroads, based loosely around two Robert Johnson songs. The band chooses to slow down the tempo, which means that it looses something of the edge it once had. White Room sounds excellent, however, even with Clapton opting for a wah-less solo. And also not surprisingly, they choose to encore with the megahit Sunshine of Your Love, which, while well performed, actually doesn't strike me as a highlight.

Despite a few misgivings, this album is a must for Cream fans. For one, its the only complete live album the band has issued (Cream's live legacy has since come from the second disk of Wheels of Fire, two patchwork live compilations, and a host of bootlegs.) Though the playing on here may not be quite up to par with any of the fiery performances on some of the bootlegs I own, its still better than almost anything most jam bands can pull off.



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user ratings (57)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
robo2448
May 16th 2006


132 Comments


This is good stuff. I'd recommend the DVD though, because it's pretty magical getting to see them play.

The MSG shows were better though. I was at their last show. Jack Bruce in particular was a lot stronger vocally and more energetic. He was awesome. So was the rest of the band. I remember talking to an old Cream fan there, who said if you take their current performances, and speed it up by 1.5, you get the old Cream. That sounds about right to me, but they still rock now too.

temporary
May 16th 2006


207 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The MSG shows were better though. I was at their last show. Jack Bruce in particular was a lot stronger vocally and more energetic. He was awesome. So was the rest of the band. I remember talking to an old Cream fan there, who said if you take their current performances, and speed it up by 1.5, you get the old Cream. That sounds about right to me, but they still rock now to


Yeah, you're lucky as hell that you got to go to the MSG shows.

jaredrl
May 16th 2006


99 Comments


OMFG CREAM ROCKS! Good Review. I have the DVD of this. Def must have for Cream fans. Even though this album isnt "classic" material its an amazing comeback for this band.

robo2448
May 16th 2006


132 Comments


BTW, I remember seeing an interview with Jack a couple months ago on the internet somewhere where he said the band was planning more reunion shows. He said the main thing stopping them was Ginger living in South Africa having passport difficulties. Clapton's touring this summer and fall, but maybe we can hope for some more Cream dates next spring. That would be awesome.

Zebra
Moderator
May 16th 2006


2647 Comments


I've always loved Cream but have only one of their albums. I should really get this, the only thing that turns me off is the lengthy track list for a live album. Nice detailed review.

Bron-Yr-Aur
May 16th 2006


4405 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Good review, but Jacks' voice has not aged well. At all. Cream is great, and it's good to see Ginger can still beat some ass despite how frail he looks.

masada
May 16th 2006


2733 Comments


I saw this on PBS or whatever. I must say, it was pretty dull and boring. Never been much of a cream fan though.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 16th 2006


15737 Comments


SuperBOWL. Not Boal.

And the superbowl was in 06, so yer still good.

Digging: Ricky Eat Acid - Three Love Songs

robo2448
May 16th 2006


132 Comments


The NY shows would disagree with your assessment of Bruce's voice. He's getting stronger every day. Keep in my mind, he had liver cancer and a major liver transplant just 1 year before these shows. His body took some time accepting the new liver and he came very, very close to dying. I remember reading an interview with him where he said he couldn't speak for a while after the surgery. He needed to relearn speaking and singing. And his voice got stronger between the London and NY shows and it's probably still getting stronger. I mean, he'll never sound like he did in the sixties, but in NY he sounded really good.

Bron-Yr-Aur
May 16th 2006


4405 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I know of his ailments, but I still find his voice to be in bad shape. I am a tremendous Cream fan, but "White Room" was just painful on here.

robo2448
May 16th 2006


132 Comments


Oh yeah, he just can't hit the high nights in White Room anymore. I think that's more to do with old age than his illness, but his singing is getting stronger.

Seafroggys
May 16th 2006


60 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i've been waiting for a review of this. I own both the DVDs and the CDs, and its great. Even though Jack doesn't have the vocal prowess that he once had, it almost fits the whole Blues vibe more then ever, because of how raspy it is. Even though the White Room chorus wasn't anywhere near how it was in the classic days, I thought he did fine.

Eric is just as good as ever. His voice sounds the same, and his guitar playing kicks ass.

If anybody whose 65, smoked their whole life, and has arthritis, can drum half as good as Ginger did on that show, then they have my full support. He really rocked.

Bron-Yr-Aur
May 16th 2006


4405 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

^ Agreed. And as for Jack, I hadn't heard him recently before this, so he very well may be getting stroger vocally. Oh well. It was still cool they got back together.

CharmlessMan
May 17th 2006


169 Comments


How is that 9 minute drum solo on 'Toad'... For an old bloke, Ginger still has it. I heard back when Cream were starting out, he collapsed from exhaustion at a London carnival after playing a 20 minute drum solo...20 FUCKIN MINUTES, that's unbelievable.

jaredrl
May 17th 2006


99 Comments


Ginger is actually dead on stage and they have strings makinghim hit the drums. What disagree?.....have you seen the dvd.

temporary
May 17th 2006


207 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

SuperBOWL. Not Boal.


How could I have mispelled bowl??? *Hits self in head.*

Jimmy
May 17th 2006


717 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I've always preferred Cream's recorded legacy to their live albums. It seems like Bruce especially is annoying live with his fuzzed out bass. I could've seen them in New York, but I couldn't find a single person who wanted to make the pilgrimage to NY from Ohio with me. I would've very much liked to have seen them, it would be great if they did a full blown tour and came to Cleveland.

You need to read through your review before you post it to avoid glaring mistakes, like spelling a band member's name wrong (should be Baker instead of Backer) and getting a song title wrong (should be swlabr instead of whatever you have.)This Message Edited On 05.17.06

onefortheman25
May 24th 2006


196 Comments


hah hah hah hah. Seeing your name suddenly reminded me of Seinfield.
"he's got the Jimmy legs!"
No offense to you.

Rocksta71
June 23rd 2006


1023 Comments


I am from South Africa and i met ginger at a bank in Cape town, it's hard to believe a man of his age can play so well, he's one hell of a nice guy.



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