Cream, in a lot of ways, are the perfect band. There can be no doubting that, as bands go, Cream brought more talent to the table than most. Being among the first of the original "power trio" supergroups, Cream fused the brilliant potential of three of the most prominent musicians of the 60s together to create something wonderful. Eric Clapton, most famous for his part in The Yardbirds
and efforts alongside John Mayall
, offered Cream his soon-to-be-legendary silkily adept blues-rock guitar lines to the mix. Handling bass and drum duties respectively, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were one of the hottest rhythm sections in the business. The unique fusion of Clapton's blues styles and Bruce and Baker's jazz influences created a new type of pop-psychedelic sensation. The world, and music in general, would never be the same. Cream truly were as smooth as their name would lead you to believe.
, Cream's second album, is perhaps the best example of everything that made the band so wonderful. Any weaknesses that Cream may have displayed on their debut, Fresh Cream
, were seemingly fixed, creating a package of overall polish that was rivaled by few albums of the time. Perhaps one of Cream's greatest flaws was their ineptitude when it came to general songwriting. While the instrumentation as well as the complete package was always of excellent quality, one almost always had to admit that Cream, as a band, as songwriters, left much to be desired. With Disraeli Gears
, however, Cream received help from lyricist Pete Brown. With Brown's help, anchored by the production values of Felix Pappalardi, Cream managed to put forth what is arguably the best material of their career.
Eric Clapton's guitar playing on Disraeli Gears
, for example, is masterful. The buttery sounds of his lightly overdriven Stratocasters hold the entire album together, while enthralling and captivating any listener fortunate enough to hear the music. Clapton manages to lay down some of the most legendary riffs of all time, such as "Sunshine of Your Love." Aside from being one of Cream's best-known songs (as well as having been inspired by a Jimi Hendrix
performance) "Sunshine of Your Love" is also their raw potential in a nutshell. The solo is actually based off of the song "Blue Moon" by Billie Holiday
, as evidenced by its very beginning. Still, everything from the wonderful Grateful Dead
lyrics, to the aforementioned guitar-god performance, to Bruce's vocals and Baker's drumming, "Sunshine of Your Love" is a beast of a different color one compared to other songs of the era. And it isn't even the best of the bunch. Clapton's fantastic guitar playing extends to the rest of the album, as well. The man seemed to be in a constant haze of motivation. Clapton seemed to want to outdo himself from song to song, from guitar track to guitar track. After hearing his comforting, yet engrossing work on Disraeli Gears
, playing that was so ahead of its time, yet still so contemporary, it's hard to imagine that Eric Clapton could become anything less than one of the world's most beloved and respected guitar heroes.
However, that's not to say that the other two thirds of Cream were anything less than impressive. Jack Bruce, alongside Brown, did the majority of the songwriting on Disraeli Gears
. His virtuosic bass work clearly harkens back to his influences, James Jameson
and Charles Mingus
. While Bruce's thumping bass is often overshadowed by the otherworldly guitar work of Clapton, it's still very distinctive when it needs to be on Disraeli Gears
. However, if anything overshadows Bruce's musicianship on the album, it's his brilliant work as Cream's lead vocalist. Bruce hits all the right notes, managing to keep his voice in a perfect synergy and coherence alongside not only his bass playing, but Clapton's guitar and Baker's drums. Baker, on the other hand, plays the most minor role in Cream's formula on Disraeli Gears
. His performance behind the skins, however, is nothing short of admirable. Disraeli Gears
also plays host to an interesting moments; the song "Blue Condition" which features Baker (not usually a singer) as lead vocalist. Such interesting injections prove just how enigmatic, as well as surprising, Cream could be.
"Strange Brew," the album's first single, is one of the better examples of the harmonious clash of Cream's jazz and blues styles. Dreamy vocals from Bruce, coupled with a strong guitar riff from Clapton are fastened at the seams by Baker's superb drumming. "Strange Brew" remains one to be one of Cream's greatest moments, and is a perfect example of everything about the band working together perfectly. Interestingly enough, the song almost never came into being. "Strange Brew" was originally known as "Lawdy Mama," and if not for the influence of producer Felix Pappalardi (who re-wrote the lyrics and guitar tracks), "Strange Brew" would never have been written. "Tales of Brave Ulysess" was actually based on a poem written by Australian artist Martin Sharp (who also designed the cover art for Disraeli Gears
). The miniature ballad focuses on selective interpretations of Greek Mythology, revolving most around the hero Ulysess and the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite. Cream manage to craft a two minute, forty nine second song into a masterpiece of seemingly epic proportions. "Tales of Brave Ulysess" is quite possibly Cream's greatest achievement, whether it be by music, concept, or songwriting. Given their catalog on Disraeli Gears
alone, that's certainly saying something.
"World Of Pain" is an early sampling of the progressive rock that would come to dominate the airwaves during the 1970s. It is interesting to note, then, that this song (as well as Disraeli Gears
and Cream on the whole) is cited by many progressive rock acts of the 70s as being a major influence. Featuring some of the most straightforward yet deep playing you'll hear from Clapton, along with subtly powerful drums, and Bruce's wonderful vocal-work, and you find yourself with yet another masterpiece of a song. The album-ending "Mother’s Lament," a song that Clapton and Baker used to pass the time during concert intermissions, could actually be considered an early prelude to post-rock. "Dance the Night Away," is a power ballad not unlike Van Halen
's later song of the same title. Only much softer and more meaningful. It's interesting, though, that Eddie Van Halen should name Eric Clapton as being his own personal idol, especially when considering those two songs. "Swlabr," short for "She Walks Like a Bearded Rainbow," showcases the substance-driven inspiration of Cream, as it was based off of an acid trip.
The rest of Disraeli Gears
maintains a high level of quality with few drawbacks. However, there are drawbacks, as even Cream couldn't quite make the perfect album. Disraeli Gears
can actually be quite boring to listen to, thus making it somewhat hard to listen to end-to-end. Also, while the production and songwriting values are vastly improved when compared to Fresh Cream
, you can easily sense that there was room for improvement. Cream, with Disraeli Gears
, created an album of classic proportions, without it being quite of classic quality. Still, it's a wonderful experience for anyone who wishes to realize one of the greatest influences of modern music today. Disraeli Gears
you could easily relate to your music collection as you could to cream in your coffee. Sure, it can be fine without it, but it's so much nicer when you bring them together.