Without Cream, rock as we know it might sound very different today. The London-based band were only together for a brief couple years (1966-1968), but their success opened the door for subsequent generations of blues-rockers and power trios. The jazz-schooled chops of drummer Ginger Baker and bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce combined with the psychedelic heavy blues of Eric Clapton's stinging guitar for a level of improvisational skill never before heard in a rock context. After Baker and Clapton's reunion in Blind Faith, all three members of Cream went on to lengthy solo careers, ranging from Baker's experimental jazz and world music to Bruce's folk and jazz to Clapton's traditional blues and mainstream rock.
Fresh Cream, the album that introduced this seminal super-blues trio to America, was perhaps a bit too blues-based to do the advance hype ("Clapton is God!") justice. Two of its three best-known tracks, after all, were blues covers. It was Disraeli Gears that turned Cream into a "supergroup." Here they pursue the psychedelic ideals of the era with total abandon (the LP cover art still stands as one of the 1960s' most striking designs), merging these ideals with their take on the blues and adorning the amalgamation with some superb pop craftsmanship. Of the eleven originals here, four--"Tales of Brave Ulysses," "SWLABR," "Strange Brew," and "Sunshine of Your Love"--earned major airplay. This, their excess-free greatest moment, does the Cream legend proud. --Bill Holdship
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