Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cream & Sunshine of your Love ...

Looking at a 'Classic Albums' programme on supergroup Cream has made me feel sorry I more or less missed them at the time in those heady years for music 1966-1968 through to 1970. I discovered them later through and play them a lot now - Jack Bruce's is one of the great spine-tingling  rock voices, along with Steve Winwood - Clapton's voice has a pleasant timbre too, we loved him then though for that guitar, like on the Aretha track "Good To Me As I Am To You" (on her "Lady Soul" album) - and then there's Ginger Baker on those drums!.

It is prime nostalgia now looking back to 1969 and 1970 when pals Stan, Joe and I were sharing a large maisonette in South London, in our early twenties. Joe was the Clapton, Cream, Blind Faith guy, while Stan was the Tamla and Atlantic and Stax fanatic and I also went for the Atlantic sound of Aretha as well as those first albums by Joni Mitchell and Tom Rush, Leon Russell, Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, as well as The Beatles and the Stones and The Doors (whom I had seen the previous year at The Roundhouse, as per my posts on that).- - so we covered most of the bases, including classical too. What a great time we had then with great music every week - also Traffic, The Moody Blues, The Band - and I also liked Streisand, Peggy Lee, Nancy Wilson, that bossa nova sound and so much more (Miles Davis, jazz and opera came later). Now though for '60s sounds  its Cream and The Yardbirds that I turn to most - they are that era personfied. The Yardbirds are immortalised in Antonioni's BLOW-UP with Jeff Beck and Keith Relf (another great vocalist too - killed in an electrical accident as was Steve Marriott of The Small Faces) - their singles like "Heart Full of Soul" were essential, as was the BLOW-UP album by the young Herbie Hancock. All of course on vinyl - the era of gatefold albums and 45rmp singles, long before CDs and also in that pre-video age, soundtracks. We had no idea then of the technological changes ahead ...

One of my current favourites is "Ultimate Cream" a great double cd of live and studio tracks culled from their 4 albums. Cream only existed really from 1966 to 1968 - when they did that great farewell concert at the Albert Hall - I should have been there but instead went to The Doors at the Roundhouse! Well, they were both great 1968 concerts, wonder why my hippie gang and I didn't do both? Tickets for both must have been like gold-dust ... we also saw Aretha live that great year, and also in 1970 when she was at her zenith. (The Cream farewell concert looks amazing now with those psychedelic light patterns and Clapton, Baker and Bruce at their peak. Jack Bruce too had a very individual later career).

During that era though rock music was evolving and mutating at a dizzying speed as psychedelia took hold, Cream though attained staggering levels of creativity and influence that lingered for a long time, even after they have splintered into Blind Faith and other groups. That sound - like Pink Floyd's in the '70s (how we loved "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Wish You Were Here") - is so distinctive and so evocative for me now. The riff on "Sunshine of Your Love", those lyrics and mysterious songs like "White Room", "Badge", "Born Under A Bad Sign", "Spoonful", "Crossroads" etc. - white boys singing and playing the blues! I loved those zany singles like "N S U", "I Feel Free", "Rollin and Tumblin", "I'm So Glad", "Sleepy Time Time", "Wrapping Paper", "Strange Brew" etc.  Its wonderful watching them too in those old video clips or that Albert Hall concert - even the 2005 reunion had its merits, though we were all older then!  Clapton's first solo albums (like Rod Stewart's "Every Picture Tells A  Story" and Elton John's "Tumbleweed Connection"), were marvellous too until he as well sank into MOR territory ... he did though have a "Rock and Roll Heart".
Yardbirds' Keith Relf in BLOW-UP

Funny, I had no interest in heavy metel as such or groups like Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple - that was not me at all, but this Cream and Traffic and Yardbird sound defines the '60s for me as much as if not more that those Beatles or Stones. The Blues ruled then - artists like Howling Wolf came to London to make (still listenable) albums with Clapton, Winwood and all the blues boys, and I remember going to see B B King, and Jeff Beck. What an era - and its all there on the iPod!

Next musical detour: Clubland classics in the '80s and '90s ...

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