Monday, August 13, 2007

No. 101: Fresh Cream

(Despite my general ambivalence about this record, that album cover is excellent, don't you think?)
Band: Cream
Album: Fresh Cream
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The debut album from what became known as the world's foremost supergroup, "Fresh Cream" took blues-based rock to a new audience. Eric Clapton's guitar brilliance, while still in its relative infancy, works brilliant solos while Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker rhytymn away. Underrated is Jack Bruce's vocals; The man could sing.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: The songs just aren't great. The parts are good, the sum of the parts aren't great.
Best song: The album opener, "I Feel Free," is great. Some of the blues classics -- "Spoonful" comes to mind -- are also great.
Worst song: "Dreaming" is pretty mediocre.
Is it awesome?: Meh. Cream hit their peak later, though, there are some gems here.

It's easy to forget, in modern rock and roll, that so many bands of the '60s wrote only half-ish of their songs on any given album. The pre-"Revolver" Beatles, for example, included at least two covers on each album.

The first record from Cream -- the band for which the term "supergroup" was partially invented -- has four blues standards on it. Two of those songs are among the albums best.

That's not to say that Cream:"Spoonful" as The Beatles:"Roll Over Beethoven." In fact, The Beatles were much more straight ahead in their covers. Cream's power trio sound added a lot to Wilie Dixon's classic, making it an even more desperate/powerful love song. It's one of those songs that's been played by everyone (Howlin' Wolf, Etta James, etc.), but arguably, Cream's is the best.

"Fresh Cream" is Eric Clapton's first appearance on the list and it's mostly fitting. It was on "Fresh Cream" that you saw Clapton's soloing style fall into place: He started basically slowing stuff down and working more melodic soloing into his repertoire. While the Blues Breakers were where Clapton was God (as the famous graffiti read), "Fresh Cream" was where he became Eric Clapton.

It's not their best work. "Disraeli Gears" has more interesting songs and "Goodbye" is their tightest. But, "Fresh Cream" has some great tracks that portend some excellent music.

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