Contrast that with the leaden plodding and genuinely duff words of Ginger Baker’s Blue Condition at the end of the side, and you can probably see exactly where I’m coming from. About the best thing that can be said about Blue Condition was that (from Ginger Baker’s perspective) he didn’t get to share the writer’s royalties with anyone.

As far as the writing goes, leave out the jokey Mother’s Lament and you’re left with ten tracks, an uncompleted piece buffed up and polished by Pappalardi and Collins (Strange Brew) and one that was entirely their own (World of Pain), one Martin Sharp poem set to a tune from Clapton (Tales of Brave Ulysses), an old time blues (Outside Woman Blues), Baker’s contribution (Blue Condition) and Bruce’s We’re Going Wrong as well as four Bruce collaborations with poet Pete Brown that contribute a much more consistent quality rating. It definitely helps to have people who know their way around words on board.

As far as openers go, they don’t come too much better than Strange Brew, the first single off the album and a significant departure from Clapton’s previous blues stylings. Cutting the track in New York with an engineer who knew his way around multitrack recording (the late great Tom Dowd) added a sonic complexity they couldn’t have managed earlier. In places, the guitar work seems to have been triple-tracked (at least), with little riffs that wind their way around, in and out of each other with the whole thing held together at the seams by Baker's drumming. 

Driven by one of the all-time great riffs, Sunshine of Your Love, according to Tom Dowd, wasn’t working until he suggested that Ginger Baker try something akin to the war drums in a Western movie as the Indians ominously appear on the sky line, and it’s Baker’s drums that drives and underpins that iconic ten-note  riff, allegedly the result of Bruce seeing the Jimi Hendrix Experience for the first time. 

Bruce and Clapton share the vocals, with the lyrics stemming from the end of an all-night Bruce/Brown writing session that hadn’t produced much of note (It’s getting near dawn / Where nights close their tired eyes). Throw in a Clapton solo that’s built around Billie Holliday’s Blue Moon and you’ve got the makings of a hugely successful single, and one of the classic tracks of the psychedelic era.  


B© Ian Hughes 2012