And More Again...

And it’s at this point, I guess, that we start to disavow ourselves of the notion of Cream as a heavy blues based outfit, though subsequent developments would tend to reinforce the misconception. There was, from my reading of the situation anyway, a conscious move to get away from the limitations and restrictions imposed by blues orthodoxy alongside a definite awareness of which side of the bread had the butter.

So the direction might have been towards pop, but there was still going to be something for the Clapton is God crowd as the trio worked the virtuoso end of the ability spectrum. I’ve contrasted this approach with the American approach to the blues, which was, insofar as anyone was paying attention at all, to emphasise authenticity rather than improvisation or invention.

The best example of that, to me at least, lies in my reaction to Fresh Cream lined up against The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (discussed here). The Butterfield is genuine, authentic harp-driven Chicago blues. Cream, while starting from the same roots, are obviously an outfit that are interested in exploring their individual capabilities. Interestingly, it seems that both bands experienced a seismic shift when they encountered the auditoriums of San Francisco, with Butterfield heading off into East/West’s exploration and improvisation and Cream developing the lengthy extrapolations of a couple of tracks from Fresh CreamDisraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire that have become the basis of an ongoing reputation.

When they recorded Fresh Cream, of course, all that lay in the future, and while things in the second half of 1966 were heading towards the psychedelic explosion that exploded the following year, there were a number of things that hadn’t quite coagulated when Cream ventured into the studio to cut their first album.

The writing, in particular, hadn’t settled into regular collaborations, and that’s obvious when you look at the credits for the original tracks. Bruce gets the sole credit for N.S.U. which gets things off to a fine start thanks to some pounding from Baker, a driving solo from Clapton and some pretty basis words from Bruce that don’t deliver an over-elaborate portrait of the sexually active young muso’s lifestyle, N.S.U. being non-specific urethritis which might not sit in the same league of venereal diseases but is still something you’d best be avoiding if at all possible.


B© Ian Hughes 2012