Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cream - BBC Sessions

I’ve always liked these BBC session releases for the oddities and different takes of tunes that they provide and this CD is no exception. Drawn from sessions as early as late-1966 to the beginning of 1968, this collection shows off all of their various sides!

Opening with 2 of their most un-Cream-like tunes, “Sweet Wine” and “Wrapping Paper”, the uninitiated might wonder if they picked up the wrong CD! “Sweet Wine” is a fine pop song, but “Wrapping Paper” is a terrible vaudeville-parody that is pretty worthless and mind-boggling that they thought to release it as their first single. But, then the band kicks in with their real strengths on their take on “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and this is what people expect from this band! Great, energetic, updates blues power!

“Steppin’ Out” is a super instrumental guitar workout that was previously only released on their live album and this goes into a hot, but pretty straight-forward, take on Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads”. “Cat’s Squirrel”, though, is given an extended treatment and I’m sure is closer to what they were doing with the tune live at the time.

“Traintime” is Jack Bruce’s spirited, intense harp number recorded years before their “Wheels of Fire” live version and is a wild romp that sounds like it is trying to catch up with a roaring locomotive!

While all of the songs have been released in one form or another throughout the years, it’s nice to hear these variations. Clapton references classical works in his solo in “I’m So Glad”, which he dropped before recording the studio version, apparently. “Lawdy Mama” was originally recorded for Disraeli Gears but was scrapped after they recorded a much slower (and essentially unrecognizable) version, added new words, and created the terrific “Strange Brew”.

There’s plenty of great stuff on here – “I Feel Free”, “N.S.U.”, the afore-mentioned “Strange Brew”, “Tales of Brave Ulysses” (the album version credited with being the first recorded use of the wah-wah peddle, though its use is very basic here – nothing like the flights of fancy Hendrix would take on it!), “We’re Going Wrong”, a fine version of Eric Clapton’s hero, Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign” and plenty more.

Showing off their spontaneity and writing abilities, “Politician” was written in the BBC studios to fill out a session that they were doing! It’s a little sloppy and a bit faster than the “real” studio version, but the meat of the song is definitely there.

Overall, no real revelations here, but nice alternative versions for Cream fans.