Fresh Cream


Atco Records, 1966

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Back in 1967, the formation of Cream was big news. Three of Britain's best-known musicians, including two former members of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, had assembled to form what was considered the ultimate power trio. Guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker were one of the top stories in the world of rock.

Now, 31 years later, their debut Fresh Cream sounds incredibly dated, and I find myself wondering as I listen to it in the halls of the Pierce Archives what the big deal was really about. What was supposed to be a showpiece for all three musicians is more of a half-baked mish-mash.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For a group that was so rooted in the blues, thre isn't that much of it here. But two of the blues numbers, Robert Johnson's "Four Until Late" and Muddy Waters's "Rollin' And Tumblin'" are the standout pieces on this album. The other number, "Sleepy Time Time," pales in comparison. But I wonder what would have happened had Cream made this album more blues-oriented rather than drifting towards some of the psychedelia that they performed elsewhere.

And even a few of the more rock-oriented numbers aren't half-bad, like Bruce's "N.S.U." The cover of "Cat's Squirrel," a song which apparently all British bands in the '60s had to cover, has some interesting moments on it as well, though I admit I prefer Jethro Tull's version.

But for the most part, these numbers fall a bit flat - this was still a band looking for its direction and voice. Clapton still did not have the confidence in his singing that he needed (and would eventually gain, as heard on songs like "Badge" off Goodbye). One other problem is there seemed to be uncertainty in the musicianship as well. One critic, whose name escapes me, claimed that Cream was nothing more than a showpiece for three virtuoso musicians. There was no band, just three lead instruments. In the case of the music on Fresh Cream, even the leads were weak. Baker's drum solo piece "Toad", well... let's just say the princesses looking for a prince should move to the next lily pad.

Even some of the song selection is questionable. I admit I've never been a fan of Skip James's "I'm So Glad," but one wonders why Cream chose a song so damned simplistic in structure and lyrical content. C'mon, these guys were better than the material they chose - even originals like Bruce's "Dreaming" suck.

Blasphemy! - I can hear the call going out now. No, just truth. Fresh Cream might have been innovative and exciting in 1967, but in 1998, it's sour and curdled. These three proved at many other times in their career together just how talented they really were; this debut album just isn't the right vehicle for them.

Rating: C-

User Rating: B-



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atco Records, and is used for informational purposes only.