Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. These three vastly talented
musicians were the sum of the band Cream, which formed in 1966 and disbanded
in 1968. Though their life as a group was short they proved to be a
formidable influence on the music of their time and even moreso in the years
after. Blending blues, pop and rock in ways sometimes pedestrian but more
often incredible, fame came easily to the trio. They turned out some pieces
that are still revered today, among them "White Room", "Sunshine Of Your
Love", and "Badge", classic songs that Clapton fans still roar for when he
plays them on tour decades later. All three performers stayed busy after
their demise, becoming part of other short lived supergroups- Jack Bruce a
part of West, Bruce, & Laing, while Clapton and Baker moved on to become
half of Blind Faith.
Their talent as a band is undeniable, but that in itself could conceivably
be looked at with only passing interest these days. Over the last few
decades any number of solid rock groups have had several big hits yet have
long since passed into obscurity, either disbanded or playing on with only a
smattering of fanfare after their 15 minutes of fame. What truly sets Cream
apart from that kind of fate is one simple fact; that being, Cream was a
chapter in the canon of one Eric Clapton. Three times inducted into the Rock
And Roll Hall Of Fame. A 16-time Grammy award winner. The case would be made
by many that Clapton is the greatest rock guitarist of all time; even those
who disagree will be hard pressed keeping him out of the top five. While
Bruce and Baker have stayed busy enough over the decades with various
musical projects, Clapton became a rock and roll God- and as a result the
Cream legacy only grew in stature with the passage of time.
Thus when it was announced that Cream would reunite for a series of shows
both at Royal Albert Hall in London it was of great significance to a huge
number of fans- this was a slice of rock and roll history being served up
for a limited time only. With the exception of an appearance brought about
by their induction to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993, Cream had not
played together since their farewell performance some 37 years before- on
the very same stage. Clapton himself had (more or less) made the remark that
if a Cream reunion were ever to take place it needed to be done soon, while
all three members were still alive and able to perform.
What this DVD set brings to the viewer is a compilation of highlights from
the four landmark London shows spanning May 2,3,5 and 6, 2005.
Watching the trio take the stage was a bit of a culture shock, certainly for
the baby boomer crowd- the fellas are showing their age these days. What the
viewer should bear in mind is the rather startling fact that this is a
reunion of a group that disbanded almost 40 years ago- to put that in
perspective, Richard M. Nixon had yet to be sworn in as President and the
Beatles were still going strong.
Yet here they are. Just because they don't look the same as they did in the
60's doesn't mean a thing when it comes to the music they are still able to
produce. From the opening number, the Cream sound is given rebirth by the
very men who have the most right to lay claim to it. Their sound, if
anything, is better than ever- all three have grown more proficient as
musicians in the decades since their breakup.
One thing apparent from the beginning is the fact that these three are loose
and seem to be oblivious to anything other than simply putting on a great
show, which they do. If there were any worries over the historical
significance of this short reunion, they didn't allow it to affect their
performance or enjoyment of the moment. The interplay between the trio gives
one the impression that if there is any animousity from years gone by, it
has long since been put in the past. Genuine respect and friendship between
the three is obvious, both in their deference to each other and between song
musings, grinning at each other and giddy in the moment; they seem delighted
to be playing on stage together again.
In the truest sense this is a Cream performance, rather than a showcase for
any single member; Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton share lead vocals throught
the show, complimenting one another vocally with Jack's leathery voice and
Eric's soulful tone. Throughout the set Bruce brings his bass guitar to
rousing, thumping life. While Baker certainly doesn't appear capable of
being a whirlwind on drums these days, looks can be deceiving- he is more
than able to fill each song with his strong,constant backbeat. Clapton is
consummate Clapton- he has grown incredibly as a musician since the sixties,
these days seemingly able to bring the goods to the stage on any given
night. Though many Cream songs have been staples in his live shows over the
years, hearing them here is a treat; while they have sounded technically
fine with other performers backing Clapton, they lacked the signature sound
only Bruce and Baker can complete; listening to this show that difference
becomes apparent. The band doesn't always sound perfect, and the songs are a
bit stripped down in comparison to their studio versions, but they certainly
sound like Cream- which is what matters the most. Fact is, hearing these
guys play songs such as "Badge" and "Politician" so well after 4 decades
sent a chill up my spine.
Listed here is a song list of the 2 Disc Set:
I'm So Glad
Outside Woman Blues
Pressed Rat & Warthog
Sleepy Time Time
Rollin' & Tumblin'
Deserted Cities of the Heart
Born Under a Bad Sign
We're Going Wrong
Sitting on Top of the World
We're Going Wrong
Sunshine of Your Love
An argument can be made that some songs could have been left off the set
list in favor of other Cream classics such as "I Feel Free", but the
selections here should be comprehensive enough to satisfy most fans. The
fact that the band sounds this good 40 years later more than compensates.
Aspect ratio for the DVD is 1.78:1 and the show was filmed in high
definition. It shows; colors are rich, bright and appear to be accurate.
Blacks are decently black, and imaging seems sharp and clean. This is a fine
example of how good a concert can look even on standard DVD- making one
wishful for its eventual rerelease on HD media.
There are two audio tracks here- dolby digital stereo as well as 5.1 DTS.
The stereo track is pleasing enough but the DTS track truly shines,
producing a full rich sound on a home theater type setup that is well worth
cranking up the volume.
Alternate takes of "Sleepy Time Time" and "I'm Goin' Wrong"
Interviews With Cream-Clocking in at about 16 minutes, given here
is the viewpoint of each member individually on the reunion of Cream;
the differences between their 60's rendition and today; and rehearsing for
the shows. Of note is some insight from Bruce as to why "I Feel Free"
was left off the set list. Pretty delightful stuff on the whole, listening
to all three expound
about how rewarding it has been to perform together again, what they
wanted to do with the Royal Albert Hall opportunity and how much they
both appreciate and compliment each other musically.
An alternate take of "Sunshine Of your Love" is also an extra on disc two.
While it would have been great to see the band reunite some 10 years ago and
go on a full blown tour many more fans may have been able to enjoy, what we
are presented with is a slice of rock and roll history- preserved for
posterity and presented on a media far surpassing what was available in the
past. This is a great concert DVD set for any fan of Cream or Clapton to
pick up. Highly recommended.