Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The first 5 LPs I ever heard...Number 2...

2. Cream - Disraeli Gears

Another record which had a confusing trippy cover, Disraeli Gears was the first album which I would leave on the stereo for weeks on end. There was a giddy thrill from hearing the initial crackle when the needle hit Side A, and a fevered anticipation whilst waiting for it to begin. Then - BANG! - Strange Brew hits the speakers, one of best opening tracks of an album that I've ever heard, with Clapton's blues vocals only marginally behind his raging guitar solo halfway through.

Indded, apart from Cockney album closer Mother's Lament, the rest of the album is flawless. Sunshine Of Your Love, the band's biggest hit, still sounds as fresh today as when I first heard it aged 13, and I'm sure people who were that age in 1967 would probably agree. My favourite track of Disraeli Gears, and of Cream's short career, comes at the start of Side B with the psychedelic Tales Of Brave Ulysses. Ginger Baker's driving drum work sets the scene as Clapton sings of fallen Greek heroes, while at the same time setting the template for every wah-wah porn soundtrack to follow.

The band's blues heritage was not forgotten either even though they were touted as being an 'electric super-group'. Both Jack Bruce and Clapton were avid bluesmen, with Clapton learning his trade under John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and prior to that The Yardbirds (who were later, after several lineup changes, to evolve into Led Zeppelin only three years after Clapton's departure), and throughout the album show their debt to the delta musicians of the 20s and 30s. The band though were constantly progressing, merging free-jazz, rock and blues to create a style all of their own. It's little wonder then that due to each group member's quest for musical inspiration from fields a far, they were to only last for four albums before splitting.

Only a few weeks ago, I purchased Universal's 'deluxe' reissue of the album, and although the extra tracks and studio sessions are of interest to the casual listener, it's the 11 tracks that make up Disraeli Gears that's all you need to hear. Psychedelic bliss in under 35 minutes.

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