The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


8-6-08 Cream

A young person’s guide to rock music of the 20th century: You will likely have heard about a group called “Cream”. They were a wonderful band central to the British Blues boom of the late 1960’s. Rather than sifting through a collection or compilation for the magic message of Cream, try their “initial works”:

  1. Fresh Cream (CD: Polydor/Universal)
  2. Disraeli Gears (CD: Polydor/Universal)
  3. Wheels Of Fire (2LP) (2CD: Polydor/Universal)
  4. Goodbye (CD: Polydor/Universal)

Cream is Eric Clapton on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums. They were called “Cream” (sometimes even called “The Cream”) because all three members were from well-known and respected bands; Clapton had been in the Yardbirds and had really already ‘made his mark’ by playing for John Mayall; both Bruce and Baker had been in the Graham Bond Organization. Another crucial element of Cream was their lyricist, Pete Brown. To get the full message of how ‘the Cream’ were received, it is necessary to backtrack and expand a bit. Check out the Martin Sharp artwork on “Disraeli Gears” and “Wheels Of Fire”.

Graham Bond was a tremendous musician: saxophone, keyboards, vocals – his recorded debut was with the Don Rendell Quartet, on a fabulous hard bop UK jazz album called “Roarin’” in 1961. With musicians who were working for Alexis Korner, the Graham Bond ORGANization was formed in ‘63/’64, with Bond as the band leader, vocalist and keyboard player. His rhythm section was Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. The ORGANization’s sax player was jazzer Dick Heckstall-Smith.

Again, forget the compilations, try these “initial works” (thankfully, all are available on CD):

  3. THE GRAHAM BOND ORGANIZATION – There’s A Bond Between Us (CD: BGO)
  4. THE GRAHAM BOND ORGANIZATION – Live at Klook’s Kleek (CD: Charly)

Now we come to the band who was a contemporary of Cream, Colosseum, a group that consisted mostly of jazzers who understood the power of the communication of loud rock music. With Bruce and Baker running off with John Mayall’s guitarist, Dick Heckstall-Smith found a great home in Colosseum.

  1. COLOSSEUM – Those Who Are About To Die Salute You (CD: Sanctuary)
  2. COLOSSEUM – Valentyne Suite / The Grass Is Greener (2CD: Sanctuary)
  3. COLOSSEUM – Daughter of Time (CD: Sanctuary)
  4. COLOSSEUM – Colosseum Live (CD: Sanctuary)
  5. COLOSSEUM – Collector’s Colosseum (CD: Sanctuary)

And for those who are more intrigued by the ‘jazz alter ego’ of Cream, try:

  1. MIKE TAYLOR TRIO – Trio (CD: Universal Jazz)

This is a great 60’s trio jazz LP featuring Mike Taylor on piano, Jack Bruce on bass and Colosseum’s Jon Hiseman on drums. Taylor also co-wrote some material for Cream.

The final piece in the puzzle for the Cream tale is lyricist Pete Brown, the man that some consider the ‘glue’ to Cream – in that his words seemed to hold it all together, at times. Brown was not only a poet, but a musician in his own right. His solo works are of maximum interest to Cream fans:

  1. PETE BROWN & HIS BATTERED ORNAMENTS – A Meal You Can Shake Hands With In The Dark (CD: Repertoire)
  2. PETE BROWN & PIBLOKTO – Things May Come and Things May Go, But The Art School Dance Goes On Forever (CD: Repertoire)
  3. PETE BROWN & PIBLOKTO – Thousands On A Raft (CD: Repertoire)
  4. GRAHAM BOND & PETE BROWN – Two Heads Are Better Than One (CD: Esoteric)
  5. PETE BROWN – The Not Forgotten Association (not on CD, as of 8/08)

Check out the Mal Dean artwork on Brown’s first three albums!

After Cream’s sensational break-up, several of the aforementioned artists embarked on solo careers, with records from the periphery also being of considerable interest.

  1. JACK BRUCE – Songs For A Tailor (CD: Polydor/Universal)
  2. JACK BRUCE – Things We Like (CD: Polydor/Universal)
  3. JACK BRUCE – Harmony Row (CD: Polydor/Universal)
  4. GINGER BAKER’S AIRFORCE (CD: Polydor/Universal)
  5. GINGER BAKER’S AIRFORCE – Airforce II (CD: Polydor/Universal)
  6. ERIC CLAPTON (CD: RSO/Universal)
  7. DEREK & THE DOMINOS – Layla (CD: RSO/Universal)

I am particularly fond of the post-Colosseum solo album by sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith:

  1. DICK HECKSTALL-SMITH – A Story Ended (CD: Sanctuary)

So, stick with the titles mentioned here, and the illuminated works of Cream will reveal themselves to you gloriously.


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