Guide to British Music of the 1960s

March 2022

CD Review: Cream - Fresh Cream

Fresh Cream was the first release on Robert Stigwood's Reaction label. It was the debut by the so-called "supergroup" Cream. They were named as they were all established musicians with a strong reputation. Eric Clapton had been in the Yardbirds followed by John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Bruce and Baker had been in the Graham Bond Organisation and were stalwarts of the British blues and jazz scene having grown up as part of Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. Jack Bruce had also played with Manfred Mann and the Bluesbreakers for a time.

Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were known to not get on together and this even led to fights on stage. However, when Ginger Baker approached Eric Clapton the guitarist said he wanted Bruce in the group. Clearly, this led to a lot of tension but, while it ultimately assisted the break up of the group, it also helped to create an amazing sound. This was helped by a mix of influences. Clapton was immersed in the blues while Bruce and Baker had come from more of a jazz background. Even many years later, Ginger Baker would point out that he was a jazz drummer, not a rock drummer.

The LP is a mix of blues standards and tracks composed by Bruce and Baker. There are signs of a clear and distinctive Cream sound evolving and this would continue on the follow-up Disraeli Gears. This is most evident in NSU and the single I Feel Free that was released at the same time and included on the US release of Fresh Cream. The first single Wrapping Paper is not included on the LP and this was quite unlike the sound the group was developing. The Cream sound was already moving towards a heavier blues, much like the Jimi Hendrix Experience were also doing in London at the time. Both acts were a tonic to the singles and LP charts which had a much more "middle of the road", easy listening feel at the time. However, it was Cream and the Experience that would drive music forwards, and fast.

Alongside the blues standards, all three members of the band were involved as songwriters. NSU was the first result of the Bruce/Brown writing partnership, a team that would produce some amazing results on the next LP. Ginger Baker's talents are evident on his instrumental track Toad where he is credited as writer. Jack Bruce's wife Janet Godfrey is also involved in the writing either with Jack or with Baker in the case of Sweet Wine. Clapton helped to brings some blues standards up-to-date such as Rollin' & Tumblin' and Spoonful.

This is an album that signalled a shift in "serious" music towards a heavier sound and one that would be refined on Disraeli Gears. With heavier blues coming from the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Beatles, the Who and Small Faces creating some harder rock sounds, music would never be the same again.

Reaction

Original release: 9 December 1966

Essential Tracks

  • NSU
  • Rollin' and Tumblin'
  • Toad

Track Listing

  1. NSU

  2. Sleepy Time Time

  3. Dreaming

  4. Sweet Wine

  5. Spoonful

  6. Cat's Squirrel

  7. Four Until Late

  8. Rollin' and Tumblin'

  9. I'm So Glad

  10. Toad

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