[Review] Cream: Disraeli Gears (1967)

A technicolor trip through the psychedelic blues-rock tulips of Baker, Bruce & Clapton.

Kronomyth 2.0: So many fantastic colors.

Cream’s second album is one of the earliest examples of progressive rock. Compared to other “artifacts” from the 60s, Disraeli Gears is an Aladdin’s lamp with a genie as accommodating as any to issue from the work of Jimi Hendrix or The Doors. As the cover suggests, this was transportative stuff at the time (and still is): Cream serving as the stylish sportscar alongside Hendrix’ hog or The Doors’ diesel truck in the highways of the mind.

Part of the album’s appeal is its beautiful inscrutability. Swlabr, Sunshine of Your Love and Tales of Brave Ulysses replace sense with sensory overload. Those three songs and Strange Brew represent a quantum leap forward from Fresh Cream, which was itself a groundbreaking album. In between those miniature monuments of progressive rock are a few silly sidetrips (Mother’s Lament, Blue Condition), a couple of psychedelic holdovers (World of Pain, We’re Going Wrong) and the blues-rock that never left (Outside Woman Blues).

Although producer Felix Pappalardi deserves some credit for providing a more progressive prism for the band’s ambitions, it’s the primary combination of Baker, Bruce and Clapton that form the source of so many secondary colors on Disraeli Gears. Jack Bruce is the sturdy captain straddling the prow in tempestuous waters, Ginger Baker is the cosmic joker with a stolen bag of thunderbolts slung over his back, and Eric Clapton is the legendary pyromancer, brilliant and burned out. This most colorful chapter in Cream’s history had a profound effect on the music of King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and even The Beatles. Cream’s legacy rests on four albums and, honestly, their star would shine as brightly through the ages if those other three albums got sucked into a black hole, so long as we still had Disraeli Gears to ponder.

Original elpee version

A1. Strange Brew (Eric Clapton/Gail Collins/Felix Pappalardi) (2:45)
A2. Sunshine of Your Love (Eric Clapton/Jack Bruce/Peter Brown) (4:10)
A3. World of Pain (Gail Collins/Felix Pappalardi) (3:00)
A4. Dance The Night Away (Jack Bruce/Peter Brown) (3:27)
A5. Blue Condition (Ginger Baker) (3:35)
B1. Tales of Brave Ulysses (Eric Clapton/Martin Sharp) (2:48)
B2. Swlabr (Jack Bruce/Peter Brown) (2:31)
B3. We’re Going Wrong (Jack Bruce) (3:21)
B4. Outside Woman Blues (Reynolds, arr. by Eric Clapton) (2:25)
B5. Take It Back (Jack Bruce/Peter Brown) (3:05)
B6. Mother’s Lament (Traditional, arr. by Ginger Baker/Jack Bruce/Eric Clapton) (1:48)

The Players

Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton. Produced by Felix Pappalardi; engineered by Tom Dowd.

The Pictures

Original album cover design by Martin Sharp; photography by Robert Whitaker.

The Plastic

Released on mono and stereo elpee on November 2, 1967 in the UK (Reaction, 593003/594003), the US (Atco, 33/SD33-232) [yellow label], Australia (Polydor International, 594003) and Germany and Italy (Polydor, 184 105). Reached #5 on the UK charts and #4 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in November 1977 in the UK (RSO, 2394-129) and in 1977 in Germany (RSO, 2479 185).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Atco, SD33-232, on purple/brown label), Argentina (Polydor, 1184105) and Canada (Polydor, CP-5008).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1980 in Japan (RSO, MWX-4002) and Spain (RSO, 24 75 209).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in November 1987 in the US (RSO, 823 636-1) and the Netherlands (Polydor, 823 638-1).
  5. Re-issued on elpee in Germany (Polydor/RSO, 2479 185).
  6. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in the UK (Simply Vinyl, SVLP-087).
  7. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Polydor, 823 636).
  8. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1992 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD-562).
  9. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Polydor, UICY-2368).
  10. Re-issued on compact disc in 1998 worldwide (Polydor, 531 811).
  11. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Polydor, UICY-9151).

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