[Review] Cream: Fresh Cream (1966)

The first album from this legendary power trio features half an album of rock and half an album of blues.

Kronomyth 1.0: Half and half.

When Fresh Cream spilled out of the speakers, there was no cleaning up the mess it made. The stain of psychedelic blues rock would remain for the rest of the decade as it was ground into the carpet of our collective conscious by Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Traffic, Santana. By decade’s end, the green fuzz of prog rock (ELP, King Crimson, etc.) had even formed on top of it.

So, the first Cream record is an historically important document (though perhaps no more important than the early Yardbirds records). I mention this because, nowadays, it’s easy to hear this album without appreciating just how groundbreaking it really was, since so many other bands have tread over the same ground.

Fresh Cream is really two halves in one: paisley and blues. The psychedelic rock songs represent the better half in my book: “I Feel Free,” “N.S.U.,” “Dreaming.” They showcase the songwriting of Jack Bruce, who would have been the center of attention in any other band, but somehow manages to get upstaged here by Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker. Clapton is occasionally brilliant, and singlehandedly rescues “Sleepy Time Time” from being a snooze. Baker is the best drummer this side of the Moon and helped pave the way for countless rock drums solos (for better or worse) with the lithe and lumpy “Toad.”

The blues half is less impressive, if only because it added little to what Bruce and Clapton had already accomplished with John Mayall. “Spoonful” is a great song, and a paisley remake of “I’m So Glad” is pretty good too. Disraeli Gears was a quantum leap forward, but step back into Fresh Cream and you’ll hear the beginning of something big. [NOTE: This album has been re-released over the years as Full Cream and just plain Cream with an additional song or two.]

Original UK LP Version

A1. N.S.U. (Jack Bruce) (2:43)
A2. Sleepy Time Time (Janet Godfrey/Jack Bruce) (4:20)
A3. Dreaming (Jack Bruce) (1:58)
A4. Sweet Wine (Janet Godfrey/Ginger Baker) (3:17)
A5. Spoonful (Willie Dixon)  (6:30)
B1. Cat’s Squirrel (Traditional, arr. by S. Splurge) (3:04)
B2. Four Until Late (Robert Johnson, arr. by Eric Clapton) (2:07)
B3. Rollin’ And Tumblin’ (Muddy Waters) (4:42)
B4. I’m So Glad (Skip James) (3:58)
B5. Toad (Ginger Baker) (5:09)

Original US LP Version
A1. I Feel Free (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown) (2:51)
A2. N.S.U. (Jack Bruce) (2:43)
A3. Sleepy Time Time (Janet Godfrey/Jack Bruce) (4:20)
A4. Dreaming (Jack Bruce) (1:58)
A5. Sweet Wine (Janet Godfrey/Ginger Baker) (3:17)
B1. Cat’s Squirrel (Traditional, arr. by S. Splurge) (3:04)
B2. Four Until Late (Robert Johnson, arr. by Eric Clapton) (2:07)
B3. Rollin’ And Tumblin’ (Muddy Waters) (4:42)
B4. I’m So Glad (Skip James) (3:58)
B5. Toad (Ginger Baker) (5:09)

1970s LP Reissue (Untitled)
1. N.S.U.
2. Sleepy Time Time
3. Dreaming
4. Sweet Wine
5. Spoonful
6. Wrapping Paper
7. Cat’s Squirrel
8. Four Until Late
9. The Coffee Song
10. Rollin’ And Tumblin’
11. I’m So Glad

The Players

Ginger Baker (drums, vocals), Jack Bruce (bass guitar, harmonica, vocals), Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals). Produced by Robert Stigwood Organisation; engineered by John Timperley.

The Pictures

Original album cover design by Paragon Publicity and Public Relations Ltd.

The Plastic

Released on mono elpee on December 9, 1966 in the UK (Reaction, 593001) and Australia (Polydor, LPHM-593001); reached #6 on the UK charts. Re-released on elpee in January 1967 in the US (Atco, SD33-206) with “I Feel Free” replacing “Spoonful;” reached #39 on the US charts (RIAA certified gold). The UK and US album covers vary slightly from one another.

  1. Re-packaged as Full Cream on elpee in 1970 in the UK (Polydor, 2447 010).
  2. Repackaged as Cream on elpee in 1972 in Japan (Polydor, MP-2253) with two bonus tracks (“Wrapping Paper,” “The Coffee Song”).
  3. Re-issued as Cream (see above) on elpee in 1975 in the UK (Polydor, 2384 067).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1976 in Japan (RSO, MWF-1014).
  5. Re-issued on elpee in Germany (Polydor, 623 031).
  6. Re-issued on elpee in 1980 in Spain (RSO, 24 79 208).
  7. Re-issued on elpee in 1983 in the UK (RSO, SPELP 42).
  8. Re-issued on elpee in Germany (RSO, 2479 180, Rock Collection series).
  9. Re-issued on compact disc (Polydor, 827 576).
  10. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc on April 7, 1998 in the US (Polydor, 1810-2) with 1bonus track.
  11. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2006 in Japan (Universal, UICY-9150) with 1 bonus track.
  12. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2008 in Japan (Universal, UICY-90748) with 1 bonus track.

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