[Review] Cream: Live Cream (1970)

Live performances of the band’s earlier, blues-based material, recorded in 1968. Clapton is on fire.

Kronomyth 6.0: Short, live, the Cream!

Recordings of Cream’s live shows in San Francisco from the Spring of 1968 sprung up on two posthumous live records: the cleverly titled Live Cream and the equally cleverly titled Live Cream Volume II. Fans snatched them up, of course, and a few critics even creamed themselves with purple prose to praise the dead, but both records are nothing more than a cash-grab by the labels. Proof that this was a planned heist: they separated the material from the first and second albums, so that Live Cream in effect became Fresh Cream Live and Volume II became Disraeli Gears Live. As a bonus (not really, since the entire record runs less than 40 minutes), Live Cream features a studio outtake, Lawdy Mama, that will be instantly familiar as the original version of “Strange Brew.”

For almost any other band, these live perfomances would have been pulled out of the vaults, dusted off and tacked onto the album remasters as extra tracks. This being Cream, however, the tombs had long been raided by the 1990s. There is pleasure to be had in hearing the band tear through versions of Sleepy Time Time, Sweet Wine and N.S.U. Eric Clapton is an absolute fiend on guitar. But if the live material on Wheels of Fire and Goodbye didn’t rock your world, you can leave this stone unturned.

Now, I did enjoy the next installment, Live Cream Volume II, a lot more, in the same proportion that I enjoyed Disraeli Gears more than Fresh Cream. Cream had changed considerably since their first album, and you get the sense that they were approaching this early material with a grandiloquent eye. They hadn’t worked out the arrangements to support the longer run times, apparently, and so what you get is a lot of soloing, some of which is amazing while other sections seem stretched thin. Live Cream isn’t the first (or second or third) Cream record you need to buy, but there’s still marrow in these bones, provided you’re in the wight frame of mind.

Original LP Version

A1. N.S.U. (Jack Bruce) (10:13)
A2. Sleepy Time Time (Janet Godfrey/Jack Bruce) (6:50)
A3. Lawdy Mama (Traditional, arr. by Eric Clapton) (2:47)
B1. Sweet Wine (Janet Godfrey/Jack Bruce) (15:08)
B2. Rollin’ And Tumblin’ (Muddy Waters) (6:36)

CD reissue version
1. N.S.U. (Jack Bruce) (10:12)
2. Sleepy Time Time (Janet Godfrey/Jack Bruce) (6:50)
3. Sweet Wine (Janet Godfrey/Jack Bruce) (15:15)
4. Rollin’ And Tumblin’ (Muddy Waters) (6:42)
5. Lawdy Mama (Traditional, arr. by Eric Clapton) (2:46)

The Players

Ginger Baker (drums), Jack Bruce (bass, harmonica & vocal), Eric Clapton (guitar & vocal). Produced by Felix Pappalardi (except track 5 produced by Ahmet Ertegun & Robert Stigwood); recording engineered by Adrian Barber, Tom Dowd and Bill Halverson; remix engineered by Bill Halverson.

The Plastic

Live album recorded in 1968 and released on elpee in April 1970* in the US (Atco, SD33-328), in June 1970 in the UK, Australia, Germany, Italy and Spain (Polydor, 2383 016) and in 1970 in Japan (Polydor, MP-2105) with regional gatefold cover. (*First appeared in 4/25/70 issue of Billboard.) Reached #15 on the US charts and #4 on the UK charts.

  1. Repackaged with Live Cream Volume IIas The Best of Cream Live on 2LP in 1972 in Germany (Karussell, 2674 018) and Yugoslavia (Karussell/RTB, 2674 018) with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1975 in Japan (RSO, MW-2128).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in November 1977 in the UK (RSO, 2394 154) and the US (RSO, RS-1-3014).
  4. Re-issued as The Best of Cream Live on 2LP in 1978 in Japan (RSO, MW-8665/6) with gatefold cover.
  5. Re-issued on elpee in the 1970s in Japan (RSO, MWA-7006).
  6. Re-issued on elpee in 1980 in Germany and Italy (RSO, 2479 152) and in Spain (RSO, 24 75 211).
  7. Re-issued on elpee in the 1980s in Japan (RSO, 18MW-0063).
  8. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (RSO, MWX-4003).
  9. Re-issued on elpee in 1985 in the UK (RSO, SPELP-93).
  10. Re-issued on compact disc in 1986 in Germany (Polydor, 827 577).
  11. Repackaged with Live Cream Volume II and released on audiophile 2CD in 1995 in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD2-625).
  12. Re-released on remastered gold compact disc in 1997 in Germany (Polydor, 559 430-2).
  13. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on April 7, 1998 in the US (Polydor, 1816-2).
  14. Re-issued on compact disc in Mexico (Poydor, 531 816-2).
  15. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on November 21, 2001 in Japan (Universal, UICY-9155).
  16. Re-released on super high material compact disc in 2008 in Japan (Universal, UICY-93699) with “Lawdy Mama” now appearing as the last track.

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