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Music Review: Cream – Disraeli Gears

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Cream’s debut album, Fresh Cream, was a creative fusion of rock and blues that gained the band a worldwide following. A year later “Sunshine Of Your Love” blasted from speakers all over the world and their popularity would ascend into the stratosphere. They would quickly become one of the best known and most popular bands in rock history.

Disraeli Gears, released in early December of 1967, would move the band in a psychedelic rock direction and fit the music of the late sixties perfectly. It would be their break through release in The United States as it sold millions of copies.

The albums cover art, created by Australian Martin Sharp who also co-wrote “Tales Of Brave Ulysses,” is some of the best ever produced. It is the main reason that for me vinyl LP’s, at least visually, remain superior to CD’s.

The name of the album is another matter. Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker were discussing a racing bicycle when one of their roadies commented that it has “Disraeli Gears” when the correct term was derailleur gears. Clapton and Baker thought it was so funny they used it as the title for this album.

Four of the five songs on side one of the original release are just about perfect psychedelic rock. “Strange Brew” has odd harmonies and Albert King type riffs by Clapton. “Sunshine Of Your Love,” which was a hugely successful single, remains one of the classic rock tunes of the psychedelic era. The opening riffs, the tone of the sound, and a signature solo make it one of Clapton’s must hear performances. “World Of Pain” has some guitar-bass interplay by Clapton and Bruce that is some of the best ever created inside a power trio. “Dance The Night Away,” complete with lyrical metaphors, matches the best of what was being released at the time. “The only miss was “Blues Condition” which was written and unfortunately sung by Ginger Baker. Nothing bad but after the first four tracks it was a bit of a let down.

Side two of the original release started out very strong. “Tales Of Brave Ulysses” finds Clapton using a wah-wah guitar sound for the first time. I have always liked the hard rock sound of “SWLABR.” It was short for “She Walks Like A Bearded Rainbow.” It is a direction I wish they could have explored a lot more.

The traditional blues tune, “Outside Woman Blues,” by Blind Joe Reynolds returned the group to their early blues fusion sound. “Take It Back” is the Jack Bruce show as he wrote the song, provided the lead vocal, and contributes some hot harmonica playing.

Disraeli Gears is a five star album in every respect. It is one of the signature releases in rock history as it catches Cream at the height of their powers. It is essential listening for any fan of rock ‘n’ roll.

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