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Old 10-10-2008, 06:59 PM   #31 (permalink)
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(Original non-revised edition printed as "The Classic Corner vol. 25: A Little Cream For Your Musical Coffee" on January 12th, 2007.)




Hello readers and welcome to another edition of "The Classic Corner". This week we're going to time travel back to the mid-sixties to examine one of the brightest stars in the psychedelic universe. Fresh off separate bands, a trio of British musicians coalesced into what many feel is the earliest instance of a "supergroup". One was a drummer who had most recently been found in the Graham Bond Organisation. One was a bassist who had played with everyone from John Mayall to Manfred Mann. The final component was a guitarist who had started off with the legendary Yardbirds; also stopping off to play with Mayall and his famed Bluesbreakers outfit. Each member of this new union was well versed with the other members' capabilities, and together they played off each other's strengths. The combination was volatile, electric and entirely inextirpable. The combination would come to be known as...Cream.

Forming in 1966, it didn't take the band long to record their first album. Debuting on December 9th of '66, "Fresh Cream" stormed across the English charts, ultimately making its way to #6. In the United States, the album wouldn't find acclaim until 1968 when it finally managed to eek out a position at #39 on the Billboard pop charts. The group's daunting aggregation of blues, rock and pop quickly found an audience and refused to let them go. The band's defining moment came with their sophomore release, "Disraeli Gears", which was released in November of 1967. Still in relative infancy, the band received more recognition than they could have hoped for. Hitting #5 in their homeland and #4 here in the States, "Disraeli Gears" is perhaps one of the most pivotal junctions of the entire flower power generation.




STRANGE BREW
What better way to start off one of the quintessential albums of the sixties than with an easily recognizable guitar riff from one of the masters of the electric mayhem. Though it was written by Eric Clapton, Gail Collins and Felix Pappalardi, "Strange Brew" is Clapton's baby all the way. From his weepy, high strung guitar solos to his smooth, airy vocals; Clapton owns the piece. Lyrically, "Strange Brew" represents the enigmatic psychosis most bands were going through in the late sixties. Tie-dyed phrases filled with double meanings and slightly wary, paranoiac callings. This would be a lasting trait for the "Disraeli Gears" album, which is suitable when you consider where the record's name came from. Though it was accidental, one of the band's roadies gave the album its name. Mick Turner overheard a discussion about bicycles that Clapton was having with Ginger Baker. When he tried to comment on the derailleur gears of a particular racing cycle, he mispronounced derailleur as "Disraeli". Clapton and Baker found the mispronunciation to be humorous and decided to title their second album after the mistake. Coincidentally "Disraeli" was also the name of English statesman Benjamin Disraeli, who was the creator of the modern Conservative Party in the United Kingdom. This connection leads to a profound contraposition in the album's title as "Disraeli Gears" is the antithesis of everything Benjamin Disraeli would have stood for.

SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE
The double lead vocals of Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton are one of the many highlights to this classic single that reached #5 on the Billboard pop charts. The interplay between the band members was always amazing, but nowhere did it shine brighter or feel more taut than on "Sunshine of My Love". The fuzzy bass, elegantly structured percussion and fascinatingly designed guitar riffs form a harmonious union that has rarely been duplicated. In lesser hands, the lyrical material of a man returning to his lover upon the morn would be simplistic and derivative of a hundred other mid- to late sixties bands; yet in this song the words are heightened to literary prose and compliment their opulent instrumental backing beautifully. Cream was always a centrical force unto itself, and "Sunshine of Your Love" is a perfect representation of that.

WORLD OF PAIN
After the twin attack of "Strange Brew" and "Sunshine of Your Love", the band take a moment to regroup with the intense-yet-diminutive slow burn "World of Pain" provides. The first song on the album not to be written by one of the band members, "World of Pain" focuses on the empty sorrow of modern civilization encroaching upon humanity's perspective. All of the instrumental elements are in their proper place, they're just a bit more subdued on this song. The fuzz effects aren't as biting and the lilting guitar riffs aren't as sharp. This was one of the many gifts Cream brought to the game: their potency could be equally charismatic in the confines of raging harmonies or knife-edged ballads.

DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY
Perhaps the least effective piece on "Disraeli Gears" is "Dance the Night Away". Very few bands could fill an album with non-stop masterworks, however it's a true testament to the tenacity of Cream that their album tracks are merely centimeters beneath blasts of beaucoup rock. An almost impenetrable wall of instrumentation floods through the listener's speakers while Jack Bruce and his writing partner Pete Brown paint pastel pictures of extrication with their lofty lyrics. One might not remember "Dance the Night Away" long after the record stops spinning on their turntable, though they're sure to enjoy it while the piece is playing.

BLUE CONDITION
Just when you think you've figured out Cream's modus operandi, they hit you with "Blue Condition". A demonstration of overachievement nullifying the optimism of one's life; Ginger Baker not only wrote fine lyrics for the track, he performed marvelous vocal work for the piece. Under the plodding musical restraints the band created for this song, one wouldn't think it had much chance to stand out from the pack. Regardless, "Blue Condition" works for a number of reasons. Not only does the lyrical premise sparkle, the unhurried bass and percussion create a rolling field of sound that sweeps the listener along on the equivalent of a lazy Sunday afternoon ride. Clapton's leisurely guitar is just another slice of merriment meant to be enthusiastically devoured.

TALES OF BRAVE ULYSSES
As if the opening assault of "Strange Brew" and "Sunshine of Your Love" had not ensured "Disraeli Gears" a place in rock 'n' roll's utmost pantheon of encompassment, halfway through the album we're treated to another double foray of psychedelic grandeur that outclasses almost every other attempt from 1967. The melody for "Tales of Brave Ulysses" existed before the lyrics. Clapton had summoned up a magnificent tune filled with powerhouse bass riffs and understated guitar leads. The song only needed one element before it could be perfected. That's where Australian pop artist Martin Sharp comes into frame. Sharp lived in the same building as Clapton, and during one of their earliest meetings in a London club, Sharp wrote the lyrics for "Tales of Brave Ulysses" on a napkin. That wasn't Sharp's only contribution to the album; indeed it was Martin who devised the famous cover art for "Disraeli Gears".

SWLABR
If you're looking for a breather after the intellectually satisfying "Tales of Brave Ulysses", you won't find it in "SWLABR". An acronym for "She Walks Like a Bearded Rainbow", the title of the song lives up to its lyrics in every way possible. Though it's barely two and a half minutes, "SWLABR" is an adventurous triathlon of spirited percussion, consonant bass lines and obstreperous guitar riffs. Bruce's vocal work also takes some of the much deserved spotlight "SWLABR" generates. By all rights, this piece ranks side-by-side with other Cream showpieces such as "White Room" and "Badge".

WE'RE GOING WRONG
Once again slowing down the pace of the proceedings, Jack Bruce weighs in with "We're Going Wrong". A puerile analysis of the course society has taken, the song is strengthened by its stark instrumentation. The track features some inventive, Eastern-tinged percussion techniques and studied, reserved bass riffs. Clapton isn't given much of a chance to unload his splendiferous guitar work, however the lucent rhythms he delivers are striking examples of his ability to conform to unique musical principles, such as the ones featured here. "We're Going Wrong" serves as a creditable bridge between the marrow of "Disraeli Gears" and its enormously gratifying conclusion.
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Old 10-10-2008, 07:00 PM   #32 (permalink)
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OUTSIDE WOMAN BLUES
Anyone who thought Cream's second album was going to run out of steam after so many superlative songs had a surprise coming to them. "Outside Woman Blues" takes a traditional blues riff and adds a generous dollop of late sixties psychedelia to the recipe. Layers of groove blues are piled on top of each other while Clapton decorates the foreground with his symphonious vocals and salient guitar intonations. By this time, Clapton's legacy as a guitar virtuoso was legendary. Enough so that one faithful fan spray painted the phrase "Clapton is God" on one of the walls in an Islington underground station. This led to one of the most famous Eric Clapton portraits that didn't actually have the man himself caught in the viewfinder:




TAKE IT BACK
What tuneful platter from the period would be complete without the obligatory anti-war statements? In "Take it Back", we find Jack Bruce's declaration opposing the draft; a resistance that was being felt across a nation of unprepared youths who were still trying to find their own identities without adding the pressures of life or death ordeals to the mix. Backing Bruce's affable vocal work is a selection of willowy harmonica notes, dexterous percussion, jaunty guitar riffs and Bruce's own boogieing bass. More up tempo than most musicians' diatribes on Vietnam, "Take it Back" sticks in the listener's skull for quite some time after hearing its rugged verbosity.

MOTHER'S LAMENT
Closing off this exemplary experience in flowered nostalgia is a light piece of amusement in the form of the one and a half minute long "Mother's Lament". More a throwaway than an actual afterpiece, "Mother's Lament" is (at once) the exact opposite of what the band was trying to display over the duration of "Disraeli Gears" and the epitome of everything the album actually became. It's not quite as good a closer as "Toad" or "Deserted Cities of the Heart", however it fits the proceedings nicely. The proverbial cherry on top of the ice cream.

Overall, "Disraeli Gears" is a deeper look into the psychedelic sixties than the casual listener would like to accept. Dizzying and exceptional, Cream's second outing will leave purists speechless from the breathtaking morphology and transcendency of its recordings. I give the album ***** out of ***** stars. I also recommend puraching a vinyl copy of the album as opposed to its compact disc release. Normally you can find a good quality copy for around seven or eight dollars.
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Old 10-11-2008, 03:59 PM   #33 (permalink)
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How did I miss this thread! I love Arthur Brown, his second album is amazing as well. I am surprised no one has reviewed 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale' but perhaps it falls more under art rock? That is a pretty muddy term in itself though.

Can't wait to see some more reviews and I will definitly do some album reviews later, as this is the genre I probably listen most to.
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Old 10-21-2008, 09:55 PM   #34 (permalink)
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The Crazy World of Arthur Brown is creepy. I love it, but if you listen to the entire thing, he keeps singing the same lines about burning in hell and the price of sin over and over again. Then he goes on to talk about some girl he likes and it's really creeper-ish...I wouldn't want to be pined after by Arthur Brown.

Anyway, great thread about my favorite kind of music. I have loved the reviews so far and would like to contribute one of my own here, though unfortunately I can't post links to pictures or videos yet.

Jefferson Airplane - Crown of Creation

This is my favorite recording by Jefferson Airplane, and they had a handful of essential albums. It is easily their darkest album, endlessly brooding and contemplative. If you are a fan of Grace Slick's vocals, Crown of Creation showcases her voice beautifully on several songs. Jorma Kaukonen's guitarwork is easily recognizable by his style and I would say he was one of the best of the '60s, once he falls into place on a song or jam it becomes infectious. Jack Cassidy's basslines on this album stand out - moody, and often with a ferocious drive to them.

1. Lather - I think this is easily Grace's best vocal. If you know her only as the powerhouse that sang White Rabbit and Somebody to Love, you are in for a surprise. She sings with morose, almost twisted gentleness here. The lyrics will snag you immediately into their depressing story.

2. In Time - A beautiful song of longing, with Marty on lead vocals and Grace echoing him.

3. Triad - Proof of how controversial the Airplane could be. This is another low-key Grace vocal, in which she sings about being in love with two men, and offering them the chance to go on with her "as three." Brilliant song.

4. Star Track - This is a Marty vocal and he sings by leaning into the song with a casual intensity, I picture a pair of sunglasses and a cigarette dangling from his hand as he doesn't give a sh*t.

5. Share a Little Joke - As opposed to the calm, cool, collectedness of the last track, this one is desperate and seems painful.

6. Chushingura - This is the only throwaway track on the album, it's just a minute of random noise and feedback at the end of side A.

7. If You Feel - This track kicks off the second half with a BANG. The rhythm section beats the thing into oblivion, and the guitar gets into such a groove you wonder if it'll ever return from it. Probably my favorite guitar work from Jorma...ever.

8. Crown of Creation - This second half of the album is where you'll want to listen specifically to the bass - it's like Jack gets a second wind and kicks it into high gear.

9. Ice Cream Phoenix - Another song with Grace and Marty layered on top of the same vocals at the same time. Great drum groove on this track.

10. Greasy Heart - So much attitude in this song, it feels like Grace is aurally flipping you off. The irony is that she's singing about people who care too much about their appearance - and she admitted the song was about herself.

11. The House at Pooneil Corners - Best song on the album. It starts with a bassline that bottles insanity, then plunges into some of the darkest lyrics they've ever written (think apolocolypse...end of the world...silence...) The vocals are dark, straining and desperate, the guitar loops you into a trance, the bass never relents....it's a killer song to close the album with. Listening to it really feels like the end of the world.

If I could post a link, I would do so for either the first or last song, so if you are interested try one of those on youtube.
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Old 11-09-2008, 04:18 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Awesome post, I love Jefferson Airplane's Crown of Creation!
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Old 11-30-2008, 08:34 PM   #36 (permalink)
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How about Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced, or Axis: Bold As Love. I know these may be somewhat cliche acid rock albums but they can't be ignored. In the beginning when Jimi is interviewing himself and playing with the tracking, where his voice gets all low and the pitch changes...thats trippy as hell.
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Old 12-04-2008, 03:01 PM   #37 (permalink)
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I don't known how I've missed this thread as I've been looking for some 60's psychedelica/garage recommendations for some time now. Im into a bit of Hendrix, Cream, 13th Floor Elevators, Pretty Things (but i havent heard the record mentioned previously in the thread so I'll be checking that out!), The Sonics, Blue Cheer, The Misunderstood, Clear Light, Strawberry Alarm Clock etc so anything I may stand a chance of digging would appreciated. The thread has already offered a few places to start
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Old 12-04-2008, 03:51 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Mojopinuk -

Here are a few more albums to check out if you haven't already

HP Lovecraft - HP Lovecraft II
Procol Harum - Procol Harum
The Small Faces - Ogden's Nutgone Flake
Spirit - The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus
Ultimate Spinach - Behold & See
Pearls Before Swine - One Nation Underground
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Old 12-05-2008, 04:22 AM   #39 (permalink)
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Ive been meaning to check Procul Harum out because for some reason I started with Trowers solo stuff first. As for the rest I can't say I have any idea what to expect from any of them so thanks very much
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Old 12-05-2008, 11:10 AM   #40 (permalink)
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I got a best of Procol Harum a few years back, and it sparked my interest so I picked up a few of their albums. Definitely start with the S/T (everybody knows the song Whiter Shade of Pale!)

If you're going to check out any of the others, I'd recommend H.P. Lovecraft first. Bluesy/experimental psych with layered vocals. Definitely sounds dated but in the coolest way possible.

YouTube - HP Lovecraft - High Flying Bird

YouTube - HP Lovecraft - Mobius Trip
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