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1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die: Disraeli Gears

Posted by purplemary54 on July 24, 2014

Since my brain’s a little short on good ideas lately, I decided to juice it with another installment of my extremely irregular series drawn from Tom Moon’s spectacular book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die.  Today’s randomly selected recording: Cream’s 1967 opus Disraeli Gears.

First, some honesty: I dislike Cream.  I find most Psychedelic Rock distasteful, and Cream practically invented the genre.  They also might be responsible for extended jam sessions in concert and Prog Rock.  They were that influential.  The fact that I think virtually everything they may (or may not) have spawned to be awful and pretentious probably goes a long way toward explaining my prejudice against them.

Cream was one of the first supergroups.  The trio consisted of bassist/singer Jack Bruce, drummer Ginger Baker, and guitarist Eric Clapton.  The band existed for only three years, but they became somewhat legendary in that brief time.  Disraeli Gears is considered their best work.  Tom Moon feels that this recording shows Clapton’s talent at its “least affected,” which seems odd to me considering how affected the whole style seems now.  Psychedelia has not aged well.  It comes off as naive at best, confused and stilted at worst.  I’m sure in 1967 this was groundbreaking stuff.  Mostly, it makes my head hurt.

Cream disbanded when the strife that marked their entire run became too much for all concerned.  Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker hated each other; they simply did not get along, and fought ferociously at every opportunity.  Clapton was a mostly innocent bystander caught in the middle of the discord.  I think that discord is important, though, because I think that’s really at the heart of why Cream doesn’t work for me.  There have been many great bands with powerful inner turmoil–Fleetwood Mac, the Kinks, the Eagles, just to name a few–but there was something else that bound them together.  Cream made music, but there was no other link.  They weren’t buddies or relatives, and I’m pretty sure none of them were sleeping together.  They were just three talented musicians who were unhappy with their other gigs and decided to record together.  There was no chemistry, and I think it shows.  The music is technically very good, but lacks any kind of spirit or emotion.  It’s a notable album for the skill that the musicians showed, and for the influence it has, but I don’t think there’s much else to recommend it.

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