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A Fresh Take On Cream’s ‘Fresh Cream’

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From the first chord of the first song, the debut album by Cream was something new. Eric Clapton’s power chord gave way to handclaps and Jack Bruce’s humming, then Clapton returned in tandem with Bruce’s heady vocals and Ginger Baker’s mighty percussion. ‘I Feel Free’ was up and running, and so was one of the most exciting debut records of the 1960s. Today, we present a fresh take on Fresh Creamwhich entered the US chart on 13 May 1967.

The album was a brilliant combination of the blues, jazz and rock resumés of all three members, in a line-up that introduced and defined the concept of the power trio. Except that the word “power” always threatens to overshadow the great subtleties, deftness of touch and sense of humour in Cream’s music.

Fresh Cream landed in the public consciousness in December 1966, a couple of months after the band had made their entrance with the non-album single ‘Wrapping Paper,’ and with ‘I Feel Free’ landing as a single at the same time as the album. The debut long player may have included a track called ‘Sleepy Time Time,’ but ‘I Feel Free’ was actually a wake-up call to a singles market that had almost nodded off: in the week of the album’s release, the top three was populated by Tom Jones, Val Doonican and the Seekers.

Cream were by no means a singles band, but ‘I Feel Free’ was a definitive 45 of the era, on an album that oozed authentic, robust blues but was also full of light and shade. This was a trio of all talents, Bruce, Clapton and Baker all contributing to the songwriting (as did Bruce’s first wife Janet Godfrey and his frequent collaborator Pete Brown), in addition to which they had a collectively trained ear for adapting the music of their heritage for the modern-day rock audience.

Hence new songs such as Bruce’s ‘N.S.U.’ and ‘Dreaming,’ and Baker and Godfrey’s ‘Sweet Wine.’ But here also were Clapton’s modernisations of ‘Four Until Late’ and ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin,’’ from the repertoires of two of his heroes (Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters respectively) and expert readings of Willie Dixon’s ‘Spoonful’ and Skip James’ ‘I’m So Glad.’ They were comfortable with instrumental formats too, as with the traditional ‘Cat’s Squirrel’ and Baker’s theme piece ‘Toad.’

The album made the UK charts in the week leading up to Christmas, initially at a cautious No.39, when the sort of Cream that many record buyers favourites was the Whipped Cream & Other Delights of Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass. But the British trio’s debut climbed throughout January 1967, coming to a rest at No. 6 in early February. In May, Fresh Cream tiptoed onto the US chart at No. 198, going on to reach No.38. It’s a record that sounds as fresh now as it did then.

The Fresh Cream: Deluxe Edition expands the album to include both the mono and stereo mixes, plus alternate takes, early recordings and live performances. Available in both 3CD+Blu-ray and 6LP editions, it offers the fullest picture yet of a stone-cold classic. Purchase your copy here.

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Follow the 60s Classic Hits playlist, featuring Cream’s ‘I Feel Free’ and ‘Strange Brew’, along with a host of other classics from the decade.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Terry Rout

    October 1, 2014 at 4:39 am

    Interesting – I have a vinyl copy of the Australian release – it does not have I Feel Free on it! This has always been one of my favourites – I can remember clearly the first time I heard it.

  2. Bjorn-Erik Hanssen

    November 24, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Australian copy? I used to have a Norwegian one, which had N.S.U. as the the opening track, also missing I feel free. On the other hand it also included The coffee song. Suppose it’a pretty rare version of the album. I will never forget when I first heard Bruce’s and Baker’s opening bass and drums, as a 15 year old. This set the standard for my music listening for ever.

    Trondheim, Norway

  3. Max Palfenier

    December 24, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    The German release (1966 Polydor 623031) has a slightly different cover. Missing is I Feel Free, however it includes The Coffee Song and Wrapping Paper.

  4. Greavsie

    December 24, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    The US album included I Feel Free. Spoonful was left off to make room. The Coffee Song was added, I think along with Hey, Lawfy Mama, on an early 70s UK reissue.

  5. MikeJ

    May 13, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    I still have my original 1966 recording from the UK….. saved from my part-time job when I was a 14yo schoolboy….. still love the album and as brilliant a debut as by any of the other great bands of the late 60s.

  6. DaveJ

    May 13, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    My copy of Fresh Cream purchased when it first came out was mono but I did not care. I was sold! Still love the (stereo) album just as much some 50 years later!

  7. HONEYMAN

    January 27, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    JACK bruce is dead so Pete Brown is not collaborating with him unless he can communicate beyond the grave.

    • Blue Lew

      December 10, 2017 at 3:22 am

      Peter Brown just wrote the lyrics to Procol Harum’s new, 50th Anniversary album, “Novum,” which is a masterpiece.

  8. davetharave

    December 9, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    @HONEYMAN I think they’re talking about back then, not now

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