Cream, Air Force, And Way Beyond: The Best Of Drum Legend Ginger Baker

Musical highlights from the multi-faceted and always eventful career of a seminal drummer.

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Ginger Baker GettyImages 86095336
Photo: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

Ginger Baker, who helped invent the rock trio and reluctantly became the genre’s first star drummer, during a multi-faceted and always eventful career, was born on August 19, 1939. Here we present a uDiscover Music playlist featuring Ginger In 20 Songs. It includes his stellar work, in early days, with the Graham Bond Organisation, on into the groundbreaking Cream and another shining but short-lived project, Blind Faith, and his many later group and solo settings.

Undervalued R&B tastemaker Bond and his group, with Baker on drums and Jack Bruce on bass, regularly played the famous Klooks Kleek club at the Railway Hotel in Hampstead, London. “Early In The Morning” and “What’d I Say” are from their show there in October 1964, when Ginger was 25 years old and was already becoming a featured artist with his incredibly potent drumming style.

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After some studio recordings with Bond and co, Baker joined Bruce and Eric Clapton in what would become known as rock’s first supergroup. Discussion of Cream’s recordings, both in the studio and on the road, often focuses on Eric and Jack, but many notable album tracks had Baker in starring roles, as drummer, singer, writer, or narrator.

Blind Faith’s extended “Do What You Like” was his composition for their memorable, solitary album of 1969. On its release, Steve Winwood told Rolling Stone: “You know, Ginger and Jack Bruce were the first people I saw when I originally came down to London. And I’ve always wanted to get together with Eric. I think he wanted to work with me too. Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time jamming together out in the country. But up until now, the time hadn’t been right for us to get together.”

Then the drummer helmed Ginger Baker’s Air Force, whose work of the early 1970s was collated on the 1978 album from PolyGram/Chronicles, Do What You Like. It featured all of the band’s first three albums, and several previously unreleased tracks. Baker’s widespread work schedule of the early 1970s also included his appearance on Fela Kuti’s Fela’s London Scene album, reflecting his undying love of African rhythms.

Back in a more conventional rock setting, he returned to “supergroup” territory with Adrian Gurvitz in Baker Gurvitz Army, with a self-titled debut album that made the UK Top 30 in early 1975. Baker’s solo LP catalog included albums for such labels as Polydor, Sire, and Atlantic as well as several indies. Then there were two reunions with his old Cream sparring partner Bruce, on Jack’s 1992 album Cities of the Heart and in their 1994 power trio configuration BBM, with Gary Moore.

At the historic Cream reunion shows at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005, Ginger gave a spoken-word revival of the Wheels of Fire oddity “Pressed Rat and Warthog.” Towards the end of his body of work, the splendidly-titled “Ginger Spice” was the opening track from Why?, Baker’s 2014 return to studio work in his own name.

Listen to uDiscover Music’s Ginger Baker Best Of playlist.

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. paul kemp

    August 19, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    No Masters of Reality? Boooo!

    • Roger R

      August 19, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      Totally agree. Monumentally overlooked. Great tracks, especially Tilt-a-Whirl and She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On). Ginger the Giant!

  2. Marina

    August 19, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    The 15-minute jam session with Blind Faith is my favorite from this playlist. There are so many great songs listed, but I guess that I really love Do What You Like because of the freedom Baker had to play at his best. The song’s sentiments also resonate with the spirit of the era…

  3. Ron

    August 20, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Spoonful live from ‘Wheels of Fire’. The interaction between the band during the improvisation is mesmeric with Ginger’s drumming centre stage.

  4. Gary

    August 20, 2015 at 11:55 am

    No tracks from his tremendous work with Public Image Limited?

  5. Bjornense

    August 20, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Miss an example of his totally unique melodic drumming. It’s apparent on We’re Going Wrong from Disraeli Gears.

  6. larry

    August 20, 2016 at 1:19 am

    I can’t believe White Room is not listed.

    • Roger

      November 20, 2016 at 12:13 am

      Agree Larry. For me “White Room” is such a rhythmic tour-de-force it marks Ginger forever as a drum machine before drum machines were invented.

  7. tim

    August 26, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Yes, sadly there is no Airforce’s “Da Da Man”.

  8. Mat

    November 20, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Ginger Baker’s Airforce ‘Sweet Wine’, Superior to Cream version. ‘Deserted Cities From the Heart’ from ‘Live Cream Vol 2′, Wow! So much better than the studio version, Ginger’s drumming is incredible, one of my fav’ live songs of all time !!!

  9. steve-o

    March 26, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Masters of Reality
    Ginger Baker Trio with Bill Frisell
    African Force
    Falling off the Roof
    Horses and Trees or Middle Passage with Bill Laswell

  10. Ruud

    January 27, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    It is impossible to catch Ginger’s drumming abilities in just 20 songs.

  11. peter harding

    August 19, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    no TOAD from double album strange choice

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