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BBC Sessions

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Album Review

This compilation of 22 Cream BBC tracks from 1966-1968 marked a major addition to the group's discography, particularly as they released relatively little product during their actual lifetime. All of but two of these cuts ("Lawdy Mama" and the 1968 version of "Steppin' Out," which had appeared on Eric Clapton's Crossroads box) were previously unreleased, and although many of these had made the round on bootlegs, the sound and presentation here is unsurprisingly preferable. As for actual surprises, there aren't many. It's a good cross section of songs from their studio records, though a couple, "Steppin' Out" and "Traintime," only appeared on live releases, and some of these BBC takes actually predate the release and recording of the album versions, which makes them of historical interest for intense Cream fans. (There are also four brief interviews with Eric Clapton from the original broadcasts.) There's a mild surprise in the absence of a version of "White Room," but otherwise many of the group's better compositions and covers are here, including "I Feel Free," "N.S.U.," "Strange Brew," "Tales of Brave Ulysses," "Sunshine of Your Love," "Born Under a Bad Sign," "Outside Woman Blues," "Crossroads," "We're Going Wrong," "I'm So Glad," "SWLABR," and "Politician." Cream took better advantage of the live-in-the-studio BBC format than some groups of similar stature. There's a lean urgency to most of the performances that, while not necessarily superior to the more fully realized and polished studio renditions, do vary notably in ambience from the more familiar versions. The sound quality is good but not perfect, and variable; sometimes it's excellent, yet at other times there seem to be imperfections in the tapes sourced, with "Sunshine of Your Love" suffering from a (not grievously) hollow, muffled quality. If there's any other slight criticism of this set, it's that a handful of BBC tracks don't appear, including some that don't make it onto this CD in any version, like "Sleepy Time Time," "Toad," and "Sitting on Top of the World." Given Cream's tendency to over-improvise on the band's live concert recordings, however, the concise nature of these BBC tracks (none of which exceed five minutes) makes them preferable listening in some respects.

Biography

Formed: 1966 in England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '90s, '00s

Although Cream were only together for a little more than two years, their influence was immense, both during their late-'60s peak and in the years following their breakup. Cream were the first top group to truly exploit the power trio format, in the process laying the foundation for much blues-rock and hard rock of the 1960s and 1970s. It was with Cream, too, that guitarist Eric Clapton truly became an international superstar. Critical revisionists have tagged the band as overrated, citing the musicians'...
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