Friday, July 5, 2024

Archive Review: Cream's The Very Best of Cream (1995)

Cream's The Very Best of Cream
In their time – which was almost thirty years ago – Cream was every bit as big commercially as Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Green Day are today. The band that introduced the term “supergroup” to the lexicon of rock ‘n’ roll, the trio of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker managed to live up to everyone’s lofty expectations and then some during their brief tenure. Their long-standing influence upon rock music is often overlooked these days, however, overshadowed by legends like Led Zeppelin or the Doors. The band’s seminal fusion of blues, jazz, and rock was to form the bedrock upon which many bands were to build their sound in the decades to follow, while one of the architects of Cream, guitarist Clapton, currently lives a revisionist daydream as an elder statesman of rock while most of his brightest moments lie in the past.

The Very Best of Cream is the first Cream “greatest hits” album to be released on CD that pulls together material from across the stylistic spectrum that the band musically explored. A collection of twenty songs, it includes the expected – ground-breaking covers of blues gems like Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” and Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” as well as metal-tinged rockers like “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room” – as well as the unexpected, songs like the surprisingly popish “Wrapping Paper” or the psychedelic “Dance the Night Away.” Other Cream standards, such as “Badge,” with its incredible Clapton solo, “Strange Brew,” or the blues-tinged “Tales of Brave Ulysses” sound remarkably undated even with all the years that have passed. The Very Best of Cream draws heavily from the band’s three original studio recordings and the hits they yielded, filling out the edges with the handful of remaining singles that the band had released.

Given the benefit of hindsight, rock critics such as yours truly can make all sorts of claims about bands. Suffice it to say that Cream were...and still are...important. I can’t think of many recent hard rock and heavy metal bands that don’t some sort of musical debt to the trio. Clapton’s work with the band earned him a place in the pantheon of rock, regardless of what was to follow, and it was with Cream that he took his budding stardom to the heights of the music world. The Very Best of Cream is an excellent look at a band that, given their short time in the musical landscape – a little over two years – burned brightly, nonetheless. (Polydor Chronicles, released 1995)      

Review originally published by R.A.D! (Review and Discussion of Rock ‘n’ Roll) zine

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