Within the grooves of this record are miles of listening pleasure. Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker are simply superb musicians with the gift of unending virtuosity. The title of the album, as Eric explains it, is a pun. The group was driving along one day trying to think of names for the record, coming up with things like “Elephant Gerald” (Ella Fitzgerald) and hit upon “Disraeli Gears,” a word play on English racing bicycles which have derailer gears.
Unfortunately the album does not totally hang together, marred by some poor material. They usually compensate for what they lack as composers and songwriters by thorough brilliance of performance. But in some tracks (“We’re going Wrong,” “Dance the Night Away” and “Blue Condition,” among them), the material is too pale to support the heavy instrumental work which makes Cream such an overwhelming trio.
“Strange Brew” stands out as the most complex song and rather an unusual one in that Eric uses reverb — to stunningly mean and sensual effect — and it is really very far away from the usual blues stylings for which he has been noted. In some places in the song, it sounds like the guitar has been triple-tracked.
“Sunshine of Your Love” (an incredibly strong number) and “Tales of Brave Ulysses” are typical Cream pieces. They are structured on a simple, repeating run of heavily syncopated descending (or ascending) chords. In these songs, and on “Outside Woman Blues,” where the chord structure is classic, the beauty of Cream becomes readily evident: Clapton’s lines, Baker’s dynamics, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Bruce’s runs are so simply put together that the listener has no choice but to stand in awe of their precision, grace and exquisite sense of time.
“Swlabr” (pronounced “Slobber”?) and “Take It Back” are also two excellent cuts (these written by Jack Bruce and Peter Brown). Cream’s new album is more difficult to get into, and thus more rewarding, then the first one. Fresh Cream was recorded over a year and a half ago, at a time when the group was less than two months old. This new LP reflects a more original direction, greater musical sophistication (the guitar is double-tracked throughout) and the polish of a year together.
Despite their recorded shortcomings, Cream happens to be one of the great modern rock and roll groups. If you aren’t already hip to it, pick up on Fresh Creamand John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers , a highly polished album which features Eric in a strict blues context.
On top of the music in the new LP, there is the cover done in exploding day-glo style. The photo-montage on the back is reflective of the fact that Eric Clapton happens to be a Nikon-freak.