In their glory days of 1967-8, Cream singlehandedly spawned the whole genre of aloof heavy rock egomania, not to mention a whole school of insufferably self-centered lead rock guitarists.
Technique oblivious to any content: That’s what Cream live were all about. Never mind that their fabled improvisations consisted of playing around one chord (or, often, one note) for 20 minutes — they did better than anyone else.
Well, it’s here again, just as I remember it. “Deserted Cities Of The Heart,” “White Room,” and “Tales Of Brave Ulysses” might as well be the same song: after a half-hearted stab at a couple verses of the tune, in each case Cream goes into their characteristic one-chord solo and don’t budge until the ending of the song. “Politician” demonstrates for the nth time just what an awful blues (blooze? bluze?) singer Jack Bruce was. For such reportedly speeded up guys, the tempos drag unmercifully on every song.
Side Two really brings it out front: an abysmally leaden seven-minute version of “Sunshine Of Your Love,” and then, god forbid, 13:42 of “Steppin’ Out” (not “Hideway,” as the jacket incorrectly states). In comparison to Eric Clapton’s powerful versions on both What’s Shakin’ and the first Bluesbreakers LP, “Steppin’ Out” here is totally vacuous.
In recent years, Third Generation heavy-metal groups have gotten down to business and produced some fine heavy —metal rock. Cream were in large part an antecedent (sound-wise, at least) of the whole style, but it all seems so far in the past now — strange as it may seem, Black Sabbath’s concise efficiency makes the whole Cream era look as self-indulgent and ludicrous as it indeed was.
The truly amazing thing about Cream Live Volume II is that Cream live sound every bit as boring as they did four years ago. In that sense, and in about every other possible as well, this album is a true artifact.