CD Review of Disraeli Gears by Cream

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Disraeli Gears
starstarstarstarhalf star Label: Atco
Released: 1967
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Take the mold for the power trio, sprinkle in just enough psychedelic sound, mix in three enormously talented musicians with egos to match, add the production work of Felix Pappalardi, and you have the blueprint of one great record.

The opening guitar riff of “Strange Brew” is distinctively Clapton and catchy as hell. It is a timeless song that sounds good every time it is played. Of course, “Sunshine of Your Love” is the other monster hit from the record and the second track. For the uninitiated, that may be enough, but Disraeli Gears offers much, much more. The harmonies are striking. Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton’s voices merge to create a distinctive and hauntingly beautiful combination. The sound of their harmonizing voices dominates “Dance the Night Away” making it completely unforgettable. Those harmonies set against the thundering drum work of Ginger Baker as the song builds make “Dance” the best track on the record.

“Tales of Brave Ulysses” starts side two and features that famous regal vocal delivery of Jack Bruce. “Ulysses” and “White Room,” from 1968’s Wheels of Fire, may not be the same exact song, but if Cream sued Cream for plagiarism, Cream might have lost, but I digress. The record features the absolutely stellar drum work of Ginger Baker. Listen to his work on these songs and you will be blown away at how busy and creative he is. He has a way of being spectacular without being showy. His work is kinetic but never excessive. During the sweeping, melancholy balladry of “We’re Going Wrong” which features Bruce in falsetto mode singing his balls off, Baker absolutely steals the song. If you like Stewart Copeland, then you need to listen to Ginger Baker’s work here. Baker demonstrated how to hold your own within a power trio. That isn’t easy to do, considering that Baker’s mates were Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, two freaking studs themselves.

Disraeli Gears isn’t perfect. Baker, great drummer though he may be, should never sing. He gets that opportunity on “Blue Condition.” Even Clapton’s guitar work can’t save the track from Baker’s flat vocal performance. The last song, “Mother’s Lament,” a traditional Cockney number clocking in at 1:47, is silly and doesn’t belong. The other material is strong enough to pull this record into discussions about Great Albums. It is perfect for 27:44 of its 33 minute running time.

~R. David Smola