Vintage Cream (Godfather Records GR 619)
Studio Sessions for the “Fresh Cream” album – London, 1966
Cat’s Squirrel (take 1) – Beauty Queen (outtake) – Rollin’ and tumblin’ (alternate) – Coffee Song (take 1) – Toad (outtake) – Sweet Wine (take 1) – Sweet Wine (master) – I Feel Free (rehearsal take 1) – I Feel Free (rehearsal take 2) – I Feel Free (master) – I Feel Free (basic track) – Wrapping Paper (take 1) – You Make Me Feel (take 1) – You Make Me Feel (take 2) – Sleepy Time Time (alternate) – Sweet Wine (alternate) – I’m So Glad (alternate) – Wrapping Paper (master) – Four Until Late (alternate) – Cat’s Squirrel (alternate master) – I Feel Free (instrumental) – I Feel Free (playback tape) – Sweet Wine (alternate)– Dreaming (instrumental).
After having been invited to attend a secret rehearsal, the formation of “Cream” was announced in advance by “Melody Maker” reporter Chris Welch on June 11, 1966. With the headline “Eric, Jack & Ginger Team Up” the article announced that “a sensational new ‘groups’ group’ starring Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker is being formed. Top groups will be losing star instrumentalists as a result. Manfred Mann will lose bassist, harmonica player, pianist and singer Jack Bruce; John Mayall will lose brilliant blues guitarist Eric Clapton; and Graham Bond’s Organisation will lose incredible drummer Ginger Baker. The group say they hope to start playing at clubs, ballrooms and theatres in a month’s time. It is expected they will remain as a trio with Jack as featured vocalist.“
“Vintage Cream” is a remastered version of a 1995 Planet Records release called “Fresh Outtakes & Acetates” but it also features four additional outtakes from the sessions for completeness’ sake.
The liner notes read the following:
” ‘John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton’ was one of the key albums in the summer of 1966. However, Clapton was now recording with his new band called Cream. According to Ginger Baker’s biography their first gig took place at the National Jazz and Blues Festival in Windsor on July 31, 1966 but this may not be accurate as some people assure the group had played a previous, longer club set “somewhere up north” before this.
A hit single was obligatory for a new group those days so the band entered the Rayrik Studios, Chalk Farm in London to record it. However the choice was a weird one: “Wrapping Paper”, a lightweight jazz number that is a whole world away from what Cream would sound like just a few months later. With the “Clapton Is God” grafittis all over London at the time, not featuring a pyrotechnic guitar lead from Clapton it was no surprise the single didn’t sell well.
Cream were pretty short of original material. Jack had some original tunes, but most of them turned out to be unsuitable. One example is the outtake “Beauty Queen”, a song requiring lots of developments. Lyrics remained a problem too. Poet Pete Brown was called to help and with Jack they immediately formed the long-lived partnership that we know today. The next attempt at a single would be “I Feel Free”: a much better choice with lyrics provided by Pete, multi-tracked harmonies, great drumming and a fine solo from Clapton. One of the earliest tunes on which Pete set some words is “You Make Me Feel”. It never reached further than a rehearsal outtake but like “Beauty Queen”, it is luckily preserved here.
The “Fresh Cream” album was recorded with little studio time – hence the small number of takes and the fact that there was not a real producer other than Cream themselves and sound engineer John Timperley also had its effect on the final result. Had they got more time and/or had they had a real producer, the result would have been a different one but then history might have been different too. Skip James’ “I’m So Glad” used to be a blues number that Cream transformed into a Pop performance. “Fresh Cream” was innovative and saw a band approaching different musical styles they could achieve success with. God knows it opened the musical doors for them and for many others too.”
Wrapping Paper b/w Cat’s Squirrel – the first single from the group – was something completely different from what the public was expecting from the trio. There’s one interview at the BBC studios where the DJ asks Clapton that their fans expected a certain kind of music from them… a kind that they didn’t get on Wrapping Paper. Clapton has to agree: he says they did want to surprise them in a way because the band didn’t want their fans to accept them just as a blues band – they wanted to be something more than that. At this point the DJ replies “Well, you certainly did!“. The single topped at #34 on the charts in the U.K. Their second single – I Feel Free – was released simultaneously with the “Fresh Cream” album and both were big sellers, the album peaking at #6 and the single at #11 on the charts in the UK. Cream was born and they changed the music world.
These sessions see the blatantly poppy sounds of tunes like Wrapping Paper and Coffee Song, slow blues numbers in 12/8 time like Sleepy Time Time and they also see Jack playing up loud and Eric experimenting with feedback techniques ala Hendrix on Sweet Wine. Some of the tracks are really raw and rough… but that is how Cream was born.
“Vintage Cream” is the first Cream title on the Godfather label and the choice has got to be a very welcome one since the material from these sessions that is pressed on silver media is quite scarce! Recommended.