Blow Up! (Mid Valley 146/147)
Dallas Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, TX – October 25, 1968
Disc 1. Introduction – White Room – Sunshine of Your Love – I’m So Glad – Sitting On Top of the World
Disc 2. Crossroads – Train Time – Toad – Spoonful
Dallas is one of Cream’s last dates of their Wheels Of Fire tour (also known as their Farewell Tour) in the US, which would wrap up at the Rhode Island Auditorium in Providence on November 4th.
The story on the making of this recording can be read on the back cover:
This truly remarkable recording was made in the photo pit on a reel-to-reel recorder with permission from the band. Mics were placed at the front of the stage just above the photo pit.
The result is indeed outstanding for a 40 year old audience recording. Apart from Mid Valley’s, there are a couple of other releases covering this night: Oil Cream (Shout to the Top – STTP 025/026) and Farewell Tour – Searching In Dallas (Original Precious Masters – OPM 001/002). It would be great if someone could compare all recordings and share his/her opinion here.
Wheels of Fire had been released in June 1968 and Cream was an absolute money making machine, earning an average of $25,000 a night. Despite their popularity and despite the money they were making, the band decided to split up in May 1968 right in the middle of their US tour but it wasn’t until July that Cream’s management made the news public. To thank their American fans was the advertised reason for finishing the tour but with the amount of money mentioned before it is easy to understand that the real reason for doing that was just money.
Disc1 begins with 3 minutes of audience noise and some tuning up before a female voice quickly introduces the band by saying “Here they are – The Cream!” White Room opens the show and sees Jack Bruce mixing up some of the lyrics on the verse “I walked into such a sad time at the station” and EC delivering an agressive solo on the outro. Sunshine is fantastic and features a very nice drum work from Ginger but it is again EC who steals the song with another agressive solo.
I’m So Glad is introduced by Ginger by saying “We’d now like to do a number, I’m So Glad You Came“. This has got to be my favourite number of the night with 10 minutes of great playing from the trio. EC delivers a great 3-minute solo then eventually returning to the basic chords before embarking on another 2-minute journey then to go back to the basic chords again. After that it looks like some kind of equipment failure takes place as EC’s guitar becomes inaudible to Jack and Ginger’s surprise forcing them to play in duet mode for more than a minute before EC comes back to close the song. A great rendition of the bluesy Sitting On Top of the World closes Disc1. Jack does a great job on the vocals while EC throws in another remarkable solo.
Disc2 begins with a funny anecdote. Jack introduces Crossroads as the Robert Johnson song that EC did on the Disraeli Gears!! album…. The audience immediately calls out Wheels of Fire… and Jack can then be heard saying “Oh yeah, you’re right”. Featuring two guitar solos, my vote goes to the second one.
It is true that Jack sings and plays his heart out on Traintime but it is just too long and too boring for me. The best thing about it is EC’s introduction: “We’d like to do another number from the… the live album and this one features Jack on the harmonica and it’s called Traintime“. EC’s guitar is not present until the final chord.
Not being a fan of drum solos, it’s easy to conclude Toad is a world away from being of my favourite Cream tunes ever. Again introduced by EC, Toad is long at 18+ minutes and features a marathon drum solo – which I admit I like at some points! – which is preceded by some nice passages in which Jack and EC play very quietly, very slowly.
Spoonful is the last song of the night. Another extended song at 20+ minutes, for me the best takes place within the first half of it. Got to love EC’s agressive playing once again!! The tape source used for this recording speeds up for a couple seconds at about 7:32, this being the only flaw I found of this recording.
Blow Up! is an excellent audience recording for the era and captures a very solid performance by any Cream standards. Highly recommended.
Although I realize that the Shout to the Top label doesn’t exactly have a great reputation here, esp. among Plomerus (hopefully he’s still out there somewhere), GSparaco, etc., their old 1999 2-CD release “Oil Cream”, which I recently received within the Western Hemisphere, and of which the 2-CD “Farewell Tour 1968 – Searching in Dallas” on the OPM (Original Precious Masters) label may be a copy, at least pretty-much, may be nearly as good as Mid Valley’s “Blow Up!”, which I still haven’t heard – or possibly even a tiny bit better, as 1 or 2 Cream boot sites have both the STTP & OPM titles rated even slightly superior to MVR’s “Blow Up!”. They’re at least certainly better than the “This Wheels on Fire” (sic) 1-CD by the Gold Standard label.
Happy July IV to all who celebrate it.
Another CD title that covers this same concert that I just acquired on Friday is called “This Wheels on Fire” (by Gold Standard label – CBB 102568), which comes with all 8 songs on just 1 disc (79:27). I don’t know how it compares to any of the others since unfortunately I haven’t heard any of the others, but so far it doesn’t seem too bad, is considerably enjoyable, and so far the only significant flaw that really stands out to me is a very noticeable problem of volume fluctuations in approx. the 1st 15-30 seconds or so of the opening track – ‘White Room’.
Just got this title today and it is an amazing audience recording for the era. There is a little overloading from Jack’s bass initially which results in a little high end sizzle but this clears up after the first couple of songs and it is just an excellent audience recording. Other than the Detroit, Oakland and LA soundboards this is the best sounding Cream title I have heard…Must have for any Cream fan….