Psychedelic Circus (Mid Valley MVR 354)
Madison Square Garden, New York , NY – November 2, 1968
Introduction, White Room, Politician, Wheels Of Fire platinum disc presentation by Ahmet Ertegun and Robert Stigwood, I’m So Glad, Sunshine Of Your Love, Crossroads, Traintime, Toad, Spoonful
This performance from Madison Square Garden in front of 22,000 is the third to last show of Cream’s Farewell Tour in the U.S. before returning to London for their final two Royal Albert Hall performances. The insert has a short essay about the show and some quotes from Jack Bruce describing the show as bizarre. “It was a very strange gig, on a revolving stage, which must have been horrible for the audience. They’d get a glimpse of the drums, guitar, and bass and then they’d all go away again”. This revolving stage may explain the dramatic changes in sound quality throughout the disc.
Psychedelic Circus is either compiled from two different sources or is the result of the revolving stage. The recording starts off distant and very thin with plenty of top end distortion. The sound rates only about a five and the drums during “White Room” and “Politician” actually sound paper thin. Clapton’s guitar becomes more prominent during “Politician” but the quality still makes it hard to fully enjoy. Following these two opening numbers, president of Atco Records, Ahmet Ertigun, and manager, Robert Stigwood are called out to present the band, as well as producer Felix Papalardi, with platinum awards “for the sale of two million dollars worth” of the Wheels Of Fire LP. This would mark the first double album to sell a million copies.
The sound quality improves a little bit for “I’m So Glad” and has much better low end but is still a distance from the stage. The song is marred with many small cuts making it hard to follow at certain points. The beginning of “Sunshine Of Your Love” is missing also, cutting into the first chorus and is followed by a decent version of “Crossroads” (None compare to the Winterland version from the previous March found on Wheels Of Fire). Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker have their spotlight segments with the harmonica driven “Traintime” and “Toad” with a lengthy drum solo. The drums sound very clear with Ginger Baker in fine form tonight and the crowd lets him know it. This solo actually sounds like a predecessor to what Bonham would be doing in his live solos. “Spoonful” is very long with the band going off on a few tangents and there is also a small part that sounds like the taper was concealing the microphone under his coat. Jack Bruce’s comments at the end are too muffled to make out. It would have been nice to hear his final words to the New York audience.
The last five tracks from this show previously appeared on Garden Of Electric Delights on the Super Sonic label utilizing a completely different source tape. This tape is closer to the stage than the one(s) found on Psychedelic Circus but also suffers heavily from distortion. Mid Valley could have used this source to complete “Sunshine Of Your Love” as the first part of the song is intact on Super Sonic.
Mid Valley does a nice job with the presentation as usual. The art work is printed on glossy thick card stock and the CD on picture disc. Thanks to Mid Valley, we finally have a much more complete version of this show from MSG but the sound quality keeps this to the die hard Cream fans.