Synergy (Scorpio MA-001/2/3/4)
Shapiro Athletic Center,Brandeis University, Waltham, MA – September 9th, 1967
Back Bay Theater, Boston, MA – April 5th, 1968
Disc 1, Shapiro Athletic Center,Brandeis University, Waltham, MA – September 9th, 1967: Tales Of Brave Ulysses, Sunshine Of Your Love, NSU
Disc 2: Sitting On Top Of The World, Stepping Out, Traintime, Toad
Disc 3, Back Bay Theater, Boston, MA – April 5th, 1968: Sunshine Of Your Love, Spoonful, Sleepy Time Time
Disc 4: Steppin’ Out, Traintime, Toad
Scorpio’s first Cream release is Synergy which collects together two concerts in the Boston area seven months apart. Neither of these two tapes is very good but they are both listenable with the second of the two, from the Back Bay Theater, sounding better than the Brandeis University tape. These shows occur right in the middle of Cream’s short two and a half year career and represent the improvisational prowess of the band perfectly. The first show in this collection from Brandeis University has been released several times before. Previous releases include Waltham ’68 (KF 98001/8) on Killing Floor, Blind Spot (DGCD 058) on Dr. Gig has five tracks, and Fresh As Cream (SH001) on Slowhand is a direct copy of the Dr. Gig title.
The most recent release is on Cream Your Jeans (TCD-Cream-1) on Tarantura released in 2004 as part of the Cream U.S.A. box set. This show was recorded on a good quality stereo tape recorder at 3.75ips. Mics were positioned center stage resulting in clear drums and reasonably balanced guitars. Vocals are somewhat distant but clear. The reverberation of the gym is clearly obvious. The sound quality is good, clear enough to hear what is going on. It is distant and somewhat distorted but acceptable given its age. The audience is well behaved and is not a problem. There are some dropouts like in “Tales Of Brave Ulysses” scattered throughout the performance and there is a tape change between “N.S.U.” and “Sitting On Top Of The World” but is musically complete.
This concert was held in the Shapiro Athletic Center of Brandeis University outside of Boston. Scorpio, and every other bootleg release, dates this on September 9th, which would place it on the second week of their first US tour. Cream played the Cross Town Bus Club in Boston on September 8th and at the Psychedelic Supermarket in Boston between September 10th-16th (playing two sets per night), so theoretically the date could be correct. The correct date of this tape is in dispute since the University was closed on that date with the fall semester beginning on September 17th. Cream was booked to play at the school on March 23rd. Jack Bruce’s website claims it occurred on April 4th, 1968 when they were scheduled to play at SUNY Stony Brook on Long Island, but that date was cancelled. If this is accurate, then it occurred the evening immediately before the Back Bay Theater show in Boston on discs three and four.
This concert was reviewed by Downbeat magazine in their July 25th, 1968 issue so it most likely dates to March 23rd, 1968. The show begins with a four-minute version of “Tales Of Brave Ulysses” before Bruce thanks the audience for staying on, saying it is “one of the nicest things that’s happened to us.” “Sunshine Of Your Love” is extended to twelve minutes with Bruce doing many variations on the main riff in the middle and all three soloing by the end. Some say this is the best ever version of the piece. “N.S.U.” is almost twenty minutes long and includes a five-minute drum solo in the middle. “Stepping Out” is another sublime performance with Clapton and Baker playing off one another very well with the latter pushing the former into amazing improvisations.
Discs three and four contain the complete tape for the Back Bay Theater show in Boston on April 5th, 1968. “Spoonful” and “Sleepy Time” from this tape appear on the above mentioned Waltham ’68 on Killing Floor and the full show appears on Boston 68 (ECR-009) on EC Rarities and on Live Gem Vol. 2 (EC In Person EIP 020/21). The sound quality of this tape is an improvement over the Brandeis University tape. It is more loud and clear although still a bit distant and thin sounding. Some copies of this tape sound very poor but Synergy uses a very clean source. Allowances must be made for a tape almost forty years old and this can be placed in the good to very good category. This is one of Cream’s greatest performances starting with a 16-minute warm-up on “Sunshine of Your Love”. As one review states it, “Clapton’s solo is good, very good but gives no indication of the jam. The ending jam starts in a familiar way, moves along, one expects an end soon but things change gear – the notes start pouring out of Eric.
It’s just one of those frenetic group improvisations where they feed each other at an incredible tempo and, really I have to repeat my self, a rare occurrence even in Jazz.” “Stepping Out” is marred by a broken string and could have been extended into a twenty-minute jam session. Baker’s showcase “ Toad” sounds like a version in transition, preparing the way for “Do What You Like” by Blind Faith. A review of the Brandeis concert appeared in the May 11th, 1968 issue of Rolling Stone magazine where Jon Landau gave it a scathing review. Clapton became so depressed that is affected is confidence and is the beginning of the end of Cream. It is a shame too since with forty years hindsight these two shows are among the greatest performances on tape. Synergy is a great release that is highly recommended.