Firebird (Tarantura TCDCREAM-5)
Oakdale Music Center, Wallingford, CT – June 15th, 1968
(61:40): White Room, Politician, I’m So Glad, Sitting On Top Of The World, Crossroads, Sunshine Of Your Love, Traintime, Spoonful, Toad
In Clapton’s biography, he wrote that at Cream’s first gig, they played a jazz fest and not only didn’t anyone in the crowd know who they were, but no one even paid the slightest bit of attention to them. Clapton said that for most of their gig, the crowd had their backs turned, or people just walked away. So the next time they took the stage, they just jammed away for twenty minuets at a time on each song and then the crowd went nuts. So the legend of Cream started.
Tarantura’s version of the June 15th 1968 concert in the rock and roll mecca of Connecticut has been previously available titled Big Black Loading Zone. I have not ever listened to that version, so I can’t make a comparison. Tarantura’s release, like the previously mentioned is an audience recording. On the back of Firebird, Tarantura has written, “master cassette>1st. Gen cassette safety copy (TDK C90)>CDR straight transfer>re-mastered by APB>PC re-master by Zero”. I wrote that as I saw it on the back of the CD case. Given the year and the technology, this is an excellent audience recording. It is distant in the way that most are from the 60’s. Far from unlistenable.
It is balanced, with no instrument overlaying another, and all of the vocals are clear for the most part. There are a few moments here and there where Jack Bruce’s vocals are a bit distant or muffled, but I believe that’s just due to him moving his head around Ray Charles style. I believe this may have been a festival with other bands which would explain why it’s only a little over an hour. There’s no info if this was the “early” show. Cream is in great form, the band is tight, Clapton’s solos are smokin and Ginger Baker’s drumming is right on.
The CD starts with the opening notes of White Room and it is very obvious that’s when the tapper turned on the recorder. There is some static, and it’s muffled for a few seconds, but it quickly becomes an excellent audience recording. After the last verse, Clapton lays down his first of a number of blistering solos. This is the time frame that would make him an idol for every future guitar god. I’m So Glad is the first real extended jam of two. Jack Bruce then introduces Clapton by saying, “And now a song from Eric Clapton” and he gets a huge ovation from the crowd. This, long before his solo career. Cream tears into Crossroads, and instead of it turning into one of their long jams, it’s an intense four minuets short. The tone of the guitar is unmistakable in that it’s the red ES 345 hollow body he played just because his favorite guitarist Freddie King played one also. It would later be sold at auction to fund his rehab center. There is a cut after Crossroads, and it goes straight into Sunshine Of Your Love.
Jack Bruce’s vocals start out muffled at the beginning of Spoonful and there is a second of tape wobble at about 1:25 in. There’s a minor drop in volume at 3:21, and it comes back to normal at 3:37. Spoonful does become the extended jam for the evening lasting for over fifteen minuets. The playing goes from energetic to almost tired sounding, and back up to furious and smokin solos by Clapton. There’s no cuts during the Bruce harp playing during Traintime, but the is a cut 3:50 into Ginger Bakers drum solo during Toad.
Tarantura’s insert could be a poster. It folds out displaying numerous pictures of the band at the show, very obvious that they are from a good old Kodak Instamatic Camera. It fits the moment. But there is a great shot of Jack Bruce looking straight at the photographer with a look in his eyes that says “F-off!” Seems like picture taking has gone the way of the album. 1968 would be the year Cream breaks up as well.
Overall, this is a great release of a classic and important band. Yes, there is better quality available for Cream, but any quality recording from the 60’s is worth obtaining and I highly recommend this for everyone.