Cream have long been one of my all time favourite bands and in their short time together they released four studio albums with two containing live tracks. So just like a previous OPINION PIECE article where I ranked Beatles album, I thought I’d do the same with Cream. It’s important to mention that the ranking is my opinion only. Let me know your thoughts.
4. Goodbye Cream
At #4 is Cream’s final studio album, Goodbye Cream. While the combination of three original songs after three explosive live tracks is enjoyable, this album really just doesn’t compare to the others. It’s not that I dislike it in any way, far from it, but it’s obvious that Cream had checked out while putting this album together. The effort, the fun, the explosive playing that put Cream on the map on each of their three previous studio albums is nowhere to be seen.
Each member of Cream supplied an original song to this album and out of the three of them, Badge by Eric Clapton is by far the best. Co-written with George Harrison it is now one of Clapton’s most well known tracks from the Cream period even though they never played it live before breaking up in 1968. Doing That Scrapyard Thing is the second original number and, while good, would have fit better on Bruce’s 1969 solo album Songs For A Tailor. It has that same feel and doesn’t sound like Cream at all. What A Bringdown, Ginger Baker’s contribution to the album, sounds more like Cream and features Clapton and Bruce on shared lead vocals. Sadly when it ends you’re reminded that this album only features three new songs and if not for Badge and the three live tracks the kicked off the album, it would have been a huge disappointment.
3. Fresh Cream
At #3 sits their 1966 debut album Fresh Cream. As good as this album is I definitely couldn’t put it higher on my list because of the following two albums, but that in no way means that it’s a bad album. Far from it. Fresh Cream in many ways is their most traditional and safe sounding album before the psychedelic gorgeousness that followed on Disraeli Gears, but the tracks are just as good. Sleepy Time Time may be my favourite because of Clapton’s sublime guitar playing which really set him apart from anyone else at this point in history. No-one could compare. Spoonful is another great track which really serves as an example of how much a song changed when played in a live setting. Spoonful is arguably Cream’s most explosive live track yet the studio version is more laid back and reserved.
Overall it’s a great album which features a band that is still searching for their signature sound. Going from their individual projects to combining as The Cream put huge expectations on them and Fresh Cream doesn’t quite live up to expectations when you think of it that way. However, all would change on their next album.
2. Disraeli Gears
1967’s Disraeli Gears is where Cream really came into their own as a band, blowing everyone else out of the water. The safe, reserved sound on Fresh Cream was discarded and replaced with exciting tones and mammoth songwriting. Clapton’s “woman tone” was born, setting a new standard for electric blues after Clapton had already set the previous standard a few years earlier on the Bluesbreaker album. And Bruce’s writing partnership with Pete Brown really put them into a higher league, proving that Cream weren’t just about playing, but about writing too.
I found it difficult deciding if Disraeli Gears should be #1 or #2 on my list but after careful consideration I had to put it at #2. But it is very very close. Songs like Strange Brew, Sunshine Of Your Love, Tales Of Brave Ulysses, SWLABR and Outside Woman Blues are all songs that could put this album at #1. But today, on this day, it lands at #2.
1. Wheels Of Fire
The Wheels Of Fire album never used to be my favourite but over the last couple of years it’s been my go to Cream album, which means it lands at #1 on my list. This album manages to capture perfectly who Cream were and the combination of studio and live tracks really shows you what kind of band they were. You could argue that they were two bands in one. The first band was studio based, cemented by the songwriting team of Bruce and Brown who supplied so many great tracks to this album. The second band was live based, and Cream were the best around. It’s difficult to think of any other band during this period who were so explosive and relied on their improvisational skills to break boundaries. No-one did it as good as Cream, and this album features the best of the best when it comes to live tracks in the form of Crossroads, one of the greatest performance of all time.
This album really is sublime in every sense of the word, and to be honest even if you take away the incredible live tracks you are still left with a studio album to die for. White Room, Sitting On Top Of The World, Politician, Born Under A Bad Sign and Deserted Cities Of The Heart feature Cream at their very best. There’s no way Wheels Of Fire couldn’t have been #1 on my Cream album rankings.
Which order would you rank Cream albums? Leave your answers in the comment section!
For my next OPINION PIECE article, I am going to go through my top ten favourite Beatles solo albums.