Sunday, May 18, 2014
Put The Boot in: Cream - 'Getting Near Dawn' April 5, 1968 Boston Bay Back Theatre
Following the opening musical assault, the band unleashes another extended improvisation, this time in a blues format with the sixteen minute version of 'Spoonful' that comes next. A thick bitter dose of heavy blues follow with Clapton snuggled in his element and discharging an array of uniquely electrified blues licks. After warming up through the changes, at shortly after four minutes Clapton swallows the whole dose, now taking the jam to an unknown place. Bruce expresses some excited vocal interjections, getting off on the groove, driving the drill bit deeper. At six minutes Clapton gets jittery exploding into a dizzying array of riffs, leaving the blues, spinning into the cosmos. Clapton begins to scream, squealing, bending metal, stretching for the mystical note. The jam slides into a fast funky plane, dissolving into a rolling Baker/Clapton holding pattern. The jam turns firmly hallucinatory, cloudy, churning organically in strange ways. The cymbals drop out at almost eleven minutes leaving Bruce and Clapton to enter an embrace. A gruff stone groove is hit upon that reenters a bluesy alley made of hot concrete. Exiting the jam Baker slams into a gritty Diddley groove that enters the back door on a drone of feedback while falling back into the muddy groove of 'Spoonful'. Amazing stuff, the first two songs of the concert are an alchemical display of psychedelic improvisation at its finest-- perhaps of all time.
A stand out of numerous Cream concerts and an early career favorite of Clapton, Memphis Slim's, 'Stepping Out' became another important jam vehicle for the Cream. This version in my opinion surpasses the Live Cream II version available on official release. The band hugs the corners as they blaze through the accentuated and speedy changes of the tune. At around almost five minutes Clapton displays a boggling guitar trick, spraying a multitude of metallic shavings of sound, stretching the seams of the song, exposing its innards. Bruce then drops out leaving the stage to Clapton and Bruce who challenge each other, slamming horns and grinding gears. For the remaining seven minutes of the song Baker rattles off a rainstorm of poly rhythms to which Clapton decorates in an endless supply of chilling guitar mastery. From twelve minutes til the songs conclusion, Clapton hits a spot that I can honestly say I have only ever seen exposed by a few guitarists. This is obvious to all rock fans because Clapton is a known legend and is arguably the greatest guitarist ever. But when revisiting this era of Cream the wealth of jamming can seriously make anyone question what true improvised psychedelic rock music is. Wow. It doesn't seem possible that this music can be created from silence by these three musicians.
The recording concludes with another extended number, Ginger Baker's spotlight masterpiece, 'Toad'. The inspiration and blueprint for John Bonham's future drum excursion 'Moby Dick', this version extends past sixteen minutes and features Bakers early samplings of future Blind Faith classic 'Do What You Like'. After some truncated jamming by the trio Baker shows his numerous percussive talents, slamming double bass paradiddles, into deep tribal hollow grooves that touch on jazz influences before interspersing with aggressive cymbal smashing a crashing. The conclusion is a gigantic Himalayan avalanche of rock and snow, thundering and echoing through the halls of the mountain king. The band returns to restate the theme and conclude the recording and I assume the performance, unless there is a missing encore.
The three powerful and distinct personalities of Cream not only induced their finest musical moments but also initiated their quick destructive demise. For the short time that these musicians could coexist, their combination of talent, attitude, drugs and initiative combined to create some of the most multifaceted and combustible improvised the music the world has ever seen. The stress of this music's creation, in addition to the added pressures of stardom and abuse would splinter the factions within the band, leaving only the smouldering remains of the places they performed. Check out this audience recording created by an enterprising fan in the Spring of 1968, take a journey back to when consciousness changing music was still being created on a nightly basis.
Sunshine of Your Love