Song of the Week – What a Bringdown, Cream

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

Last Sunday, October 6th, the world said goodbye to drummer Ginger Baker.  To learn more about him, read the New York Times obituary or watch the Beware of Mr. Baker documentary.

The SotW MUST pay tribute to such an influential and wacky rock star.  My first thought was to select a song that featured one of Baker’s famous drum solos.  Maybe the live version of “Toad” from Cream’s Wheels of Fire, with its 13 minute blast of drums.  Nope, that’s a bit too much.  Maybe another long jam, Blind Faith’s “Do What You Like.”  This is another tour de force of stick work.  But, nah, that’s not it either (though I suggest you listen to both on your own).

Then it hit me!  Today’s SotW should be one of my favorite Cream deep cuts – “What a Bringdown”, written by Baker.

“… Bringdown” is a wild, psychedelic ride that uses unusual time signatures (5/4 to 3/4?) and has ‘60s style, surreally lysergic lyrics.  It also has some interesting and innovative sonics.  Felix Pappalardi (the “4th Cream member”) plays a violin bass.  Jack Bruce, who was ordinarily on bass, moves to keys.  Clapton layers guitars, including a spacey, high pitched wah-wah solo after the bridge and on the fade out.  Baker pounds away at his kit and also plays tubular bells (listen carefully at the end).  This all adds up to a recording that sounds more like early Jethro Tull than Cream.

“…Bringdown” was the last song on Cream’s last album – Goodbye (1969), making it an apropos way to acknowledge Baker’s passing.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week Revisited – As You Said, Cream

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Anyone that follows this blog has already heard that Cream bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce died today at the age of 71. I had the privilege to see him perform a few songs back in 2008. That performance inspired me to write a song of the week in August of 2008 that I’m re-posting today.

One of the things that I enjoy most about the “song of the week” is keeping my ear open for musical gems that have slipped by my attention. I discovered another one when I attended the Hippiefest at the Mountain Winery in July. Amongst a pleasant evening of light pop nostalgia acts – Badfinger, The Turtles, Jonathan Edwards — was one giant of serious rock, Jack Bruce.

Bruce, now 65, was a child prodigy, multi-instrumentalist, with training in both jazz and classical music. After working his way through the early 60s British blues fraternity (Alexis Korner, Graham Bond, John Mayall, etc.) he landed with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in Cream.

At the Hippiefest, he=2 0opened his brief set with a solo, 12-string acoustic guitar version of “As You Said” from Cream’s 1968 album Wheels Of Fire. I must admit, this isn’t a song I ever really “heard” before. But Bruce’s performance was sublime! It really captured my attention.

The version included here is the original studio recording. It is driven by a simple open tuned guitar and cello pairing that sets the perfect mood to support its haunting lyrics. The soaring vocals may have been an influence on Jeff Buckley’s Grace.

I think you’ll enjoy this. Until next week…