Disraeli Gears: Deluxe Edition
Polydor Time passes and fame is fleeting, but long after people have forgotten most things worth knowing about the 1960s they should still be listening to the Cream’s 1967 album, Disraeli Gears. 1967 was a banner year during a great period for music. The Beatles released Sergeant Pepper, the Small Faces Ogden’s Nut Brown Flake, Jefferson Airplane After Bathing at Baxter’s and on and on. Disraeli Gears was Cream’s bid and now you can buy it in a deluxe edition including out-takes, demos, BBC recordings and a stereo as well as mono mix.
Cream, of course, consisted of three of the most gifted musicians of a generation loaded with uncommon talent. Eric Clapton played lead guitar along with Jack Bruce on bass and (for the most part) lead vocals and Ginger Baker on drums. Cream made Clapton an international superstar but Disraeli Gears offers ample evidence that while this may have been his best work, it was also all he could do to keep up with Bruce and Baker.
If I’m not mistaken, the stereo mix found here favors the rhythm section in ways previous releases have not. In any event, it is clear that Jack Bruce was every bit the bass player that Clapton was a guitarist and that Baker, well, Baker was a force of nature. All told, Cream’s playing and singing were so grown-up they made a new kind of civilized seem possible.
As the informative booklet included in this handsome package points out, Felix Pappalardi was brought on board to produce this album. Pappalardi encouraged the band to move their blues orientation toward more psychedelic structures. The result was an extraordinarily literate performance art in which poetry was animated by fiery musicianship with a flair for improvisation. The photo of an impossibly boyish Pappalardi leaning on the soundboard with an inspired gleam in his eye is a poignant pleasure in itself.
Like a lot of “deluxe” reissues, there’s more here than is necessary. Who really needs a mono version or, for that matter, the rather thin sounding BBC sessions which, in execution, don’t add much to the original recordings? The demos, on the other hand, which include three songs by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown that would wind up on subsequent Bruce recordings, are an intimate treasure.