45 Years Ago: Cream’s ‘Disraeli Gears’ Released
‘Disraeli Gears’ was the second album Cream released in their ever so short career, and 45 years later, it still shines as their crowning achievement. Issued in November of 1967, the landmark LP saw Cream flipping the switch toward full-on psychedelia while remaining true to the blues roots of their 1966 debut.
‘Fresh Cream’ signaled a new force was on the scene. Like a blues-drenched warhorse, Cream plugged in and cranked up the volume delivering their own take on American blues. Along with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream ushered in not only the ‘power trio’ concept, but also the heavy blues which would eventually lead into hard rock and heavy metal. But let’s not blame them for that just yet. First, there’s the matter of this classic 1967 LP called ‘Disraeli Gears.’
From the opening notes of ‘Strange Brew,’ it was clear that the band had moved on from the style of their debut as it takes the blues roots and twists them into a vibrant 1967 technicolor. The pattern is followed with even more dramatic effect on the album’s second track, ‘Sunshine of Your Love.’ A simple blues guitar riff set the tone, but the pounding of Ginger Baker‘s drums propel the song into foreign territory. Throw in a killer Eric Clapton solo and you’ve got a true classic. Released as a single in early 1968, it hit the top five and helped push the LP to No. 4.
Throughout the album, the interplay between the three is stunning, setting the benchmark for hard rockers to follow. It should be said that even though Eric Clapton often gets the lion’s share of accolades when talking Cream, in many ways, Jack Bruce is the real star of the show here. His vocals are hauntingly beautiful and his bass playing is stellar. While we’re at it, Baker ain’t no slouch on the skins either, and he even turns up with a lead vocal on ‘Blue Condition,’ proving why he’s best kept behind the drum kit. We kid, we kid.
‘We’re Going Wrong’ is a psychedelic tour de force. Bruce’s ethereal vocals hover over the circular chord pattern and tribal drumming making it a real stunner! ‘World of Pain’ and ‘Dance the Night Away’ mix in elements of psych pop, but with a slightly darker mood. It’s hard to pick the high point of the album, but certainly both ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses’ and ‘SWLABR’ are right up there. ‘Tales’ is one of the most haunting rockers of all time. Written by Clapton and artist friend Martin Sharp, it’s descending main riff and wild lyrics meld together perfectly. Clapton delivers on of his finest solos at song’s end. ‘SWLABR’ is one of the album’s rawest tracks with a dynamic riff pushing things at full throttle. The title, by the way, stands for ‘She Walks Like A Bearded Rainbow.’ We’re not sure … ask Jack Bruce.
Cream would issue one final studio album, the two-record set ‘Wheels of Fire,’ before calling it a day less than three years after forming. Funny how bands would do things back then like break up at the height of their popularity whereas today, no one wants to ever leave the party. They felt they said all they had to say, and were gone before the chips got stale so to speak. ‘Disraeli Gears’ remains the band’s finest hour and still delivers, shall we say, fresh chips with each listen.
Listen to ‘Disraeli Gears’ by Cream