Cream is one of the best-known trios in classic rock, as well as one of the most notorious supergroups of the ’60s, consisting of Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, and Ginger Baker. What the three had in common was a love of blues and jazz music, even though Jack Bruce was in the Graham Bond Organisation, Manfred Mann, and the Bluesbreakers before joining Cream; Eric Clapton was in the Yardbirds and the Bluesbreakers; and Ginger Baker was in the Graham Bond Organisation with Bruce. Although Cream was short lived, only active from 1966-1968, in those few short years, they released four studio albums, all of which are great to have in your record collection. Many of you will know “Sunshine of Your Love,” but they had many more amazing songs besides it, some making it into the Top 40 in the UK, though in the US, they only scored with “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room,” and the Robert Johnson cover “Crossroads.” It’s easy to hear the blues influence in their songs, as well as sprinkling of psychedelia — which you’ll recognize as Cream’s unique blend of sounds in these 10 deep tracks.
1) “N.S.U,” Fresh Cream (1966)
This song is from Cream’s first album and was the B-side of “I Feel Free.” The song was named after a German car manufacturer called NSU Motorenwerke, but there are other stories about how the title came to be, though the band try to sell it with the opening line, “Driving in my car/smoking my cigar.” It’s the “ahh ahh” refrain in the song that truly makes it Cream.
2) “Toad,” Fresh Cream (1966)
This instrumental, which pre-dates Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick” by three years, features Ginger Baker’s drumming and is great to jam to. I personally love his drumming, and I’d even rank him as one of my favorite drummers of the ’60s. It’s no secret that Baker’s drumming was a huge part of making Cream sound the way they did, and this song is a great example of that.
3) “World of Pain,” Disraeli Gears (1967)
This song from Cream’s second album helped the band gain a following in the United States, and, I admit, often gets stuck in my head, and I’ll find myself singing, “Outside my window is a tree.” It’s a very under-appreciated, introspective psychedelic classic; the lead vocals by Clapton and Bruce are perfect, and I love the bass playing.
4) “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” Disraeli Gears (1967)
Inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and Martin Sharp’s holiday in Ibiza, Eric Clapton also cites the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City” as an influence. The lyrics, written by Eric Clapton and Martin Sharp, are beautiful and great things to visualize and imagine. The guitar effects also make this a great listen. You can’t miss this track!
5) “Take it Back,” Disraeli Gears (1967)
This is a blues-inspired song but was surprisingly not a cover. Penned by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, it’s an anti-war song drawn from American students burning their draft cards. Because it’s a bit different from the more psychedelic songs on the album, it really stands out but still fits right in with the album as a whole.
6) “Mother’s Lament,” Disraeli Gears (1967)
Easily the most English song in Cream’s discography, and very different from their other songs, not only because this one is sung in a Cockney accent. Unfortunately, not much is known about the song, including who wrote it; only that it was culled from the music halls. It’s humorous, a great listen, and an interesting, short-but-sweet way to end Disraeli Gears.
7) “Sitting On Top of The World,” Wheels of Fire (1968)
An excellent cover of a Mississippi Sheiks song written by Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon. That group was signed to the Okeh Records label, a chic label from which many rock stars drew inspiration and material. I like how Cream modernized the track, and I really like Eric Clapton’s guitar playing on this one.
8) “Deserted Cities of the Heart,” Wheels of Fire (1968)
If you like the sound of Disraeli Gears, you’ll like this more psychedelic-sounding song. Ginger Baker’s drumming is fantastic on this track.
9) “Anyone For Tennis,” Single (1968)
This more pop sounding song was performed on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. It only got to #40 in the UK and did not make the Top 40 in the US, therefore this song is overlooked.
10) “I’m So Glad,” Goodbye (1969)
This is off the band’s last album — released after their breakup — cleverly titled Goodbye. A well-done Delta Blues cover, “I’m So Glad” was originally written by Skip James, but Cream really made it their own in their own way, one last time.