Cream – Disraeli Gears (1967)

Disraeli Gears is the second studio album by the British rock band Cream. It was released in November 1967[1] and went on to reach No. 5 on the UK Albums Chart.[2] and No. 1 on the Finnish charts. The album was also No. 1 for two weeks on the Australian album chart and was listed as the No. 1 album of 1968 by Cash Box in the year-end album chart in the United States. The album features the singles “Strange Brew” and “Sunshine of Your Love”, as well as their respective B-sides “Tales of Brave Ulysses” and “SWLABR”.

Disraeli Gears features the group veering away, quite heavily, from their blues roots and indulging in more psychedelic sounds, in particular on tracks such as “Tales of Brave Ulysses”, “SWLABR”, “World of Pain” and “Dance the Night Away”, the last of which features a 12-string guitar (the only time the instrument would be used on a Cream recording). The most blues-like tunes on the album are Clapton’s arrangement of “Outside Woman Blues”, the Bruce-Brown composition “Take it Back” which had been inspired by the contemporary media images of American students burning their draft cards which featured harmonica work by Jack Bruce, and the opening track “Strange Brew”, which was based on a 12-bar blues song called “Lawdy Mama” and features an Albert King guitar solo, copied note for note.

Unlike the previous Fresh Cream, which was vocally dominated by Bruce, the vocals on Disraeli Gears were a more democratic affair. Clapton sings lead on “Strange Brew” and “Outside Woman Blues”, and co-lead on “World of Pain”, “Dance the Night Away” and “Sunshine of Your Love”. Baker, meanwhile, performs lead vocals on his composition “Blue Condition”. All three band members sing together on “Mother’s Lament”.

In contrast to much of the band’s other work, Disraeli Gears comprises mainly short, self-contained songs, with none of the improvisation and jamming for which the band was known onstage.

Track Listing:

Side one
1. “Strange Brew”
2. “Sunshine of Your Love”
3. “World of Pain”
4. “Dance the Night Away”
5. “Blue Condition”

Side two

1. “Tales of Brave Ulysses”
3. “We’re Going Wrong”
4. “Outside Woman Blues”
5. “Take It Back”
6. “Mother’s Lament”

AllMusic Review: Cream teamed up with producer Felix Pappalardi for their second album, Disraeli Gears, a move that helped push the power trio toward psychedelia and also helped give the album a thematic coherence missing from the debut. This, of course, means that Cream get further away from the pure blues improvisatory troupe they were intended to be, but it does get them to be who they truly are: a massive, innovative power trio. The blues still courses throughout Disraeli Gears — the swirling kaleidoscopic “Strange Brew” is built upon a riff lifted from Albert King — but it’s filtered into saturated colors, as it is on “Sunshine of Your Love,” or it’s slowed down and blurred out, as it is on the ominous murk of “Tales of Brave Ulysses.” It’s a pure psychedelic move that’s spurred along by Jack Bruce’s flourishing collaboration with Pete Brown. Together, this pair steers the album away from recycled blues-rock and toward its eccentric British core, for with the fuzzy freakout “Swlabr,” the music hall flourishes of “Dance the Night Away,” the swinging “Take It Back,” and of course, the old music hall song “Mother’s Lament,” this is a very British record. Even so, this crossed the ocean and also became a major hit in America, because regardless of how whimsical certain segments are, Cream are still a heavy rock trio and Disraeli Gears is a quintessential heavy rock album of the ’60s. Yes, its psychedelic trappings tie it forever to 1967, but the imagination of the arrangements, the strength of the compositions, and especially the force of the musicianship make this album transcend its time as well. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Schill Score: 10/10

Schill Comment: This is basically a perfect album. From start to finish every song is amazing. The guitar playing from Clapton, The Bass from Bruce, and the Drumming from Baker is pretty much an exhibition of how to play rock music.

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