Back at the Crossroads

In yesterday’s New York Times: A review of the first of Cream’s reunion concerts in London. Without going too far down memory lane again — though I have to mention that where I heard Cream the first time was in Randy Robinson’s basement on Monee Road, the setting for many then-avant-garde rock moments — the review, by Times staffer Jon Pareles, was a joy to read for both its historical appreciation of the band and its music and for its close examination of why the show the other night was less than ecstatic:

“…The neatness and order of the music were precisely what made Cream’s first return engagement underwhelming. It wasn’t unity that made Cream one of the great 1960’s rock bands. It was the same friction – of personalities, methods and ambitions – that would soon tear the band apart. …

“… In its most incendiary 1960’s shows, Cream played like three simultaneous soloists, relentlessly competitive and brilliantly volatile. Back then Mr. Clapton didn’t need Robert Johnson’s hellhound on his trail; he had Mr. Baker and Mr. Bruce snapping at his heels, goading him with bass countermelodies and bursts of polyrhythm. It was the brashness of youth in sync with the experimental spirit of the era. Cream played with reckless intensity, as if sure that all the risks would pay off; most often, they did. ”

The soundtrack I hear when reading this: “Crossroads.”

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