Studio:Kino Classics Year: Cast: Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Patrick Allen Director: Tony Palmer Release Date: August 06, 2013 Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable) Run Time: 01h:41m:19s Genre(s): music, documentary
"The date is November 26, 1968. A British rock group called simply 'Cream' are making their farewell appearance at one of London's greatest concert houses, The Royal Albert Hall." - Narrator (Patrick Allen)
Thumping and pulsating, Cream rode blues-rock to the top in the 1960's and their sound represents a time when supergroups became the norm in pop music. This document is a mixed bag of quality and interest that doesn't quite stand the test of time. Still the show is watchable on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Movie Grade: B
DVD Grade: C
Eric Clapton had a reputation as the preeminent blues guitarist in England and at the urging of drummer Ginger Baker, would leave John Mayall's band The Bluesbreakers and form a new group. Clapton insisted on inviting singer-bassist Jack Bruce, despite the fact that Baker and Bruce had quarreled bitterly in a previous band. It would be a fateful choice. The group quickly put together a compelling mix of blues standards and original compositions, marked with a dynamic live presentation that featured long, intense instrumental jams. Each member of the group was considered a soloist and the effort was collaborative. Fresh Cream was their debut and this was followed by Disraeli Gears, Wheels of Fire and Goodbye. The conflict between Baker and Bruce led to tension in the band and the group decided to call it quits in 1968 after a meteoric two years. In his autobiography released in 2007, Clapton acknowledged tensions between the group members Bruce and Baker but stated that the breakup was due to touring pressures and "loss of musical direction." Cream Farewell Concert is taken from live recording of the group's final two concerts at the Royal Albert Hall on November 26, 1968.
This is a film that launched a thousand imitators and parodists. There is no doubt that the brief meteoric rise and fall of Cream blazed an indelible trail into rock history. This video document is a piece of history. The lecturing pretensions of the narrator are often hilarious "several haircuts ago". The interviews with the three members of the band are occasionally insufferable, especially in light of knowing more about what went on behind the scenes.
The show begins with a closing snippet of "Sunshine of Your Love," and flows into a long interview segment with Bruce where he describes his own classical background and how the group was formed. The narrator then explains the comparison between what Cream does and Indian music as we move into a versions of "White Room" and "Politician" with Bruce on vocals. Immediately following is a thumping version of "Crossroads" with Clapton on vocal and providing all the ways to get from A to B in the old Robert Johnson classic. At this point the directors start adding in some cliched live concert cut effects with the odd angles and blurs. Back to the Narrator leading into a Clapton interview featuring a lot of technical details of his guitar playing. A straightforward version of "Steppin' Out" followed by covers of the blues standard "Sitting on Top of the World" and Willie Dixon's "Spoonful," the latter bringing out the "special" effects. A Ginger Baker at his drums interview follows that leads into one of his feature songs "Toad." After a brief visit with Bruce, the Narrator makes a few preposterous statements and the whole thing winds up with a blistering, if muddied version of "I'm So Glad."
Long criticized for poor production quality, it was originally broadcast by the BBC on 5 January 1969 and was not released on video in the US until 1977. This new releases claims to be digitally remastered with a new 5.1 Stereo Surround Sound Mix along with 2.0 Stereo audio. The result is listenable with attempts at separation of the instrumentation that has a few moments although the battle is doubly difficult with the bottom heavy bombastic music of Cream the subject and the low technology original recording of it. The mix on "White Room" was good for the bass and guitar but the details of the drums seemed lost.
For a re-release of something that has long been available, it is surprising that the set boast no extras or enhancements beyond the sonic upgrade. It seems these days that there is always some little bit that can be found that adds value to the DVD release. Of course, many things can stand on their own and one might make the case that for Clapton completists or hard-core fans of the power trio, this release might be the thing. However, one might not be surprised to find copies of this at the used media store in the $1.99 bin.