SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Cream: Clapton, Bruce & Baker Sitting on Top of the World San Francisco, February–March 1968 Book

CREAM, CLAPTON, BRUCE & BAKER – SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD -SAN FRANCISCO- FEBRUARY-MARCH 1968  Book.     Edoardo Genzolini  (additional contributions Tony Palmer & Bill Halverson)
It’s not so often these days I review music books, compared to the many reviews of new editions of mainly 60’s & 70’s music i regularly publish. However, I am more than happy to present this new handsome tome to you, kindly sent to me from its American publishers Schiffer Publishing. Given its subject it couldn’t really have arrived at a more apposite time given the recent passing of Pete Brown, lyricist for much of Cream’s and Jack Bruce’s work. I know many of you reading this will have encountered Pete in the last few years, when he chose to live in our part of the world up until his passing in May. So, let’s get the physical book details noted first. The book comes in hardback form, 9inch X 9inch, beautifully printed from its embossed cover to its 144 pages containing (on high quality paper) some 175 colour & black & white photo’s many not seen before, there are some glorious performance shots. The title is self explanatory, this is a meticulous and lovingly crafted in-depth look at Creams performances at 2 legendary San Francisco venues. The Fillmore and The Winterland. It was at these 2 venues in February 1968 that Cream established their reputation in the States and were captured on film by British documentary filmmaker Tony Palmer and recorded on audio by Atlantic Records. This, i have to say, quite remarkable work, will tell you EVERYTHING you could possibly want to know, on and off stage, about those legendary times when Cream were arguably at their pinnacle. Reading the foreword by the author Edoardo I immediately recognised a kindred spirit. Edoardo is an Italian who lives and works as a teacher in Perugia, Italy. Born in 1991 as he morphed into a teenager from 12 to 13 he discovered Cream through hearing their music whilst indulging in his other love, the movies. I can completely empathise with that, music and film have been my 2 lifelong passions. This leads him to write with an enthusiasm, and yes, a complete love of his subject. The amount of research he must have done is phenomenal, but I’m guessing it was a complete ‘labour of love’. He delves into the minutiae of the band’s performances with relish, whilst providing anecdotes and meticulously examining what may have been a short time period, but an incredibly important one in music history. A lot of music books are often ‘dry’ but not this one. Obviously, it will appeal to Cream’s most die-hard fans the most, but the casual reader will also be well rewarded. The venues the concerts took place at are also historically important in the annals of rock. The old Fillmore Auditorium still exists, sadly The Winterland Ballroom doesn’t. This book apart from providing all the information on Cream’s performances, will also serve as an invaluable reminder to those patrons that were lucky enough to attend these venerable venues in their heyday. And that’s important, i know from my own perspective from all the venues i have played at in my career that no longer exist physically, but live hugely in our memories. To summarise, this is a book that preserves for posterity in infinite detail an exciting period in the raw power trio that was Eric, Jack & Ginger who in their time set the rock world alight. And finally, here’s the kicker for this reviewer, where i have to be nonest, before i get letters from regular readers of mine who will know, i am not and never have been a Clapton fan. it may be heresy to all you guitarists, but its the truth. However, did i enjoy Cream in their day? the answer to that is a big fat truthful yes! I understand Edoardo has also written a book on The Who, Schiffer if you want to send a copy this way………
Til next time…..stay safe…..Colin
Available from Gazelle Book Services.