Coinciding with the Cream reunion of all the three original members, I Feel Free–Ultimate Cream collects the best of Cream's work. Cream–Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals), Jack Bruce (bass, vocals) and Ginger Baker (drums)–formed in 1966 and disbanded in 1968. In a little over two years, they released four groundbreaking albums, played over 300 gigs and secured worldwide acclaim and success with their unique take on electrified blues. They produced some of the most enduring rock anthems including Sunshine of Your Love, I Feel Free, Strange Brew and Crossroads. This career-spanning collection spotlights both sides of the Cream catalogue–the wildly experimental studio outfit and the stripped-down live trio–combining newly re-mastered studio classics along with eight historic live performances.
The funny thing about tributes to Eric Clapton is that Clapton has done them himself, and he would be the first to tell you that his career has been built on his attempts to emulate his own blues heroes, and that would be true to a point, but Clapton was wise enough, or maybe, at times, just lucky enough, to show how those players he loved could be translated into the electric age of rock, and he did it with a tremendous amount of raw elegance and style more often than not. This tribute set doesn't stretch things too far, and while cuts here like James Ryan's version of "Badge" and Brian Tarquin's version of "Sunshine of Your Love" are big, boisterous, and fun to hear, they work largely because of the original and defining riffs that Clapton devised to carry these songs in the first place. The real gem of the disc is a live, horn-filled take on "How Blue Can You Get" (listed as one of two "bonus" tracks here) by B.B. King. One imagines it would be the track Clapton would go to first, next, and last. King makes the song his. No one else here does that.
Fresh Cream represents so many different firsts, it's difficult to keep count. Cream, of course, was the first supergroup, but their first album not only gave birth to the power trio, it also was instrumental in the birth of heavy metal and the birth of jam rock…
Collection includes: 'Fresh Cream' (1966); 'Disraeli Gears' (1967); 'Wheels of Fire' (1968); 'Goodbye' (1969); 'Live Cream' (1970) and 'Live Cream II' (1972).
Two years after the death of pianist-composer Thelonious Monk, this very unusual and quite memorable double-LP tribute was put together. Producer Hal Willner's most successful project, the 23 interpretations of Monk originals all feature a different group of all-star players and stretch beyond jazz. Some of the performances are fairly straightforward while others are quite eccentric; certainly the crazy duet on "Four in One" by altoist Gary Windo and Todd Rundgren (on synthesizers and drum machines) and the version of "Shuffle Boil" featuring John Zorn on game calls (imitating the sound of ducks) are quite unique. There are many colorful moments throughout the project and the roster of musicians is remarkable: Bobby McFerrin with Bob Dorough, Peter Frampton, Joe Jackson, Steve Lacy, Dr. John, Gil Evans, Randy Weston, Roswell Rudd, Eugene Chadbourne and Shockabilly, the Fowler Brothers, NRBQ, Steve Khan, Carla Bley, Barry Harris, Was (Not Was) and many others. There is not a slow moment or uninteresting selection on this highly recommended set.
At times, McDuff demonstrates how soul-jazz organ stars used to make albums back in their '60s heyday, playing then-current pop hits like "The Age of Aquarius" and the theme from Mission: Impossible (which, thanks to cinema, was a hit all over again in 1996 when this CD was made). We also hear McDuff trying out his vocal cords for the first time on Louis Jordan's "Saturday Night Fish Fry"; actually, he merely talks the lyrics over the rhythm section – and at 70, he's entitled to this charming lark.