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.