She walks like a bearded rainbow....
Released on 2 November 1967
Running time 33.37
After the blues rock flavours of the debut album Fresh Cream, powerhouse trio Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were back with an offering that leant more towards the contemporary trend for "psychedelic rock". The songs are shorter, less indulgent and vocal duties are shared around, whereas before they had largely been done by Bruce.
The tile, incidentally, comes from a roadie's malapropism of a bicycle's derailleur gears, wrongly said as "Disraeli Gears". Random album titles were becoming de rigeur in the late sixties and his mistake was duly adopted.
The latest deluxe edition's stereo version is simply sonically superb. The mono version of the album is good too, nice and bassy, but the stereo is revelatory.
1. Strange Brew
2. Sunshine Of Your Love
3. World Of Pain
4. Dance The Night Away
5. Blue Condition
6. Tales Of Brave Ulysses
8. We're Going Wrong
9. Outside Woman Blues
10. Take It Back
11. Mother's Lament
The opener, Strange Brew, has a delicious stereo sound and an alluring bass driving along its pleasing rhythm. Those lead guitar interjections sound razor sharp. Eric Clapton is on vocals and his voice is considerably more higher in pitch than it became over subsequent years. The song had a sort of swirling, airy hippiness to it that summed up its era perfectly. Sunshine Of Your Love is a solid, riffy Cream classic that combines a tough bluesy rock backing with once more that druggy, incense-drenched psychedelic vibe.
World Of Pain is a laid-back number that again expresses that psychedelic thing with some tasty wah-wah guitar enhancing it in a vaguely funky fashion. Interestingly, the first line sounds just like Elvis Costello on London's Brilliant Parade. (or more accurately Elvis Costello sounded like Jack Bruce). You have to say that the instrumentation throughout this album is outstanding. Ginger Baker once said that The Beatles simply could not compare as musicians to his colleagues in Cream. He was right too, there is no comparison. Dance The Night Away features some of that semi-Eastern guitar sound that had become so popular in 1967-68. Clapton and Bruce's vocals are deadpan, sonorous and mysterious. as with so much of the album's material, it would do a great job as soundtrack music for a sixties party scene in a drama. Crazy, man. You can hear the influence of tracks like this in music many years later, even today.
Blue Condition has Baker on lead vocals and, great as he was (he sadly passed away yesterday, as I write, by the way), singing was not really his forté. In comparison to the songs that had preceded it, it stands out, unfortunately as a bit of a "Ringo song".
Tales Of Brave Ulysses is a very psychedelic number with vocals that hint of seventies prog rock. It has a proggy lyrical pretension as well. That marvellous psych guitar and Baker's inspired drumming make it a great track, though. SWLABR stood for "She Walks Like A Bearded Rainbow" which serves as a classic example of psychedelic nonsense. The track is a good one though - lyrically of its time but delightfully heavy in its riffage. Check out Baker's drums too. We're Going Wrong is a sleepy-paced number featuring some top-notch drumming from Baker underpinning a searing lead guitar. Again there is a drugged-up ambience that is suitably intoxicating.
A more bluesy feel returns on the muscular, chunky Outside Woman Blues which hinted at the sort of material Clapton would move on to over the next few years. His vocals and guitar are impressive throughout. A faster, more upbeat blues backs Take It Back, which has some appetising blues harmonica.
Cream unfortunately had a habit of including throwaway songs at the end of their albums and they do just that with the waste of time that is the hammy, music hall strains of Mother's Lament. Sooner they had included the excellent blues of Lawdy Mama instead. Overall, though, this was a really good album and the sound is fantastic for a 1967 recording.