Cream were one of my (and a lot of other people’s) favorite bands ever. They introduced me to the blues, and with their long, freewheeling jams, also paved the way for me to appreciate jazz. I still sometimes put on Wheels of Fire or their more recent live reunion at Royal Albert Hall and cruise around.
Alas, while I’ve seen Clapton, I never had a chance to see Cream. So it was a pleasant surprise to find out that drummer Ginger Baker’s son Kofi had taken up the reins and was out on the road doing some of their tunes.
Kofi first appeared with his father in 1975 on the live UK TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test, and he’s been playing before the public ever since. After seeing the Cream reunion in 2005, Kofi was inspired to form his own tribute band to continue where Cream, and his father, had left off.
In addition to Baker, Fran Bannish takes on (and quite well) the Clapton guitar hero role and Frankie May holds down the bass. (A good player but not, I think, as virtuosic as Jack Bruce.)
I’ll let the music speak for itself here and then a few more comments. Here’s a great tune, “Politician.”
So, across the board, these guys nail the sound and the feel without – and this is important – seeming like some fucking Las Vegas tribute band. They’re the real deal. But with tribute bands, there’s always something lacking. In this case, as good as Bannish is, he is not Clapton. But he’s an excellent player.
What was missing, I think, was the Jack Bruce role overall. Bannish is a fine singer but Bruce had a unique quality to his voice. And the other thing is that when they really got cranking, Cream had what I would call – for lack of a better expression – a rollin’ and tumblin’ effect.
Basically, you had three guys soloing at the same time and it all worked. It didn’t seem to me that May on bass – as good as he was – had that level of fluidity in his playing. So, in this case, it was less three guys jamming and more like two guys backing one guy up.
But I quibble! Who gives a shit? It still sounded great and the audience really dug it. (Though I could have lived without the “Sunshine of Your Love” singalong. My generation will all be in the nursing home someday and they’ll be leading us in singing “Light My Fire.” Or for that matter, “My Generation.”)
Here’s “Outside Woman Blues.”
Kofi regaled the audience with tales of his and his father’s relationship. Which from the sound of it, ain’t very good. He said it all jokingly and with a smile. But when he tells you that he once hitchiked all the way to Italy to see his father and brought a joint so his father would be happy to see him, that doesn’t sound cool. Or that Ginger liked Jimi Hendrix but not Paul McCartney. “Hey, at least my old man likes somebody.” Hmm.
Speaking of those guys, Baker went to some lengths to tell us that even though his band is the Cream Experience, he has every right to play Blind Faith tunes (Ginger was the drummer); Hendrix tunes (his father liked him); and Beatles tunes. (Hmm.)
They played a really cool version of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” which, by coincidence, I’ve been learning that massive lick to lately. They also played Hendrix’ “Manic Depression” which I didn’t record. So here they are doing “Little Wing.” (Different bassist.)
Fun story – They played “Crossroads” and the guitarist pretty much nailed the solos. After the show, I happened to catch up with a couple of guys who were sitting near me. They were talking about how great those solos are and how Fran nailed them. I said yeah, but he veered off a little bit. I told the guy I can play both those solos.
He turned to me and said, “I’m sure you can,” in that tone that says, “Yeah, right, so can I.” I can’t blame him for not believing me (why should he) but it’s true. I play them two or three times a week as a warmup and so that I don’t forget them. The only difference is I ain’t as good as that guy and I am no longer up on that stage.
One more thing – it occurred to me about halfway through that Baker being a drummer would probably play “Toad” which can be, like, a twenty-minute drum solo. Fortunately it was only fifteen. 🙂
Check these guys out. Currently touring the MidWest.
Setlist: White Room, Outside Woman Blues, Politician, I’m So Glad, Badge, Pressed Rat and Warthog/I Want You (She’s So Heavy), Can’t Find My Way Home, Presence of the Lord, Do What You Like/Toad, Sunshine of Your Love/Crossroads. Encore: Manic Depression.