The compulsive competitiveness that made Cream a truly historic trio clearly powered their amazing seven-inch catalogue.
With lyric-writing partner Pete Brown, Jack Bruce set the curveball rolling on their ’66 debut (so why the ’67 title, Universal?) Wrapping Paper, following it up with the vaulting, majestic I Feel Free. Clapton responded with the imperious summer of love swagger of Strange Brew/Tales Of Brave Ulysses.
Heard now in sequence, Cream’s singles sound like the work of sonic warriors primed for the new era of lunar discovery. The (stoned, immaculate) group shot on the I Feel Free/NSU sleeve is a visual reminder that spaced-out psychedelics came as standard.
The final, post-split release, the George Harrison co-write Badge, epitomised their primed brevity, but rabbit-hole B-sides abounded. Baker’s unpleasant (but brilliant) Pressed Rat And Warthog and magnificently druggy jaw-snapper What A Bringdown are prime examples.
The mighty White Room is a heady conflation of Eastern raga and Hendrix euphoria, mind-expanding musical revolution and roiling waves of paranoia: the pulse of 1968. The fiery scope of Felix Pappalardi’s expansive productions helped ensure that every release charted new territory.
The November ’67 Melody Maker profile where Eric Clapton longs for the demise of the “horribly out of date” single is mocked by the aural evidence. Forgive God, kids, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.