Tag Archive: Robert Johnson

Fresh Cream

Wow.  Other than playing lead on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on the White Album, this is Clapton’s first true appearance on the List.  As prolific as he’s been for the last 50 years, I’m kinda surprised it took this long to run into a Clapton album.  Of course, living here in the Capitol City, there are always rumors of Eric Clapton sightings.  Supposedly his most recent girlfriend-turned-wife is from around here, and it seems like everybody but me has seen him doing laundry in the German Village or taking in a local rock show at the former Thirsty Ear.  The more recent stories say he has a large house out in Dublin where he stays when they visit family, and apparently he fancies some sushi restaurant up on that side of town.  I don’t know if any of these stories are true or not, but it is a cool urban legend to have one of the most influential guitarists of all time hanging out in your city.  Although, I wonder when he visits he feels weird being only the second greatest guitarist in Central Ohio, after the great great Willie Phoenix, of course…

I kid.  I don’t mean to take anything away from Clapton.  He is one of the all time greats.  His playing is lyric and bluesy, and he doesn’t rely on any gimmicks or effects…he just plays.  This is Cream’s first album, and I went into it expecting some phat riff rock along the lines of “Sunshine of Your Love”, but instead its a mashup of psychedelic originals and blues covers.  And honestly, I don’t really dig the psychedelic stuff (it pales in comparison to the Beatles and the Doors and other masters of the genre), but the blues stuff is really great…covers of Willie Dixon, Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters, some of the best that ever was.  Cream was one of the first supergroups, but I’m not sure they had really gelled musically yet at this point.  Ginger Baker’s drumming is powerful, Jack Bruce’s bass playing is tight and his harmonica solos are bluesy, and of course Slowhand’s leads are nearly flawless, but somehow it feels as if they are all competing against each other rather than playing together as an ensemble.  I guess I’m just being critical…it’s definitely a good listen.   I picked this up for $6.99 at the Half Price Books out on Brice Road one day after work this last school year, and it was worth the price of admission.

Other lists: Eric Clapton is ranked #2 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists and #55 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.  Ginger Baker is #3 on the recent list of the 100 Greatest Drummers, and the band Cream is #67 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists (to my knowledge, Rolling Stone has not done a list of bass players yet…nobody loves the bass player).

Ch-ch-changes: This album dropped one spot from its original position at #101.

My favourite track: “Spoonful” (which was not actually on the original U.S. album release)

Honourable mention: “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”

Quote: “Sweet wine, hay making, sunshine day breaking.  We can wait till tomorrow.  Car speed, road calling, bird freed, leaf falling.  We can bide time.”


#75: “Star Time” by James Brown

Star Time

This is a 4 disc box set.  It’s the fourth box set on the list, following the Robert Johnson, Ray Charles, and Phil Spector boxes (I don’t count the 2 disc Elvis or Muddy Waters compilations as box sets).  I got it off ebay for $15.69 and it’s taken me about two weeks to listen to it thoroughly.  James Brown was pretty prolific, and this box set is pretty comprehensive, clocking in at about 4 hours and 45 minutes of the original funk soul brother.  So yeah, it’s a bear of a box set, and to be honest it all starts to blend together into one giant groove if you try to listen to too much at one time.  But individually, each disc has its own character reminiscent of the particular era of James Brown’s career.  The first disc, “Mr. Dynamite” has the early hits, many of which were featured on the Live at the Apollo album (see entry #25).  This disc has an old school rock ‘n roll feel, and there’s more than one track that would feel right at home on a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack.  The second disc, “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business”, is where the big crossover hits like “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Got You (I Feel Good)” start to come into play.  Disc three, “Soul Brother No. 1”, brings the funk, and surprisingly I knew most of the grooves not from listening to James Brown, but from late 80s and early 90s hip hop.  I vaguely remember James Brown suing rappers for sampling his songs back in the day, but really the Godfather of Soul was also one of the Granddaddies of  Hip Hop.  This brings me to the fourth disc, actually titled “The Godfather of Soul”, which sadly shows Brown hanging on to his career by rehashing old ideas like on “I’ve Got a Bag of My Own”.  Overall, the box set is pretty good, although the studio tracks seem to lack just a little of the electricity of the live tracks.    Perhaps Brown was just one of those artists whose energy and spontaneity on stage couldn’t quite be captured in the studio.

Star Time Box Set

Other lists: “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” is #71, “I Got You (I Feel Good) is 78, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” is #124, “Please, Please, Please” is #143, “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” is #312, and “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine” is #334 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Ch-ch-changes: This box set jumped up 4 spots from its original position of #79 on the 2003 list.

My favorite track: “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, Pt. 1”

Honorable mention: “I Got You (I Feel Good)”

Quote: “Don’t tell me how to do my thing when you can’t, can’t, can’t do your own”