Sound — 10
As the title would suggest, the tracks featured here are live recordings, and, as then (1970, when this album was released) previously shown on Wheels of Fire and Goodbye, Cream live was Cream at their fiery best. The songs featured on this album are some of the less well known songs from the Cream catalogue, yet to say that they were of inferior quality would do them great injustice. NSU, the first track on the album, is an upbeat hard rocker that delivers a typically brilliant Clapton solo and makes a really great opener to the album. Sleepy Time Time is a jazzy/slow blues cocktail that demonstrates the delightful tone and sustain from Clapton's psychedelic Gibson SG. Rollin and Tumblin', a cover of the Muddy Waters original, is a great old style wailing harmonica-driven blues, and here it is Jack Bruce who takes to the lead playing, showing his musical diversity in his fantastic harmonica playing. Sweet Wine is a great slow jazzy piece that had Jack and Ginger in their natural element, and Eric pulls of a great solo as well. There is one studio track (despite this being a live album) and that is Lawdy Mama. This has to be an interesting addition, as it will be immediately apparent to the Cream connoissuer it uses the same rhythm riff as Strange Brew from Disraeli Gears. It has a slightly different lead guitar part and entirely different lyrics, all sung by Eric. The story behind this was that Ahmet Ertegun, head of Atlantic records, heard Strange Brew and dismissed it as "psychedelic hogwash" and insisted their next single should be a blues one, with Eric singing as he still held the belief Eric was the band leader. So, taking the rhythm from Strange Brew, mixed it with a new lead guitar and vocals overdub to appease Ertegun. When they got back to Britain, however, the just released Strange Brew instead, and Lawdy Mama was consigned to the Atlantic studios archives, until it was released as a bonus here.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics are fairly standard blues fare, which do suit the music well. NSU is slightly different, it tells of the dissatisfaction that wealth can bring, "What a lot I got, Happiness is something that just cannot be bought" whereas Rollin and Tumblin taps into the spirit of the original Delta and Chicago Bluesmen. Jack doesn't really have a very bluesy voice, but he certainly has lots of raw power and aggression which really does suit Cream's live performances tremendously.
Overall Impression — 10
Compared to Live At Leeds, where the songs are punchy and to the point, Live Cream may seem sprawling and rambling to some. Personally, that isn't my opinion, as listening to Cream's improvisation is something I'd gladly do all day! I love all the songs on this album, and if it were stolen I'd find the thief and batter them repeatedly with a frozen fish. OK, maybe not quite but I'd most certainly get it again. If you like Cream's studio albums, you'll love this.