PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Cream: Cream: Classic Artists [DVD]

Dreary and unedifying career overview of '60s blues trio marred by its lack of live footage.


Cream: Classic Artists

Distributor: Image Entertainment
MPAA rating: N/A
Label: Image Entertainment
UK Release Date: Unavailable
US Release Date: 2006-11-21
Artist website

Career retrospectives of long deceased bands usually fall into one of two categories. They are either celebratory offerings, where various members overcome old enmities to wallow in feel-good nostalgia, making clear that hatchets have, by-and-large, been buried. Or they are rancorous, needling, bickering affairs in which it becomes clear that old wounds are still very much open. This DVD retrospective of '60s Supergroup/ Power-Trio Cream falls firmly in the later category; if there were any hatchet burying to be done it would probably be by Ginger Baker right into Jack Bruce's head. Such is the sheer quantity of bile and bitterness in these interviews it’s a wonder the DVD doesn't come with a Government health warning. There is no reconciliation to be found here whatsoever. Using the band's 2005 money-spinning Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden reunion concerts as a springboard for an overview of their brief career (that had ended at the Albert Hall 37 years earlier), this is as grim and dispiriting a documentary as one could possibly imagine. Were you to pitch it as a story to a Hollywood producer it would go something like: "Three hugely talented musicians form group, realize they all loathe each other and split up; many years later and still loathing each other they reform for a few gigs to make mountains of cash. The End."

There is no doubt about the quality of the band's oeuvre. Despite a tendency towards interminable blues workouts in their live shows, many of their recordings ("Sunshine of Your Love", "Badge", "White Room") stand alongside the best the '60s has to offer. Unfortunately we get to see precious little of this in the documentary which instead treats us to a wearisome display of recorded interviews with the three band members and numerous producers, road-managers, journalists and musicians. Eric Clapton is as genial as ever (unlike his two band mates), though not one of the most charismatic interviewees it must be said. The band's various aqquantainces recount, with brain-crushing dullness, the lineages of various forgotten blues ensembles in which each member of Cream played a part. It all becomes horribly reminiscent of those scenes in Spinal Tap in which the group recount their various incarnations: "Well first we were the Originals, and then we became the New Originals" etc. It's all as dry and uninteresting as a month-old loaf, guaranteed to be of interest only to the most insanely obsessive fan. It works like a ghastly parody of a 'rock-umentary' except that everyone involved is deadly serious, acting as though they are disclosing information of major importance as they detail the line-up changes in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. It's not helped by an Alan Partridge-style narrator who constantly SHOUTS his links between the interviews, and clearly hasn't looked up the word 'Hyperbole' in the dictionary: liberally sprinkling his sentences with words such as 'godlike' and 'legendary'.

Worst of all, though, are the almost nuclear levels of acrimony and vitriol displayed by cadaverous drummer, Ginger Baker. Clearly seizing the opportunity of having a rolling camera, and unchallenged by the (off-camera) interviewer he launches into tirade after mad tirade. His most furious invective is reserved for bassist Jack Bruce who, he feels, deprived him of writing credits on many of the band's biggest hits. Maybe he's got a point, but the courtroom would seem to be the most sensible place to plead it. At one stage, whilst nearly choking on his own rage, with his eyeballs almost popping out on stalks, he recounts how, but for the interjection of a nightclub 'heavy', he would have actually killed the bassist on the spot. He is without doubt the most charmless and self-regarding interviewee I have ever seen, which is a shame as, along with Keith Moon and John Bonham, he is at the front rank of rock drummers. Though if you were to make this assertion in his presence he'd probably drone on about how he taught the other two everything they knew, as well as inventing the wheel and piloting the first trans-Atlantic flight, such is his bottomless self regard. The thought occurs that if this is the footage they left in what on earth did they cut out? The extras section answers this question with extended sessions of his rambling nitpicking, if you haven't already lost the will to live.

For his part Jack Bruce plays the innocent, dismissing Baker's shrieking allegations as though he's heard them a million times. He contests that the reason he, and lyricist Pete Brown, wrote and received credit for so many of the songs was to begin with neither Baker or Clapton was particularly up to the task. Who knows? Such matters are lost now in the mists of distant rock history. Occasionally the film offers a glimmer of hope such as when the narrator portentously intones that a young Jimi Hendrix was invited on stage to jam with his idol Clapton. Will we get to see footage of such a momentous occasion? Of course not. We simply see a black and white photograph of the great man and cut back to the interview of present-day Clapton saying what an immense talent he was…well DUH!?

Leaving aside the lack of good archival footage of the band actually 'playing', the interviews themselves are awful. The fact that each one was clearly conducted in a single, relatively recent, session (save for one snippet of Clapton in the late '70s) gives no indication of how the attitudes of the trio have hardened or softened over the years. The repetition of each interviewee in the same pose / outfit / environment has a profoundly numbing effect on the viewer. Worse still is the fact that so many accusations and allegations go unchallenged even when they are wildly contentious. In the end you are left with a flimsy and unpleasant documentary about an undeniably great band that is full of sound and fury (in Baker's case underline the word fury repeatedly) signifying nothing. The extras section includes a few shaky pieces of live footage and some TV appearances, as well as extra interviews and picture galleries. The DVD is also packaged with a reasonable audio CD of live songs. None of which really goes any way towards salvaging this ill-conceived and badly executed project.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Laura Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.