Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker carved out the blueprint for rock trios during their iconic time as Cream. Each member brought their own individual brilliance to the fray. Additionally, there was an undeniable cohesion that provided the sparkle that made the group destined for greatness.
Here, the focus is solely on Eric Clapton and his transfixing work on Cream’s ‘Crossroads’, which captures the guitarist at the height of his majesty. Often, the three-piece are labelled as the first-ever supergroup, and to a degree, they were, but they came together under natural circumstances with a communal desire to leave their dint on music.
Prior to their formation, individually, the trio found themselves in a shared state of flux before dreaming up Cream. They had all enjoyed varying degrees of success, but it wasn’t until the triumph of their new venture that Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce were universally hailed for their earth-shattering talent.
At the start, there was no divine plan by Clapton to form a band exclusively with other musicians who’d been in successful groups before, but if you knew Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, why wouldn’t you make music with them? While they were only a band for two years, what they managed to do in that time would create an imperial legacy, with their live shows harnessing a reputation for being ferocious.
The recording of ‘Crossroads’ was taken from their performance of Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in March 1968, and Clapton is on absolutely clinical form. The track is a reimagining of the Robert Johnson effort, ‘Cross Road Blues’, the blues artist had a profound impact on the guitarist when he was growing up and changed how Clapton thought about music.
“When I first listened to him I was completely overwhelmed by his vulnerability. What struck me more than anything else was how in touch with his feelings he was,” he told MusicRadar.
“That is something that’s taken for granted today – there are so many different ways these days to get in touch with your feelings, either through therapy or support groups. But back in the early sixties, when I first heard him, the culture in England and the US was much more repressed.
He added, “All the music I’d heard up until that time was just pop music made for entertainment. Robert Johnson wasn’t entertainment. When I first heard him I had a very hard time listening to him, because it demanded something of me.”
As far as British guitarists go, Clapton sits in the pantheon of greats if we are going solely off technical prowess. This isolated recording of ‘Crossroads’ is electrifying, press play, and allow it to hook itself into your veins at breakneck speed.