Album: Cream

Royal Albert Hall, London, 2-3-5-6 May 2005, Reprise
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The Independent Culture

Those unable or unwilling to shell out the absurd price of Cream's reunion shows can now get some of their flavour via the inevitable live double album - or even better, the DVD, as the lack of a visual component robs this album of an essential part of the magic. The chestnuts like "Spoonful", "Crossroads" and "Sunshine of Your Love" are shorter and less indulgent than previous live incarnations - Ginger keeps his "Toad" drum solo to a relatively terse 10 minutes - and the set is marked by a restraint unthinkable in the trio's younger days. There's no waste in Clapton's quicksilver solos in "Stormy Monday" and "Sleepy Time Time", or Baker's avalanche drum rolls in "NSU" and "We're Going Wrong", and there's a raw, fiery spirit to Jack Bruce's blues-harp showcase "Rollin' and Tumblin'". The shouts for each member are scrupulously apportioned - "It's a privilege to be playing with him," that kind of thing - though if you've paid £125 and upwards for a ticket, you probably already know who's playing what. There's only two iffy tracks: "Sweet Wine", which meanders, and Ginger's vocal cameo "Pressed Rat & Warthog", with its nonsense lyric about the closure of a shop selling "atonal apples and amplified heat". Ginger is pleased to report, however, that PR&W has opened a branch in the foyer to sell T-shirts. Cute.

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