Cream

Strange Brew [Video/DVD]

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The title of this 60-minute retrospective on the legendary power trio pretty well describes itself -- it is a strange amalgam of interviews and some well-chosen (and some not so well-chosen) performance clips. Strangely enough, the best part of the documentary, from the standpoint of information, is the interview segment with Jack Bruce and lyricist Pete Brown describing their way of working, and Ginger Baker's recollection of how "Strange Brew" came to be written out of another song altogether, "Lawdy Mama." Otherwise, the video doesn't really have much focus, just lots of music bridged by unnarrated interview clips. After an opening excerpt of "Sunshine of Your Love" from the farewell concert film, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and Alex Van Halen recall their early experience of the band; these remembrances are interspersed with recollections by Bruce, Baker, and Eric Clapton, and further observations by John Mayall. Then there's a complete live clip of "White Room," and that's the way it goes. To make the most of this program, one must know a certain amount going in -- such as when Bruce mentions the "R&B thing with Graham" that he's referring to Graham Bond, and that it's Bond's picture on the screen. The lack of structure and the sketchy connections make for a none-too-informative but interesting collection. Only toward the middle do the interviews and linking footage pull together into something cohesive, as Baker tells of meeting Clapton and the two deciding on Bruce as the bassist for their projected band; unfortunately, the loud, disorganized live version of "I'm So Glad" from the farewell concert hardly does justice to the studio version alluded to in the interviews and the trio's early work together. The producers have also somewhat awkwardly worked in a clip of Jimi Hendrix performing a portion of "Sunshine of Your Love." Serious fans will enjoy the video, but casual listeners and those coming in on the story 30 years late will learn more from the notes of any decent best-of collection.

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