Royal Albert Hall London 2005

Cream

Finally, a release I can review, extolling the virtues of Blu-ray. Cream's celebrated 2005 reunion gigs were filmed in high-definition and recorded in Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio for a double-disc DVD called Royal Albert Hall London 2005. Now you can get the same full length show plus bonus material on a single Blu-ray Disc. Not only do you get the whole thing undisrupted, you also get a superior picture and the best audio reproduction possible - with the right system. It's like Cream reuniting in your living room, if the settings are right.

At the heart of this disc are, of course, highlights from four nights (May 2, 3, 5 and 6) of Cream on stage, playing full sets of songs from their four classic albums for the first time since November 26, 1968 at the Royal Albert Hall. A return to the scene of the crime seemed rather appropriate. The reviews were good - the New York Times said, "their voices were strong; their musicianship was impeccable." The response and the feelings amongst the band members was satisfactory enough warrant three more shows in New York City in October. After that, Cream was put to rest, likely for good.

The DVD from which this Blu-ray sprang made everyone who didn't get a ticket almost feel like they were there. Meticulously edited with a real cinematic feel, more than most concert films, Royal Albert Hall London 2005 is simply a feast for the eyes, ears, nose and throat - especially if you love Cream. From beginning to end, you get sort of a strolling bird's eye of view of the show, with occasional cutaways to the lobby or outside on the street or backstage or…just about any where. And in the thick of it all is this glorious slab of timeless music. Cream was prepared to do it all.

"I'm So Glad" and "Spoonful" sound especially warm. Ginger Baker gets a crack at the irreverent "Pressed Rat And Warthog" - with the added bonus of the drummer's pitch to the audience to buy T-shirts in the lobby - and was apparently having the time of his life. Eric Clapton stretches out weary and wide on "Sleepy Time Time" and finally gets to play "Badge" live with the band that recorded it. Hearing deeper tracks like "NSU," "Politician" (one of Jack Bruce's stronger vocal performances) and "Deserted Cities Of The Heart" makes you realize the breadth of material Cream produced in a mere two years.

Blues detours like "Stormy Monday" and "Crossroad" reflect the band's roots, but it's really tracks like "White Room" and "Sunshine Of your Love" that people want to hear, isn't it? Indeed - which is why these two with some funky, jumpy, Baker solo-happy "Toad" sandwiched in between make for an appropriate finale. But once Clapton peels off the signature riff of "Sunshine Of Your Love," the audience is at once entranced and captivated by hearing such an iconic set of notes brought to life. With additional alternate takes of "Sleep Time Time" and "We're Going Wrong" not featured on the double DVD, there's never been a better time to plop down the dough for a Blu-ray player and unleash the hi-def potential of Cream's Royal Albert Hall London 2005.

~ Shawn Perry

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