Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Drums: Tales of Brave Ulysses

Cream: Tales of Brave Ulysses


I remember the first time I heard Cream. My oldest brother bought the album Disraeli Gears when it came out, and my other brother and I had to hear it. We listened in silence until the end of side one, and before my oldest brother turned the record over, he said, “and that’s only three guys!” Listening to Cream now, I can hear how the trick was done. Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce each has a big sound, and each covers part of the rhythm guitar part. And Ginger Baker thunders along, covering both the drum part and part of the bass. Most drummers in rock hit the beat, and play fills in between. Baker plays a continuous rumble of pulses, varying the pattern in unexpected places but always keeping perfect time. And he makes it sound like it’s something that just happens; it is forceful, but never forced. Tales of Great Ulysses shows this off beautifully. The song opens with Baker playing just a wash of sound on the cymbals, but then the drums kick in. In the course of the song, there are spots where Baker goes back to just the cymbals, and then back to his full kit again. The contrast between these sections makes it easy to appreciate just how important Baker’s playing was to the band’s sound. The other trick to Baker’s sound was that he had two bass drums in his kit instead of the usual one.

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