Ellie Buchanan charts the career of Jack Bruce, who is set to unveil his new, semi-skimmed power trio.
Eleven years ago. Jack Bruce played an early Mayfest gig to a packed Star Club in Glasgow. He was billed as returning to his roots after years in the post~rock star wilderness. paying his dues again to the socialist friends of his late father. finding his almost40-year-oldfeet after a long lost weekend in the company of the strongest drugs the dealer could supply.
It was the start of a hard road back to the top for Scotland‘s greatest rock export. now a contented and detoxified 51-year-old family man. Still longer ago. the Glasgow-born singer and bassist had run away from a classical training at the RSAMI) to conquer London with a little help from Alexis Korner. Graham Bond and John Mayall. in each of whose bands he featured at various times during the ()()s blues boom. '
Musician and broadcaster Paul Jones recalled the time when Jack bought his first electric bass, having first played cello and then bull fiddle till that point. ‘He turned up with this thing saying he'd just bought it. and was immediately able to play it.‘ recalled the Blues Band and former Manfred Mann lead singer. ‘lt was awesome.‘
Bruce himself served a stint in Manfred Mann before joining Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton in what‘s generally accepted as the first-ever rock (rather than r‘ock'n‘roll or pop) group. Cream. where he co-penned (with Pete Brown) and sang lead on much of the group's output. including such classics as ‘Sunshine Of Your Love‘ and ‘I Feel Free‘.
Stories of tensions between the three protagonists abound. with frequent reports of these obdurately rugged individuals travelling and boarding separately to avoid internecine violence and each other. After their famous farewell. Bruce brought out two successful solo albums (songs/or a tailor and Harmony Row). but his career then seemed to flounder while Clapton's lurched from strength to strength and Baker plugged away in the background. surfacing every now and then to add what Clapton so eloquently described as ‘the fire‘ of his drumming to the action.
In reality. Bruce was far frotn idle. pitting his thirst for musical extension and his obsession with excellence against the mainstream in a way which now and then achieved minor prominence. Not to mention playing bass on The Scaffold‘s ‘Lily The Pink‘.
Collaborations in power trios such as West. Bruce and Laing or Bruce. Jordan and Trower invited inevitable comparisons with the big C — to an extent withjustification — but in away that marginalised his
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other activities. These included collaborations with Kip Ham'ahan. Cozy Pov. ell. Michael Mantler. Carla Bley and Alexis Korner' again in Rocket 88. not to mention forays into drama. classical music and opera.
But the persistent rumours of a Cream revival gathered momentum. sometimes obscuring the merits of such albums as I979's Jet Set Jewel. 1984‘s Automatit' and 1989‘s A Question ()f‘l‘inre. but abetting the critical acclaim of last year‘s .S'Ulllt’llllll‘g' lils. which coincided with Cream‘s brief reformation for their induction into Hollywood's Rock'n‘Roll Hall of Fame (at which Ginger Baker was reported as confessing he‘d probably been dead for years anyway).
Even if the equation doesn’t equal Cream, the whole is bound to exceed the sum of its parts
By this time last year. Jack Bruce had been reunited with Clapton on disc (a couple of tracks recorded in the late 1980s) and with Baker on a well-documented international tour. Meantime. Clapton was publicly unplugging and coping with bereavement and further tabloid promises of That Reunion.
Bruce‘s own tour was playing to much larger audiences than in previous years — cramming the
Clapham Grand. turning them away at Ronnie Scott's in Birmingham. wowing the home crowd at the Glasgow Jazz. Festival. ending up with a huge all-star (except Clapton) cast in Cologne to celebrate his 50th birthday with a recently-released live album. Cities ()f The Heart.
Whether Cream ever reconstitutes or not is largely academic now -— former Thin Lizzy guitar hero Gary Moore. the latest pretender to the white blues guitar crown. has teamed up with Bruce and Baker to form the carefully-named BBM. bringing with him the endorsement of BB King and. via two successful solo albums. the box office of every aspiring blues covers band who‘ve run out of titles on the Blues Brothers original soundtrack.
Not as contrived as it seems. Moore‘s identifiable
individualism will sit well next to the other two's, ' and even if the equation doesn't equal Cream. the whole is bound to exceed the sum of its parts. Yes.
we can expect an old favourite or four to rock The
Barrowland stupid. but it won't be Cream. It might ;_iust turn out to be better for the health. In the shortest
interview on record. Jack Bruce summed it up last week: ‘lt‘s a new line-up; come and see us.‘ He was on his way to the trio's first serious
‘ rehearsal. not brusque. not aggressive -< just a man
‘ with a plan. a bass. some classic songs and one heck ' of a history heading back to the top. In a hurry.
[313M play The Barrowland. Glasgow on Mott 23.
Tennents Live! Making Music Happen
The List 20 May—2 June I994 33