For Your Weekend Listening Pleasure: Cream at the Crossroads (OK, Memorial Auditorium)

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Last month we listened in as Leslie West, Jack Bruce and Corky Laing played Memorial Auditorium in downtown Dallas on November 29, 1972. This morning, we go back four years earlier -- to when Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton came through town on Cream's farewell tour, hitting Memorial on October 25, 1968. Depending upon whom you read, this recording -- made during the band's Wheels of Fire tour, which began three weeks earlier in Oakland and hit but 14 U.S. cities -- is either a disappointment or a revelation. A quick spin this morning suggests it's far closer to the latter, especially the outsized versions of "Sunshine of Your Love" and "Crossroads" (speaking of Robert Johnson).

But the time the band played Dallas, the trio was on the outs and well fed up -- months earlier, it had decided to call it quits. Said Clapton, those were dark days: "I went under and blamed everybody." Reviewing the recording years ago, Ray Mulesky wrote that "the Dallas concert has been panned as long and boring," but he disagrees -- and the recording, an audience keepsake that has aged extraordinarily well, bears him out. Writes Mulesky, it suffers only one fatal flaw -- the 20-minute Fresh Cream Willie Dixon-penned offering "Spoonful" that closes out the set, extended to more than three times the studio recording's run time and a song that suffers from following 'a long and powerful 'Toad'" that had clearly wiped out the band.

That said, writes Mulesky:

"Looking at Dallas, in its own context and relative to other farewell tour concerts, one finds a very professional and entertaining performance with some very fine musical passages. If the ponderous 'Spoonful' is excluded, the performance may be considered above average in absolute Cream terms. ... The Dallas bootleg is lowly rated because there are so many 'superior' performances available. But we aren't going to get any more Cream concerts to enjoy. ... I recommend you relisten to Dallas as a whole, but feel free to skip the last 'Spoonful.'"

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