Jack Bruce’s Son, Malcolm, Talks ‘Heavenly Cream: An Acoustic Tribute’ Album, Featuring Ginger Baker

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Ginger Baker (Photo via Quarto Valley Records)

One of classic rock’s legacy bands is the subject of a new album, Heavenly Cream: An Acoustic Tribute to Cream, chronicling the iconic band’s brief musical life and revisiting the raw, stripped-down magic of Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton and their collaborator and occasional lyricist, Pete Brown. The album was released via Quarto Valley Records on November 3, 2023. The recording includes the late Baker’s drumming on four of the tracks, along with contributions from such acclaimed performers as Paul Rodgers, Joe Bonamassa and more. Bernie Marsden, the veteran guitarist associated with Whitesnake and other bands, who died on Aug. 25, plays on 12 of the songs, including “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Badge.”

The 15-track tribute album, produced and mixed by Rob Cass, also includes an impressive roster of renowned musicians who knew, or were inspired by, the iconic supergroup. Also featured are such songs as “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “Tales of Brave Ulysses” and “I Feel Free.”

In a new interview conducted via email from his London home, Jack Bruce’s son Malcolm Bruce, himself a musician who also performs on the album, gave Best Classic Bands a bird’s-eye view of how the Cream tribute recordings came together.

Best Classic Bands: How did the album evolve over the years?
Malcolm Bruce: The project was initiated back in 2018 through discussions between Cream lyricist Pete Brown and Quarto Valley Records. They were discussing Pete’s documentary White Rooms and Imaginary Westerns (which is yet to be released and features interviews with the members of Cream and Martin Scorsese, among others). The idea came up to create an acoustic tribute to Cream and shoot a documentary about the process. At that point Pete approached the producer Rob Cass and Mark Waters, who directed the documentary, The Cream Acoustic Sessions, and myself about getting involved. We then started to reach out to various artists to see who we could have on the record.

BCB: I know you performed with Ginger before. Did you record these tracks directly with him or was that done separately? If the former, had you recorded with him before?
MB: Ginger came into Abbey Road [Studios] on two separate days, firstly for the session with Nathan James and then for the session with Joe Bonamassa. We took the approach with this record to track as a band together in the studio for every song. As far as I remember the only remote recording was Paul Rodgers’ vocal, which was captured in the U.S., as he wasn’t available to be with us in the U.K. at the time.

I had never recorded in the studio with Ginger before but was a part of my dad’s 50th birthday Rockpalast concert recordings that were filmed and recorded in Cologne in 1993. I seem to remember being onstage with him at one point then. I spent time with Ginger over the years, I have a memory of standing with him and my dad and John McLaughlin backstage at The Rainbow when my dad was touring with John, Billy Cobham and Stu Goldberg. And when I was in L.A. with his son Kofi as a teenager we spent a day together and he was really fun. I saw him again during the BBM period, and a number of other times. I have a great respect for the man and his talent and it was a great honor to record with him for this record.

BCB: Did you participate in the 2020 tribute concert?
MB: No, I wasn’t asked to perform at Ginger’s tribute but I did speak at length with Eric around the time of Ginger’s passing. Ginger did come to the tribute to my dad that myself and Pete Brown organized in 2016 at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. It was a special night that featured some iconic artists such as Lulu and Mick Taylor, and Ginger coming along made it very special indeed.

BCB: Do you have a favorite Cream studio recording? How about on the Heavenly Cream tribute album?
MB: I love all the studio recordings that Cream made, even tracks that might be considered slightly more superfluous like “Anyone For Tennis.” For Heavenly Cream, again I love all of it for various reasons, especially hearing the various interpretations that the guests brought to the songs. For instance, hearing artists like Deb Bonham and Paul Rodgers sing a little differently than how we may think of them. Both sound just fantastic on this record. And it was a great honor to spend a day with Bobby Rush. I think for me, perhaps, it is less about having a favorite track than about having the memory of spending some time with everyone at the sessions. And even more poignant now as some of our friends have left us, like Pete, Bernie, Ginger, Mo and Pee Wee. So it takes on another meaning to have those memories with them.

BCB: Were you at Cream’s 2005 Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden reunion shows? If so, can you give us a sense of what those were like in the weeks leading up to them?
MB: I was at both the RAH shows and then the final show at MSG. Virtually a year to the day previous to the RAH shows, my dad had been in a coma after a liver transplant. It was touch and go as to whether he would pull through but he did and then went through significant recovery to get himself back into shape. It was quite an achievement for him to be there. I know he was nervous, but he was incredible. The first night had a magical atmosphere. I think leading up to that there was initially a very positive intention between the three of them. By the final show in New York, it seemed that the old differences between my dad and Ginger had reappeared. I’m not sure any of us can pinpoint exactly why. Sibling rivalry, perhaps!

BCB: When (and where) did Bernie Marsden record his parts? Do you happen to know if these were his final recordings?

Bernie Marsden (Photo via Quarto Valley Records)

MB: Bernie was very much a part of the sessions at Abbey Road and made a significant contribution to the whole project. I believe he made a number of subsequent records, some collaborative and some solo. These were, however, Ginger’s final recording sessions.

BCB: We have written a bit about Music of Cream that you formed with Kofi Baker [Ginger Baker’s son] and Will Johns [Eric Clapton’s nephew]. Are you able to talk about what led to your departure from the band?
MB: There’s the famous quote from Hunter S. Thompson which goes, “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” And to quote the great Stevie Wonder from his very recent video post, “Speaking without listening to the spirit. It is a mind that is not connected to the soul.”

All I can say at this point is that back in April this year, after three and half years, I won judgment in the New Zealand courts against the management of the band for unpaid fees as per contract. I’m still friends with Kofi Baker and hopefully we will work together on something in the future. What myself and Kofi shared was never meant to be a tribute band. It was meant to be about continuing the spirit of that music as an evolving form and honoring our heritage. I send only love and forgive everyone involved as I move forward.

Related: Our review of a 2019 Music of Cream concert, with Malcolm Bruce

Malcolm Bruce (Photo courtesy of Malcolm Bruce)

BCB: What are your own plans for the next year?
MB: I’m in the middle of making a new album called Fake Humans And Real Dolls, and planning singles and promo leading up to the album release and then I’ll be on the road with some extensive touring probably from around September 2024. I’ve got a few warmup shows in January.

I’m also developing a number of other projects, including a jazz type project and opera as well. It’s an exciting time to be an artist, and a human! We are faced with so much in terms of what we put out into this experience, negative or positive. Which way are we going to go? Pluralistic or I’m right and you are wrong? We all within ourselves have that choice in each moment. I’m reflecting on this as a major priority at this time, as are so many others. And of course all of us who have been involved with Heavenly Cream are incredibly proud of the album and documentary. In all humility we hope people will enjoy it for what it is, a humble tribute to three of the most amazing musicians of our time.

* * *

While recording the Cream tribute album, lyricist Pete Brown shared, “It took me a long time before I would attempt those songs. I grew up in Jack’s shadow, like Malcolm did as well. I’m not trying to be Jack. No one will ever be Jack.” He added, “Eventually I felt, well, they’re my songs as well and eventually, I grew into those songs that Jack and I wrote.” Brown wrote the lyrics for “Sunshine of Your Love,” White Room” and others.

Listen to “White Room” from the Cream tribute album

The new recording of “Sunshine of Your Love” features Baker on drums, Bonamassa on vocals and guitar, Malcolm Bruce on piano and Marsden on vocals and guitar, with Neil Murray on bass and Abass Dodoo on percussion. The classic rock favorite, co-written by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, was included on Cream’s best-selling second album Disraeli Gears in 1967. With elements of hard rock and psychedelia, Cream bassist Bruce developed a distinctive riff for the tune, which became his signature bass riff. An edited version of the song was released in the U.S. that December and became the band’s first and highest charting American single, peaking at #5.

The complete track listing (with personnel) appears below the Amazon links.

Heavenly Cream: An Acoustic Tribute to Cream Album Track Listing

1. I Feel Free (Ft: Deborah Bonham, Bernie Marsden and Malcolm Bruce)
2. White Room (Ft: Pete Brown, Malcolm Bruce and Clem Clempson)
3. Theme For an Imaginary Western (Ft: Pete Brown, Malcolm Bruce, Clem Clempson)
4. We’re Going Wrong (Ft: Malcolm Bruce and Clem Clempson)
5. Sunshine of Your Love (Ft: Ginger Baker, Joe Bonamassa, Malcolm Bruce, Bernie Marsden)
6. Deserted Cities of the Heart (Ft: Joe Bonamassa, Bernie Marsden, Malcolm Bruce)
7. Sweet Wine (Ft: Ginger Baker, Nathan James, Pee Wee Ellis, Bernie Marsden, Malcolm Bruce)
8. Tales of Brave Ulysses (Ft: Ginger Baker, Nathan James, Pee Wee Ellis Bernie Marsden, Malcolm Bruce)
9. Crossroads (Ft: Ginger Baker, Bernie Marsden, Joe Bonamassa, Malcolm Bruce)
10. Take It Back (Ft: Maggie Bell, Bernie Marsden, Malcolm Bruce)
11. Spoonful (Ft: Bobby Rush, Bernie Marsden, Malcolm Bruce)
12. Sitting on Top of the World (Feat: Bobby Rush, Maggie Bell, Bernie Marsden, Malcolm Bruce)
13. Badge (Ft: Deborah Bonham, Bernie Marsden, Malcolm Bruce)
14. Politician (Ft: Pete Brown, Bernie Marsden, Malcolm Bruce)
15. Born Under a Bad Sign (Ft: Paul Rodgers, Bernie Marsden, Malcolm Bruce)

Best Classic Bands Staff

1 Comment so far

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  1. Joe Coffee
    #1 Joe Coffee 24 September, 2023, 18:41

    All but 5 of those tunes were co-written by Jack Bruce. It’s too bad he didn’t get more of the recognition from the press or general public.

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