Cream drummer Ginger Baker will be the subject of an upcoming film, “Beware of Mr. Baker.”
After his stint from 1966-68 in Cream, Baker later joined the supergroup Blind Faith then led the fusion-rock band Ginger Baker’s Air Force. He’s also worked with Atomic Rooster, Bill Frisell, Bill Laswell, Charlie Haden, Masters of Reality, Public Image Ltd., and BBM, with fellow Cream alum Jack Bruce and Irish blues-rock guitarist Gary Moore.
Writer/producer Jay Bulger traveled to South Africa in search of the reclusive legend, who has spent the last decade largely out of sight. Bulger spent three months working on an article called “In Search of Ginger Baker,” which eventually became the underpinnings of this new movie project. Filming was done in the Spring of 2010, when Bulger returned with a small crew.
Among the subjects Bulger talks to in the upcoming project are Eric Clapton, who played with Baker in Cream and in Blind Faith; Carlos Santana, and fellow Blind Faith bandmate Steve Winwood. He also spoke with a number of drummers about Baker’s impact on music, including the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts, the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, Rush’s Neil Peart, the E Street Band’s Max Weinberg, the Ramones’ Marky Ramone, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Chickenfoot; Simon Kirke of Free and Bad Company; and pioneering afro-beat musician Fela Kuti.
Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton. Click through the title for complete reviews …
GINGER BAKER – HORSES AND TREES (1986; 2011 reissue): Fusion in the most complete sense of the word, Ginger Baker’s all-too-brief Horses & Trees melds jazz, funk, world music, electronica, reggae, hip-hop and something noiser still. Issued in 1986 on the New York-based art-dance label Celluloid label, this angular, deeply challenging effort was produced by Bill Laswell, who also appears on bass. The victim perhaps of its own complexity, Horses & Trees has been out of print in the U.S. since at least 1995 — until now. A new reissue arrived in 2011, providing us another chance to sort through this record’s many intrigues. It’s hard, really, not to hear something new every time. The only knock is its brevity. At just six songs, the album feels like an appetizer. Tasty, but leaving you wanting much, much more.
SNEAK PEEK: HEAR THE NEW SUPERGROUP FEATURING JACK BRUCE, VERNON REID, JOHN MEDESKI AND CINDY BLACKMAN: Legendary Cream bassist Jack Bruce is part of a new supergroup, this one featuring Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid. The band, called Spectrum Road, also includes drummer Cindy Blackman Santana, a veteran jazz performer who has also played with Lenny Kravitz and her husband Carlos Santana’s bands; as well as jazz keyboardist John Medeski, best known as a member of the group Medeski Martin and Wood — collaborators over the years with Iggy Pop, Trey Anastasio and John Scofield, among others. The band is named for a song by jazz drummer Tony Williams, with whom Bruce played in Williams’ Lifetime fusion band in the early 1970s.
JACK BRUCE/ROBIN TROWER – SEVEN MOONS (2008): Is there still a place in this world for vintage-sounding psychedelic blues-rock? Jack Bruce seems to think so. Wanting to keep the good power trio vibe he got from Cream’s one-off performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005, he dialed up old friend Robin Trower to revive that spirit on a full studio album. It’s just as much a revival of another sort: Bruce and the former Procol Harum guitar god banned together for a couple of albums of the same vein in the early eighties. There’s nothing in this collection that goes over the top like either guys did in their heyday, but the sound of that time is faithfully followed and there’s plenty enough chops on display to convince you they can still perform.
STEVE WINWOOD – NINE LIVES (2008): It’s always refreshing to see a long-established rock star with nothing left to prove actually act that way and just follow his muse. Former Spencer Davis group whiz-kid and Traffic progenitor Steve Winwood did just that five years ago when he forsake slick production and compact, radio-friendly ditties for the earth-bound soulful jams of About Time. Like 2003’s About Time, Winwood churns out another collection of organic, blues-y r&b rock, and seems unconcerned at the length they clock in at; he’s clearly still in a jam mode. There are two main differences, though: Nine Lives is less jazzier and also contains Winwood’s best batch of songs since … maybe ever. Oh, and “Dirty City,” which features former Blind Faith bandmate Eric Clapton on guitar, actually lives up its superstar billing. On this gruff blues-rocker, Winwood is playing a filthy-sounding Strat and the brief solo is unmistakenly the same guy who once played guitar for Cream.
ERIC CLAPTON – ME AND MR. JOHNSON (2004): So after all these years, Clapton decided to go way back to his roots. Maybe to the root of it all. Me and Mr. Johnson has Clapton (and cohorts Steve Gadd, Andy Fairweather Low, Doyle Bramhall II, Nathan East, Billy Preston and Jerry Portnoy) serving up some raw and tasty renditions of 14 (of twenty-nine) Robert Johnson classics (yeah, pretty much everything Johnson is classic). My ears (and blues-music receptors) were very happy to hear these fine roadhouse-worthy nuggets. I thought I didn’t need to hear another version of “Come On In My Kitchen”. Yeah, well … I was wrong.
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