West, Bruce & Laing – Why Dontcha (1972)

WestBruceLaing_WhyDontcha4 out of 5 Stars!

Why Dontcha is the first of two albums released in the early ’70s by the “supergroup” power trio composed of guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing (Mountain), who team with bassist/keyboardist Jack Bruce (Cream), for highly electrifying and straightforward Blues Rock with a touch of Soul and Heavy Psych.

On its debut album, each musician takes a turn at singing lead. But let’s face it, anyone familiar with the voices of these three individuals knows that none of them has the awesome skills to compete with the likes of Ian Gillan, Paul Rodgers, or Robert Plant, for example. Yet even through none of the guys has what I would consider supreme vocal talent, each musician at least holds his own and services the style of material quite admirably. Nevertheless, this is not an album for music-lovers merely seeking outstanding vocal prowess.

No, this album instead is for those who revel in wonderfully slick guitar, melodic bass, and thumping drums, and thankfully in this arena, each individual musician plays at the top of his game while working with his cohorts as a cohesive team. Indeed, some of the rousing and often-inspired performances on stomping and pounding tracks such as “The Doctor,” “Love is Worth the Blues,” “Third Degree,” “Pollution Woman,” “Turn Me Over,” and the scorching title tune often bring to mind the best work of both Mountain and Cream, and occasionally even surpass it, while a few other tunes—the piano-enhanced “Out into the Fields” and “While You Sleep”—offer up lighter moments, adding diversity to the package and showing the group’s potential.

Overall, fans of the individual musicians and their famous “parent groups” will certainly appreciate much of the material here, while devotees of other bands such as Cactus, Beck Bogert Appice, Humble Pie, Faces, and Free will also likely savor the often-fun and raucous material.

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Cream – Wheels of Fire (1968)

Cream_WheelsFire4 out of 5 Stars!

When listening to this truly classic double album, I often find myself imagining how many of the songs might have sounded with either Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan or Trapeze’s Glenn Hughes singing lead vocals. Nothing against Jack Bruce, who certainly did a commendable job, but I can’t help thinking the already pleasant tracks would have sounded even stronger had Ian or Glenn been in the “lead vocalist seat.” Alas, it’s a daydream that will never be realized, I know.

Now, despite my short aside, Wheels of Fire includes some memorable studio tracks, both original compositions and interesting covers (“White Room,” “Politician,” “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “Sitting on Top of the World,” and “Deserted Cities of the Heart”—need I say more?) and a handful of raw, live rockers (“Spoonful” and “Crossroads”—some standard Blues Rock, anyone?), plus with the commendable performances of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker, the album still holds great power all these many decades later (especially the studio portion).

Sure, a few of the studio tracks are rather lackluster and odd, and I could easily do without the self-indulgence on the overly lengthy live tracks—especially the drum solo on “Toad”—but for me, Wheels of Fire (even more so than the band’s previous album Disraeli Gears) remains a pleasant trip back in time to my “days of youth” whenever I hear it.

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