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Cream
Eric Clapton, born March 30, 1945, Ripley, England; Ginger Baker, born August 19, 1939, Lewisham, England; Jack Bruce, born May 14, 1943, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Cream combined the superb musicianship of bassist Jack Bruce, drummer Ginger Baker, and guitarist Eric Clapton, and became a powerhouse of blues-rock that had an enormous influence on the future of rock and heavy metal. They were all groundbreaking musicians known for their innovative, aggressive styles, and when they played together as a band they inspired one another to new heights of brilliance. They brought to the blues a jazz-inspired flair for improvisation, and although they were sometimes criticized for their seemingly endless jam sessions, at their best their competitive instrumental assaults showcased their unique gifts. Eric Clapton raised the blues guitar solo to a high art form; Jack Bruce's fervent and often melodic bass playing could pass for a second lead guitar; and rock had never seen the likes of Ginger Baker's percussive mastery (and it's possible that no one has matched him to this day). The trio covered blues classics from legends such as Albert King, Skip James, and Willie Dixon in addition to original material, and in the process introduced the blues to a new audience and broke ground for subsequent heavy blues-rock bands such as Led Zeppelin. Cream formed in 1966 and broke up in 1968. All of their releases are classics.

Essential listening: "Sunshine of Your Love," "Crossroads," "Strange Brew," "Tales of Brave Ulysses"