Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cream: Cat's Squirrel

Last week I learned about an early guitar effect, which somehow escaped my knowledge over the years. The unit made by Dallas Arbiter was called the Rangemaster and was a treble booster which produced a fuzz tone in the process. This early signal booster/distortion unit was used on countless recordings. In an article that Dennis Harris provided me, a number of songs were listed.

One by Cream from their debut album, “Fresh Cream,” caught my eyes, memories, and ears – the instrumental “Cat’s Squirrel.” I hadn’t listened to this album in decades and all of the memories of this LP came flooding back. The song, which had previously appeared as the flipside to Cream’s first single, “Wrapping Paper,” opened side two.

While the British version was slightly different from the American version, I bought my copy when ATCO was divesting its stock of the Robert Stigwood Organisation’s material that was soon to be released on Polydor’s USA label. Unable to get an ATCO version, I bought the British import.

The album differed from the American release in that the album’s title was graphically different and the UK album included the song “Spoonful,” which had been released in America as a single, but not on the album. “I Feel Free,” which was released in both countries as a single, was included on the American version, but not the original British release. Additionally, as many albums from the UK were printed on a thinner and glossy stock, these releases were prone to finger prints, scratches, and creases more than the American issues.

“Cat’s Squirrel” features Jack Bruce on harmonica and a Fender VI six-string bass. Of course Ginger Baker is supplying the rhythm while Eric Clapton is doubling Bruce’s harmonica. The guitar is being run through the Rangemaster. This song as well as the rest of the album is not mixed to my liking – Robert Stigwood produced it. I prefer the later Cream album mixes by producer Felix Pappalardi. With that said, “Cat’s Squirrel” is on one of the best tunes on the album - “Alright, alright, alright, alright.”

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