Jackson Browne faced the nearly insurmountable task of following a masterpiece in making his second album. Having cherry-picked years of songwriting the first time around, he turned to some of his secondary older material, which was still better than most people’s best and, ironically, more accessible — notably such songs as “These Days,” which had been covered six times already, dating back to Nico’s Chelsea Girl album in 1967, and “Take It Easy,” a co-composition with the Eagles’ Glenn Frey that had been a Top 40 hit for the group in 1972.
Cream was a band born to the stage, a fact that the band and their record label realized the public fully understood by the number one U.S. chart placement for Wheels of Fire, with its entire live disc, and the number two chart peak for Goodbye, the posthumous release that was dominated by concert recordings. And in response to those success, we got Live Cream, Vol. 1 (originally known simply as Live Cream) in the spring of 1970, nearly 18 months after the trio’s breakup.
After the multi-platinum success of Music from the Original Soundtrack and More: Woodstock that accompanied Michael Wadleigh’s documentary film Woodstock (two million copies sold and it spent four consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard charts, and even a Top 20 spot on its R&B chart!), Woodstock Two was inevitable as a sequel. Released as a double LP in 1971 with more stills from the film — though none of the music here was included — this set featured many of the same artists who’d appeared on the first volume, with two additions: Mountain, and Melanie. If anything, this set, more concise and more focused, is a better bet than its predecessor. Disc one is a stunner on more than one level. First, there are three tracks by Jimi Hendrix and his expanded lineup after breaking up the Experience (adding guitarist Larry Lee), and a trio of percussionists along with Mitch Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox. There’s the killer “Jam Back at the House,” which rolls in riffs and an instrumental array of tunes from his catalog including “Rainy Day Dream Away”; there’s a killer take on “Izabella” that’s raggedy but full of killer improvisation — check the interaction between Cox and Mitchell — and “Get My Heart Back Together,” also known as “Hear My Train A’Comin’.” These 20 minutes of music make it worth the purchase of this collection if you don’t already possess the Jimi Hendrix Live at Woodstock disc.