Listen now on:
It would be hard to label anything a “lost Cream song” since the legendary combo only made three proper albums. Everybody knows, covers, and reveres those mere three dozen songs.
But this is the next best thing.
Jack Bruce, who died Saturday at 71, recorded it for Songs for a Tailor, his solo album released soon after Cream’s breakup. And the song sounds like it could have been one of the best tracks on the never-recorded fourth Cream album—you know, the one that would have delivered on the promise of them going beyond the guitar /bass/drums model they had mastered, defined, and wrung every inch from; the one where other textures, hinted at in their last single, would be realized as they maintained their relevance well into the early ’70s.
Cowritten with Pete Brown, who held down similar duties on most of the Jack-sung Cream classics, the song is literally what the title promises, but because of its mood, arrangement, and some of its lyrics, “Theme From an Imaginary Western” feels of a piece with Cream’s more mythical sides (“Tales Of Brave Ulysses,” “Those Were The Days”). Jack’s vocal— successfully pushing outside of his blues-rock comfort zone—and the organ-driven arrangement split the difference between the American roots (The Band) and the trippier, more mystical (Led Zeppelin) sounds that were then battling it out on the FM airwaves.
Worth noting: Cream’s producer Felix Pappalardi loved the song so much he performed it at Woodstock with his band Mountain. It’s that good.