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Recent Reunion Has People Talking: Will Cream Rise Again? : Pop music: Lead singer Jack Bruce says he would 'be interested if it were done properly--not just going out in stadiums doing greatest hits.'


Jack Bruce is a musically omnivorous fellow who is accustomed to keeping his plate full.

He is currently on the road, fronting a trio on a brief American tour following the release of "Somethin Els," a smorgasbord of an album that ranges from power-rock to plaintive balladry to techno-funk to an impressionistic, classically informed solo piano piece. Backed by guitarist Blues Saraceno and drummer Gary Husband, Bruce plays tonight at the Strand in Redondo Beach and Tuesday at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.

Also cooking for the small, wry Scotsman is an album-in-progress of meaty blues that will feature guest appearances by Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, old chum Ginger Baker and guitarists Robert Cray, Albert Collins and Gary Moore. There also is some Louisiana hot sauce on the table--Bruce says he has a recording project planned next fall with members of the funky New Orleans R&B band the Meters.

But what the rock-loving public really wants to know is whether Bruce will be devoting any time soon to the dairy department.

In January, Bruce, Baker and Eric Clapton reconvened as Cream to celebrate the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cream's performance at the ceremonies in Los Angeles marked the first time the seminal British improvisational heavy-rock band had played in public since its breakup in 1968.

Bruce, 49, said he wasn't nervous about playing the reunion: "No real fear. We all can play," he said over the phone from a hotel in San Francisco. But he was curious, wondering "just whether the band would sound like a band, and have that extra piece of magic people say we have."

The results proved satisfying: "There's a chemistry between the three guys, and it was there from the first note." Bruce, who was the lead singer and monster bassist of Cream, and wrote most of the band's original material with his lyricist partner Pete Brown, says there has been talk of doing more.

"It's not something I can go into, but let's say it's very possible we might record at some future time," Bruce said.

For the three members, a Cream reunion tour would be like a license to print money. But Bruce said he isn't keen on a quick killing at the cost of musical freshness.

"I would only be interested if it were done properly--not just going out in stadiums doing greatest hits. That might be valid in some ways, but it wouldn't be right for me. I'd want to write a new record, some new Cream songs."

Apparently, there are some ground rules to be mutually hashed out before any reunion project can take place.

"From Ginger, I heard that Eric said that he would like to do a record, but he would have to be the boss. I said, 'No chance.' "

Clapton is the only Cream alumnus who went on to even greater popularity after the band broke up--a popularity never greater than it is now, following his recent Grammy triumph. Bruce would want a reunion on more even, open footing.

In the old days, he noted, "It never was (a democracy) in the studio. I had a lot to do with the recording of the albums. We never had much time to work together. We had to use the material that was available, and it happens that I was more prolific than either Eric or Ginger in those days.

"If we did do it this time, possibly we could do it in a better way. I imagine if anything happened, we would do it in a more relaxed way, so we could get the best out of everything. When you have a group, everybody has his functions. That's the nice thing about a band. I'm sure we'd fall back into (compatible) roles if anything happened."

Baker, now a member of Masters of Reality, played on two tracks from Bruce's 1989 album, "A Question of Time," then joined him on a subsequent tour. Clapton turns up on the first three tracks of "Somethin Els," culminating in a graceful, sobbing-and-crying end-solo to the ballad "Ships in the Night."

After Cream, Bruce began making varied, unconventional solo albums such as the excellent "Songs for a Tailor." He got in on the jazz-rock fusion movement as a member of Tony Williams' Lifetime and played with the New York underground rock collective the Golden Palominos. Bruce's new album is the first rock release by CMP, a small label that has specialized in jazz and World music.

"I've never really chased after the fame and glamour side of the business, although, having said that, I don't say I don't have feelings that it would be nice," said Bruce, who lives on a country estate in Suffolk, England.

"I love the way I live. I like to work with a couple of projects on the go (at one time). I wouldn't be too crazy about doing one thing for the rest of my life, just to make a lot of money. I have enough money. If you do have different sides to your musical character, you have to show them."

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