Cream says "Goodbye" and goes out on their own terms
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 01/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Cream followed "Wheels of Fire," their 1968 double-album that had a studio disc and a live disc with more of the same, only less with "Goodbye." That was because this 1969 album offers three live tracks and three studio tracks. This does not quite work out to one live side and one studio side, because the three live tracks are all longer then the three studio tracks, so the first two are on side one and then the third is on side two with the studio tracks. The object lesson here is pretty clear: Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker enjoyed the freedom of playing on stage and letting Clapton go off into extended guitar solos that simply did not work in the studio. No wonder that the next two Cream albums were both live albums. Then again, the main irony here is that Cream had already broken up by the time "Goodbye" came out (that sort of explains the title, huh?).
If you like it when Cream improvises then side one of "Goodbye" is for you, especially on "I'm So Glad," which has one of Clapton's longest guitar solos. But those are also good opportunities to pay attention to what Baker is doing on drums and Bruce on bass while Clapton is off doing what he does best. "Politician" and "Sitting on Top of the World" represent the spectrum of Cream playing the blues, and I prefer the latter simply because I was sort of on the fence regarding that particular song when it appeared on "Wheels of Fire" and hearing it live is definitely better. Then we get to the studio tracks and "Badge," co-written by Clapton and George Harrison, which has always been my favorite Cream pop song (not that they did many, all things considered). The song got the title because Harrison had written "Bridge" and Clapton thought it said "Badge," which is a nice irony simply because the bridge is the part of the song that I really like. If only the song were longer, but at 2:47 that meant it would get AM radio play, although it only made it to #60 on the charts.
For that matter, if only "Badge" were the last song on the album, because it would have made for a nice little exclamation point to the whole "Goodbye" idea. That is because the other two studio tracks, "Doing That Scrapyard Thing" and "What a Bringdown," are a couple of trifles. After the live tracks and "Badge," ending the album this way is something of a downer. "Goodbye" made it to number two on the Billboard pop album chart (I think "Badge" did not climb higher because most people just went out and bought the album). That chart success would also explain why a couple of live Cream albums were put out in the next couple of years. If you already have "Badge" the only attraction here is going to be the live stuff, and If you like the live stuff then you already have more than enough motivation to pick up every Cream album with live tracks. Otherwise your motive would be the sense of completion that comes from having all four Cream albums."