Goodbye is Cream's fourth and final album and it poses a bit of an enigma to Cream fans. It's difficult to refer to the album as a studio album, as there are only three new studio songs. On top of that, the only other tracks are three live cuts of previously released songs making this cd a grand total of six tracks with a play time of just over 30 minutes. Compare that to Wheels of Fire, which had nine studio tracks and four live cuts on two discs. After buying Cream's first three albums Goodbye is the next obvious choice, but does it compare to Cream's other offerings?
It doesn't if you primarily want the album for those three live tracks. I enjoy listening to live music, but I have never enjoyed listening to Cream live (with the exception of the wonderful "Crossroad Blues" off of Wheels of Fire.) I've always found that their extended jams are far too long and uninteresting. The first track on Goodbye is a live version of I'm so Glad
, from their first album Fresh Cream. The studio version is four minutes and played live it is dragged out to nine minutes. Eric Clapton has said recently that he doesn't like to do extended jams anymore unless they have a point. I like extended jams as much as the next blues rock fan, but these live tracks justify Clapton's point. It seems like Baker, Bruce and Clapton are off in their own little world when they're jamming, paying little heed to what the others are doing. It ends up sounding like a big muddled mess, a problem exacerbated by Bruce's irritating fuzzed out bass. It also seems like the volume of the band was so loud that Bruce and Clapton resorted to screaming their vocals instead of singing them, just so that they could hear themselves.
The next two live cuts are slightly better. Politician
is the best of the live tracks. I've always liked the song's "neo-blues" feel and the band does an excellent job expanding on the studio version. Clapton is on top of his game, but once again it seems as if he and Jack Bruce aren't quite on the same page. The final live track is Sitting on Top of the World
, a track from Wheels of Fire. It suffers from the same shortcomings as the other live tracks. I much prefer the studio version to this rendition.
The studio tracks save this album. The final three tracks are among the best songs Cream created in its short existence. Cream is often faulted for weak songwriting, despite their impressive musical talents. Eric Clapton collaborated with George Harrison to write the song Badge
, and what better way is there to improve songwriting than to enlist the help of a Beatle (except maybe getting two Beatles!) Badge is easily one of Cream's best songs. It has fantastic flow, starting off very lightly and working its way up. Harrison is very tasteful with his rhythm guitar and Clapton provides an excellent solo. I also love the lyrics, which apparently originated as drunken conversations Harrison had with Ringo Starr. I'm sure everyone can relate to the lyrics "Talking 'bout the times you drove in my car/Thinking that I might have drove you too far." Unfortunately the song ends just as it gets exciting. I would have much rather seen this song last nine minutes instead of the live cuts!
Doing that Scrapyard Thing
is also a very strong song. The piano that opens the song sounds like it would be at home on a Beatles album. It demonstrates how Cream was starting to hit their stride in the studio, ironically and disappointingly, right before their breakup.
The final track, What a Bringdown
is a fitting end to Cream's legacy. It is the weakest of the studio tracks, but it is still a fantastic song that you'll find yourself singing along to after the cd ends. While I listen to this song I can't help but think of what Cream would have accomplished if they hadn't parted ways. The three studio tracks on this album are a huge leap forward for them as a band. What a bringdown.
In summary, the only justification for buying this album is the studio recordings. They are excellent songs which are among Cream's best. Badge alone would make this album well worth it for Cream fans; it is that good of a song. The live tracks are largely disappointing and are the main reason that Goodbye gets a 3.5/5.
Eric Clapton - guitar & vocals
Jack Bruce - bass guitar & vocals, piano on "Doing that Scrapyard Thing", "What A Bringdown"
Ginger Baker - drums, percussion and vocals on "What A Bringdown"
Felix Pappalardi - piano & mellotron on "Badge", mellotron on "Doing That Scrapyard Thing", bass on "What A Bringdown"
"L'Angelo Misterioso" (George Harrison) - rhythm guitar on "Badge"