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Music Review: Cream – Goodbye

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As Groucho Marx once said, “Hello, I must be going.”

After only three studio albums, Cream decided to break up. The tension between Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce continued to fester until it became unbearable. Eric Clapton has had a history of not remaining in groups for very long but this time he tried to save the band. He even talked to Steve Winwood about becoming a member but little came of it and so in late 1968 they embarked upon their farewell tour.

Goodbye was released in March of 1969 after everyone had gone their separate ways. It consisted of three studio tracks—one written or co-written by each member—plus three live performances. It proved tremendously popular as it reached number two on the Billboard album charts in the United States while becoming the band's only album to reach number one in their home country.

The quality falls short of their first three studio releases, especially Disraeli Gears and Wheels Of Fire. Still, even average Cream was better than most of what was being issued at the time.

The three live tracks are actually superior to their original studio versions. “I’m So Glad” is nine minutes of Cream at its best and Clapton’s solos on this one in particular should be required listening. “Politician” is a guitar jam that makes you forget about the political content of the lyrics. “Sitting On Top Of The World” finds a bluesy Cream and Clapton’s work, especially at the beginning, is classic.

“Badge” is the best of the studio tracks and equal to a lot of their previous songs. Co-authored by Clapton and George Harrison—who played guitar and provided backing vocals under an assumed name—it sounds different from a lot  of their work as it's more melodic and tightly structured. Bruce’s “Doing That Scrapyard Thing” and Baker’s jazzy “What A Bringdown,” however, lack any surprises and find the guys just going through the motions.

Cream's decision to go out with a bang after such a short career has added to the group’s mystique. Clapton would quickly land in yet another very short-lived supergroup, but Goodbye remains a credible (if not spectacular) swan song.

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