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Cream: Goodbye Tour Live 1968

Doug Collette By

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Cream: Goodbye Tour Live 1968
Goodbye Tour Live 1968 is a snapshot of Cream's adieu to the world, but a panoramic one nonetheless. Housed in a glossy nine and a half-inch by ten slipcase boasting a group photo identical to its namesake title, the inlay with four CD's accompanies a sixty-six page book wherein factual and passionate prose from David Fricke, replications of memorabilia in the form of sales charts and posters from this final road jaunt plus reprints of music journalism of the time appear juxtaposed with an array of action shots of the group on stage (some oddly flipped in format).

Illustrating just how much times have changed in the fifty-year plus interim since these four shows took place (ticket prices for which were in the three to seven-dollar fifty cent range), the sum effect of this varied vividly evokes a time and place, but hardly so much so as the music itself. And to that same end, the blemishes on the collection is simply reflective of a the tension embedded within the alliance between guitarist/vocalist Eric Clapton, bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce and drummer/vocalist Ginger Baker. In retrospect, Goodbye Tour Live 1968 suggests in no uncertain terms the seminal power trio/supergroup succeeded handsomely despite itself.

In line with a pragmatic decision to support their most recent record of the time, Wheels of Fire (Polydor, 1968), the setlists here are not identical, but do represent a distillation of Cream's repertoire as otherwise documented on prior concert releases as well as the career-spanning anthology, Those Were The Days (Polydor, 1997). To its credit, the band does shuffle the selections around, generally relegating to the early going shorter tunes like the bedrock riff-tune "Politician," then stretching out toward the end of sets that range from approximately an hour to just over seventy-five minutes.

And, even through Cream was, at this juncture, resigned to its dissolution, there's not one iota of lethargy here. On the contrary, each appearance of their sole mainstream hit "Sunshine of Your Love," radiates energy rather than ennui and the prevalence of sharp cold stops reaffirms the musicians' discipline and professionalism. And during the final show at London's Royal Albert Hall, a joyful abandon in the performance(s) cuts through the treble-ridden murk of that particular audio so that even what EC calls in his introductions 'feature numbers,' like Baker's drum solo "Toad," don't appreciably deter the momentum of the respective concerts.

That's not to say that extended instrumental (or its counterparts) might not seem redundant after a close listening to the other selections. Ginger's work all around his massive kit is arguably no more illustrative of his ingenuity or versatility (or the underlying friction in Cream's internal dynamics) than his almost imperceptible revving up to a higher speed the "Crossroads" from the Los Angeles Forum show: in marked contrast to the deliberate gait of the Oakland cover of Robert Johnson (foreshadowing Clapton's arrangement with Derek & the Dominos), the threesome eventually seem to be trying to see how fast they can play individually and as a group.

It's a borderline combative approach echoed in this concluding "Spoonful," previously included on the soundtrack to the Slowhand bio-pic Life in 12 Bars (UMC, 2018). The longest cut here at 17:26 this collective showpiece brings the concert to a logical, dramatic conclusion, despite the fact none of the three seems inclined to signal the end of the number; instead, Cream engages in high-powered exchanges during which the guitarist, bassist and drummer alternately combat and complement each other. Such nuanced interactions (and the absence of Bruce's falsetto singing on "I'm So Glad" in favor of more guttural caterwauling) are readily discernible through the separation in this mix of the Bill Halverson-engineered recordings (at high volume or on headphones). Yet that clarity isn't necessary to appreciate the purposeful pacing of the slow blues of Howlin' Wolf's "Sitting On Top of the World," sequenced at the very middle of the San Diego and London shows.

The band never really sounds like it's just going through the motions there or anywhere during Goodbye Tour Live 1968. Even on the aforementioned final concert at the venerable British venue in November, it's clear the group rose to the occasion in exuberant form. Yet this realization arrives despite the nature of a recording decidedly inferior (on its own terms and in comparison) to those produced by Felix Pappalardi from the three American shows; on this final compact disc, a distinctly blurry, treble-heavy mono on the somewhat clumsily-edited nine-song sequence (from two performances on that date?) only points up the egregious lack of detail regarding the available sources (or lack thereof) for that particular occasion.

In the end, the sole distinction of this 11/26/68 appearance may be "Steppin' Out," offered as an encore as if to reaffirm a loyalty to the blues at which Cream hints so often elsewhere throughout these three-dozen cuts (hear Bruce's harmonica-spotlight, "Traintime). An alternate configuration of this 'compilation produced by Bill Levenson' might well have included a DVD or Blu-ray of Royal Albert Hall in lieu of the fourth CD, if only for the greater sonic expanse of those configuration(s). As is though, Goodbye Tour Live 1968 still accurately mirrors the history of Clapton, Bruce and Baker's often-tumultuous collaboration, not to mention its seismic influence on contemporary rock and blues.

Track Listing

CD 1: White Room; Politician; Crossroads; Sunshine Of Your Love; Spoonful; Deserted Cities Of The Hear; Passing The Time; I’m So Glad. CD 2: Introduction by Buddy Miles; White Room; Politician; I’m So Glad; Sitting On Top Of The World; Crossroads; Sunshine Of Your Love; Traintime; Toad; Spoonful. CD 3: White Room; Politician; I’m So Glad; Sitting On Top Of The World; Sunshine of Your Love; Crossroads; Traintime; Toad; Spoonful. CD 4: White Room; Politician; I’m So Glad; Sitting On Top Of The World; Crossroads; Toad; Spoonful; Sunshine Of Your Love; Steppin’ Out.

Personnel

Cream: band/orchestra; Jack Bruce: bass, electric; Ginger Baker: drums; Eric Clapton: guitar, electric.

Eric Clapton: vocals; Jack Bruce: vocals, harmonica; Ginger Baker: vocals

Album information

Title: Goodbye Tour Live 1968 | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Universal Music Group

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