Monday, March 16, 2020

Cream - Goodbye Tour Live 1968 (Polydor, 2020)

For all of the influence that they have spread over the course of fifty plus years of rock and roll history it's hard to believe that Cream only existed for about two and a half years. Though insanely talented, the group of Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals, Jack Bruce on bass, harmonica and vocals and Ginger Baker on drums was fraught with interpersonal problems; Baker and Bruce hated each other, with Clapton in the middle, unsure if the music is going in the right direction. They decided to go their separate ways during a 1968 spring tour of the United States, but stayed remarkably busy, recording an album, naturally named Goodbye, and struck out on a grueling "farewell tour" with twenty-two shows in the USA in the fall of that year, and then capping their association with two final farewell concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London in late November. This four disc collection consists of three concerts from the west coast swing of the US tour: Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego and their last concert (until their brief 2005 reunion) from London. The sound quality of the three American shows is very good, and the band seems really hot and genuinely appreciative of the audience. The setlists are similar for all four concerts, leading off with blistering versions of "White Room" and then slowing down for the groove based sounds of "Politician." The group stretches out in Oakland for a nearly seventeen minute version of "Spoonful" which bumps Baker's drum feature "Toad," out of the night's list, though it is well represented on all of the other concerts with the drummer bashing is way through ten to twelve minute solos, setting the stage for all self indulgent rock drum solos to come. Bruce's big solo section is on harmonica rather than bass, blowing gales of improvised blues on "Traintime," while Clapton's "Crossroads" may be the most interesting solo section, as he tinkers with the tune constantly, playing at a different tempo for each concert, and adding and taking away certain guitar inflections and ideas. The sound quality for the Royal Albert Hall show is a bit boomy, almost like a high quality audience recording, but it doesn't distract from the music as the band is going full out in what they assumed would be their final concert together. Digging into the deep blues that originally brought them together on "Spoonful," "Sitting On Top Of the World" finally closing with "Steppin' Out."  This was an excellent collection, creating a very good snapshot of the band's final weeks on stage, and it definitely rounds out fan's knowledge of their live sound. Twenty nine of of the tracks are appearing on disc for the first time, and nineteen of the tracks are previously unreleased in any form. There is also the requisite hardcover book with essays, photographs and discographical information. Goodbye Tour Live 1968 - amazon.com

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