Thursday, January 22, 2009


Review By George Starostin:

By that time the group was already officially disbanded, but this album cannot be qualified as an 'archive document': its release was pre-planned and they even wanted to repeat the format of Wheels, but there just wasn't enough studio material, so they agreed on a mini-scheme: one side live, one side studio. Even with that, the studio side is one of the shortest in history - just three middle length songs. (I haven't seen the LP, but I might suggest that the third live cut could have been put on the second side; otherwise, the time balance is really unjustified). Out of these, 'Badge' is unarguably the best, being co-written by Clapton with George Harrison (who appears on the credits as 'L'Angelo Misterioso' on rhythm guitar): however, it should be pointed out that it's by now much more associated with Clapton's solo career than with Cream: it's long since become a stage favourite, and one can hardly imagine a Clapton live show without him putting it on and having the entire audience chanting the stupid 'love is my badge, love is my badge' refrain which wasn't even present on the original recording: it was later 'ad libbed' by Eric in order to justify the song title. He forgot to edit the nonsensical psychedelic lyrics, though, so the contrast between the improved refrain and lines like 'I told you not to venture out in the park, I told you about the swans that they live in the park' is kinda strange. In any case, this studio version, with 'mystical' guitar overdubs and fabulous harmonies, is superior to any subsequent live ones - although I'd highly recommend the one off Rainbow Concert, where Pete Townshend fabulously 'deconstructs' the rhythm part in his own unique way.
The other two are downers. Jack contributes the childish electric piano disaster 'Doing That Scrapyard Thing' (what thing exactly, Jack?) that hardly measures up even to his solo records which I'm not a terrible fan of: it manages to be somewhat catchy, but at the expense of good taste. The goofball vocal intonations on the third line of each verse make me sick, and he even makes Eric's guitarwork to seem clumsy and obnoxious. As for Ginger's 'What A Bringdown', it really builds on the legacy of 'Pressed Rat And Warthog' which is not a compliment. Then again, on a general level it's still better; there are some fast parts, there's a strange disturbing atmosphere all over the place, there's some catchiness, and it does feature some nice thunderstormy guitarwork near the end, when Eric picks up the wah wah, twists it, distorts it and brews up a real tempest. But only for a few moments.
Plus, the re-issue of the album is somewhat improved since it has 'Anyone For Tennis' - a flop single from 1968 (it was earlier issued at the tail end of some Wheels Of Fire pressings). It's a very nice psycho ditty that came from Eric's hand. He himself hated it, but I find it silly and charming, even though it really doesn't belong to this record. But imagining it as some kind of a 'swan song' for one of the greatest psychedelic bands in existence is pretty easy, and I suppose we should just close our eyes on the chronological misplacing. 'Anyone for tennis, wouldn't that be nice?'
Anyway, amateurs are nevertheless recommended to stick away from this record and let the diehard fans come in and grab it for side A - three more live cuts which add little to the Wheels Of Fire legacy but are at least different. The nine-minute 'I'm So Glad' is rambling but features some great speedy Clapton solos - some of the fastest, in fact, he's ever layed down on record. The slightly shortier 'Politician' features some more great Clapton vibrato solos, some of the most vibrating he's ever layed down on record. And the five-minute 'Sitting On Top Of The World' features... guess what. Actually, the solos on the last one surpass even the studio version, making it probably the second most important live Cream song you have to own after 'Crossroads'. My real complaint here is that the recording engineers should be shot! The sound on Wheels Of Fire was loud, bright and comprehensible; here, everything sounds so muddy you hardly hear Clapton at all - especially on the most crucial moments of 'I'm So Glad'. Bruce, on the other hand, is mixed incredibly high - you'd think the audiences went over to the Fillmore East to hear his bass. Not that it's bad - it's amazing, but you sometimes wonder whether you are really listening to a nine-minute bass solo...
Overall, this is only recommendable for huge fans. I could give it a low seven, if it weren't so blatantly short: but any decent Cream hits collection includes 'Badge', and the amateur can safely sleep without any feelings of remorse that he hasn't heard the others. The studio stuff, good or bad, shows the band as nothing but three solo performers serving as backing groups to each other, just like the Beatles on the White Album; the days of brilliant idea-exchanging are long gone by. (By the way, it is rumoured that during the band's last tour, they hated each other so much they always arrived and departed in separate limousins). Unfortunately, quite unlike the Beatles, all three of the songwriters manage to really suck (do you really think Clapton's the real author for 'Badge'? Okay, so he is, for half of the song. That's no big compliment, either). The album cover is cool, though: as if these three were perfect friends

Cream-Goodbye @320

1) I'm So Glad
2) Politician
3) Sitting On Top Ofember The World
4) Badge
5) Doing That Scrapyard Thing
6) What A Bringdown
7) Anyone For Tennis


Anyone For Tennis

I'm So Glad - Cream Farewell Concert November 1968


Anonymous said...

Never saw the Anyone for Tennis video. Pretty bizarre & cool.. Thanks

Revolution_vanderbilt said...

if you don't like the mix of the live cuts, check out the box set "Those Were The Days"

rather than using the dreadful mixes from Goodbye, they take the live songs direct from the master tapes. Ever notice how Goodbye even puts Clapton on the wrong side? I think they attempted to showcase Jack Bruce more, but they really just expose the limits of the recording. The TWTD version is as clean and listenable as the Wheels Of Fire live cuts.