SD 2-700 Wheels of Fire
Produced by Felix Pappalardi
Released on June 1968
US CHART POSITION #1 . . . GOLD RECORD (7/22/68) . . . UK CHART POSITION #3 . . . UK CHART POSITION #7 (IN THE STUDIO)
Find it at GEMM
SD 2-700 cover
[high resolution photo]
 

T here’s no avoiding Wheels of Fire. More monochromatic compared to the strange, saturated brew of Disraeli Gears, there are still a handful of songs tucked into this live/studio hybrid that, distilled, form part of the essence of Cream. “White Room,” “Politician,” “Born Under A Bad Sign” and the live versions of “Crossroads” and “Spoonful” are required listening. Still the double album sags in spots, nowhere more than the last side, where the live versions of “Traintime” and “Toad” form a tepid postscript to a sometimes scorching opus. The instrumentation is more studied this time on the studio cuts, from overdubbed guitar parts to the frequent participation of producer Felix Pappalardi (on trumpet, hand bells, viola, and organ pedals). A few tracks even hint at the music that would come from Gentle Giant: “Passing The Time,” “As You Said” and “Those Were The Days.” And “Politician” is a precursor to King Crimson, as nasty a song as Cream has committed to vinyl. These cuts make a case for Cream as one of the earliest progressive rock outfits, a title many seem begrudging to give. Perhaps it was their allegiance to the blues that barred their induction; few seemed willing to accord The Paul Butterfield Blues Band the same respect for “East-West.” For me, it’s the mix of classical and rock elements that makes Wheels of Fire worth watching. They may not stun you the way a “Sunshine of Your Love” or “Tales of Brave Ulysses” does, but over time they work their way into your imagination with a disarming cunning. The live side adds little to the discussion, actually. You sort of figured that Cream could burn their way Robert Johnson’s catalog and turn “Spoonful” into a hearty meal, while “Toad” might represent the most tepid drum solo in my collection. Despite Baker’s dozen-plus minutes of drum doodling, his studio cuts are actually quite good (though “Pressed Rat And Warthog” fits the mold of the kooky drummer established and solidified by Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, and Graeme Edge). What emerges from Wheels is an album’s worth of very good material spread across two records. It’s not the cream of the crop, but if you approach it as a bountiful buffet you won’t come away hungry. Note that this was also released as a pair of single albums, entitled Wheels of Fire - In The Studio and Wheel of Fire - Live At The Fillmore.

SD 2-700 inner gatefold SD 2-700 back cover
SD 2-700 inner gatefold SD 2-700 back cover

TRACK LISTING

    record one
  1. WHITE ROOM    (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown)    4:56
  2. SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD    (Chester Burnett)    4:56
  3. PASSING THE TIME    (Ginger Baker/Mike Taylor)    4:31
  4. AS YOU SAID    (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown)    4:19
  5. PRESSED RAT AND WARTHOG    (Ginger Baker/Mike Taylor)    3:13
  6. POLITICIAN    (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown)    4:11
  7. THOSE WERE THE DAYS    (Ginger Baker/Mike Taylor)    2:52
  8. BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN    (Booker T. Jones/William Bell)    3:08
  9. DESERTED CITIES OF THE HEART    (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown)    4:36

    record two
  10. CROSSROADS    (Robert Johnson)    4:13
  11. SPOONFUL    (Willie Dixon)    16:44
  12. TRAINTIME    (Jack Bruce)    6:52
  13. TOAD    (Ginger Baker)    15:53

CREDITS

GINGER BAKER -- drums, tympani, glockenspiel, vocals, high hat, recitation, marimba, tubular bells, tambourine
JACK BRUCE -- bass, vocals, calliope, acoustic guitars, cello, recorder, harmonica
ERIC CLAPTON -- guitars, vocals
Felix Pappalardi -- viola, organ pedals, trumpet, tonette, Swiss hand bells
Tom Dowd -- engineer
Adrian Barber -- engineer, re-mix engineer
Bill Halverson -- engineer
Martin Sharp - -album art
Stanislaw Zagorski -- album design

return to CREAM discography

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
US June 1968 Atco 2LP SD 2-700 shiny gatefold cover
UK 1968 Polydor 2LP 583 031/2  
FRA/GER 1968 Polydor 2LP 2612 001 gatefold cover
UK August 1968 Polydor LP 583 033 record one rel. as IN THE STUDIO,
picture sleeve
UK August 1968 Polydor LP 583 040 record 2 rel. as LIVE AT THE FILLMORE
US 1969 Polydor 2LP SD 2-700 gatefold cover, yellow labels
UK/GER 1972 Polydor 2LP 2658 110 gatefold cover, reissue
JPN   Polydor 2LP MP-9413/4 gatefold cover, lyric insert
UK   RSO 2LP 2479 160/1  
US   RSO 2LP 827 578  
JPN   RSO 2LP MW-9063/4 gatefold cover, lyric insert
US 1977 RSO 2LP/CS RS2/CT2 3802 gatefold cover
JPN   RSO 2LP MWU-9701/2 gatefold cover, lyric insert
UK 1977 RSO LP 2394 136 IN THE STUDIO reissue
UK 1977 RSO LP 2394 137 LIVE AT THE FILLMORE reissue
US 1980 RSO 2LP/2CS MFSL2/C2-066 original master recording
US 1992 DCC 2CD GZS-1020 24kt gold disc
WW 1998 Polydor 2CD 531 812 digital remaster
UK 1999 Simply Vinyl 2LP 202 gatefold cover
JPN 2001 Polydor 2CD UICY-9152/3 digital remaster

 

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