Cream: Wheels of Fire – [Record 75]
Wheels of Fire is a 1968 double album by the British rock band Cream, consisting of a studio and a live record. It reached #3 in the United Kingdom and #1 in the United States, becoming the first platinum-selling double album. In 2003 it was ranked number 203 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
It was also released as two single long-players, Wheels of Fire (In the Studio) and Wheels of Fire (Live at the Fillmore), released together with similar cover art. In the UK the studio album art was black print on aluminium foil while the live album art was a negative image of the studio cover. In Japan the studio album art was black on gold foil while the live album art was black on aluminium foil. In Australia both covers were laminated copies of the Japanese releases (the double album was never released in Australia).
1. White Room.
2. Sitting on Top of the World.
3. Passing the Time.
4. As You Said.
1. Pressed Rat and Warthog.
3. Those Were the Days.
4. Born Under a Bad Sign.
5. Deserted Cities of the Heart.
Background: Cream’s third album was planned to be a double album on which Atco Records’ producer Felix Pappalardi and the group would include several live performances.
Recording: The group and Pappalardi had, in July and August 1967, recorded studio material at IBC Studios in London, and at Atlantic Studios in New York City during September and October of the same year. Additional studio material was recorded at Atlantic Studios in January and February 1968, during a break from the band’s heavy tour schedule. The following month, Pappalardi ordered for a mobile recording studio in Los Angeles to be shipped to the Fillmore auditorium and the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Six shows were recorded in San Francisco by Pappalardi and recording engineer Bill Halverson, and extra performances not included on Wheels of Fire ended up on Live Cream, and Live Cream Volume II.
Production and artwork: The recording engineers on disc one were Tom Dowd and Adrian Barber, the songs on disc two were recorded by Bill Halverson and the performances on the second disc were mixed by Adrian Barber. The artwork for the album was by Martin Sharp who had also done the artwork for Disraeli Gears. The photography was by Jim Marshall.
Songs: The band’s drummer Ginger Baker co-wrote three songs for the album with pianist Mike Taylor. Bassist Jack Bruce co-wrote four songs with poet Pete Brown. Guitarist Eric Clapton contributed to the album by choosing two cover songs.
For the second disc Felix Pappalardi chose “Traintime” because it featured Jack Bruce performing a harmonica solo, and “Toad” because it features Ginger Baker’s drumming while “Spoonful” and “Crossroads” were used to showcase Eric Clapton’s guitar-playing.