Wheels of Fire is the third album by the British rock band Cream. It was released in 1968 as a two-disc vinyl LP, with one disc recorded in the studio and the other recorded live. It reached #3 in the United Kingdom and #1 in the United States, becoming the first platinum-selling double album. In December 2015 it was ranked number 205 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was the world’s first double album to be certified with a Platinum disc.
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).(by wikipedia)
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.
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. (by wikipedia)
If Disraeli Gears was the album where Cream came into their own, its successor, Wheels of Fire, finds the trio in full fight, capturing every side of their multi-faceted personality, even hinting at the internal pressures that soon would tear the band asunder. A dense, unwieldy double album split into an LP of new studio material and an LP of live material, it’s sprawling and scattered, at once awesome in its achievement and maddening in how it falls just short of greatness. It misses its goal not because one LP works and the other doesn’t, but because both the live and studio sets suffer from strikingly similar flaws, deriving from the constant power struggle between the trio. Of the three, Ginger Baker comes up short, contributing the passable “Passing the Time” and “Those Were the Days,” which are overshadowed by how he extends his solo drum showcase “Toad” to a numbing quarter of an hour and trips upon the Wind & the Willows whimsy of “Pressed Rat and Warthog,” whose studied eccentricity pales next to Eric Clapton’s nimble, eerily cheerful “Anyone for Tennis.” In almost every regard, Wheels of Fire is a terrific showcase for Clapton as a guitarist, especially on the first side of the live album with “Crossroads,” a mighty encapsulation of all of his strengths.
Some of that is studio trickery, as producer Felix Pappalardi cut together the best bits of a winding improvisation to a tight four minutes, giving this track a relentless momentum that’s exceptionally exciting, but there’s no denying that Clapton is at a peak here, whether he’s tearing off solos on a 17-minute “Spoonful” or goosing “White Room” toward the heights of madness. But it’s the architect of “White Room,” bassist Jack Bruce, who, along with his collaborator Peter Brown, reaches a peak as a songwriter. Aside from the monumental “White Room,” he has the lovely, wistful “As You Said,” the cinematic “Deserted Cities of the Heart,” and the slow, cynical blues “Politician,” all among Cream’s very best work. And in many ways Wheels of Fire is indeed filled with Cream’s very best work, since it also captures the fury and invention (and indulgence) of the band at its peak on the stage and in the studio, but as it tries to find a delicate balance between these three titanic egos, it doesn’t quite add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. But taken alone, those individual parts are often quite tremendous. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
Ginger Baker (drums, percussion, glockenspiel)
Jack Bruce (bass, vocals, guitar, cello)
Eric Clapton (guitar vocals)
Felix Pappalardi (organ pedals on 01., trumpet, tonette on 95., Swiss hand bells on 07., viola on 09.)
In the Studio:
01. White Room (Bruce/Brown) 4.58
02. Sitting On Top Of The World (Vinson/Chatmon/Burnett) 4.58
03. Passing The Time (Baker/Taylor) 4.37
04. As You Said (Bruce/Brown) 4.20
05. Pressed Rat And Warthog (Baker/Taylor) 3.13
06. Politician (Bruce/Brown) 4.12
07. Those Were the Days (Baker/Taylor) 2.53
08. Born Under A Bad Sign (Jones/Bell) 3.09
09. Deserted Cities Of The Heart (Bruce/Brown) 3.38
Live at the Fillmore:
01. Crossroads (Johnson) 4:13
02. Spoonful (Dixon) 16.43
03. Traintime (Bruce) 7.01
04. Toad (Baker) 16.15