Cream
Wheels of Fire


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nagrarok USER (219 Reviews)
April 28th, 2010 | 56 replies


Release Date: 1968 | Tracklist

Review Summary: IN THE WHITE ROOM, WITH BLACK CURTAINS, NEAR THE STAAAATION...

Cream reached their peak early with Disraeli Gears, but it’s follow-up Wheels of Fire is still a unique piece in their discography. More ambitious than its predecessor, it is a double album, one half being studio tracks and the other live ones. Obviously, there is a lot of material to offer, but this also results in some slight inconsistencies. Nevertheless, the group is still creatively at their best, and the album turns out to be their second (and last) essential work.

Take opener White Room, which leaves no doubt as to whether Cream have kept things up. In fact, it may be the best track the trio has ever written. Jack Bruce puts down his best vocal performance of his time with the band, combining it smoothly with lyrics that actually make no sense, but then again they do because he’s singing them. Clapton puts so much emphasis on the wah-pedal that even Jimi Hendrix may have found that he was overdoing it, but it turns out to be the very hook of the song. The solo, following in the same vein, is one of the guitarist's most tasteful yet.

The point about Wheels of Fire is that while some of its tracks rise above the very best moments on Disraeli Gears, it is by far not as consistent. Concluding the studio half of the record, Those Were the Days, Born Under a Bad Sign and especially Deserted Cities of the Heart are all amongst the best Cream material ever. Before getting to those, you can’t help to be just a bit disappointed by the middle part of the album. Sitting On Top of the World is quite slow and pleasant but too long, Passing the Time doesn’t really go anywhere, As You Said is quite repetitive, and Baker’s contribution Pressed Rat and Warthog is just as silly as his others. Be not too worried though: while each of these songs is flawed in some sense, they are in no way poor. The unique Cream feel never disappears.

It is justified to be initially sceptic about extra live parts to an album. Mostly, the bonus feels redundant, boring and does not warrant more than one listen, but I’m glad to say Wheels of Fire is somewhat of an exception. This was an era in which rock bands still knew how to jam live, and that is made very evident in the four tracks, counting up together to a lengthy 44 minutes. The 16-minute rendition of Toad is too long for a drum solo, but Willie Dixon cover Spoonful (both are found in a shorter version on Fresh Cream), which is about the same length, manages to be surprisingly captivating throughout. You can picture the three musicians rivalling vividly without actually seeing them, and that is an accomplishment. The shorter Crossroads (suprisingly Clapton's only moment on lead vocals on the entire album) and Traintime (great use of the harmonica by Bruce here) are also highly enjoyable, and the live section ends up counterbalancing the few boring moments in the studio part of the album. How long their value really lasts is debatable, but the second disc is very much worth hearing.

It leaves the judgement on Wheels of Fire mostly positive. While definitely not as consistent as Disraeli Gears, some of the finest Cream tunes are featured here, and the live section is far from disappointing. Songwriting-wise, Cream were never the strongest, and it gets them into just some minor trouble here, but overall, the album is another excellent accomplishment and a must-have for any rock fan still into the oldies. Get this, and put it next to Disraeli Gears.

The Wonderful Trippy Experience Known as Cream Was:

- Eric Patrick ‘Slowhand’ Clapton ~ Guitar, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals

- John Symon Asher ‘Jack’ Bruce ~ Lead Vocals, Bass Guitar, Cello, Harmonica, Calliope, Acoustic Guitar, Recorder

- Peter Edward ‘Ginger’ Baker ~ Drums, Percussion, Bells, Glockenspiel, Vocals


Cream Classics:

White Room
Those Were the Days
Born Under A Bad Sign
Deserted Cities of the Heart
Crossroads
Spoonful




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4.1
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Nagrarok
April 28th 2010


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was a bit dissapointed with my Disraeli Gears review myself, this should be better.

BigHans
April 28th 2010


29516 Comments


White Room rules, as does Crossroads and Born Under a Bad Sign. What album is Badge on? Thats my favorite Cream song.

Nagrarok
April 28th 2010


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's their last, Goodbye, which I am going to do either tomorrow or Friday. Probably Friday.

BigHans
April 28th 2010


29516 Comments


Clapton has some outright sickening fills on White Room.

Nagrarok
April 28th 2010


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh yes he does indeed. White Room is my favorite Cream song, never get tired of it. Funny, I already had a feeling yours would be Badge.

BigHans
April 28th 2010


29516 Comments


THINKIN BOUT THE TIMES YOU DROVE IN MY CAR

BigHans
April 28th 2010


29516 Comments


How did you know by the way? Is the melodic nature a dead give-away ;)

Nagrarok
April 28th 2010


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Actually, I have no idea why I knew. Gut feeling I guess.

BigHans
April 28th 2010


29516 Comments


The moment when that melodic riff comes out of nowhere to start the bridge and the "yes I told you that the light goes round and round" part kills me every time.

Nagrarok
April 28th 2010


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I guess Harisson really helped, because Cream aren't actually so good songwriting-wise. It's just a shame the album overall is their worst.

BigHans
April 28th 2010


29516 Comments


Yeah I've never heard a Cream album through and through, just always greatest hits that my Dad had or Clapton compilations I bought.

Nagrarok
April 28th 2010


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I already thought so since you do always comment on these reviews but never have the albums rated ;). Please do listen to Disraeli Gears and this, because even the best compilations miss out on a lot of the good stuff.

BigHans
April 28th 2010


29516 Comments


Will have to do that.


LepreCon
April 28th 2010


5453 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cream were just undeniably kickass.

That would be what my review would say, verbatim.

Jethro42
April 28th 2010


15634 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Excellent review Nag. I lol'd at yout Hendrix reference. Damn I feel like I've been blinded by the gods of prog rock for too long. Shame on me, I only know their 3 or 4 air played songs. So Cream has a lot more to offer huh...

NeutralThunder12
April 28th 2010


8742 Comments


your best Cream review so far Nag. Don't like the band, but I enjoyed the review, excellent job.

HighandDriving
April 28th 2010


3288 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Dont know why I didn't have this rated.



Neg.

Nagrarok
April 28th 2010


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So Cream has a lot more to offer huh...




Yes, indeed they do.



At least the negger reveals himself this time. You wouldn't bother explaining why, would you?

HighandDriving
April 28th 2010


3288 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Guess.

Nagrarok
April 28th 2010


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The rating is too low? I really wouldn't know.



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