This item have been sold for $152.50

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Auction End date
01 Oct 2017
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Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

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               WHEELS OF FIRE

\                                         USA -PINK, WHITE & TAN ATCO RECORDS SD 2-700


...ORIGINAL 1968 first pressing two record set in glossy SILVER FOIL gatefold... the mighty WHEELS OF FIRE ...in clean condition!
The schizophrenia at the heart of Cream is fully exhibited on WHEELS OF FIRE with a brace of catchy, but quite complex, studio songs/arrangements that went down surprisingly well on radio, contrasted with extended jazz jamming on the live recordings. What is obvious is the extraordinary musicianship and creativity both individual and collective.
This was the monster album, not just for Cream but the Rock Music industry – it went platinum in the US within a year of release (actually gold, 500,000 in ‘unit’ terms but as it was two records it gets doubled). While the Beatles, Stones, Doors etc had had big sales, they were more acceptable to a wider audience ie a pop overlap. Cream were full on hard rock who could produce catchy riffs: no real glamour (despite the hip promo photos), except for some from shy Eric, just extraordinary musicianship. Even more revolutionary was the inclusion of a live album that comprised only four tracks, two of which exceeded 16 minutes – this only occurred in Jazz!
The huge improvement in sound quality of the Studio recordings is result of: rapid improvement in recording technology, improved skills of the recording engineers in dealing with very loud amplified instruments, more confidence from the producer, more money for recording time which meant more refinement and quality overdubbing. Most of the tracks were recorded/overdubbed in separate sessions including different studios spread over almost a year. It would have cost more to record than all of Cream’s previous recordings combined! But by today standards that would have still been very low cost. It sounded great then and even now its still pretty good, with the production outstanding.

Wheels was Cream’s "Sgt Pepper" with Felix Pappalardi taking the role of George Martin and becoming the studio fourth member. Jack dominates the creative area with four of his finest songs, Ginger provides three excellent contributions and there are two blues. If one counts the distinctive blues covers as Eric’s contributions, then it’s a pretty balanced creative effort – though Ginger would disagree. The creation of this master work was fraught with tensions as the group was basically breaking up. Still, from the result, it seems to have added something special to Ginger’s song writing and Eric’s, at times, frenetic playing.

On a count back, it contains two unquestionable classics in "White Room" and "Politician" which equals "Gears". It is the strength of the other songs that lifts "Wheels" above "Gears" – there is not one filler. As well it can be fairly argued that "Sitting on Top of the World" and "Born Under a Bad Sign" are genuine rock-blues classics. Their playing is also at a more mature level, especially Eric’s. Only few albums have the all-round accomplishment contained in "In the Studio".

White Room (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown)

Eric – lead & solo guitars; Jack – bass guitar, lead vocals; Ginger – drums & tympani.

[Recording: Basic - July/Aug 1967, IBC Studios London, Adrian Barber eng; Overdubs - Sept/Oct 1967; Wah-Wah overdub - Jan/Feb 1968, Atlantic Studios NY, Tom Dowd eng] The opening is Eric with triple tracked feedback sustained notes. From the opening multitracked feedback guitar notes, tympani in 5/4 and initial lyric, we know this is something very special. Pete’s finest and probably most obscure lyrics, Eric’s wah wah, Ginger’s bass drum and Jack’s singing are all critical elements in the creation of this masterpiece. The drums have never sounded better with Felix spreading them for maximum effect (high-hat hard right, pounding bass drum hard left). Eric has now fully mastered guitar overdubbing and provides a superbly coherent performance, despite the recording time spread, - just wish the ending solo over the driving bass drums could have gone on.

Sitting On Top of the World (Chester Burnett)

Eric – lead guitars; Jack – bass guitar, lead vocals; Ginger - drums

[Recording: Basic - July/Aug 1967, IBC Studios London, Adrian Barber eng; Final - Sept/Oct 1967, Atlantic Studios NY, Tom Dowd eng.]

Eric’s SG/ Marshall (dual stacks up flatout!) distorted sound on the opening riff is a great start on a very rock sounding blues even though his solo is classic urgent blues phrasing. Jack shouts it out as only he can do and Ginger underplays superbly. It’s these songs that show how Jack and Ginger subliminally interacted despite their personal antagonisms. A less than reverential version of Howlin’ Wolf’s standard that probably set a standard for hard rock blues covers.

Passing the Time (Ginger Baker/Mike Taylor)

Eric – lead & rhythm guitar, harmony vocals; Jack – bass guitar, lead vocals, Calliope; Ginger – drums, glockenspiel, vocals; Felix – violas, organ pedals.

[Recording: Basic - Jan/Feb 1968, Finish - June 1968, Atlantic Studios NY, Tom Dowd eng]

A very surprising gem from Ginger, showing great song writing skills, and taking the opening vocals (Ah). It is a complex song, with lots of time changes (5/4, 7/4, 4/4, 3/4), beautifully executed. A real studio production job, that is quite hypnotic with its unusual choice of instruments. Jack really lets it rip on bass on the jam

As You Said (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown)

Jack – acoustic guitar, cellos, lead vocals; Ginger – high hat

[Recording: Basic - Jan/Feb 1968, Finish - June 1968, Atlantic Studios NY, Tom Dowd eng]

An idiosyncratic solo performance by Jack: unusual, daring and brilliant.

[Vinyl side 2]

Pressed Rat and Warthog (Ginger Baker/Mike Taylor)

Eric – rhythm & lead guitar; Jack – bass guitar, recorder; Ginger – drums, recitation; Felix – trumpet, tonette.

[Recording: Basic - Sept/Oct 1967, Finish – Jan/Feb 1968, Atlantic Studios NY, Tom Dowd eng]

Ginger’s second contribution on which he doesn’t sing but recites the words of a weird fairy tale, all in 6/8 time. Jack and Ginger are so comfortable with non-4/4 times. Eric’s solo on the ending jam is frenetic. It’s a cool groover that really works especially because of Ginger’s voice.

Politician (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown)

Eric – lead & solo guitars; Jack – bass guitar, lead vocals; Ginger - drums

[Recording: Basic - Sept/Oct 1967, Finish – Jan/Feb 1968, Atlantic Studios NY, Tom Dowd eng]

Another monster riff from Jack that further redefines the 12 bar blues. Eric’s multi-tracked intertwined guitars are harbingers of the sound on Layla. Ginger’s syncopation is pure inspiration (just sit and concentrate on the drums to really appreciate him). A great song and performance all round.

Those Were The Days (Ginger Baker/Mike Taylor)

Eric – lead & solo guitars; Jack – bass guitar, lead vocals; Ginger – drums, marimba, tubular bells; Felix – swiss hand bells

[Recording: Basic – Jan/Feb 1968, Finish – June 1968, Atlantic Studios NY, Tom Dowd eng]

The most straight foreward of Ginger’s songs (5/4, 4/4) with strong lyrics in the Martin Sharp style. Eric contributes more frenetic guitar as if was trying to assert himself in sessions that were being dominated by Jack and Ginger. The various percussion sounds very effectively enhance the sonic texture.

Born Under A Bad Sign (Booker T. Jones/ William Bell)

Eric – lead & solo guitars; Jack – bass guitar, lead vocals; Ginger – drums, tambourine.

[Recording: Basic - July/Aug 1967, IBC Studios London, Adrian Barber eng; Final - Sept/Oct 1967, Atlantic Studios NY, Tom Dowd eng.]

This is a more orthodox rendition of a contemporary blues standard written by Booker T. for Albert King. This arrangement has been much copied. Its built on a basic riff that gives Jack plenty of room to play around. Eric fills and solos with his distorted, edgy sound while Ginger syncopates around the bass line.

Deserted Cities of the Heart (Jack Bruce/Pete Brown)

Eric – rhythm & solo guitars; Jack – bass, lead vocals, acoustic guitar, cello; Ginger – drums, tubular bells; Felix - viola

[Recording: Basic – Jan/Feb 1968, Finish – June 1968, Atlantic Studios NY, Tom Dowd eng]

Starts like another solo effort from Jack, including a cello and violas bridge. Eric is just contributing electric rhythm guitar, but steals it when he launches into a frantic, unusually distorted solo on the SG. Ginger uses his bass drums to power the song on, especially behind the guitar solo and ending. A great closing track - just short of being another classic!

The Live Lp contains four tracks (Two on each side): an absolute Clapton tour de force, an incredible group extended improvisation, a Jack Bruce show piece and Ginger’s piece de resistance. It is one of the great and defining Live albums in Rock Music.


Crossroads (Robert Johnson)

Eric – lead guitar, lead vocals; Jack – bass; Ginger – drums.

[Recording: 10th March 1968 (1st show), Winterland, San Francisco, Bill Halverson eng; Adrian Barber, remix]

Crossroads was a song that Eric had been playing with the Bluesbreakers. By this stage it had undergone major reformation from an electrified delta blues to a power rock blues. It is a stunning virtuoso guitar performance: even the best of guitarists would have been pleased with a well rehearsed, planned performance coming off half as well as this but Eric just pours it out live for 4 stunning minutes, or was it 14*? Its tight, powerful, structured and improvised.

Eric plays with passion, power and finesse plus strong vocals. Jack and Ginger were never a backing rhythm section but on this Eric just roars and almost turns them into just that. Never the less, Jack and Ginger are equally inspired. The compressed energy, power and brilliance of this performance has not ebbed after 40 years: a masterpiece.

Spoonful (Willie Dixon)

Eric – lead guitar; Jack – bass, lead vocals; Ginger – drums.

[Recording: 10th March 1968 (1st show), Winterland, San Francisco, Bill Halverson eng; Adrian Barber, remix]

Right from the start Spoonful was a key part of their repertoire. By this stage they could do anything with it and on this occasion they did it for over 16 minutes. Such extended group improvisations were standard for Jazz but rare in Rock. Being performed by a trio was even more stunning.

With hindsight, Rock critics (and Eric himself) have rejected the performance as excessive and indulgent, especially in contrast to Crossroads. That is a pop song view of Cream but, when listening with a Jazz sensibility, it remains an exciting and always rewarding experience. It is a true group performance of which you can listen to in totality or concentrate on a particular instrument. When you listen to each individual instrument you realise that you are hearing three highly skilled/creative soloists interacting at a complex sub-conscious level.


Traintime (Jack Bruce)

Jack - harmonica, lead vocals; Ginger – drums.

[Recording: 8th March 1968 (1st show), Winterland, San Francisco, Bill Halverson eng; Adrian Barber, remix]

Jack’s harmonica extravaganza also goes back to the early (Graham Bond) days but now with reduced lyrics. Jack is not a great harmonica player and borrows heavily from Sonny Terry but his enormous musical talent allows him to create a very effective performance. The unflagging energy hides his technical limitations on the instrument and makes it sound quite spectacular. Ginger’s unflagging train rhythms, on brushes, combine to propel it along.

Toad (Ginger Baker)
Ginger – drums; Eric – lead guitar; Jack – bass.
[Recording: 7th March 1968, Fillmore West (2nd show), San Francisco, Bill Halverson eng; Adrian Barber, remix]
Note: version on "Those were the Days" includes additional guitar/bass edited in from another performance.

The only recording that excuses the album’s title- [marketing excuse:] well it does occupy over 37% of the time!
Again, with that wonder of knowledge – hindsight, critics have savaged this track. Yes, it’s a drum solo and yes, its long – Listen to this cats' playing!!!
Drum solos are hard to appreciate on recordings, even by the very best Jazz drummers. Drum solos are a very visual enjoyment live and that is lost when only listening to the recording. In a technical Jazz view it is not a great drum solo, but technique is not what Ginger is about as he is closer to the African drumming sensibility. Patterns are built and varied then dropped and a new pattern is built, varied, dropped. His energy is just unbelievable.
Unfortunately his soloing was used as an excuse for real excess by far too many much inferior drummers. Ginger remains one of Rock’s finest ever drummers and Toad is the evidence.

CONDITION: The cover: rated VG++ silver foil gatefold cover has some light contact rub but no wear near the usual wear & scuffs to the silver cover -- so this one is quite collectible in regard and...all seams are solid, no split seams, no bends, no writing ... presentable collection keeper ...
The vinyl: Both records are glossy clean, M- real clean and hard to find this sharp! Plays delightfully enjoyable with no audio problems... hard to find this clean ...most copies from 49 years ago are worn out or beat up as was a popular 'party' record in the sixties!


      A cool addition to anyone's music library!


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All imperfections are noted both cover & record

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M    Completely clean, no marks
M-   Carefully used, looks clean, plays clean, shiny gloss, no marks
EX   Faint scuff or superficial mark, near M-, high gloss, plays clean
VG++ Glossy with minimal scuffing or light mark playing very nice, clean
VG+ a bit more scuff or markls still plays well with very minimal surface at worse
VG   more marks/scratches only minor, nothing deep, no loud clicks or pops
        this grade is abused by many, VG here does not mean "trashed"
VG-  surface noise present, will not have skips or jumps
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