cream of the crate #35 : jackie wilson – jackie sings the blues
cream of the crate #36 : cream – wheels of fire [in the studio]
Front Cover – [CLICK to enlarge] 

 

This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

cream of the crate #34 : pink floyd – the vinyl boxed set

"The Album Will Be A Monster" - (Rolling Stone)

This is number thirty six in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of vinyl albums in my personal collection.

The series is called, “Cream of The Crate”, and they represent vinyl albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.

Cream! It is easy to justify claiming that the group Cream, were Cream by name as well as by talent and music.

The album, “Wheels of Fire” (In the Studio) was released in 1968 on the Polydor label, (MX-157961).

cream of the crate #36 : cream – wheels of fire [in the studio]
Vinyl label – [CLICK to enlarge]
Sold as a double set it consisted of two independent LP’s (the second LP being “Live at the Filmore“).

I have sadly long lost that album and so I am reviewing, the “In the Studio” component of the double album.

cream of the crate #36 : cream – wheels of fire [in the studio]
Rear Cover with stunning art work – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

I love the cover, both front and rear!

Designed by Australian artist Martin Sharpe (who also designed the Cream LP Disraeli Gears), it is in itself, a classic in the Sharpe genre of artwork.

Intricate and representing the ‘psychedelic’ movement of the day, it remains an iconic piece of artwork and has made the cover so recogniseable.

The story of Cream is pretty well known but this is a short summary.

Given Jack Bruce (bass and vocals) and Ginger Baker (drums) both came from a solid jazz background and with Eric Clapton immersed in the blues, Cream seems an odd lot for a rock band.

Before joining Cream, Baker and Bruce were in a group called the Graham Bond Organization.

I believe that Cream were the first three man power rock group, as basic a lineup as you can have and yet, before long 3-men outfits became very popular with only the Jimmy Hendrix Experience being a 3-man outfit and being more popular.

cream of the crate #36 : cream – wheels of fire [in the studio]
Ginger Baker (sitting), Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton

 

For all their talent, the group only ever put out a total of four albums while together with a further four albums released post their break up. This doesn’t include a plethora of compilation albums.

However, in around the two and a half years together (some 30 months), they played over 300 live shows.

Wheels of Fire” was Cream’s third album went to #1 on the U.S. album charts and #3 in the U.K.

It highlights the group’s considerable range of styles and features one of their most successful singles, White Room. It also contains some other truly fabulous tracks including the well as blues rock anthem, Born Under A Bad Sign and the surrealistic Pressed Rat and Warthog.

TRACK LISTING

Side 1.
1. White Room
2. Sittin’ On Top Of The World
3. Passing The Time
4. As You Said

Side 2.
1. Pressed Rat And Warthog
2. Politician
3. Those Were The Days
4. Born Under A Bad Sign
5. Deserted Cities Of The Heart

White Room

Although “White Room” became one of their classic hits, the blues track “Sitting On Top Of The World” (by Chester Burnett/Howling Wolf) is a quite masterful cover and interpretation, especially given the number of times it has been covered.

There were at the time grumblings that Jack Bruce should have played a much less ‘active’ bass line, that bass the should have sat in the background like all good blues tracks are played.

Phooey!

Jack Bruce’s interpretation sees the bass line upfront and very active and I believe the track is better for it.

Whilst there is no way Clapton would have gone out to emulate anyone, the sound of the lead line he plays is highly reminiscent of the sound ‘Wolfs’ guitarist, Hubert Sumlin was famous for.

Certainly the track remains a perennial favourite of Cream fans.

Sitting On Top of the World

The third track I’m featuring is the highly unusual, if not down right bizarre.

That track is “Pressed Rat and Warthog”. In the same way that Keith Moon made ‘Uncle Ernie’ his track, it is hard to imagine anyone else other the Ginger Baker singing “Pressed Rat and Warthog”.

It’s not sung as much as narrated in Baker’s strong Cockney accent for this piece of magical nonsense, and it’s both amusing as well as featuring some damn fine playing.

Accompanying Clapton on Guitar and Baker on drums is Jack Bruce who plays bass and recorders, while producer Felix Pappalardi plays trumpet and tonette.

Pressed Rat and Warthog have closed down their shop.
They didn’t want to, ’twas all they had got.
Selling atonal apples, amplified heat,
And Pressed Rat’s collection of dog legs and feet.
 
Sadly they left, telling no one goodbye.
Pressed Rat wore red jodhpurs, Warthog a striped tie.
Between them they carried a three-legged sack,
Went straight round the corner and never came back.
 
The bad captain madman had ordered their fate.
He laughed and stomped off with a nautical gate.
The gate turned into a deroga tree,
And his peg-leg got woodworm and broke into three.
 
Pressed Rat and Warthog have closed down their shop.
They didn’t want to, ’twas all they had got.
Selling atonal apples, amplified heat,
And Pressed Rats collection of dog legs and feet.
 

Pressed Rat & Warthog

Whilst Jack Bruce and Pete Brown (English lyricist) wrote the majority of Cream’s original tracks, Ginger actually had two tracks on this album that he co-wrote with Brown. These tracks were the afore mention “Pressed Rat and Warthog”, as well as,  “Those Were The Days”.

cream of the crate #36 : cream – wheels of fire [in the studio]
Bruce, Baker & Clapton – [CLICK to enlarge]
That track that features some superb drumming by Baker and includes a range of percussion instruments such as Marimba, tubular bells and Swiss hand bells. (Baker was assisted by Felix Papparlardi on bells) 

 Look, this is not really the ‘best’ Cream album. What I mean by that is that every Cream album had some magic / fantastic tracks on them.

 

Music fans could argue all day over why they believe one album is superior to the other. The fact of the matter is, that Cream really did deserve that name and the brilliant musical legacy left from that whirlwind period while they were together, can leave us shaking our head in wonder, and, leaving us with fabulous music.

This is a great album as it features their classic electric blues approach to music, mixed in with the more ‘commercial’ sounding tracks.

Those tracks more than adequately feature the individual and combined talents of these 3 brilliant musicians.

In 1993 the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which bought them together for first time in twenty five years.

Cream briefly reunited in 2005, while Baker was living in South Africa, before he officially retired from playing in 2016 following a diagnosis of heart issues.

cream of the crate #36 : cream – wheels of fire [in the studio]
Jack Bruce, left, with Ginger Baker, centre, and singer Eric Clapton, right, during a Cream reunion concert at Royal Albert Hall in London in 2005.
In February 2006, Cream received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of their contribution to, and influence upon, modern music.

cream of the crate #36 : cream – wheels of fire [in the studio]
Jack Bruce and Ginger baker

 

Sadly on 25 October 2014, Bruce died of liver disease in Suffolk, England at the age of 71.

Then in 2019, Ginger Baker was admitted to hospital in a serous condition.  He later passed away on October 8th.

 

 

The album is available in Ebay, and will cost between $40.00 and $70.00 depending up it’s state, and whether you get both albums or just one. It’s actually hard to imagine a fan of Cream not having this album, whether on vinyl or in CD format. If you are just becoming interested in Cream, buy it!


VIDEOS:

There are quite a few clips of Cream so I have chosen three at random.  They help capture the heady musical times of that period, when Cream ruled.

 

Deserted Cities of the Heart.

 

Born Under A Bad Sign

 

Those Were the Days


 

Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

Click to open:

#1.   Howling Wolf: Real Folk Blues

#2.   Otis Redding: Otis Blue

#3.   Dr John: Gris Gris

#4.   Spectrum: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet

#5.   Son House – The Real Delta Blues

#6.   Various Artists – Cruisin’ 1961

#7.   Various Artists – Live At The Station Hotel

#8.   Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Deja Vu

#9.   Moon Mullican – Seven Nights To Rock

#10. Billy Thorpe – Time Traveller

#11. Bobby & Laurie – Hitch Hiker

#12. Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland

#13. The Beatles – The Beatles Collection [A Box Set]

#14. Johnny O’Keefe – 20th Anniversary Album

#15. Jimmy Cliff – The Harder they Come (Music form the soundtrack to the film)

#16. Frank Zappa – Roxy and Elsewhere

#17. Junior Walker & The All Stars – Roadrunner

#18. Various Artists – Jump Children [Voit Voit]

#19. Various Artists – King – Federal Rockabillys

#20. Max Merritt & The Meteors – Max Merritt & The Meteors

#21. Planet Gong – Camembert Electronique

#22. Earth, Wind & Fire – Head To The Sky

#23. Ellen MclLwaine – We The People

#24. The Easybeats – Absolute Anthology [1965 – 1969]

#25. Rainbow Generator – Dance Of The Spheres

#26. Martha & The Vandellas – Greatest Hits

#27. Buddy Holly – The Rock & Roll Collection

#28. The Who – Quadrophenia

#29. Elvis – The Legend (1954 – 1961): A Boxed Set

#30. Col Joye – Lets Rock With

#31. The Yardbirds – For Your Love

#32. Eddie Cochran – The Singles Album

#33. Krozier & The Generator – Tranceformer

#34. Pink Floyd – The Vinyl Boxed Set

#35. Jackie Wilson – Jackie Sings the Blues