Cream – Wheels of Fire (1968)

Cream_WheelsFire4 out of 5 Stars!

When listening to this truly classic double album, I often find myself imagining how many of the songs might have sounded with either Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan or Trapeze’s Glenn Hughes singing lead vocals. Nothing against Jack Bruce, who certainly did a commendable job, but I can’t help thinking the already pleasant tracks would have sounded even stronger had Ian or Glenn been in the “lead vocalist seat.” Alas, it’s a daydream that will never be realized, I know.

Now, despite my short aside, Wheels of Fire includes some memorable studio tracks, both original compositions and interesting covers (“White Room,” “Politician,” “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “Sitting on Top of the World,” and “Deserted Cities of the Heart”—need I say more?) and a handful of raw, live rockers (“Spoonful” and “Crossroads”—some standard Blues Rock, anyone?), plus with the commendable performances of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker, the album still holds great power all these many decades later (especially the studio portion).

Sure, a few of the studio tracks are rather lackluster and odd, and I could easily do without the self-indulgence on the overly lengthy live tracks—especially the drum solo on “Toad”—but for me, Wheels of Fire (even more so than the band’s previous album Disraeli Gears) remains a pleasant trip back in time to my “days of youth” whenever I hear it.

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