‘Blind Faith’ Polydor Records 1969
It was the era of the ‘supergroup’ with musicians from successful bands propelled by swollen egos and public acclaim, combining to create the ultimate all-star line-up. Following Cream we saw Blind Faith, Crosby Still Nash & Young, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Humble Pie all jump on the supergroup bandwagon. As for Blind Faith, it was definitely the case that the sum was greater than its parts.
Eric Clapton aka ‘God‘ as fans had labeled him, was emotionally battered after the whirlwind success of Cream. In Spite of Cream’s popularity the break-up was inevitable. According to Ginger Baker a problem could never be solved amicably, with nothing short of murder being committed. The guitarist retreated to his country estate unsure of his next move.
Blind Faith started out as a project between Clapton and Steve Winwood, keyboardist and singer from Traffic. They had worked together on a blues compilation years earlier and their respective touring paths crossed many times when Clapton was an apprentice to John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers and Steve was the child prodigy in the Spencer Davis Group.
Coming aboard on drums was the inimitable Ginger Baker. According to Winwood he wasn’t sure whether Baker was invited or just turned up at the sessions. Baker was the powerhouse on drums in Cream. Completing the Blind Faith elite was Ric Grech, bassist and violinist who had been earning his chops with prog rockers Family who were extremely popular in the UK.
So was Blind Faith just Cream without Jack Bruce? Far from it, the big difference being the wunderkind Steve Winwood who, with both Spencer Davis Group and Traffic behind him was still only 22 years old. Winwood brought his characteristic vocal, keyboard and songwriting skills to the mix, adding a gospel/soul element to Clapton’s blues based approach.
The definition of Blind Faith is “belief without true understanding, perception or discrimination“. True to their word, their only album the self-titled debut released in August 1969 still stands as a memorable album from that time.
The album‘s six tracks are lengthy with plenty of room for soloing. Three of the Six tunes are written by Winwood, One by Clapton and, yes, I do believe Ginger has the credit for the closing ‘Do What You Like‘.
Opener ‘Had to Cry Today‘ has Clapton’s intricate riff on a repetitive roll and Winwood’s falsetto vocals sounding muffled over Baker’s unmistakable drum sound. What a great riff though, when played by Clapton. Baker adopts a military style drumbeat for added emphasis. Clapton chooses the softer sound of the Fender Telecaster over the Fender Stratocaster he played mostly on the Cream albums.
Producer Jimmy Miller and recording engineer Andy Johns create some interesting wall-to-wall panning with Clapton’s guitar. The track ends with multi-layered guitar overdubs, like Eric had just duplicated himself ten times over.
After some grueling elongated solos on the opener, which clocks in at over 8 minutes, comes the gentle Winwood composition ‘Cant Find My Way Home‘ with some acoustic picking by Clapton introducing Winwood’s heartfelt lyrics.
“well I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time,
well I’m wasted and I cant find my way home “
Next comes the album’s only cover version and the chosen single ‘Well All Right’, which was a re-working of a Buddy Holly tune.
Clapton’s guitar wired through an organ speaker and Winwood’s keyboard work on piano and organ is nothing short of brilliant. The song sounds nothing like the original the only resemblance is the lyrics.
Closing side one is the Clapton epic ‘Presence of the Lord‘ which features one of those Clapton classic moments. Similar to the break in the Cream single ‘Badge‘, ‘Presence of the Lord’ goes from a medium tempo then hits full stride when Clapton stomps his wah-wah pedal straining every note and taking it to a frenetic conclusion.
Side Two has only two tracks. The opener is Winwood’s ‘Sea of Joy‘, which features some fine violin soloing by Ric Grech.
The closing ‘Do What You Like‘ is 15 minutes long and, you guessed it, is a vehicle for a drum solo by the effervescent Ginger Baker.
Cream fans will be familiar with ‘Toad’ from his Cream days yet on this one he takes the drum solo to another level. Baker ‘s songwriting credits are few if you count ‘Pressed Rat and Warthog’ from Disraeli Gears as a serious contribution.
For an insight to the lovable Ginger I recommend watching Jay Bulger’s documentary ‘Beware of Mr Baker ‘ a very funny and honest account of the virtuoso drummer.
To add more controversy to the release of their only album, the cover featured a topless young girl holding a model airplane with an unmistakably phallic shape. American and Australasian retailers were issued the sanitized cover with a group photo taken at Clapton’s country estate.
The flag didn’t fly too long for Blind Faith. Clapton and Winwood had much more work to do on separate paths. After recording their one and only album, they toured the USA and played a free concert in Hyde Park. Clapton, fearing a repeat of the Cream fiasco, pulled up stumps on Blind Faith in October 1969.
The next 12 months for Clapton was a burst of creative energy, including un-credited session work on Martha Velez’s ‘Fiends & Angels’ in late ‘69, guitar on George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’ album, recording ‘On Tour’ with Delaney & Bonnie in April ‘70, then his eponymous first solo album in August, then between August and October, laying down the masterpiece ‘Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs’ with Duane Allman, under the guise of Derek & The Dominoes.
Winwood on the other hand went into a hiatus, not emerging with a solo album until 1977 following some collaborative work with Stomu Yamashta’s ‘Go’ project.
Of course Winwood and Clapton have worked together many times since, re-working those Six classic tracks that remain the only contribution from the Supergroup that was Blind Faith.
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