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Friday, April 12, 2013

Blind Faith, "Blind Faith"

Blind Faith
"Blind Faith"
Polydor (1969)

1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die

Cream was one of the most talented bands in history, largely thanks to the contributions of guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker. The band could carry a jam for the onstage equation of years, but conflict between Baker and bassist Jack Bruce split eventually split the group. Forming another band featuring Clapton and Baker was an obvious move. Steve Winwood was an advantage as vocalist, with abilities Clapton couldn't match. Blind Faith was less a "supergroup" than it was a betterment of the Cream lineup.

The difference, of course, is that Blind Faith didn't aspire to be Cream-version-two. Clapton and Winwood shared a mutual interest in African-American music forms such as blues and soul, and Baker just happened to be hanging around. Every track here had the potential to burn "Wheels of Fire," but the group put emphasis on original songwriting versus jams on traditional fare. There are only six tracks, but five are new. Winwood's "Can't Find My Way Home" and Clapton's "Presence of The Lord" highlight the former's vocal strengths.

The one cover, of Buddy Holly's "Well All Right," highlights how well the ensemble gelled. Many jam outfits operate so that band members take turns performing individual solos and expressing his virtuosic ability. Closing track "Do What You Like" demonstrates this structure. But during "Well," the band hits a point late in the song where all contribute 25 percent, and each player shines without blinding. Clapton has a brief solo moment, but his contribution is soon joined by that of Baker, Winwood's forceful piano, and bassist Ric Grech rises to the occasion to match his cohorts. It's a rare moment, even for the most talented of groups. The section would feel like a competition for attention if it didn't mesh so well.

"Do What You Like," a 15-plus minute original by Baker, might demonstrate the individual solo-method of jamming, but it's well worth the listen. Winwood is the first to take a turn, this time playing a Hammond organ. Clapton's next. He employs a Leslie rotating-speaker, a new tactic for him, throughout the album and this is just one of the tracks where it shows. Baker, having worked with Clapton before, mirrors his energy throughout. Clapton and Winwood drop out for Grech, whose solo outlasts his predecessors, an unusual occurrence in such recordings. The rest of the band repeats the song's title behind Grech's contribution, and they would continue to for the rest of the track, shifting the pace of the line's delivery. Baker, the singular icon of the drum solo, gets his turn. He builds a wall of absurd rhythms for nearly four minutes, bordering on drum machine capability. The rest of the band doesn't try to compete.

Oddly enough, the magic the group produced during the Blind Faith sessions didn't translate live. The group's first show in London attracted more than 100,000 attendees, but following tour dates didn't live up to the debut album. Blind Faith is one of the most successful supergroups in music history, at least in terms of product, but such things just aren't meant to last I guess.

INTERESTING FACT: The original cover of the album (see above) was controversial (SURPRISE!) I won't bore you with the so-called motif the artist claimed he was striving for, but I will tell you that the 11-year old model was paid 40L (as in pounds). Her original demand for compensation was a horse, but her parents nixed the idea.

Well All Right by Blind Faith on Grooveshark

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