Blind Faith (1969)

Blind Faith was a musical group formed by Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker after Cream broke up, Steve Winwood after Traffic temporarily broke up, and bassist Rich Grech.

The term “supergroup” was attached to Blind Faith, a dubious label and omen of what was to come.  The group recorded one album, Blind Faith, released in July 1969, and a short tour.  Winwood was the leader of Traffic, a group that had released a couple of albums.  Tensions within the group lead to Dave Mason leaving after one album for a solo career.  Clapton had recently disbanded Cream and was anointed a guitar god.  Expectations were high for this group.  It couldn’t fail, right?

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Winwood, Grech, Baker and Clapton.

Clapton and Winwood begin the adventure when they got together to for some jam sessions.  They liked the results, knew they needed a rhythm section, but weren’t sure what they had in mind.  Baker showed up and eventually Winwood okay-ed his inclusion in the effort, but Clapton wasn’t so sure.  Clapton had exited Cream not long before, and there were complicated relationships and egos involved, so working with Baker again was an unusual choice.  Jim Capaldi, drummer in Traffic, might have been another choice, he certainly had less explosive baggage than Baker.

The album was produced by Jimmy Miller (Rolling Stones, Traffic), and engineered by Andy Johns, Keith Harwood and George Chkiantz.  On the strength of the Clapton and Winwood names, the album topped the Billboard list, sold a million copies in the U.S., and eventually 8 million copies around the world.

The album consists of mainly new Winwood songs.  Clapton offered up one song,  Baker brought one that turned into a long jam, and they did a Buddy Holly cover.  Winwood is the lead singer in the group, Clapton the guitarist.

Side one

No.      Title     Writer(s)         Length

  1. “Had to Cry Today” Steve Winwood    8:48  One of the better original tracks, fine guitar work by Clapton and Winwood.  It’s easy to overlook the great bass and drum work that keep the track moving.  This song hinted at the potential that Clapton and Winwood brought to the table.  It would be almost 40 years later for them to record a live CD together where you hear them play off of each other to the great delight of fans.  Their two distinctive styles wrap around each other so well, you wonder what they might have done.
  2. “Can’t Find My Way Home” Winwood   3:16  A mainly acoustic song with Baker adding some fine percussion.  Guitars by Clapton and Winwood.
  3. “Well All Right” Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison, Joe B. Mauldin, Norman Petty  4:27  This was originally a B- Side of Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat.”  Santana and others have covered this song.  It’s a decent version, but you wish the group didn’t have more original material.
  4. “Presence of the Lord” Eric Clapton  4:50  Winwood sings Clapton’s song.  Winwood has a more soulful voice and his organ and piano add a nice touch.  Clapton’s solo here is better than other recorded versions.

Side two   This is where the album kicks into hyper-drive.

No.      Title     Writer(s)         Length

  1. “Sea of Joy” Winwood  5:22  One of the better songs on the album, another Winwood original.  The song has a folksy feel, with Grech playing violin on the track.  On the choruses, the tempo picks up and Clapton unleashes some nice solo action.
  2. “Do What You Like”  Ginger Baker 15:18  The best for last.  Ginger Baker provides the best song on the album?  Yes.  A bass and organ groove starts the song, but it goes into some extended solos, including maybe Baker’s best drum solo.  Winwood has the first organ solo, then Clapton takes over on electric guitar, a Grech bass solo, then Baker brings in home, before the band takes over to carry it to the finish. I love this song and learned to play it during my brief drumming flirtation.

Bonus tracks.  The album was released in several versions in recent years as material from other recording sessions and studio jams were made available.

“Sleeping in the Ground”  Clapton takes lead vocal on this old Sam Myers blues track. An okay track, not essential, though Clapton cuts loose with a pretty good solo.

“Can’t Find My Way Home” (electric version) A slightly faster version with more thunderous percussion and electric guitar fills, and more soloing.

“Acoustic Jam”  Only for the completists. They left the tape rolling while they picked around but the groove isn’t really there.

“Time Winds” Winwood original, an instrumental, it seems unfinished.

“Sleep in the Ground” (slow blues version)  Slow as molasses, Winwood on blues piano, Clapton on guitar.

There is an entire CD of studio jams: 1, 2 , 3 and 4.  Only 3 and 4 sound like the threads of a song.  Too bad, they couldn’t make anything out of these jams.

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Blind Faith played to 100,000 people in Hyde Park before embarking on a tour with Delaney and Bonnie.  By the end of the tour, the group was no more.  Then they were done.  Winwood went back to Traffic, Clapton to Derek and the Dominoes, Baker to Air Force, and Grech to other interests.

One album seems to hint at what these great talents could have done together, but it wasn’t to be. It’s not a groundbreaking work, but a snapshot of the times, and of the vast talent of this quartet.

P.S. The album cover is not the original cover, which was a bit risqué for the U.S. That’s another story.


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