Rising from the ashes of two of the greatest bands of all time, Blind Faith in my humble opinion is one of the most underrated supergroups that were assembled in the UK.
1969 may have been considered to be one of the most turbulent years in the music industry. Some of the biggest bands to have come out of the UK in the 60?s were experiencing some of their toughest periods. The Beatles were bickering while recording Abbey Road, The Rolling Stones were mourning the loss of Brian Jones and celebrating the introduction of Mick Taylor with the release of Let It Bleed & Eric Clapton was distancing himself from the limelight following a messy breakup with his super-group Cream.
As Cream began to crumble from within due to the constant fighting between Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce with Eric Clapton trying his best to mediate. However, Clapton had grown frustrated with the commercially driven style of blues music, which he had endorsed as a guitarist during his tenure with Cream.
In search of a new musical challenge he picked up his guitar and met up with Steve Winwood a talented musician who was also had also recently experienced a breakup with his band Traffic. Both musicians without bands and clear plans of the future began jamming while writing new songs that showcased Blind Faith?s musical diversity.
Steve Winwood was a multi-talented musician who at the youthful age of 14 became the lead-singer for The Spencer Davis Groupand wrote one of their biggest hits ?Gimme Some Lovin?. Although he?s a very proficient keyboardist & vocalist, Winwood was also a being proficient at a host of other instruments ranging from the guitar to the organ. His personal brand of music involved combining elements of Blues, Rock N Roll, Soul & Folk to showcase a sound that became the patented Steve Winwood sound, which followed him for most of his career.
Eric Clapton on the other hand was a blues purist and a student of many legendary guitarists like Albert King, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters etc. His unique style of guitar playing involved him bending notes to create the most aesthetic harmonic sounds, which revolutionized pop music, as we know it.
As both these diverse musicians got together and began jamming, Eric Clapton was hesitant to start a new band while Steve Winwood was determined to move forward. At some point the pair thought they might record with Duck Dunn & Al Jackson, which was the rhythm section of Booker T. & the M.G.?s, while the british press hoped Clapton would form a new group that would outdo Cream.
However, all doubt about a new group being formed disappeared when former Cream drummer Ginger Baker showed up to these jam sessions unannounced. While Winwood became highly enthusiastic to be in a band with Baker, Clapton was highly hesitant but went ahead with it. Finally, the group was completed when the bassist for Family Ric Grech joined the trio to make it a quartet.
The Recording Sessions begin
The buzz of the band?s formation gained a lot of attention across the country that they were billed as ?Super Cream?. The band made their debut by played a free concert at Hyde Park on 7thJune 1969 to a 100,000 fans. Although this performance is considered to be a cult gig in music history, it troubled Clapton who thought that their performance was sub-par.
At this point the band had found it?s sense of music direction, which was highlighted in their debut album. At it?s core was Eric Clapton?s unique note-bending style of guitar playing that was perfectly matched with Steve Winwood?s organ. What improved this sound was their rhythm section, which featured #GingerBaker?s innovative percussive style of drumming that was perfectly matched with Ric Grech?s progressive bass notes.
The band entered Olympic Studios with producer Jimmy Miller to record their debut album, who was determined to keep the band focused on developing solid material rather than relying on loose jams. Out of the 8 tracks featured on the final studio record, Steve Winwood took up majority of the songwriting work. This begins with the blues-inspired rock n roll opener ?Had To Cry Today?,which is the perfect example to showcase the individual talents of the quartet. It begins with Eric Clapton performing a straightforward blues-rock riff that later evolves to involve more complex arrangements during the verses and the chorus. Although it?s a little unfocused in the second half of the song it?s the perfect album opener.
Moving onto an even better Winwood composition ?Can?t Find My Way Home? displays him channeling Celtic-Folk legends with lyrics aimed at topics such as Spiritual rebirth, which were aimed at rockers who were burned out at the end of the 60?s. This ballad get?s a bit more intense musically as Clapton?s finger picking style on the acoustic guitar matches Ginger Baker?s jazzy drum beats on the outro. This is definitely one of the most beautiful moments on the album.
Next up, we have a mesmerizing cover of the Buddy Holly song ?We?re All Right?, which places the brilliant talent of Winwood front and center as he shines with his organ and piano. What gives this song the right fun-rock feel is the rhythm section. Moving onto Clapton?s lone composition ?Presence Of The Lord? is by far my favorite song on the record, which fuses elements of gospel & Rock to create a ballad, which is further improved upon by Winwood?s R&B themed electric piano. Once the song enters the bridge interlude, Clapton places some of his greatest guitar work here as he switches the quiet tempo for a louder one by executing a wah-wah riff while jamming with the group before switching back to a quieter one for the last verse.
The second side begins with an underrated song called ?Sea Of Joy? that contains elements of hard rock, folk & country, which are powered by Winwood?s powerhouse vocals and a violin solo by Ric Grech. Lastly, we have Ginger Baker?s lone composition ?Do What You Like?, which contains a groovy backbeat that worthy of comparison to what Carlos Santana provided.
Touring and demise
Once the record was put out it instantly became a commercial success in both the U.S. and the UK. It gathered a large multitude of positive reviews, which prompted record companies and promoters to get involved and get the band to tour. They began touring playing smaller gigs in Scandinavian countries in an effort to rehearse their sound and prepare it for bigger audiences when they reach the US and the UK.
However, their real issue was that the band lacked songs to make an entire show, which barely lasted an hour. As a result they performed Cream and Traffic songs, which delighted the crowd and annoyed Eric Clapton greatly. These audiences preferred their older material instead of the newer Blind Faith songs.
The bands that were picked to open these gigs involved Rory Gallagher?s Taste, Free (All Right Now) & the soulful, folksy-sounding blues of Delaney & Bonnie. Clapton began spending more time with Delaney Bramlett and less time with his own band, which prompted a 21-year-old Steve Winwood to take a more driving role in the band. Eventually, Clapton left the group following their final show on the 24thAugust, which took place in Hawaii.
After the band was dissolved, Eric Clapton began effectively touring with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends as a sidemen, which led to the formation of his 3rdsupergroup Derek & The Dominos. Ginger Baker & Steve Winwood maintained their musical relationship by joining the Ginger Baker Air Force along with Rich Grech.
49 years later, Blind Faithis still considered to be one of the most underrated records of all time as each member?s musical talents continue to speak volumes on what they accomplished.