Posts Tagged ‘Blind Faith’

Ginger Baker 1939-2019

Ginger Baker, drummer and co-founder of 1960s blues-rock supergroup Cream, died on Sunday (October. 6th), his family confirms. He was 80 years of age.

He’d been struggling with failing health for some time and had been hospitalized after falling “critically ill” last month.

“We are very sad to say that Ginger has passed away peacefully this morning,” a brief statement on his Facebook page announced. “Thank you to everyone for your kind words to us all over the past weeks. Baker’s death follows a 2016 fall in his home and subsequent open heart surgery after being diagnosed with a heart condition, and the news follows recent posts on his social media channels that he was hospitalized in “critically ill” condition.

Baker leaves behind a legacy as the drummer for Cream, his 1960s power trio with guitarist Eric Clapton and bassist Jack Bruce that tossed up the blues with sunshine-pop, with “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room” in 1968. The band split in 1968 and reunited in 2005 for a residency at the Royal Albert Hall, captured that year on the live album Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005.

His first professional band, Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, where he replaced Charlie Watts (who left to join the Rolling Stones) and met bassist Jack Bruce, with whom he’d play in the Graham Bond Organisation and then form Cream in 1966. From almost the start, their relationship was a tumultuous one, with the mercurial Baker often lashing out at his bass-playing bandmate.

Later in life, Baker often appeared in the press as a lovable, irascible grouch, living in South Africa with his Zimbabwean wife, Kudzai, while treating his emphysema and degenerative spine condition. During Cream’s brief reunion, he sang his oddball interlude “Pressed Rat and Warthog”.

“It’s a knife-edge thing for me and Ginger,” Bruce was once quoted ,“Nowadays, we’re happily co-existing in different continents, although I was thinking of asking him to move. He’s still a bit too close.”

The son of a tobacco shop employee and a bricklayer who was killed in WWII, Baker was enamored early on with jazz legends like Art Blakey, Max Roach and Philly Joe Jones. He made the rounds in traditional jazz combos in the mid-1960s before coming into orbit of British blues nuts Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. The former was fresh from the Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers; the latter would jam with Baker in the blues-jazz band the Graham Bond Organization. Considering themselves the “cream of the crop” of British bluesmen, they called themselves Cream and released their debut Fresh Cream in 1966.

Apart, the members of Cream were good-to-great blues sidemen. When they got together, they were dynamite. Their riff-heavy originals like “Sunshine of Your Love” inspired riff-mongers from The Allman Brothers Band to Lynyrd Skynyrd. When they tackled the blues, they were reverent, staying true to the melodic backbones of Skip James’ “I’m So Glad” and Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” while giving them a fresh, modern feel.

Cream released two more albums during their run, 1967’s Disraeli Gears and 1968’s double-disc Wheels of Fire, and 1969’s Goodbye, a mix of live and studio recordings, followed after their split. Despite existing for only two years, Cream sold over 35 million records over their lifespan. Cream one of the period’s biggest bands. His self-penned instrumental “Toad,” which was on the group’s debut album and credited as one of the first rock drum solos on record, became a concert centerpiece, often stretching to 20 minutes.

With Cream in the rearview mirror, Baker and Clapton started another blues-rock supergroup, Blind Faith – featuring bassist Ric Grech and Traffic keguitarist Steve Winwood — in 1968. The band burned out even quicker than Cream, releasing a 1969 self-titled album and undergoing one tour before going their separate ways. In 1972, Baker released two solo albums, Ginger Baker at His Best and Stratavarious, in which he dabbled in jazz fusion and Afrobeat.

From 1980 onward, Baker briefly joined space-rock agitators Hawkwind, one of over a dozen drummers in the band’s history. “Ginger fitted the band like a glove,” their guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton said in the 2004 biography The Sage of Hawkwind. “His style was just right for it.” During the dawn of metal, Cream’s heavy blues was sometimes cited as an influence, which made Baker irate.

Baker went on to stretch beyond blues-rock, playing on Public Image Ltd.’s 1986 album Album and in a jazz trio with Bill Frisell and Charlie Haden. In 2009, he published an autobiography, Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Drummer. He stayed behind the kit until heart issues laid him low in 2016. “Just seen doctor… big shock,” he wrote on his official blog. “No more gigs for this old drummer. Everything is off. Of all things, I never thought it would be my heart.”

The looming dissolution of the Beatles, after a stirring run of creative genius, signaled that everything would be different in the ’70s. They released their final album in Abbey Road, though the earlier-recorded Let It Be would follow, after some post-session doctoring from Phil Spector. They weren’t the only ones who departed: The original Jimi Hendrix Experience, Eric Burdon and the Animals and the Jeff Beck Group fell apart, even as Rolling Stones co-founder Brian Jones died. The warm feelings of Woodstock were quickly forgotten in the bloody aftermath of Altamont.

The death of Brian Jones, July 3rd , Brian Jones had long since relinquished his role as a major contributor to the band he founded, the Rolling Stones, when he drowned in his swimming pool at his home in Cotchford Farm, the estate formerly owned by A.A. Milnes, author of the ever popular children’s book, Winnie the Pooh. He had been fired by the Stones the month before due to drug use and increasingly erratic behavior, leaving Jones more or less out in the cold as far as any further recording ventures were concerned. Initially ruled “death by misadventure,” the verdict was later questioned when rumors spread that a construction worker named Frank Thorogood actually murdered Jones and had made a deathbed confession to a confidante. In 2008, the Sussex police department declared it was no longer investigating the claim. Nevertheless, Jones became the first member of the so-called 27 club, whose membership now includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Whitehouse and a number of other artists whose lives ended at the fateful age of 27. His death also ended a prolific and profound era for the Stones, which many still argue, was the most creative period of their collective career.

At the same time, bands appeared that would dominate the decade to come. Led Zeppelin released their acclaimed first and second albums in ’69, laying a sturdy foundation for superstardom. Zeppelin seemed to arrive as a fully formed new blues-rock variant, harder and louder than anything that had come before. In fact, after touring together extensively, the band arrived in the studio with this material so well rehearsed that they only needed 36 hours spread out over two weeks to complete the album. Its influence, however, has endured – not just as a template for their own career, but also for untold legions of soon-to-be-famous heavy-metal purveyors.

In the summer of 1969, Zeppelin was a band on the rise. Its self-titled first album, released in January of that year, reached Number 10 on the Billboard charts in the U.S., and peaked at Number 6 in the U.K. The band’s pairing of blues, folk and psychedelia eventually would make it the biggest band of the 1970s, “as influential in that decade as The Beatles were in the previous one,”  Zeppelin would play more than 40 gigs on their Summer of 69 tour of U.S.A.

Chicago issued the first of what will eventually be four straight multi-album projects, A band with a bright horn section and a scalding guitarist, Chicago was really all about dichotomy back then. Four songs from their introductory double album would enter the charts, through to 1972’s Chicago V. 

Mick Taylor joined The Stones, sparking their most heralded period – though one that was marked by a turn toward darker subject matter. Rolling Stones, ‘Let It Bleed’ was aptly titled, the second in a quartet of genius albums by the Stones echoed all of the very real apprehensions surrounding this era – like a gritty yin to the Beatles’ utopian yang on ‘Abbey Road.’ Mick Taylor’s arrival also ushered in a harder-edged sound, which combined to create one of rock’s most visceral triumphs. It’s sexy, foreboding, topical and dangerous, sometimes all at once.

Altamont – December 6th was one of the darkest days in music history, Altamont sealed the lid on the promise of peace and love that was capped by Woodstock, and did so within mere months following that celebratory event itself. The Stones, who headlined the sprawling festival in the California desert, may have had good intentions to offer a free concert, but enlisting the Hell’s Angels as security was a terrible idea. Though the line-up was stellar—CSNY, Santana and Jefferson Airplane reprised their roles from Woodstock, along with the Flying Burrito Brothers providing an excellent add-on—an aura of violence and uncertainty pervaded the proceedings. Both Jagger and Airplane singer Marty Balin were accosted the former as he left his chopper, the latter onstage and the death of concert goer Meredith Hunter by a pack of Angels who claimed they saw him wielding a gun, ensured the fact that an idyllic utopian era of the ’60s was quickly come to an end.

‘Abbey Road’ was always a far more fitting send off for the Beatles than ‘Let It Be’ could have ever been. It’s among Paul McCartney’s brightest, most artistically satisfying, moments. But John Lennon’s punctuations (and, to a quickly emerging degree, George Harrison’s) undoubtably make it so. Moments away from imploding, they arrived for these sessions as distinct individuals, rather than stylized mop-topped group. Yet, for a moment in time and for this one last time, the Beatles’ separate personalities seemed to work again in service of the whole.

The Beatles Final Concert, January 30th, Although the Beatles’ impromptu performance on the rooftop of their Apple headquarters in London’s central environs was rumored to be a tryout for a return to live concerts, it was in fact part of the band’s final hurrah. The tumultuous sessions for their album Let It Be exposed a group in disarray, and indeed, a mere nine months after this live six song set—all culled from tracks they had been working on at the time The Beatles were officially broken. Filmed to provide a cap on the ill-fated Let It Be film, it’s still an exhilarating experience to watch the four former Fabs giving it a final go for the curious crowds below. “Hope we passed the audition,” John says before vacating the premises on orders from the police. Yes, Mr. Lennon, indeed you did.

Nick Drake, ‘Five Leaves Left’ was an autumnal yearning which surrounds these folk-rock recordings, and that’s likely the reason Drake was overlooked in his time. Even smart assists from Richard Thompson, then of Fairport Convention fame, couldn’t push this delicately conveyed album into the public consciousness back then. Sadly, Drake only had five years left. He died at age 26 in 1974 of an overdose.

This daring debut by prog rock band King Crimson, ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ still remains prog’s standard bearer, the best example of a then-emerging movement that sought to combine musical concepts with rock. ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ was also a template for how this seemingly ever-evolving band would operate, as their lineup almost immediately flew apart. The core pair of Robert Fripp and Greg Lake was all that remained by the time King Crimson set about recording a follow-up.

The Kinks ‘Arthur,’ a triumph of rock with a British sensibility subtitled “Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire,” never gets the short-hand praise of contemporary works like the Who’s ‘Tommy.’ That’s likely because it’s less ambitious. But it’s also far more listenable – like a rock musical, rather than a rock opera. Hailed as one of rock’s first great concept albums, ‘Tommy’ – like so many examples in that genre – sometimes suffers creatively at the expense of furthering the plot. But at its best, this represents the Who at their finest. And there’s no questioning how the album opened up new narrative possibilities for pop composers.

The Who Performed Tommy for the First Time, April 22nd Notably, the concert in Devon, England, preceded the album’s official release by a month. Although other offerings can claim to be the first real rock operas—The Pretty Things’ S.F, Sorrow and the Kinks’ Arthur, among them—The Who were the only band to take the unusual step of performing an album in its entirety. They’d later take Tommy to some of the world’s great opera houses, elevating rock in both intellect and intent.

The debut of supergroup Blind Faith, June 7th, Heralded as the first true “super group”—a term that would resurface continuously in the years that followed Blind Faith was based on an all-star union between guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker of Cream and vocalist/keyboard player Steve Winwood of Traffic, with bassist Ric Grech, formerly of Family, added later on. Although Clapton in particular was wary of the implications involved in such a high profile ensemble and equally concerned about inviting the tempestuous Baker into the fold—he agreed to pursue the possibilities, owing in small part to the fact that he and Winwood had worked together in a short-lived ad hoc outfit called Powerhouse a few years before. The group’s less than spectacular live debut at Hyde Park further exacerbated Clapton’s concerns, and after a single spotty album and tours of Scandinavia and the U.S., the group disbanded later that year.

Dylan Reemerges at the Isle of Wight, August 31st, Dylan had been largely absent from public view since a 1966 motorcycle accident drove him into self-imposed seclusion. Other than his work with the Band at Big Pink, he chose to spend time with his family and record an album, Nashville Skyline, a shocking departure from any album he had offered before. Consequently, the announcement of his appearance at England’s Isle of Wight Festival attracted an extraordinary amount of interest, including the curiosity of various Beatles, a Stone, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett and a still gestating Elton John. Rumor had it that Lennon, Harrison and Starr might join Dylan onstage, and although that proved false, Dylan alone was enough to mesmerize the masses. Dressed in a beige suit, his hair cut short, he performed a 17-song set with backing from the Band, a concert that included several classics from his catalog as well as tracks from Nashville Skyline and its immediate predecessor, John Wesley Harding. It’s still considered a landmark performance today.

That was probably to be expected for a generation still reeling from shocking assassinations and an ever-escalating war. So, too, was a move toward nostalgia for the old ways. Bob Dylan Having hinted at his intentions on the more rustic ‘John Wesley Harding,’ Dylan definitively left behind protest music for a head-long dive into deep country for the charming, determinedly happy ‘Nashville Skyline.’ In its own way, this was revolutionary too as he went country, even as his old backing musicians in The Band released a determinedly homespun self-titled masterpiece. The Byrds also splintered, with two members Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman left to dive deeper into their passion for country and western music. The resulting album, unfortunately, did little on the charts – but it proved to be a well-spring of inspiration for descendent bands like the Eagles. breaking away to form the Americana-focused Flying Burrito Brothers.

Although there had been several gingerly moves to find common ground between the disparate realms of country music and rock ’n’ roll early rock pioneers Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers and Rick Nelson all had claims on country—in the divided America of the late ’60s, followers of the two styles were decidedly distinct. Nevertheless, the Byrds and the Buffalo Springfield effectively made efforts to narrow that divide, making it only natural that the two groups they spawned, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco respectively, would, to paraphrase the title of the latter’s debut album, pick up the pieces. As a result of releases like The Flying Burrito Brothers’ debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin, in February 1969, country-rock blossomed, spearheaded by the influence of “cosmic cowboy” Gram Parsons (a member of both the Byrds and the Burritos) before later finding a permanent bond with the release of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken, featuring members of both the new guard and the old, two years later.

The Stooges, ‘The Stooges’ This album’s wiry, first-take feel was no put on: Three songs from the Stooges‘ titanic debut were written in a single day, after their label said the album needed more material, then banged them out live. The ferocious results gave the nascent heavy metal genre new fire, presupposed far-off punk, and scared the hell out of parents everywhere.

Creedence Clearwater Revival began to come into their own here, reaching heralded high points with “Born on the Bayou” and “Proud Mary.” The rest of ‘Bayou Country’ doesn’t always reach that level, but the album is nevertheless surrounded by a sense of expectancy. They’re discovering themselves with every revolution of this album, and it’s a fizzy joy to hear. The second of an incredible run of three CCR albums from 1969 codifies every great thing the earlier ‘Bayou Country’ pointed toward. Sharply drawn, ‘Green River’ is just as sharply played – with none of the period-piece noodling that had occasionally seeped into their first two albums. John Fogerty dilated his muse on ageless cuts like “Bad Moon Rising,” the title track and “Lodi,” and Creedence finally found its true voice.

The Allman Brothers Band an accomplished debut as they blended rock, blues, jazz and a distinctly Southern sensibility to came up with something uniquely and forever their own. Taken for granted in today’s multi-cultural melting pot, ‘Santana’ marked the big bang of Latin rock. Within a year, congas and timbales had found their way into the music of the Rolling Stones, Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, among many others. But it all started here, as ‘Santana’ blended mind-blowing, genre-bending musical explorations with more compact songs like the rambunctious Top 10 hit ‘Evil Ways’.

Jimi Hendrix forms the Band of Gypsies, October and with the release of Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix was at the height of his prowess, but the break-up of the Experience left him without a band and bereft of new recordings. His band at Woodstock, ostensively dubbed “Gypsy Sun and Rainbows,” found him expanding his original trio concept and reuniting with his former army buddy, Billy Cox. The aggregate, which Hendrix referred to as “a band of gypsies” when interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show, fell apart soon after, although Cox continued on bass and joined Hendrix for some informal recording dates with Buddy Miles. It was a natural combination; Miles had subbed for Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell on two tracks used for Electric Ladyland, and the trio went on to record a few demos and rehearse for an upcoming concert at the Fillmore East that would span New Year’s Eve. The self-titled album, released on Capitol Records to satisfy a contractual obligation, became the band’s only official recording, but clearly pointed the way to a more racially charged sound Hendrix was working on for the future.

Woodstock, August 15th-18th, If ever there was a single gathering that served to define the spirit of the ’60s, those three days spent in the muddy fields of Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York takes the prize. It wasn’t always pleasant—despite an amazing array of rock’s most influential artists (Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, CSNY, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Richie Havens, et. al.), the traffic, the mud and the scarcity of supplies (other than the acid of course) tended to test the resolve of all involved. Still, it was that spirit of love, peace and music that pervaded the proceedings over all, assuring a communal embrace while setting the precedent for festival gatherings, a basic blueprint that remains relevant to this day.

Jefferson Airplane, ‘Volunteers’ was the last album to feature both Marty Balin and Spencer Dryden, ‘Volunteers’ blended a few bucolic moments (featuring guest stars Jerry Garcia and members of CSNY) in with the now-expected psychedelic rock – but that’s not this album’s best-remembered legacy. Instead, it’s a series of molten, occasionally profanity-laced rebukes of the American status quo. They left the ’60s with a bang.

Joining together for the first of what would become a string of free-wheeling, muscular successes alongside his band Crazy Horse, Neil Young blows a hole in the comfy folk-rock conventions of ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’ in fact, has a lot more in common with the wild eclecticism of his work with Buffalo Springfield, but with a new tone that’s both sharper and looser.

Records in  heavy rotation in my bedroom included the debut album from Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, The Beatles Abbey Road , The Who’s Tommy, King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King a great record,one that for its time was truly unique, The Rolling Stones Beggar’s Banquet which never left my turntable and the follow-up release Let It Bleed, Neil Young’s masterpiece Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Zappa’s Hot Rats which help change my musical perspective, Fleetwood Mac’s Then Play On, CSN debut, Blind Faith’s one and only official release which is also a very strange record, Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan, The MC5’s Kick Out The Jams, Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul which arrived unexpectedly when I did not respond in time to a record company selection deadline and glad I got this gem,Chicago Transit Authority double set before they shortened their name to Chicago,  Jethro Tull’s Stand Up, Live Dead, The Doors Soft Parade, Pink Floyd’s Live Ummagumma, Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers, and Procol Harum’s A Salty Dog.

Few events in American history caused as much upheaval as the war in Vietnam. Young people took to streets and college campuses, protesting a conflict that they viewed as little more than an excuse for a murder machine entangling thousands of young draftees. Not surprisingly, musicians supplied the soundtrack against which protest was pursued. With the sound and imagery flashing across television screens night after night, it was only natural that people would find respite in an array of anthems—“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Street Fighting Man from the Rolling Stones,” “For What It’s Worth (written about the riots on Sunset Strip) by Buffalo Springfield, “Machine Gun” from Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe and the Fish’s “Vietnam Song” and “Volunteers” which came courtesy of Jefferson Airplane. All served to remind the youth of the country that they weren’t alone in their determination to sway some sentiment and avoid the bloodshed overseas.

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A Matter of Blind Faith?

On 8th February 1969 the new band formed by Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in the wake of Cream’s demise had intended to go into the studio to start recording, Steve Winwood replaced Jack Bruce. The NME carried the story and reported that the band had been rehearsing at Winwood’s Berkshire cottage and things had been going well. They also reported that the band was still seeking a bass player and that as yet they were unnamed.

Later Ginger said, “We got to Stevie’s cottage in the middle of a field, and I settled down at Jim Capaldi’s drum kit and we just played for hours. Musically, Stevie and I got along wonderfully. He was one of the greatest musicians I’ve ever worked with. What I didn’t know then was that Eric would probably rather have worked with Jim Capaldi. It’s a curious thing with me and Eric. I regard him as the nearest thing I’ve got to a brother, but we always found it difficult to talk about personal things. He never explained, for example, that he wanted it all to be a much more low-key affair than Cream had been.”

Initially at their rehearsals Winwood was playing the bass lines on his organ, but the need for a real bass player was paramount to give Steve the freedom to play more creatively. Clapton admired Rick Grech, bass player for Leicester art-rockers Family, since the days when that band was known as The Farinas. According to Winwood, “I knew he was a good singer and could play great, and that was the guy we wanted. We didn’t even consider any other bass players. Once Rick was around, and he seemed like a nice guy it was just very casually accepted that he was in the band.”

By March Eric told the NME that “We’re just jamming and we have no definite plans for the future.” After the postponement of the February recording sessions things got underway at Morgan Studios with Chris Blackwell producing, but he didn’t really work out so Jimmy Miller took over. Steve knew Jimmy well from his time producing Traffic’s first three albums. Apparently sessions were sometimes tough, as Ginger in particular was struggling with his demons. But all things considered, the Sessions that ran from 20th February to late June were relatively calm.

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According to Winwood, “They were full of people hanging out, Eric had a lot of bohemian friends and liked to record with people around. The only thing I remember not being very pleased with was ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’. It was only when I heard it again later that I realised how good it was.”

When Blind Faith was finally chosen as the band’s name it seems to have been largely Eric’s idea with Steve Winwood feeling it had a somewhat negative vibe about it.

Blind Faith in Hyde Park

1969 was THE year of the festival – a stellar year by which all others have been judged. Across North America and Britain there seemed to be a festival happening somewhere almost every weekend of the summer. The first major festival of the year was in Canada, the Aldergrove Beach Rock Festival that bizarrely starred the New Vaudeville Band and Guitar Shorty. In Britain the first Hyde Park show starred Eric Clapton’s new band, Blind Faith in front of a crowd of around 120,000

It was on Saturday 7th June that Blind Faith headlined the free concert that was organized by Blackhill Enterprises. Peter Jenner and Andrew King who were stalwarts of the London underground scene, having helped start the UFO club in Tottenham Court Road, ran Blackhill. Jenner had been a lecturer at the London school of Economics, and Blackhill ran their five-person business out of a converted shop just off Ladbroke Grove.

Blackhill were principally agents, and it was their acts that gained most from the Hyde Park concerts, which gave them a higher profile than they would have expected from flogging around Britain laying low-key gigs. During 1968, when Blackhill first approached the Ministry of Public Building and Works about the possibility of staging concerts in Hyde Park they were met with a resounding ‘no’. However, their persistence paid off, and on 29th June 1968 Pink Floyd headlined, supported by Tyrannosaurus Rex, Jethro Tull and Roy Harper.

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The Blind Faith concert was the first of four concerts scheduled for 1969. Opening the show was the Third Ear Band along with Richie Havens, Donovan and the Edgar Broughton Band (no festival seemed to be complete without them). The stage they all played on was somewhat makeshift in appearance and was only about a meter or so high.

It all kicked off about 2.30 and despite the crowd of 120,000 turning up on a really hot day it was barely reported by the national press and not much noticed by the pop press either. With the exception of Richie Havens, who as usual thrashed the living daylights out of his guitar, the bands never seemed to ignite the crowd. Perhaps they were anticipating guitar pyrotechnics from Eric Clapton, who along with Ginger Baker, Stevie Winwood and Rick Grech had formed Blind Faith, the new ‘supergroup’, a tag with which they had been saddled to describe the musicians’ pedigree.

Blind Faith took to the stage about 5pm kicked off with ‘Well All Right’ before going on to perform most of their debut album. It was a more bluesy set, closer to the kind of things Traffic had been playing than to Cream. According to Ginger Baker, “Eric had been doing amazing stuff, but at Hyde Park I kept on wondering when he was going to start playing. ” According to Clapton, “I came off stage shaking like a leaf because I felt that, once again, I’d let people down.”

Blind Faiths Setlist:

Well All Right , Sea Of Joy, Sleeping In The Ground, Under My Thumb, Can’t Find My Way Home , Do What You Like, In The Presence Of The Lord, Means To An End, Had To Cry Today.Blind Faith 2
“True, they weren’t as polished as Cream had been, but then again I don’t think there’s anything wrong in master-musicians playing a bit of a ‘woolly’ set. That’s what good rock’n’roll is all about. Play it a bit raw. Fluff up a bit here and there. Make mistakes. Who cares?”– Richard Evans, designer who later worked at Hipgnosis

Among the crowd were Mick Jagger and his girlfriend Marianne Faithfull. Having watched Blind Faith perform, soaked in the vibe and seen how many people there were watching, Mick decided that a free concert in Hyde Park to promote their new single and get them back in the public eye would be just the thing for the Rolling Stones. As a nod to Mick, who stood watching from the side stage, they played ‘Under My Thumb’.

Mick Jagger told the Melody Maker a few days later, “I thought they were very nice. I was right at the back of the stage and couldn’t see them, but I thought somehow they were very strained. I guess they’ll get more together and Ginger was fantastic. He’s a beautiful drummer – the best drummer I have ever heard.”

Meanwhile, the supergroup’s new album arrived just two months after the Hyde Park performance — and shot to No. 1 in the U.K., Canada and in America. Songs like “Presence of the Lord,” “Had to Cry Today” and “Can’t Find My Way Home” caught on in a big way, becoming fixtures on FM radio stations across the country.

Still, controversy loomed over the album’s risqué cover art, which featured a pre-pubescent girl holding a chrome airplane. To the band, it represented the dichotomy between innocence and scientific achievement. To record dealers, it was unsellable smut. Atlantic Records head Ahmet Ertegun stepped in to smooth things over. “We do not agree that the original sleeve is offensive,” he announced to the press. “But if any dealers do not want that cover, we will happily supply them with an alternative.”

Blind Faith was only together for this album, a debut concert in Hyde Park, a Scandinavia and USA tour and then broke up shortly afterwards. In the immediate aftermath, Clapton briefly joined Delaney and Bonnie, while Winwood, Baker and Grech decided to continue on in a new outfit named Ginger Baker’s Air Force — though that, too, came to an end just a year later. Clapton would memorably reunite with Baker for a series of 2005 Cream shows, while Grech subsequently became part of a reformulated version of Traffic with Winwood. Otherwise, a few chance meetings between Winwood and Clapton — notably over three sold-out 2008 shows in New York City — were as close as Blind Faith has ever come to a return engagement.

The year 1969 has not been a very good one for rock and roll. Outside of “Tommy” and The Band’s decision to go on tour, we had not had that much to get excited about.

Art theorists have hypothesized that artists are usually most inspired in times of crisis, that the forces of history push them to greater personal achievements. Blind Faith could be viewed as an attempt to jar rock out of these doldrums. The group is based on the idea that if you take three of the best soloists around and form them into a single smooth-functioning unit, the result will be one incredible rock band. Ego conflicts must be kept at a minimum; solos are taken not because someone feels like flashing for a while, but because the song calls for a solo.

Comprising guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker from Cream, bassist Ric Grech from the art-rock Leicester group Family and the multi-talented musician and vocalist Steve Winwood, the erstwhile Little Stevie who had starred in Birmingham’s Spencer Davis Group and then entered the hippy underground with the amazing Traffic in 1967. Ostensibly a low-key adjunct to their other ‘day” jobs Blind Faith had took on a life force of its own. After jamming at Morgan Studios in North West London with Island head honcho Chris Blackwell behind the desk the group began to hit their straps with a vengeance, but for some reason the tape op had not preseds the play button and the sessions, which included guest guitarist Denny Laine from The Moody Blues, were never captured for posterity.

They released the album Blind Faith in August 1969 with producer Jimmy Miller bringing the disparate characters into line on a six track LP that included three Winwood originals, Clapton’s divine “Presence of the Lord” (much influenced by his friendship with George Harrison) and a Ginger jam out on the lengthy “Do What You Like”.  

By far the best song is Presence Of The Lord a track written by Eric Clapton which explains in part how Blind Faith ever came to be. The majesty of the organ even makes it sound like a church song, until Clapton wah-wahs off on a quick solo that’s so good it makes me want to apologize for every snide thing I’ve ever said or thought about him. The first time I heard this song, it brought me out of my listening chair, It still does even now. Never has a guitarist said so much so beautifully in such a short time. The solo is so inspirational it can’t help but make the lyrics that much more believable.

“Had To Cry Today”.   goes through several interesting changes, Clapton always bringing it back to the main theme. The choice of Rick Grech, heretofore almost unknown, as bassist is fully justified by his work on this song. The other highlight “Can’t Find My Way Home”  is a Pleading Stevie Winwood Song featuring highly innovative percussion from Ginger Baker.

“Do What You Like” is a fine five-minute rock song which is destroyed when it is dragged out ten extra minutes by solos for the sake of solos. Baker’s lyrics state the Blind Faith formula (‘Do right use your head/Everybody must be fed/Get together break your bread/Yes together that’s what I said.’), but the music then proceeds to obliterate it. Winwood’s solo is the only one worthy of remaining in the song; he is the most consistent musician on the album. Clapton’s is perfectly competent, but nothing new or exceptional. Baker confuses quantity with quality; his solo starts out nicely enough, but quickly falls apart despite his insistence on continuing. Poor Ginger is bound and determined to someday match the original version of Toad; he is, at this rate, destined to retire a very frustrated drummer. The bass solo is sheer self-indulgence.

I don’t know what the explanation for this cut is, but I could venture a calculated guess. Atlantic President Ahmet Ertegun was recently quoted as saying, ‘If we’d known they were going to do this well (on the American tour), we wouldn’t have rushed the album’. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song falls into the throwaway solo rut because Blind Faith didn’t have enough new material to fill an album in time to meet Atlantic’s deadline, and resolved the problem by extending a song they already did have.

This album is better than any of Cream’s and about as good as any of Traffic’s. On the basis of the potential shown in the best cuts, and writing off “Do What You Like” as a fluke mistake that won’t be repeated.

Blind Faith [VINYL] by Blind Faith