Posts Tagged ‘Stevie Winwood’

See the source image

Blind Faith is the self-titled and only album by the English supergroup Blind Faith, originally released in 1969 on Polydor Records in the United Kingdom and Europe and on Atlantic Records in the United States. The band contained two-thirds of the popular power trio Cream, in Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton, working in collaboration with multi instrumentalist Steve Winwood of the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic, along with Ric Grech of Family. They began to work out songs early in 1969, and in February and March the group was in London at Morgan Studios, preparing for the beginnings of basic tracks for their album, although the first few almost-finished songs didn’t show up until they were at Olympic Studios in April and May under the direction of producer Jimmy Miller.

The recording of their album was interrupted by a tour of Scandinavia, then a US tour from July through August, supported by Free, Taste and Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. Nevertheless the band was able to produce two hits, Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” and Clapton’s “Presence of the Lord”.

The album cover featured a topless pubescent girl holding what appears to be the hood ornament of a Chevrolet Bel Air, which some perceived as phallic. The American record company issued it with an alternative cover showing a photograph of the band on the front as well as the original cover. The cover art was created by photographer Bob Seidemann, a friend and former flatmate of Clapton’s who is primarily known for his photos of Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. In the mid-1990s, in an advertising circular intended to help sell lithographic reprints of the famous album cover, he explained his thinking behind the image. I could not get my hands on the image until out of the mist a concept began to emerge. To symbolize the achievement of human creativity and its expression through technology a spaceship was the material object. To carry this new spore into the universe, innocence would be the ideal bearer, a young girl, a girl as young as Shakespeare’s Juliet. The spaceship would be the fruit of the tree of knowledge and the girl, the fruit of the tree of life. The spaceship could be made by Mick Milligan, a jeweller at the Royal College of Art. The girl was another matter. If she were too old it would be cheesecake, too young and it would be nothing. The beginning of the transition from girl to woman, that is what I was after. That temporal point, that singular flare of radiant innocence. Where is that girl? . Seidemann wrote that he approached a girl reported to be 14 years old on the London Underground about modelling for the cover, and eventually met with her parents, but that she proved too old for the effect he wanted. Instead, the model he used was her younger sister Mariora Goschen, who was reported to be 11 years old Mariora initially requested a horse as a fee but was instead paid £40.

The image, titled “Blind Faith” by Seidemann, became the inspiration for the name of the band itself, which had been unnamed when the artwork was commissioned. According to Seidemann: “It was Eric who elected to not print the name of the band on the cover. The name was instead printed on the wrapper, when the wrapper came off, so did the type.” This had been done previously for several other albums.
In America, Atco Records made a cover based on elements from a flyer for the band’s Hyde Park concert of 7th June 1969 in London.

Steve Winwood plays an acoustic version of Blind Faith’s  “Can’t Find My Way Home”

Critically, Blind Faith was met with a mixed response. Reviewing in August 1969 for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau found none of the songs exceptional and said, “I’m almost sure that when I’m through writing this I’ll put the album away and only play it for guests. Unless I want to hear Clapton — he is at his best here because he is kept in check by the excesses of Winwood, who is rapidly turning into the greatest wasted talent in the music. There. I said it and I’m glad.” In Ed Leimbacher said of the quality, “not as much as I’d hoped, yet better than I’d expected.” His colleagues at the magazine — Lester Bangs and John Morthland — were more impressed, especially Bangs in his appraisal of Clapton: “[With] Blind Faith, Clapton appears to have found his groove at last. Every solo is a model of economy, well- thought-out and well-executed with a good deal more subtlety and reeling than we have come to expect from Clapton.

Retrospective appraisals have been positive. According to Stereo Review in 1988, “for 20 years this has been a cornerstone in any basic rock library. AllMusic’s Bruce Eder regarded the album as “one of the jewels of the Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, and Ginger Baker catalogs” In 2016 ,Blind Faith was ranked 14th on Rolling Stone list of “The 40 Greatest One Album Wonders”, which described “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Presence of the Lord” as “incredible songs”.

The Band:

  • Steve Winwood – keyboards, vocals, guitars; bass guitar on “Presence of the Lord”, autoharp on “Sea of Joy”,
  • Eric Clapton – guitars; vocals on “Do What You Like”
  • Ric Grech – bass guitar, violin on “Sea of Joy”; vocals on “Do What You Like”
  • Ginger Baker – drums, percussion; vocals on “Do What You Like”
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.

blind-faith-well-all-right-1969
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.

Z5751-17b
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

Spencer & Co’s Album Arrival

The beginning of 1966 was an exciting time for the Spencer Davis Group. They’d spent some three years building up their reputation as one of the tightest bands on the R&B circuit, initially in Birmingham and then across the UK, with a number of lesser chart singles in 1964 and ’65. Now things were about to get a lot bigger.

8th January, 1966 saw the chart arrival of their album that was, perhaps a little artlessly, titled Their First LP. As it debuted, the group were on their way up the singles countdown with ‘Keep On Running,’ which later that month would become the first of two No. 1s in the space of just three months. ‘Somebody Help Me’ followed it to the top in April.

Their First LP didn’t contain either of those hits, although it did include their first two, minor singles chart entries, ‘I Can’t Stand It’ (from as long before as November 1964) and their cover of Brenda Holloways Motown hit ‘Every Little Bit Hurts.’ ‘Keep On Running’ did make their next set, unsurprisingly titled The 2nd LP, which followed the first album into the bestsellers later in January.

Every Little Bit Hurts

They were joined on the LP by many other cover versions, of such staples as John Lee Hookers ‘Dimples’ and the Leiber & Stoller-penned Coasters hit ‘Searchin’.’ The Spencer Davis Group’s taste for authentic American blues and soul was further underlined by their selection of Rufus Thomas’ ‘Jump Back’ and Ike Turner’s ‘I’m Blue.’

But there was also room for their own material, including the group composition ‘Sittin’ and Thinkin’‘ and two written by Stevie Winwood, ‘Here Right Now’ and ‘It Hurts Me So.Their First LP entered the chart at No. 20 and peaked at No. 6 three weeks later when, bizarrely, The 2nd LP was right next to it at No. 7.

After exploring English folk on the 1970’s album John Barleycorn , Traffic continued broadening their sound to incorporate other musical ideas on the follow-up. Released in November 1971, “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” saw them move more towards progressive rock, featuring extended tracks and off-kilter rhythms inspired by other genres. Recorded in the September of 1971 at Island Studios. All of those different sounds would go into “Rock & Roll Stew,” aided by some recent hired hands to bolster the triumvirate of Stevie Winwood (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Jim Capaldi (drums, vocals) and Chris Wood (woodwinds, keyboards). These additions included ex Blind Faith bassist Ric Grech, Ghanaian percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah and the Derek and the Dominoes drummer Jim Gordon (who was brought in to allow Capaldi to focus on his songwriting and taking lead vocal, which he did on two of album’s six tracks).

Of all styles, jazz rock seemed to come to the forefront on The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, especially on the nearly 12-minute title track. The song was conjured out of studio experimentation, with Capaldi even writing the lyrics to the third verse just before Winwood sang them.

“What would happen is that Jim would jot some words down on a piece of paper – some lines, maybe, and not too many, and certainly not arranged in a verse – chorus kind of way,” Winwood said. “He would just jot a few phrases or ideas down, and then we would go and jam. I would stand the piece of paper on top of the piano or organ, then during the jam when I felt it was right and appropriate, I’d sing what he’d written down and it always came out of a jam. It was born out of the fact that we were players rather than writers.”

As for the bizarre, but memorable title, Capaldi got the phrase from actor Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie and Clyde) with whom he was working on a film project. Pollard wrote “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” in Capaldi’s book and it fired his imagination.

The meandering song, although never released as a single, became a staple of ’70s FM radio, famous for its length, hazy mood and electronic saxophone solo played by Wood. Winwood recalled how Wood came to create the nasal, Eastern-tinged sound on “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.”

“He used a lot of gadgetry on his saxophone,” Winwood said. “He bought a thing called a Maestro, which is a machine for electrifying a saxophone, a reed instrument.”

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys , The LP remains the band’s lone platinum release in the U.S., known for its mind-altering sounds, in addition to its famous die-cut album cover, which created an optical illusion.

The group would continue on for a few more years, releasing two more albums before breaking up in 1974. Wood died in 1983, but Capaldi and Winwood reunited for a new Traffic record and tour in the ’90s, but Low Spark is considered by many fans and critics to be Traffic’s high point.

On this date in 1967, Traffic released their debut album ‘Mr. Fantasy’. 

The second half of 1967 is memorable for many landmarks in the annals of pop history, but one that’s sometimes a little underplayed is the remarkable arrival of a new British rock force called Traffic.

In the space of less than six months, the band racked up no fewer than three top ten hits in the UK with ‘Paper Sun,’ ‘Hole In My Shoe’ and ‘Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush.’ Then, exactly 48 years ago on the countdown on 30th December, 1967, they rounded off the year in style by charting with their first album, Mr. Fantasy.

Beneath the surface of what appeared to be a new driving force in creative British pop, all was less than harmonious, because by the time the album appeared, Dave Mason was about to split with his colleagues Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood. He returned to the fold in time for their self-titled follow-up of 1968.

Paper Sun

“Dave Quits, But Traffic Keeps Moving’ was the Melody Maker’s headline in its 16 December issue. “It’s because there are things I want to do and for me to do them while still in the group would hang the others up,” he told the paper’s Chris Welch. “The best thing to do is leave. I decided ages ago.” Almost immediately, he started producing the debut album by Family, Music In A Doll’s House, which came out the following July.

Nevertheless, Mason still had three solo compositions on Mr. Fantasy, in the form of ‘House For Everyone,’ ‘Utterly Simple’ and ‘Hope I Never Find Me There.’ He also had a co-write on the closing ‘Giving To You,’ with all six remaining tracks credited to the Winwood/Capaldi/Wood triumvirate. As a notable example of the way that the singles and album markets were now splitting in two, the album didn’t contain any of Traffic’s hit singles.

Mr. Fantasy opened on the chart at No. 38, as The Beatles‘ Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band continued at No. 1, in what turned out to be the penultimate week at the summit for that particular classic. The Traffic album then faltered at No. 40 before rallying in the new year to spend two weeks at No. 17, and then hitting a No. 16 peak in early February. In the US, a different version of the album, with alternative sequencing and the notable addition of ‘Smiling Phases,’ hit No. 88. Bigger achievements were in store for Traffic on both sides of the Atlantic.

Traffic Make Their Album Debut

low spark

Traffic performed most of “The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys” plus songs from the “John Barleycorn” album at a concert in Santa Monica in 1972. It was released on VHS, however never on DVD. All the songs from it can be seen as separate videos or the entire concert downloaded by going to YouTube and entering: Traffic Santa Monica Civic Center ’72.ve

Traffic released The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (1971), which was a Top 10 American album but did not chart in the UK the vinyl sleeve for the album is also notable for its die-cut cover. It sold over half a million copies in 1972.  Once again, however, personnel problems split the band as Grech and Gordon left the band in December 1971 and the month after, Stevie Winwood’s struggles with Illness brought Traffic to a standstill. At This Time Jim Capaldi used this hiatus to record a solo album tiltled “Oh How we Danced”  which would prove to be the beginning of a long and successful solo career. The album included a surplus recording from The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, “Open Your Heart”, and the new tracks featured members of the Muscle Shoals studio house band. The new Traffic  line-up of Stevie Winwood Jim Capaldi Chris Wood, plus additional members Rebop Kwaku Baah Hawkins, Hood) toured America in early 1972 to promote the Album, and their concert at the Civic Center in 1972 was recorded and captured on colour videotape with multiple cameras. The 64-minute performance is thought to be the only extended live footage of the group.

.

 

Traffic-John_Barleycorn_Must_Die_(album_cover)

 

The fourth album from the English rock Band TRAFFIC, regarded as their definative recording, released in 1970 on Island records featured the single “Empty Stages” recorded at Island studios and Olympic studios in London from February to  April 1970 and produced by Chris Blackwell and Guy Stevens, Stevie Winwood who was still only 22 but had already served his apprenticeship in the Spencer Davis Group an then with the supergroup Blind Faith, had entered the studios to record what was to be a solo album titled Mad Shadows he wanted like minded musicians to join him and invited Chris Woods saxes and other wind instruments and Jim Capaldi drumming, therefore becoming a reunited Traffic and particulary a relaunch of the band’s career. With Jazz and Blues a forefront to the bands sound it also included a contempoary version of the English seventeenth century folk song ” John Barleycorn” with similarities to what was happening with bands like Pentangle and Fairport Convention. Reissued in 1999 with five bonus tracks, then in 2011 a deluxe version had the whole of the Live Fillmore East concert plus some demos,