I was never convinced by the concept of a super group. The idea was that you took the pre-eminent members of various groups that had split and formed a mega group. The result surely would be a mix of music that would be unsurpassable. The problem was, though, that you would increase the potential for the clash of super-sized egos. The dynamics of a group require some lesser lights who are prepared to put in the hard graft to allow the stars to do their stuff. Think of the Who, Led Zep and the Beatles where Ringo Starr always looked like someone who had found a jackpot lottery ticket in the back of his jeans.
Blind Faith whose eponymous album was released in August 1969 is one of the first manifestations of the short-lived phenomenon which was the supergroup. Comprising of two members of the recently split band, Cream, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, together with Stevie Winwood formerly of Traffic and Ric Grech from Family, they lasted just seven months and the album had mixed reviews at the time.
What caused a major stir was the album cover, featuring a topless pubescent girl holding a silver winged object in her hands which some found to be phallic. In response to the stushie, their record label, Polydor, withdrew the cover replacing it with a more conventional sleeve showing the band members. Although the original image was dropped, the title given to it by photographer Bob Seidemann, Blind faith, became the group’s name. The version of the LP in our collection has the replacement cover so we won’t have the old Bill knocking on the door.
It must be over forty years since I heard the album so I was intrigued to see what I thought of it after all that time. Firstly the cover hadn’t withstood the ravages of time – the gum holding the cover together had dried out and the precious vinyl almost dropped on to the floor. Safely installed onto the turntable, the opening track, Had to cry today, gives a pretty good impression of what the album is going to be like and is a stunning showcase for Winwood’s vocals and Clapton’s guitar riffs. But it also shows that the musicians will break out from the track’s hard rock format to experiment and improvise. The classic example of this is the final track, over 15 minutes long, called Do What You Like which features extensive solos from each of the musicians. Winwood’s organ solo can only be described as freaky but Grech’s bass doodlings over chants give the impression that they are filling up time. Baker rescues the track with a fine drum solo.
Grech’s finest moment on the track is a wonderful violin solo on the opening track of side two, a Sea of Joy which draws influences in from country, folk and hard rock. Clapton’s first composition, Presence of the Lord, which completes the first side is probably the most flawless track – a sort of gospel meets rock song – and features some fine organ work by Winwood and some astonishing guitar work from Clapton with wah-wah peddle to the fore in the final verse.
They cover Buddy Holly’s Well All Right where Clapton plays a fairly subdued role, allowing Winwood’s organ work to shine and Baker and Grech to lead the jam into which the song inevitably moves with some funky rhythms. Can’t Find My Way Home has a more folky, celtic feel about it ending with fine interplay between Clapton’s acoustic guitar and Baker’s jazzier drum licks.
I was pleasantly surprised.