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Blind Faith was a four-piece group formed early in 1969 by Eric Clapton (guitar), Steve Winwood (guitar, keyboards), Ginger Baker (drums), and Rick Grech (bass, violin). Clapton and Baker were members of Cream, who had disbanded late the previous year, while Winwood was keen to work with other musicians outside his group Traffic, and Grech had just left the as-yet little known Family. Cream's split was a shock to the record company, and with Clapton's reputation at an all-time high, they were desperate for him to put another band together. Clapton's name for them reflected a cynical but pretty accurate assumption that everybody had blind faith in them. They would only have to appear on stage and the audience would go totally wild. An album and live tours were arranged before they were really prepared, and though they were greeted with acclaim everywhere they played while the album spent two weeks at No. 1 shortly after release in September 1969, they were dissatisfied with their performances, to say nothing of being involved in a few ugly incidents beyond their control. By the end of the year they had folded.
The album contains six tracks and 42 minutes of music, varying between three and fifteen minutes in length. Interestingly Winwood, who wrote three of the tracks, comes across as the driving force, not only the main writer but also main singer. However, his style here is closer to the slightly hippy-trippy psychedelic style of his work with Traffic, whom he had just left and would rejoin soon afterwards, than the blue-eyed soul-cum-pop which made him a star again in the 1980s with songs like 'Valerie' and 'Higher Love'.
'Had To Cry Today' (8.49), based around a dual guitar riff, has some interesting melodic ideas, although the impression is that it would have been improved with some of the improvisation cut out. Tracks verging on nine minutes can work as long as there are enough ideas to sustain them, but in my view this doesn't.
'Can't Find My Way Home' (3.16) is not only the shortest but also certainly the best song here. Almost folksy, with another plaintive Winwood vocal, this shows off Clapton's acoustic guitar work to perfection.
'Well All Right' (4.27) is the only cover version here. A Buddy Holly song turns into a kind of rockabilly shuffle which again suggests the direction Clapton would take a little later on, while Winwood's keyboards bring a slightly jazzy feel to the proceedings.
'Presence Of The Lord' (4.50) is the only Clapton composition. As the title suggests, it has a kind of gospelly feel (the elder brother of George Harrison's 'My Sweet Lord', perhaps), though it's a little odd to find Winwood singing again. However, it shows off his soulful side well. It starts off slowly, stays that way for nearly three minutes during the song part, then changes direction into a faster lead guitar passage, before going back to where it came from for a reprise of the song.
'Sea of Joy' (5.22), another Winwood composition, floats around pleasantly, almost lazily, for the first three minutes around a guitar riff. Then Rick Grech's violin comes in, for the first and last time on the album, before returning to the song for the last minute or so.
'Do What You Like' (15.16), the marathon, is credited to Ginger Baker. Nowadays CDs may have up to 76 minutes of music, so long tracks aren't such a big deal - but even back in 1969, 15-minute tracks were a rarity. It opens with Winwood singing to jazzy piano chords (shades of Dave Brubeck's 'Take Five', Van Morrison's 'Moondance'), then each musician gets a chance to solo for a few minutes. By the time we reach the drum break, nearly nine minutes in, it does get a little wearing, and it sounds like even they are losing interest towards the end. The tape runs until after everybody has stopped, 14 minutes along, and the whole thing ends in mild chaos and fooling around. Jam sessions are fun if you're there, and preferably part of them, but listening to them not necessarily so - the musical equivalent of looking at your neighbour's holiday snaps.
In conclusion, this really is very much an album of its time. Groups and record companies were beginning to concentrate more on 12" vinyl albums, partly as there was more money to be made from them, and partly as singles were regarded as the preserve of pop groups for teenagers, therefore almost beneath contempt. It took punk rock seven years later to re-establish the single and crucify albums-only bands as old hippie dinosaurs. At the time long, loosely-structured tracks were very much in fashion, and the group were under immense pressure from management and record company to get the product out as quickly as possible. Hence the decision to concentrate largely on long numbers, rather than taking time to write, rehearse and record more fairly short, properly focused songs - and save time with that 15-minute jam.
It does however have a certain period charm about it. Significantly, perhaps, when Clapton and Winwood (plus band) played a gig in New York in 2008, televised and released on CD/DVD a year later, and more recent dates in the UK, they included the first four songs on this album in their set. It's worth buying at budget price, but on the whole it's more a historical and musical curiosity that you might not play all that often.
THE NOTORIOUS COVER
The original front cover, which did not have the name of album or group anywhere - something which Led Zeppelin later copied - showed a naked (waist up, anyway) 11-year-old girl holding a toy aeroplane. In some countries this was banned and replaced with a black and yellow image of the group, although it is shown on Amazon.
This review is of the 6-track CD, which corresponds exactly with the original 1969 release. There is also a deluxe 2-CD set including a second disc of lengthy jams (only for the dedicated, honestly). I have the (now deleted) 1986 CD reissue, which contains two additional tracks, 'Exchange and Mart', and 'Spending All My Days'. It was later discovered that these were not Blind Faith tracks, but recorded later for a never-released album by Grech, who died in 1990. RIP Rick.
[Revised version of a review I originally posted on ciao]
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Had To Cry Today - Alan O'Duffy, Andy Johns, Blind Faith, Chris Blackwell, Jimmy Miller, Keith Harwood, Robert Stigwood
2 Can't Find My Way Home - Andy Johns, Blind Faith, Chris Blackwell, Jimmy Miller, Keith Harwood, Robert Stigwood
3 Well All Right - Andy Johns, Blind Faith, Chris Blackwell, Jimmy Miller, Robert Stigwood
4 Presence Of The Lord - Blind Faith, Jimmy Miller, Andy Johns, Robert Stigwood, Chris Blackwell
5 Sea Of Joy - Andy Johns, Blind Faith, Chris Blackwell, George Chkiantz, Jimmy Miller, Robert Stigwood
6 Do What You Like - Alan O'Duffy, Andy Johns, Blind Faith, Chris Blackwell, Jimmy Miller, Keith Harwood, Robert Stigwood